Today, Shakerley is a suburb of the town of Tyldesley in Greater Manchester. Historically Shakerley was a hamlet and the town was recorded as “Tyldesley-cum-Shakerley”. As the town of Tyldesley expanded rapidly in the 19th century due to industrialisation, Shakerley remained largely unchanged until the late 1940s/early 1950s, when the farm lands were sold to make way for a large development of council houses.
Over the last 65 years Shakerley has changed beyond all recognition, however there is still one building which is tucked away in Shakerley and it is key to the history of the area. This is the hidden history of Shakerley Old Hall.
The origins of the Shakerley estate, which comprised of some 540 acres, go back to the 13th century. It was first recorded as “Shakerlee” in 1210. The lands were given by Hugh de Tyldesley to the Cockersand Abbey. A deed from c.1290 between Adam Shakerley, a descendant of the Tyldesley line, and the Abbot of the Abbey reveals a yearly rent of 12 pence was paid. This lasted until the dissolution of the monasteries centuries later. Around the same time, Adam Shakerley paid a yearly rent to Adam de Tyldesley to safeguard feudal rights of the manor. However this was not a monetary rent, instead Shakerley gave Tyldesley one pair of white gloves each Easter.
Eventually the estate came to Geoffrey Shakerley who married Joan Langley and they had three children; Peter, William and Mary. After the death of Joan, Geoffrey remarried to Ann Legh (widow of John Legh). Peter Shakerley was heir to the estate and he ended up marrying his step-sister, Elizabeth Legh. Elizabeth brought with her an impressive dowry, which included Hulme Hall in Allostock, Knutsford. Later generations of the Shakerley family would migrate from Shakerley Old Hall to Hulme Hall. It must be noted that Shakerley Old Hall was not a manor house, like Damhouse in nearby Astley but the estate was a manor by reputation.
Peter and Elizabeth had a son, also named Geoffrey (d.1547) who married Isabel Venables. They had five children together; Peter (d.1553), Robert, Thomas, Elizabeth and Jane. Peter Shakerley married another heiress, Elizabeth Mainwaring (daughter of Sir Randal Mainwaring).
The 17th Century: The last of the Shakerley’s
Peter and Elizabeth Shakerley had a son, again named Geoffrey (d.1618) in family tradition. Geoffrey and his wife Jane Beeston favoured Hulme Hall over Shakerley Old Hall. In 1610 he held the position of Sheriff of Cheshire. However there was still members of the Shakerley family at the Old Hall, in 1612 Hugh Shakerley is recorded at the property. The next heir of the estate was Peter Shakerley (d.1624) he married twice, firstly to Margaret Bunbury and secondly to Margaret Oldfield.
By the 1620s the family has more or less left Shakerley, but the Old Hall was retained by them. As Margaret Shakerley outlived her husband Peter, she remained at the Old Hall with her second husband William Vernon. William was a renowned antiquarian scholar and he contributed towards A History of Cheshire, although his research was interrupted by the Civil War (1642-1651). The Civil War also proved a turbulent time for William’s step-son Geoffrey Shakerley in Cheshire, who was an ardent Royalist and supporter of Charles I. He was ordered to pay a fine and sequester his lands to Parliament. However after a campaign he managed to have the fine reduced from £1,960 to £784 (about £306,000 to £22,000 in modern currency) and retain his properties. These included Shakerley Old Hall (which belonged to his mother Margaret for her life interest) and also other farms and a corn mill in Shakerley.
In March 1664 William Vernon died, among his possessions at Shakerley Old Hall was a closet of books valued at £10. A few years later in 1667 his wife Margaret passed away. Her will provides us with a fascinating insight into Shakerley Old Hall in the mid 17th century. To her son Geoffrey she left £3 worth of gold (about £462 in today’s money). Her personal possessions she left to her three grandchildren; Peter Shakerley, William Oldfield and Margaret Sorrowcold. Margaret also left two shillings to each of her servants and one specific “faithful and trusty” servant, Anne Smithells was given the standing bed with curtains and valances from the maid’s room and 3 dairy cows named Fold, Masson and Berth.
Margaret’s will also reveals the layout of Shakerley Old Hall in the 1660s. It consisted of: a hallway, cellar, parlour, dining room , closet, stair head chamber, court chamber, gatehouse chamber, blue chamber, green chamber, mistress chamber, best chamber and maids room. There was also functional rooms such as the cheese room, buttery, brewhouse and little storehouse.
