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Meet Stanley Morton Harrop, Leader of the first Gorse Hill Morris troupe

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Stanley Morton Harrop, Stretford Pageant Programme 1913, Trafford Local Studies, LHC 438

It is very pleasing to have located an image of one of the morris dancers who danced in the first Gorse Hill Morris troupe in 1910, even if it was too late for inclusion in ‘Carnivals, Contests and Coronations’.

Stanley Morton Harrop was a dancer with the Gorse Hill troupe from its foundation in 1910 until 1912, and was named as troupe leader in 1911 and 1912. He was born in the Bradford area of Manchester in 1889 and was baptised at the church of St Phillip, Ridgeway Street, Ancoats. His family were living on Atkin Street in Ancoats at the time of his birth. According to his army service record and baptism record, his father was Eli Harrop, an inspector for a railway company, and his mother was Jane Ellen Shufflebottom-Bennett. At the time of the 1891 census, perhaps because Eli and Jane had another young child in the family, Stanley was living in Dukes Place in Castlefield, Manchester with his step-grandfather, John Birtles. John Birtles seems to have taken some responsibility for his upbringing as Stanley was still living with him in Dukes Place in 1901. Stanley’s parents, meanwhile, lived in Wenlock Street, Hulme in 1891 and Poplar Grove, Urmston in 1901 and 1911 and had other children after Stanley's birth.

By 1911 Stanley had moved to 50 Harcourt Road, Gorse Hill, Stretford with his uncle, James Clement Birtles, with whom he had shared a home in Dukes Place. He was working as a packer for yarns and cotton. James Clement Birtles played a significant role in the organisation of Stretford Rose Queen Festival from its start in 1909 and was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of Stretford Pageant in 1919. He was probably the reason that Stanley danced with, and led, the Gorse Hill Morris Dancers and went on to serve as assistant honorary secretary to the festival committee. Participation in this event seemed to run in the family. James’s son, Sydney Birtles, who was Stanley's cousin, aged nine in 1911, was one of the morris dancers in 1914. Stanley's cousin, Dorothy Birtles, was Rose Queen in the same year.

Dorothy Birtles, Stretford Rose Queen 1914

Stanley worked as an insurance agent before he enlisted for the 19th Battalion, Manchester Regiment on 7 September 1914. He was 5' 8” tall and weighed 125 lbs at the time of enlistment. His military record has an address for him in Nansen Street, Gorse Hill, but he was living in Urmston at the time of his marriage to Gwen Bisley Pierce at St Clement’s Church in October 1915, before he departed for service in France in the following month. He served with “D” Company of his battalion as a corporal and was promoted to sergeant in July 1916 but suffered a gunshot wound to the neck later that month whilst his battalion was fighting on the Somme. His military record indicates that he was commended to the Secretary of State for valuable services rendered. He was discharged from the army atfter the end of the war in July 1919.

On his return to civilian life, in 1921 Stanley was recorded on the census and registered as a voter at his parents’ home in Moss Road, Urmston, the address to which he had been discharged, but had relocated to Poplar Grove, Urmston by 1922. In 1921 he worked as a porter at the CWS Soap Works at Irlam. He was married to Gwen and had a daughter, Joan. He was living in Falcon Avenue, Urmston in 1939 and working as a glycerol refiner. He died in 1957.

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