||This 600 year old Hall is one of Manchester's four most historic buildings, said by some to be the only existing example of Viking architecture left in the world. It is now under the guardianship of English Heritage and, this moment in Time, you can only stand outside and admire the restored timber and nicely maintained gardens from a distance. There is high security, and the Hall is now surrounded by fencing.
Baguley Hall is listed as a Grade I Listed Building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The current Hall may be on the site of an earlier hall, possibly from the 11th or 12th century.
Wythenshawe’s beginnings were centred around the River Mersey. The first townships to emerge were Northenden, Baguley (which were both mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1066) and Northen Etchells (the part of Wythenshawe that is today east of Baguley Brook). In the 13th century, the Massey Family (Baron Hamon deMascy) was the main landlord in Northenden, Through marriage, the Massey’s land in Baguley passed to the Baguley Family, who built Baguley Hall in the 14th century. In Northen Etchells, land was held by the Stokeports and the Ardernes, who built Peel Hall in the 14th century.
In his book on South Lancashire Pevsner (Pevsner, N ‘The Buildings of England, Lancashire, The industrial and commercial south, 1969) says that Baguley Hall is the best medieval secular building within the boundaries of the city, consisting of a timber-framed fourteenth century hall and two brick wings, the north wing medieval and re-faced in brick, the south wing apparently late seventeenth century. The hall has tall mullioned windows of later date. The doorway inside the gabled late sixteenth century porch is original and so are the three doorways from the screens passage formerly leading to the kitchen, buttery and pantry. Two of them are blocked.
The timbering of the hall is very heavy and consists of broad uprights and horizontals and bracing in the form of heavy cusped St. Andrew's crosses. The north wall of the hall is especially impressive. The screen has a spere truss and the roof is essentially single-framed. Pevsner goes on to quote the findings of J. T. Smith and C. F. Stell who have written on Baguley Hall in The Antiquaries Journal. They emphasise that the uprights and horizontals supporting the boat-shaped roof are not posts or beams of the same width and depth but planks only seven inches deep. This, they say, is Scandinavian rather than English and can be connected with the Norwegian stave churches and the famous boat-shaped houses of Trelleborg, datable c. 1000, and known by excavation only. Baguley Hall has, at least partially, a boat shape and the outer walls converge a little towards the screen which would suggest a Viking connection.
A more generally held view is that the Hall was probably built about 1320 by Sir William de Baguley at the time of his knighthood. It is thought to be the oldest timbered house in Lancashire and Cheshire. The measurements of the hall are:
Length 34 feet
Width 28 feet
Height at the walls 17 feet
Height to the top of the ridge 38 feet
The hall probably extended eight feet further south giving room for the high table and its dais and canopy, unless the table stood in a canopied recess. The windows were originally tall but narrow. There are indications of the shutters which in early times were used instead of glass. There was no minstrels' gallery and no sign of a fireplace or louvre for the escape of smoke.
When the Georgian wings were added the south wall of the Hall was removed and the dais and canopy of the high table abolished. The hall included a chapel which was granted a licence to hold divine service in 1398. There are no traces now visible of a moat although tradition has it that one existed. Taylor says that William de Baguley transferred land to a Hammond of Baguley for a yearly rental of one shilling and Hammond's best pig, providing that the pig was mature enough to find its own mast.
The Hall remained in the possession of the de Baguleys and later the Legh family. Sir William de Baguley's daughter, Isabel, married Sir John Legh of Booths, near Knutsford. Her son, Sir William Legh, succeeded and the estate remained in the possession of the Legh family until the latter part of the seventeenth century. The last male heir was Edward Legh who married Elinor, daughter of William Tatton of Wythenshawe Hall. They had three daughters and the estate then passed to the Viscounts Allen until the middle of the eighteenth century when it was bought by Joseph Jackson of Rostherne. He left it in his will to the Rev. Millington Massey from whom it was inherited by his daughter, on whose marriage it was conveyed by the trustees of the marriage settlement to T. W. Tatton.
From the nineteenth century it was a farmhouse until, in 1931, it became the property of the Manchester Corporation whose Direct Works Department used it as a depot and warehouse. It was later recognised as an Ancient Monument and provision was made for the expenditure of £1000 after an examination and report by the City Architect and an expert from the Ancient Monuments Branch of the Ministry of Works. The money was to be used for overhauling the structure, the roof and the timbers.
By 1950 the excessive cost of restoration (£20,000) led to a veto of the plan by the Manchester City Council. A huge campaign was mounted to save Baguley Hall, and 5000 people signed the protest against its demolition. The Government offered to take over the Hall and to maintain it if the City would make a substantial contribution to the cost of repairs. The city still refused to pay towards the cost of restoration which was then estimated at £70,000. At last repair work was started supported solely by government funds and the Hall saved from demolition. But the restoration programme will take a number of years and skilled craftsmen will be needed.
'On completion of the works we will open the Hall to the public and display it in such a way that its architectural and historic importance can be readily appreciated by visitors.' (Extract from a letter to W. H. Shercliff from the Ministry of Public Building and Works.)
Alderman Sir Richard Harper said that the main hall should be kept 'uncluttered' so that the scale of the room with its huge timbers should not be spoilt. He added that the rooms in the two Georgian wings could be put to more permanent use. Mr. W. H. Shercliff advocated a 'folk museum representing the things people used in their daily work when Baguley Hall was lived in - rather like the use to which Shibden Hall has been put in Halifax, and Ordsall Hall in Salford.
THE 'BAGULEY EFFIGY'
This effigy, now in St. Mary's Church, Bowdon, is the freestone effigy of a knight thought to be Sir William Baguley known to be living in 1319. It was seen and described and sketched by Randle Holme, the Chester antiquary, in the seventeenth century. This sketch is in the British Museum along with the manuscript of Randle Holme.
