In October 2020, Hough Hall was sold for £165,000. What are the reasons why this Grade II listed, timber-framed, seventeenth-century house is around £60,000 cheaper than a three-bed newbuild located just half a mile away? This is the story of Hough Hall and if those walls could talk, they would have plenty to tell.

Moston

Moston is a district of Manchester, about three miles to the north east of the city. Records date back to the 13th century, when Moston was recorded as Mostun. Although there was a much older presence in the locality and a Roman pavement was found in the area. The township expanded rapidly in the nineteenth century and in 1890 it was incorporated into the city of Manchester.

It was around this time that the landscape around Hough Hall changed drastically. For centuries before it had stood in acres and acres of its own estate. By 1893 it was surrounded by terraced housing and school and I remember catching my first glimpse of the hall on a trip to my grandparents’ grave at the nearby St. Joseph’s Cemetery. I was somewhat mesmerised by the black-and-white building tucked inconspicuously down a side street.

Above: Hough Hall as it appeared in 2018 when I visited. (Source: Thomas McGrath, 2018)

The structure of the Hough Hall is thought to date back to the Elizabethan period, if not slightly earlier. The external chimney stack on Hough Hall Road façade of the property is a common feature in houses of this era. The timber-framed building does not conform to a usual plan or layout for domestic properties of this period and it also has no date stone or dated beams or drainpipes. Therefore, it is a rare surviving example of a house which was added to in a piecemeal fashion. The hall was extended in the late-nineteenth century and altered internally to include a Jacobean-style staircase and panelling. We know that most of this isn’t original to the property from its appearance and from John Booker who writing in 1854 stated ‘the interior presents nothing worthy of notice‘ and considering he wrote at length about the foundations of the house, he likely would have recorded a 200-year-old staircase. Nonetheless, these nineteenth century period features are just as important as their older counterparts and reflect the history of the building over the many centuries it was occupied. In the sources section I had included links to some Urban Explorers’ YouTube videos, which give us a unique view inside the hall.

The Early Hall

Hough Hall was occupied by the Halgh family (their surname also sometimes spent Hough) and it is important to distinguish Hough Hall in Moston from Hough End Hall in Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

During the early-sixteenth century Hough Hall was occupied by George Halgh and his wife Ann (nee Consterdine). Unfortunately, the marriage was not a happy one and Ann had a long-standing affair with Sir John Byron of Clayton Hall. Ann and Byron were even openly-living together at one point even though she was still married and after George’s death, they eventually married, suggesting this really was a romance. Whilst her first husband was still very much alive; the affair produced a son and a daughter. The daughter, Ann Halgh, bore George’s surname but was officially recognised by Byron as his heir. This Ann, married Cuthbert Scholfield, who in 1561 filed a divorce at the Bishop’s Court in Chester on the account of his wife’s adulterous behaviour with a gentleman named Michael Goodricke (they later ran away to Ireland together). Rev. John Booker writing in the mid-nineteenth century delicately noted that Ann Scholfield had ‘inherited her mother’s frailty‘.

Above: Hough Hall, Moston in 2018 (Source: Thomas McGrath, 2018)

Captain Robert Halgh was the last in the line of the Halgh family to own the hall. As he supported the King during the English Civil War (1642-1651) he was ordered to sequester his estate during the Parliamentarian years to secure his future freedom.

Halgh died around 1685 but it seems he did not leave Hough Hall. A ghost story was recounted centuries later that Captain Halgh still roamed his former home and the estate with his phantom dogs. It was noted; ‘many a Moston man has spent the night at a neighbouring inn rather than pass the hall late at night‘. Or certainly this is the story they told their wives the next morning!

A New Owner

Shortly after Halgh’s death in 1685, the hall and estate were purchased by James Lightbowne, a merchant. The family also owned Lightbowne Hall in Moston and his acquisition of the estate was likely an attempt to secure the land. Lightbowne was an early example of a merchant in Manchester who had somewhat transcended his trade origins and his wealth enabled him to buy this estate and he became a firm part of the local gentry. This was to be a story replicated many times over by merchants in Manchester in the eighteenth century.

