Nicholas Mosley, the 7th Baronet Mosley of Ancoats, has died aged 82. Mosley will be unknown to most Mancunians but his connections with the city were strong and severe. His baronetcy of the exciting east Manchester suburb (described in recent social media reports as the “hippest” place in Manchester, or was it Britain, or maybe the rest of the world?) was a subsidiary title of also being Lord Ravensdale. And this was THE Mosley family, who owned Manchester, as Lords of the Manor, for around 250 years, ever since Nicholas Mosley went to London to buy Manchester – the rights to the town – from John Lacy in 1595 for around £3,000. (Note: Manchester City bought John Stones for nearly £50 million last summer; that’s inflation for you).
The Mosleys lost control of Manchester in 1838, when the council was created. The last Lord of the Manor of Manchester was Oswald Mosley, a direct ancestor of the rather more notorious Oswald Mosley, the 6th Baronet, leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s and the most controversial British politician of the 20th century. (Yes, far more so than Margaret Thatcher).
Oswald Mosley the fascist was officially Sir Oswald Mosley. It was hereditary. Few who hadn’t lived through the 1930s and 1940s could understand this in the post-war decades when his noxious anti-Semitic, anti-immigration Union Movement caused mayhem on the streets of Dalston and Notting Hill. People thought he had been knighted for some great past achievement. The young Elvis Costello was particularly upset and penned the vitriolic “Less Than Zero” in 1977 on his first album, which began “Calling Mr Oswald with his Swastika tattoo.”
Nicholas Mosley always disavowed his father’s politics and wrote a series of brilliant novels, particularly Hopeful Monsters which won the 1990 Whitbread Prize. I remember attending a meeting of the Jewish East End Celebration Society, it might have been in 2003, when (Sir) Nicholas spoke only a short distance from Cable Street, scene of the infamous 1936 stand-off between fascists and opponents. The large crowd was torn over what to do with him; to listen, heckle, applaud, nod, hiss or ignore him. About half the people wanted to tear him from limb to limb, because here was a real-life Mosley before them. Oswald had died in 1980. This was the next best thing. The other half wanted to hear what he said and then tear him from limb to limb. Everyone quietened down eventually, and the night passed off peacefully, but there was still that feeling that any minute a phalanx of blackshirts might arrive as stewards. Actually what calmed down the crowd was Nicholas’s upsetting stammer despite having been treated by Lionel Logue, he who attended to George VI as in the film The King’s Speech.
Nicholas was the son of Oswald the fascist and his first wife, Cimmie, daughter of Lord Curzon, one-time Viceroy of India and the man who nearly became Tory prime minister instead of Stanley Baldwin in May 1923. One of his aunts was Baba Metcalfe who was married to the wonderfully monickered “Fruity” Metcalfe, best pal of Edward VIII, later the would-be fascist king of SS GB.
The marriage of Sir Oswald and Cimmie was lucky to take place at all. Oswald Mosley was dining at the Ritz in London one day in May 1920 when he was approached by Lady Cunard, who asked him: “Were you not being married five minutes ago?” Mosley remembered he was and rushed out to the Chapel Royal, just in time. When Cimmie died Mosley married Diana Mitford – at the home of Joseph Goebbels. Their offspring was Max Mosley. He’s still going strong, somewhere, doing something, well best not to say really after the French court case Mosley v SARL Google (2013).
• So what’s this got to do with New Manchester Walks? There just has to be a link. Yes. Sat 17 June: “SS GB Manchester – Hitler’s plans for the city”. Meet Victoria Station wallmap. 11am.