Our final trip of 2019 was to Clayton Hall, another remarkable survival from the later middle ages in what was, until recently, a heavily industrialised area. We were very lucky with the weather – cold and fresh, but dry – and had a great turn out from the group. Finding the hall proved a bit tricky. It’s well hidden from view by mature trees and to reach it we had to cross the empty moat by a narrow C17 stone bridge. Once across you feel like you have stepped back in time.
When we arrived we roamed freely around the house, with the volunteers answering any questions we had. The interior is a Victorian living history museum, and it was dressed for Christmas, making us all feel suitably festive. Much time was spent in the kitchen and dairy, with group members reminiscing about the kitchen equipment they remembered from their childhoods.
The actual date of the hall is uncertain, but there has been a building on the site since the C12 and the earliest part of the building, a timbered framed structure, probably dates from the 1400s. At one point it was lived in by Humphrey Chetham, the founder of Chetham’s School. At this point the building was much more extensive, with four wings and a courtyard in the centre. Only one of the wings still survives.
It is owned by the council, and until recently was lived in as a council house, but the management and fundraising is entirely in the hands of volunteers from the Friends and Trustees of Clayton Park. We were all very impressed by their energy, initiative and the welcome they gave us. At the end of our tour we were given an illustrated talk in the cafe. Inevitably, as with all old houses, access to the upper floor is less easy for people with limited mobility. But the volunteers were very good at helping some of the members of the group and everyone managed to look round the whole house. We would certainly recommend it as an excellent site to visit for anyone interested in the history of the area.