In 1664, two decades before James acquired Hough Hall, his daughter, Ann (d.1669) had married Thomas Mynshull (d.1698), an apothecary. They were friends of Sir Humphrey Chetham, the founder of Chetham’s library. Thomas and Ann had the following children: Thomas, John, Richard and Mary. The family had numerous properties to reside in, as Thomas had purchased the Chorlton Hall estate in 1644. The Chorlton Hall estate now makes up most of Chorlton-upon-Medlock and the area occupied by MMU and parts of the UoM. Chorlton Hall itself survived as St. Luke’s Rectory off Grosvenor Street until the 1930s when it was demolished. The site is now covered by Litcham Close and Mancroft Walk.

Above: Mynshull’s House on Cateaton Street was built in 1890 but it marks the site of an earlier building which belonged to Thomas Mynshull (d.1698) the apothecary. There is a cartouche explaining this on the bay between the first and second floors. (Source: Thomas McGrath, 2020)

The Hough Hall estate passed into the Mynshull family, through Thomas and Ann’s descendants. To follow the story of Hough Hall onwards, we need to travel a few miles from Moston back to the Chorlton Hall estate, where the Mynshull family resided in the eighteenth century. As a side note, the family were related to the poet John Milton through marriage.

The Mynshull Family

Thomas Mynshull (c.1700-1749) married Barbara Nabb (also spelt Naab) (1703-1783) in 1730 and they had a son, Thomas Samuel Mynshull (1733-1755). When Thomas Samuel Mynshull came of age in February 1754 (he turned 21) there was great excitement in Manchester. Church bells were rung and there was a ball for a hundred couples at the old exchange on King Street. Sadly, Thomas died just a year later and his funeral was marked with great ceremony too and this somewhat shows the dereference of the local population at the time to the local gentry.

Barbara Mynshull now found herself in sole control of the vast estates which would have been inherited by her son. The family owned Chorlton Hall, Hough Hall and also Garratt Hall. In the late 1760s Barbara fell in love with Roger Aytoun (1749-1810). Roger who came from Fife, Scotland was much younger than Barbara and The Manchester Times noted that his ‘reckless and improvident habits’ led to him being nicknamed ‘Spanking Roger’.

Above: Roger Aytoun aka Spanking Roger, depicted here on the left, in this 1797 illustration which compared his 6’4″ (1.9m) height to that of the Duc d’Angouleme, who was 5’4″ (1.6m) (Source: National Museums Scotland http://nms.scran.ac.uk/database/results.php?field=who&searchterm=%22Major-General+Roger+Aytoun%22&searchdb=scran)

There are three stories about how the relationship came about. One is that Barbara fell in love with Roger on Kersal Moor, where she had just seen him compete in a foot race. The second is that she advertised for a husband and he accepted the vacancy. The third is that she saw him in a parade of dragoons at St. Ann’s Square, which as well as being a residential square was also the site of a market and a parade ground for the yeomanry. As Roger was 6’4″ (1.9m) tall, he would have cut a very dashing figure in his military uniform. Whichever story it was, a dinner was subsequently held for the officers, including Roger, at Chorlton Hall and Roger, as a bright-eyed 19 year old, was no doubt drawn to the 65 year old’s vast wealth

The couple married at the Collegiate Church (now Manchester Cathedral on 3 February 1769 and when announced in the newspaper Barbara was described as ‘an agreeable widow lady with a large fortune‘. The writing was on the wall and the marriage was not a success. Within a week Roger had left his wife and he drank heavily. The couple lived at Chorlton Hall first but apparently Barbara gave Roger Hough Hall to live in, presumably she stayed in Chorlton Hall and both parties probably relished the several miles between them, though both were trapped in the loveless marriage for 14 years. However, as this was the eighteenth century, any property or assets that Barbara had owned as a widow transferred to her husband. Therefore, she was entirely dependent on Roger and he apparently allowed her ‘£60 or £70 a year’ but he squandered the rest of the fortune. Within just five years of the marriage the Mynshull estates had to be sold.