Of course the house has changed over time both internally and externally, the photograph above shows that the windows and doors have been replaced over time and the exterior of the building has been rendered. By the time of the 1911 census, the hall has lost some of its historic status and is now a farmhouse, consisting of around 6 rooms. However architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner noted that internally Shakerley Old Hall has an extensive timber frame dating from the 17th century, therefore some of the historical internal fabric has survived the tests of time.
The 18th Century: A place of inspiration
By the 18th century the Shakerley family had completely left Shakerley Old Hall and the land was let to tenant farmers. The Hall itself now became a farmhouse. In 1742 Richard Jolley lived there. Around the same time the preacher John Wesley (the founder of Wesleyanism) visited Shakerley. The first occasion was 28 May 1748 (after he’d been stoned at Bolton), the second 19 October 1749, the third on 10 April 1751 and the final time 15 June 1752. Wesley’s journal records one such visit:
“We came to Shakerley before five in the evening. Abundance of people were gathered before six, many of whom were disciples of Dr. Taylor, laughing at original sin and consequently at the whole frame of Scriptural Christianity. Oh, what a providence it is which has brought us here among these silver-tongued anti-Christs. Surely a few will recover out of the snare and know Jesus Christ as wisdom and righteousness.”
Given the location of the Old Hall, Richard Jolley allowed Wesley to preach from one of the upstairs rooms, which was a small loft reached by a short ladder. The room was only big enough to hold about a dozen people, however the window overlooked a large field, which was perfect for Wesley to preach the crowds.
At Wesley’s final visit to Shakerley an old man walked with him afterwards and suddenly: “The power of God fell upon him, so that he hardly knew whether he was on earth or in heaven and from that time he was continually filled with the joy of believing.” Shakerley was quickly influenced by Wesley and the idea of dissenting from Protestantism. In 1770 a house was acquired for dissenters meetings and in 1789 a chapel was built in Tyldesley by the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connection (Lady Selina Hastings was also greatly influenced by Wesley and set aside money to build chapel houses). The chapel still exists today and is commonly known as Tyldesley Top Chapel.
The 19th Century: Shakerley Old Hall Farm
In 1836 the Shakerley family finally sold their estate at Tyldesley. Among the 514 acres of land available was also the farms, the rights to the coal and stone and certain pews at Leigh Parish Church. It was purchased by Jacob Fletcher who lived at Peel Hall in Little Hulton. He died not long afterwards so the estate was inherited by his daughter Charlotte Ann Stapleton-Corrie.
1838 was another year of change in Shakerley, just across the narrow lane in front of Shakerley Old Hall, a new farm house was built and it was known as Shakerley New Hall, it was lived in by the Guest family. At the same time Shakerley Old Hall was occupied by Thomas Kearsley, his wife Jane and their children; Jane, Thomas, John and Catherine. Thomas Kearsley was a wealthy industrialist which shares in Resolution Mill. He also funded the building of the Star and Garter in Tyldesley and he laid the foundation stone at St. George’s Church in 1825.
By 1841 the Kearsley family have left Shakerley Old Hall and moved to the more upmarket Fulwell House in Tyldesley. In 1842 an advertisement appears in the press:
“TO BE LET by private contract, for a term of seven years, with immediate possession, a convenient farm, in a high state of cultivation of about 24a. 3r. (Cheshire measure) called “Shakerley Old Hall Farm”, situation in the township of Shakerley-cum-Tyldesley, in the said county, at a short distance from the turnpike road leading between Tyldesley and Worsley and on the branch road from Shakerley to Bolton and late in the occupation of Mr. Thomas Kearsley. The dwelling-house is in course of erection; the out-buildings are all in good repair, and consist of a large hay-shade, stabling for three horses, and accommodation for eleven cows and the premises are altogether replete with every convenience and are well supplied with spring water. – Mr. John Guest of Shakerley Hall will show the premises; and for further particulars apply to Mr. HIGSON, agent to the late Ellis Fletcher Esq. Clifton, near Manchester or to Mr DAWES, solicitor, Bolton – Bolton, 8th March 1842″
The advertisement states Shakerley Old Hall “is in course of erection” which could suggest that there was some building alterations occurring at the time. As mentioned earlier the house retains 17th century timbers so the building work mustn’t have altered the structure too much. Edward Baines’ History of the County Palatine of Lancaster from 1836 records that the Old Hall was moated. However this does not appear on the 1845-49 Ordnance Survey map, so this too must have been removed during the 1840s, although the traces of it were still visible as late as 1921.
