Withington history
Famous Withingtonians
Here we describe briefly the lives and contributions of some of the famous and distinguished people associated with Withington, either born here, living here, or otherwise associated with the area. 

Kenneth Whittaker in Withington Worthies (2009) describes a number of people associated with Withington, including famous people, dignitaries of the area and local worthies.

Robert Donat

The actor and Academy Award-winning film star, Robert Donat, was born and grew up in Withington. See the Robert Donat page for a summary of the actor's links with Withington and an account of the ceremony to unveil the commemorative plaque at his place of birth.


Robert Donat
[Image from FilmBug.]

Robert Donat, Withinton

The plaque at 42, Everett Road, Withington, the actor's place of birth.

Brian Donat, who came over from Canada for the unveiling of the plaque, holding his father's Academy Award (the "Oscar").

Lord Rutherford

Pioneer of atomic and nuclear physics, Ernest Rutherford, later 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, spent part of his scientific career (1907-1919) at the then Victoria University of Manchester, during which time he "split the atom". He lived in a building on Wilmslow Road (on the east side, just north of the junction with Mauldeth Road) which is now called "Rutherford Lodge" and has a blue plaque to celebrate his residency here:

Lord Rutherford and Withington

Lord Rutherford 
[Image from Wikipedia.]

Rutherford Lodge, Wilmslow Road, Withington

Rutherford Lodge, Wilmslow Road, Withington. Notice the commemorative blue plaque. [2012]

A common, but rather misleading, image of the structure of the atom. [Image from 
"Explain that stuff".]

Frank Kingdon-Ward

The great botantist, plant-hunter and geographer, Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958), was born at No. 14, Heaton Road. His main area of exploration was SW China, Tibet and NE India - a wild and mountainous part of the world of unpredictable weather and frequent earthquakes, with climatic zones from tropical and sub-tropical, through temperate and alpine, to barren high peaks and permanent snow. He brought back many familiar garden plants. See the notes by John Davies and an online biography.


Frank Kingdon-Ward in the 1940s. 
[Image from ARS 30:1]


The plaque on the site of his birth, 14, Heaton Road, Withington, erected by his second wife, Jean. 
[Image from Open Plaques.]
Frank Kingdon-Ward and Withington

Primula florindae, discovered and collected by Kingdon-Ward and named after his first wife, Florinda. 
[Image from Plants for Less.]

Margaret Ashton

Margaret Ashton (1856-1937) was the first woman to run for election to Manchester City Council and became the first woman on the council in 1908. She both represented and lived in Withington, and was an advocate for women’s rights and for improved women's healthcare.

She became a member of Manchester's public health committee and the Chair of the maternity and child welfare subcommittee. She was an early pioneer of healthcare for mothers and babies, and, in 1914, she founded the Manchester Babies Hospital along with Dr Catherine Chisholm.

In 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, Ashton was among the internationalist minority who split from the suffragette movement. She was a signatory of the "Open Christmas Letter", a call for peace addressed in sisterhood "To the Women of Germany and Austria", which was published in January 1915. She started a Manchester branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. See the Wikipedia page for more details.

Margaret Ashton


An article about Margaret Ashton
in a contemporary publication.

The Wolstenholme sisters

The international medal-winning swimmers, the two sisters, Cecelia Wolstenholme (later Celia Thornton), 1915-68, and Beatrice Wolstenholme (later Beatrice Whalen), 1920-2008, came from Withington. Pat Souza, daughter of Beatrice, has kindly written an article about the two sisters and their achievements.


A picture of Cecelia Wolstenholme.
[Image from Victoria Baths.]
Celia Wolstenholme
Cecelia later in life - a photograph kindly provided by her son, Barry Thornton. 
[Added to website in 2014]
Beatrice Wolstenholme with swimming trophies c1932

Beatrice Wolstenholme with trophies (the statue in the centre is from Magdeburg). The picture was taken in c1932 and kindly provided by her daughter, Pat Souza. [2014]

Ludwig Wittgenstein

The great and innovative German philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, had lodgings at 104 (now 154) Palatine Road while he was a student at the Victoria University of Manchester (1908-1911) before he moved to Cambridge to study with Bertrand Russell.


