Building Name

Wardley Hall Worsley

Wardley Hall Lane
Wardley, Salford
GMCA, England
Bridgewater Trustees

WARDLEY HALL LANCASHIRE. This most interesting old Hall, which has recently been very carefully restored, was originally part of the inheritance the Worsleys of Worsley. .........   It is about twenty years since Wardley Hall was last occupied, excepting only the portion now used as stables, which had been made into three cottages, and they were usually occupied by colliers, who worked at the great Bridgewater Colliery close by. During that period it has only been so far repaired from time to time as to be kept weather-proof, and it has suffered some damage on account of the coal-workings beneath it. In 1894 it was decided to restore the house, with a view to it being used by one of the principal officials of the Bridgewater trustees, and, thanks to the interest taken in the matter by the Earl of Ellesmere, the proprietor of Worsley, no pains have been spared to carry out the restoration in as perfect a manner as possible. Messrs. Douglas and Fordham, architects, of Chester, were engaged to design the details of the work, and though it was necessary to rebuild some portion entirely, there is no appearance of newness about the place anywhere, and the architects deserve much credit for the skilful and artistic manner in which they have dealt with a difficult problem. The work itself was done by the Bridgewater Trustees' own workmen, under the direction of their engineer, Mr. Frederick E. Caires, who is now the occupant of the house. It proved to be quite impossible to discover what had been precisely the original form and arrangements of the house, but one thing is quite certain—viz., that the suppositions in this respect of those persons, who before the restoration ventured their opinions, and in some cases published them, are all, more or less, erroneous. When the work was commenced the only two living rooms were those which are now designated the drawing-room and dining-room. The principal entrance, such as it was—in fact, the only entrance to the main part of the house was the main staircase and the kitchen. The present lower hall was a washhouse, the smoking-room a place for firewood and sundry rubbish, and its upper part a dovecote; the cloak-room was a coal-hole. There was no kitchen entrance or back stairs. On the upper floor there was no semblance of the large upper hall, the space being occupied with several very dark and ill-arranged rooms. The house has suffered severely from the excruciatingly bad taste and Vandalism of a period now fortunately past, and has been mutilated in the most wanton manner. When the work of restoration was commenced, it soon became apparent that there was much more interest in the house than was at first supposed. In all cases where there were beautifully panelled ceilings formed of massive and richly-moulded oak beams, the most prominent members of the mouldings had been roughly chopped off—apparently with an adze, and on to them, or below them, had been nailed laths, and the whole were hidden by plastered ceilings. Where the larger beams projected, all of them being oak, they had been hacked over and covered with plaster, their sections being converted into plain rectangles with chamfered edges; and, to add insult to injury, these improved (!) beams had been painted and grained in imitation of oak. The fine old staircase had been similarly treated, and so numerous were the coats of yellow paint that it took many days of arduous labour to remove it. When it was discovered that the ceiling of the upper hall extended so far aa it does, it was decided not to divide the space, as was at first intended, but to leave the whole open, as it evidently had been originally. The fireplaces here and in the hall below were discoveries, being quite invisible when the work commenced. The wide stone arches had been built up, and ordinary cast-iron "register" grates inserted. In the upper hall the old arch is reinstated after having been repaired, the same stones being used: but in the lower hall the stones had been so much damaged that a new arch was necessary. In the dining-room, too, there is an old stone arch; but it is entirely past restoration. In the room over the pantry there was found some old oak panelling lathed and plastered over, and above this, above the ceiling, some ornamental plaster-work. This panelling has been repaired and placed at the end of the upper hall, and it is proposed to attempt to restore the plaster-work and place it again above the panelling. A good deal had to be done in order to make the house dry and healthy. Water was lying a few inches below the floor level, and consequently the whole site had to be carefully drained, the walls underpinned, and a damp course inserted, and a bed of concrete was laid under all the floors. In the lower hall and entrance lobby the floor is laid with oak blocks, mostly made of bits of old timber, which had to be replaced in the course of the work. The roof was found to be remarkably sound, scarcely needing any repair. Visitors to Wardley will probably miss some of the black and white work with which they were so familiar: but as all that on the north front was sham, being painted plaster, and not timber work at all, it was thought best not to replace it, but to restore the old brick walls which it covered. New windows were required throughout the whole house, those in the brick walls being made of red Runcorn stone, and those in the half-timbered portion, of oak, and the whole are fitted with wrought-iron casements made by Messrs. Wragge, of Manchester, the lead work being simple and very pretty. The fire-grates are, with very few exceptions, of the front hob or economiser patterns. The restoration, though a costly matter, has resulted in the saving from ruin of one of the most interesting old houses in Lancashire, and, moreover, in making it as quaint and comfortable a home as could be wished for. The skull, which during the progress of the work was placed in an iron safe, is now reinstated in a niche in the wall of the staircase, where for many years past it has lain carefully protected with glazed doors. [Building News 4 February 1898 page 158-159]

Reference            Building News 4 February 1898 page 158-159 with plan elevations etc