By 1844 the Grundy family are residents at Shakerley Old Hall. The head of the family is Isaac Grundy (1773-1858), he lives there with his son Peter (b.1812), grandson David Thorpe (b.1837), granddaughter Eliza Grundy (b.1826) and his two great grandchildren (Eliza’s illegitimate children) Ellen (b.1844) and Alfred (b.1847). Another son of Eliza’s, Richard Grundy is born in 1855.
In 1871, Peter Grundy is in charge of the farm and still living with them is his niece Eliza and her two sons. The Grundy’s also employ a domestic servant, 13 year old Mary Ellen Boydell. By the time of the 1881 census, the farm has increased to 30 acres in size. It was now farmed by Alfred Grundy and his brother Richard. Their grandmother Esther Grundy (b.1805) is running the Old Hall as a housekeeper. Living at Shakerley New Hall is the Alfred and Richard’s older sister Ellen, who married Thomas Wharmby.
Alfred married Sarah Ackers in 1885 and together they started their own family; Peter (b.1887), Eliza (b.1889) and Esther (b.1899). However at some point in the 1900s the Grundy’s left Shakerley Old Hall, after 60 years farming there. The 1911 census records that Alfred Grundy is “unable to work” and this may have played a part in him leaving the property.
The 20th Century: A time of change
After the Grundy family departed Shakerley Old Hall, the land was farmed by James Smith of Oliver Fold Farm also in Shakerley. He let the house to tennants, the first being the Yates family. Moses Yates (b.1865) was under-manager at the Nelson Pit. He lived at Shakerley Old Hall with his wife Annie (b.1869) lived there with their five daughters Alice (1898), Louie (1902), Dorothy Ellen (1904), Annie (1907) and Bessie (1909). In 1915 Moses passed away aged only 50 years old.
The next tenant was Joseph Warburton, who was head salesman to William Ramsden and Sons of Shakerley Colliery. Warbuton only stayed fived years at the Old Hall and left in 1920. The house and farm was then taken over by William Jacques and his family.
In 1947 Harold and Florence Blears moved to Shakerley Old Hall and ran the farm there. Harold had worked on the farm under Mr Jacques before being called up to serve in World War Two. They also raise their two sons Alan and Raymond at the Old Hall and seven decades later the Blears family continue to live and farm at Shakerley Old Hall.
However in their first decade at Shakerley the Blears family would have witness the most dramatic change to the landscape around them. In 1951 Thomas Fletcher Corrie of Stanley Park in Wrexham sold the estate his ancestor’s has purchased over a century before. The purchaser of the estate was Tyldesley Urban District Council who had already began to purchase land there from 1946.
Over the next few years Shakerley changed from a rural farming area to a built up estate of social housing. Soon the farms which had been there for centuries vanished, these included; Pilwood, Old Nathan’s, Guest Fold, Crowbank, Old Farmer’s, Mount Pleasant, Higher Oak, Lower Oak and even Shakerley New Hall.
Therefore it is remarkable that Shakerley Old Hall, which is not listed, has survived not only through several centuries but also through all the social change of the latter half of the 20th century. It is amazing to think that the most important historical building in Shakerley is still a working farm even in the 21st century, despite being surrounded by industrial towns and is a slice of hidden history in the locality.
- John Lunn, A Short History of the Township of Tyldesley (Manchester: Wholesale Co-Operative Society Limited, 1953)
- Edward Baines, History of the County Palatine of Lancaster, Volume Three, (London: Fisher and Son, 1836)
- Deeds Prinicipally Relating to the Township of Shakerley, Co. Lancaster, (Leigh: Printed at the Chronicle Office, Victoria Place, 1879)
- The Manchester Mercury and Harrop’s General Advertiser, 2 April 1765, Issue 728, pg. 2)
- Leigh Journal, April 1921
- Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 12 March 1842
- Wigan Archives and Leigh Local Studies
- Special thanks to Mr. Iain Hodcroft who shared his own memories and those of his grandfather Joseph Blears regarding Shakerley Old Hall in the mid-20th century and the people connected to it. (October 2016)