Roger later fought in Gibraltar and he would eventually become a Major General. He remarried and he died in Scotland in 1810. Barbara died in 1783 at the age of 79. Her legacy has been somewhat unfairly treated and her story was often recounted as that of a foolish older woman lusting after a younger man, with the obvious sting in the tale. We will probably never know the ins-and-outs of the relationship between her and Roger and both parties were old enough to what they were getting into and that the age gap could be a problem. However, attraction and flattery can go a long way, especially with someone who experienced the losses such as those Barbara had with her husband and son. Ultimately, she did take a risk when she married Roger and when the relationship soured, she made the most sacrifices. However, this speaks more about the legal status of women in the eighteenth century than it does about Barbara’s behaviour. The names of the families live on through Minshull Street and Aytoun Street in the city centre; through a bar, The Spanking Roger on Sawley Road and through the new KAMPUS development off Aytoun Street.

Estate Sales

In September 1774 Hough Hall was advertised for sale along with 40 statute acres of land (which accounted for 26 ‘Lancashire’ acres). A year later the hall had been sold for £60,000 and it was advertised to let. It was noted ‘it would make a good ‘Yarn Croft’.

The property was purchased by Samuel Taylor (d.1820), who was a Colonel in the Manchester and Salford Volunteers. He was also the Grand Master of the Orange Lodge in Manchester. After Samuel’s death, Hough Hall continued to be owned by the Taylor family but it was not occupied by them. Instead it was let out to tenants and it became a farmhouse. This was not unusual for the period, these Elizabethan, timber-framed houses often fell out of favour among the elite classes who preferred substantial villas or country houses in Broughton, Victoria Park and elsewhere around Manchester. The same fate befell Ordsall Hall in Salford, which was sub-divided into different working-class households in this era.

Above: Hough Hall in 2018 (Source: Thomas McGrath, 2018)

From 1830 at least, Thomas Thorpe was the tenant of the Taylors at Hough Hall. The 1841 census provides a little more information about the household. Thomas was around 65 years old at the time of the census (this is approximate as the enumerators rounded ages up or down to the nearest multiple of 5 for adults). He was living with his wife, Phoeby (Phoebe) and a presumably a daughter, Margaret and 55 year old David Thorpe an agricultural labourer. Also living in the hall but consisting of a different household was John and Sally (Sarah) Brundit (Brundrett) and their infant daughter, Mary. John was also an agricultural labourer. Completing the household was Thomas Whitehead, a fourteen year old male servant.

Thomas Thorpe died in 1846 and Phoebe died two years later in 1848. The Brundretts were still living at Hough Hall and they subsequently took over the running of the farm, which was 39 acres in size. As well as their daughter Mary, they had another daughter, Phoebe (b.1843) and a son Samuel (b.1847). Living with them in 1851 was their agricultural labourers; John Dawson and James Drope and also a domestic maid, Mary A. Maken.

Hough Hall Farm

The Brundetts had certainly risen in the world since the 1841 census but they had left Hough Hall by 1863 and the farm was taken over by three unmarried sisters; Ann Mills (b.1832), Elizabeth Mills (b.1837) and Mary Mills (b.1839). The sisters ran the farm along with the help of three male live-in farm servants; John Bradley, Edward Hutchinson and Joseph Taylor. They also employed a live-in maid, Hannah Partington.

The Mills sisters were familiar with farming life. They had grown up at a farm in Moston before moving to another farm on Oldham Road in Newton. After their father’s death in the 1850s their mother had taken on the running of that 27 acre farm herself and upon her retirement it passed to her eldest son. This is likely what prompted the three unmarried sisters to move to Hough Hall and run their own farm. As unmarried women they held a precarious position in mid-nineteenth-century society. Like Barbara Mynshull a century earlier, they had no legal rights but with no husbands they did not face any form of control over their individual property. However, as they were unmarried, they could have easily fell in the typical situation of being dependent on their brother or another male relative. Therefore, the Mills sisters seemed determined to forge their own way through life and be financially and socially independent. Ann, Elizabeth and Mary were quite remarkable women.