At some later time the effigy was removed, sold or given away. It became an ornament in a Partington garden until two Manchester gentlemen, interested in history, saw it accidentally and communicated with Mr. Thomas W. Tatton who had it removed to Baguley Hall, the old home of the de Baguleys. There it remained until 1925 when Mr. Tatton generously agreed to its being returned to St. Mary's, Bowdon, Cheshire.
The effigy must have been a figure of extraordinary size, but it is now broken away at the knees. There is a detailed description of it in Raymond Richard's Old Cheshire Churches. The knight's head, Richards writes, rests on a cushion, the hands clasped in prayer. Between the hands is an egg-shaped symbol representing the offering up of the soul to God. The face of the knight is mutilated. The figure is clothed in a coat of mail over which is a garment called a gambeson which is quilted in folds below the waist. It was usually worn beneath a coat of mail to ease the discomfort and weight of the armour. There is a short sword, called a stabbing dagger, lying in front of the figure and the left arm is protected by a shield emblazoned with the arms of Baguley.
*taken from: ‘WYTHENSHAWE – a History of the Townships of NORTHENDEN, NORTHEN ETCHELS & BAGULEY’; Volume 1: to 1926. Edited by W.H. Shercliff. 1974
Now under the guardianship of English Heritage, Baguley Hall was handed over to what was then the Ministry of Public Works and Buildings by Manchester City Council back in 1968. Earlier, there had been a plan to knock it down - but, fortunately, it never happened.
It may have taken over 35 years, but there are plans afoot to access the funding which could make Baguley Hall one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region. An English Heritage spokesman says: "We are having talks with the city council, as a significant amount of funding has now been identified. Our hope is that it might be open by 2006."
Over the past 30 years or so, much loving care has been put into preserving the basic structure, ripping out ugly structural additions, and extensively restoring its timber frame and mullioned windows. Inside, there are also, apparently, period features like inglenook fireplaces and grand staircases.
Allen Tod Architecture (http://www.allentod.co.uk/) has conducted several Feasibility Studies on the property for English Heritage, most recently to examine the extension of the house to provide accommodation for the Manchester Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and as a venue for civil marriages.
In addition, a wide range of repairs have been completed to the medieval timber frame, and the removal of the 1970's blockwork and render infill panels. They have been replaced with traditional split oak laths and a daub of clay, straw and manure, and urine, finished in lime render and limewash.
You don't expect to find an ancient monument in the heart of Wythenshawe - yet bang in the middle of Europe's largest municipal estate is medieval Baguley Hall. Now surrounded by 1940s council semis and undistinguished new suburban housing, the hall (appropriately sited on Hall Lane) stands out like an architectural beacon of excellence. However, it is more by good luck than good management that it escaped the bulldozer. The 1950s shopping mall which used to stand opposite the hall is long gone, and likewise the nearby Lantern Inn, an unlovely modern pub which fell prey to a fire a few years ago.
Baguley Hall is described in the influential Pevsner Guide to fine buildings in the region as as "one of the oldest and finest surviving medieval timber-farmed halls in the north west". Yet, sadly, it has been closed to the public for many generations.
At the moment, you can only stand outside and admire the restored timber and nicely maintained gardens from a distance. There is high security, and the hall is surrounded by fencing. But, in a few years' time, it is hoped that the hall will once again open its splendid doors, to a new audience. Now under the guardianship of English Heritage, it was handed over to what was then the Ministry of Public Works and Buildings by Manchester City Council back in 1968. Earlier, there had been a plan to knock it down - but, fortunately, it never happened.
So what's the story of this fine old building? It hails from a time when the area was one of green fields, rolling meadows, rural bliss, and the aristocracy ruled the roost. Built for the noble Baguley family in the mid-14th century, on the site of an earlier house, it has brick wings at each end - one medieval, and the other of 17th century origin.
In William the Conqueror's time, this area was known as Baggiley. It was held by Hamon Massy, Baron of Dunham Massey (as we now spell it), who was given it as reward for his knight's service, and it was to be handed down to his heirs and successors. Around the time of King John (1129-1216), the heir of Hamon Massy, another Hamon Massy, gave one Mathew Massy the land. At this time the "Hamon Massy" heirs adopted the name Baggiley. Sir William de Baggiley, born in 1260, was knighted by King Edward I, and later married one of the king's daughters. During this time the family were quite well up in the aristocracy of England. They owned the salt mines in Cheshire and a processing mill.
In the reign of Edward II (1284-1327), Sir William de Baggiley was lord of Baguley, and built the earliest bits of the hall, around 1320. At the time of his death, he also owned a manor at Hyde and another at Levenshulme, plus an inn called The Ryle Thorn in Baguley (hence the name, many centuries on, of The Royal Thorn - a pub which for years stood on the corner of Altrincham Road). His daughter, Isabel, married Sir John Leigh, a widower. Their eldest son, William, inherited Baguley. The manor remained in the Leigh family until the late 17th century, when the line terminated in Edward Leigh.
By the 18th and 19th centuries, the hall was falling into disrepair. At one stage in the 20th century, it even served as a council store. It is only in very recent times that its worth has been recognised. It is now, officially, a scheduled ancient monument and Grade 1 listed.
Until the early 20th century, the Baguley lords would still have recognised the landscape around it. It was still a largely rural community - until the advent of Wythenshawe, Manchester Corporation's masterplan, providing decent housing for families from the inner-city slums. As late as the 1950s, there were farms, green space and market gardens.
Now there is urban sprawl and the sound of traffic from the nearby M56. But at least Baguley Hall looks set for a bright future - here's to its eventual restoration.