Ludwig Wittgenstein in 1905


Title page of the first English language edition of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1922. [Image from Wikipedia]

Louis Paulhan and John Alcock

Louis Paulhan (Isidore Auguste Marie Louis Paulhan) (1883-1963) was a pioneering French aviator, who won the first Daily Mail aviation prize of £10,000 for a flight from London to Manchester in 1910. He landed on a site which is just east of what is now Fog Lane Park. There is a plaque (see below) commemorating the flight, at 25-27, Paulhan Road, which reads:

Louis Paulhan 1883-1963. Pioneer French aviator landed a Farman biplane 
in a field on this site, making the first London/Manchester flight 28 April 1910.

A large crowd turned up to see him land. Among those in the crowd was a young John Alcock who later completed the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic in 1919. There is a plaque commemorating this flight at 6, Kingswood Road, Ladybarn/Fallowfield.

Louis Paulhan, Withington, Manchester

Louis Paulhan in 1909.
[Image from Wikipedia.]


"Paulhan Sweeping over the Railway at Burnage Station, at the End of His Dash to Manchester." Notice the enthusiastic crowd waving a welcome. 


Louis Paulhan: Plaque at 25-27, Paulhan Road, Withington. [2014]
Sir John Alcock: Withington

Captain Sir John Alcock.

Sir John Alcock Memorial: Withington Chorlton

A memorial to Captain Sir John Alcock: His grave in Southern Cemetery, Manchester. [Image from Manchester Evening News Online.]


Captain Sir John Alcock: Plaque at 6, Kingswood Road, Ladybarn. [2014]

Billy Meredith

Billy Meredith (1874-1958) was one of the most popular footballers of his era, playing for several teams, including Manchester City and then Manchester United. After his playing career, he moved to Burton Road in Withington and is buried in nearby Southern Cemetery. He is described as a football superstar... more details

Billy Meredith

Billy Meredith. [Image from Wikipedia]


[Image from Getty Images, via BBC website]

Marcus Rashford MBE
A mural on Copson Street, Withington,
by the artist AKSE_P19, based
on a photo by Daniel Cheetham.

Marcus Rashford (born 1997), the Manchester United and England footballer, grew up in Withington, living on Saltney Avenue, Old Moat, until, at nine years old, he moved with his family to Wythenshawe. Whilst in Withington he played for Fletcher Moss Rangers F.C.

He has recently (2020) campaigned for government help for families living with poverty, with a successful campaign to extend free school meals, in which he talked to the Prime Minister about the issue. His commitment to this campaign arose from his own childhood experiences of poverty.

In 2020, Rashford was awarded an MBE, and the City of Manchester Award.

John and Enid Bridge

John Bridge (1872-1945) was a local classical musician with a distinguished record. He was leader of the Halle Orchestra, as well as leader of what became the BBC Northern Orchestra, and contributed to many other orchestras and music ensembles.

He lived in Withington with his wife, Enid (1867-1937), who also was a professional musician, performing with local music ensembles and teaching music at Withington School for Girls.

Frank Rutherford has written an account of their achievements.

John Mahoney

John Mahoney (1940-2018) was an actor of stage, film and TV, perhaps becoming most recognised as Martin Crane, the father of the Crane brothers in the TV series Frasier. He was born in Blackpool; his family having been evacuated there from Manchester during WWII, but returned to his home in Withington, where he grew up. He moved to the USA in 1959, where he took up a career in acting. 

John Mahoney in 1994 
[picture from Wikipedia]

Withington and Popular Music: For information about popular musicians associated with Withington and the history of Factory Records, go to the Popular music page.