Above: Hough Hall as it would have appeared in its heyday. (Source: Booker, A History of the Ancient Chapel of Blackley in Manchester Parish, 1854)

By 1877 the hall was purchased by Robert Ward and Ann and Mary Mills had left Hough Hall and moved to Blue Stone Farm in 1881 and in 1891 to Street Fold Farm, both in Moston. Robert Ward (b.1830) was a manufacturer of cords, velveteens and cotton. He lived with his wife; Sarah (b.1834) and their children: Elizabeth, Alice, Mary, John, Hannah, Johanna and Amy. His elderly mother, Elizabeth Ward also lived with the family at the hall until her death in 1880. The family were still there 1901 and by this time they had employed a domestic servant, Agnes Downing. Robert Ward died in 1904 but Sarah and her unmarried daughter Amy continued to live at the hall until 1919.

Mixed Fortunes: The Twentieth Century

By the early 1920s Hough Hall once again had new owners. Historian, Alan Hampson’s research has traced the more modern history of Hough Hall and a link to his excellent research article is included in the sources below. Hampson has shown how the hall was sold in 1921 to Dr William Struthers Moore and then in 1933 it passed on to Doctor Gerald Green. The 1939 Register shows Gerald (b.1904) and his wife Freda (b.1912) living at the Hall but Green also had his consulting rooms there too.

Above: Hough Hall, c.1940s (Source: Manchester Evening News, 15 March 1949, p.3)

Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War the hall was unoccupied for a few months before it was taken over by a cosmetics manufacturing company. The firm Eleanor Nesfield Limited produced cremes, lipstick and other beauty products.

The firm had installed central heating in the hall to dry it out, as it had been unoccupied for some months before they entered the building. However, the new use of the centuries-old building did not necessarily impress local residents and there were concerns about the machinery which was installed in the various rooms of the house. In 1949, one of the directors of the firm responded to local concerns about the state of the property and some broken windows. Mr H. Glaisher stated:

“Hough Hall is in its original state now. We have installed light machinery, but there is nothing in it that could not be moved out in a couple of weeks […] The broken windows are not a sign of our neglect. They are broken by children throwing stones and as fast as we have them mended, they are broken again. The exterior does need redecorating, but it will cost more than £100, and for that we must have a licence.”

Above: An image shared by the company showing their machinery in a bay window inside Hough Hall, in attempt to show they were not mistreating the building. (Source: Manchester Evening News, 15 March 1949, p.3)

Hough Hall in the 21st Century

Hampson’s research has traced Peter Gobbi and John Leslie Clough at the property in the 1960s and 1970s and he explains in more detail about their time there in his article. They sold the house in 2005. The hall was then occupied until around 2016 when it was left in a semi-derelict state. It received its listed building status only relatively late in 1974.

Now that Hough Hall has been sold its future might be more secure and it is clear the people of Moston want to see this building restored and loved again. The hall reminds us of an early-modern architectural style which has long-since vanished from Manchester and most of its suburbs. Apparently, there are plans in place to convert the hall into apartments and build other properties on the site.

Although it might seem awful to carve up the interior of the house, as it stands it is better than letting it continue to rot away. Plus, when we look back over the history of Hough Hall, we can see that the building has constantly been adapted by the different generations who lived there: from the Halgh’s and Mynshull’s manor house to Brundrett’s and Mills’s farm house to Green’s doctor’s surgery and even the mid-century make-up factory. Moreover, the former residents of Hough Hall tell the story of life; especially the women connected to the building; many of whom struggled for their own independence, either from a loveless marriage or financial security. This building had stood the test of time and hopefully with some care, some money and some respect for the history of the hall, it will continue to tell the history of Moston and Manchester for several more centuries.

Researched and Written by Thomas McGrath

UPDATE: 10 March 2021 – On 8th March 2021, the Manchester Evening News reported that part of the chimney stack and part of the gable-end of the house which front onto Hough Hall Road had been demolished due to safety reasons. This is an iconic part of Hough Hall and as the illustrations in this article show, it is one which was a favoured view of the hall. As the building is listed, I hope this will mean that the new owners have to rebuild these demolished elements in a sympathetic style.

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