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The Good, the Standard and the Ugly: Hough End Hall

Jonathan Schofield on vandalism by planning

Written by . Published on May 19th 2010.

The Good, the Standard and the Ugly: Hough End Hall

Rating: Good but bad

What and where?
Hough End Hall, off Nell Lane, Chorlton. But...

Well before we go on, let me quote you this from Pevsners' Buildings of England series, South Lancashire edition, from 1969. '(Hough End Hall) was, the best, the only major Elizabethan mansion of Manchester, red brick, on an E-plan with mullioned and transomed windows and gables. At the time of writing the roof is open to the skies, and the porch has collapsed. It is an act of unpardonable callousness.' The hall was under the ownership of the City of Manchester. This was when the City had the worst reputation in the country for looking after its heritage.

Original stonework on the windows

So what happened?
Eventually the Council were shamed into action, or began to realise that the monuments of the past might better inform the achievements of the present for locals and visitors. The house was re-roofed, the brickwork was stabilised, new mullions and windows were put in. Hough End was renovated again recently and a restaurant opened with a function room upstairs, but the interior has completely gone.

At least we have that exterior though.
We do, yes. The profile and exterior appearance of Hough End was kept, but really the Council might as well have demolished it. In the 1960s in the most cack-handed planning ever seen on God's green earth two office blocks were built, one partially in front of the ancient house. This pair of bland bores are so close to the Hall, they imprison it, put it in a straitjacket, choke the living daylights out if it. Look at these pictures. Which idiot in the planning office agreed to this, which idiot architect looked at the site and thought, great idea? If the latter had had an ounce of integrity he would have run screaming from the contract. The architect must have been broke – that can be the only excuse. Either way Hough End Hall should be studied by planning departments as an object lesson of how not to do things.

Ghostly Hough, the house has disappeared behind crap sixties buildings

Idiots indeed, anything else
Look at the old photos of the house here (click here, enter the name of the house and then stare) and it has a pretty walled garden in front of it. Any recognition of Hough End's rural setting for the first 350 years of its life was destroyed and the gardens placed under tarmac as car parking, with only a single beech tree remaining as a reminder. Absolutely perverse. It's imprisoned in another way too.

Explain the extra captivity
Fences, CCTV, wire... Here we have all the paraphernalia of modern paranoia in their full glory. To the north and west of the Hall, Chorlton High School has built itself a seven foot high fence to either keep people out or keep kids in. There are fences on either side of the sixties buildings and fences along the entry lane. CCTV nests everywhere. The result is that a historic house which has ostensibly been restored has been, deliberately, ruthlessly and brutally crushed by its surroundings. In Pevsner's words again, 'It is an act of unpardonable callousness.'

Taking it from the rearThe best view, sculpture in brick

Oh dear...
The only hope is that the sixties lump entitled Mauldeth House at the front is demolished, and that a garden is made again front and back of the hall. Or maybe the sixties buildings are made bright with paint, tidied up and that lawns are spread between the various structures to make a place where people can maybe have a drink in the summer sun. Dreams of course. Speaking of drinks the current situation is cruel on the people who have taken Hough End to run as a restaurant, because at present it sits in such a hostile environment it may as well double as a young offenders' institution. And there's the rub, because Hough End should be a resource that could be used in the whole of south Manchester as a place for schools to teach kids about the past, as a place to learn about the pride which should be part and parcel of being a Mancunian.

When you're off your high horse tell me something about the history.
Hough End was completed in the 1590s for Nicholas Mosley who with his wealth as a cloth merchant had bought the Manor of Manchester – hence Mosley Street in the city centre. The Mosley's were an odd lot, the boy children were either called Nicholas or Oswald. Our Nicholas rose to become Lord Mayor of London in 1599. He was a great success in this role, for example raising money to finance the navy and help defend England against the Spanish Armada. He's buried in Didsbury in St James' in the best family memorial in Manchester. His descendents Oswald and Max (for once not a Nick or Ossy) are notorious.

What do you mean?
One was the leader of the British fascist party in the 1930s and the other has been a recent bigwig in Formula One racing who famously had a taste for S&M. Neither fortunately have anything to do with Manchester apart from a very distant family link.

Fences, wire, CCTV and spot the 1590s/center>

What about the building?
Nobody knows who the architect is but he produced a classic of Elizabethan brickwork that depended for its effect on massing and balance, there are very few decorative details. Walk round the hall and you can see how the original design flowed forward and ebbed back almost as if the bricks were all wet during construction and the shape sculpted by a giant hand. The chimneys are part of this, a practical, yet dramatic climax to the house silhouette. If you get chance check out how the bricks were laid in a diaper pattern (a repeating geometrical pattern, here in diamonds) which takes great skill. The foundation stones and some of the window surrounds are original.

Lovely chimneys

Anything else?
A word on the position as well. Hough End Hall was perfectly positioned in terms of sunlight, facing south west. This means it gets full sunshine during the day but also ensures it gets lots of the late sun as well. To the west is Chorlton Brook which may have provided some fishing. Then there would have been meadows leading down to the Mersey. It must have been idyllic. By the way you can see one part of the interior.

Where's that?
At Tatton Park. The hall was sold by the Mosley's to the Egerton's and they took the staircase to their family home at Tatton, where it stands today leading to the family quarters. It's perhaps the most genuine part of Hough End remaining.

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19 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousMay 19th 2010.

Bizarre. But remarkable that this building survived despite such obvious neglect.

Small wonder then that so little of Manchester's less obvious but equally worthy heritage survived - the workshops, foundries, factories, laboratories, dye works and so on - the buildings of Manchester's many great scientists and engineers - when more obvious examples like this and the Charles Barry-designed church on Upper Brook Street are so neglected.

MaggsMay 20th 2010.

I agree completely with Jonathan's comments. For many years my late husband was the assistant manager of the Southern Hotel accross the road in it's glory days as Boddington's flagship pub and in the late 70's Hough End Hall was THE place to go out for a meal. It then fell into disrepair again and, I think, was some sort of drinking den for a while and then closed completely until the recent renovation into a restaurant again. Any chance of a review before it closes again???

Andrew RevansMay 20th 2010.

Aged 12, I watched from the 22 bus as these mostrosities emerged. Even at that tender age I found it hard to comprehend how the council were able to get away with what they did, or indeed why they should have wanted to do it.

Mr KonradMay 20th 2010.

It makes me smile at the sheer stupidity of planning every time I drive past

LagavulinMay 20th 2010.

How could any sane planning department allow this?

Leigh ScottMay 20th 2010.

must have been for a drink at your house!

Johnny TaskerMay 20th 2010.

Doubtless the quarter - wit that sanctioned this act of planning vandalism , was mentioned in the New Year Honours List , way back then .

AnonymousMay 21st 2010.

Yes ,planniing at its worst.My two sisters had there wedding reception at hough end hall so i have fond memories of the hall.
But do agree councils are totally stupid people when the object comes down to money and costs and anything historic depends on funding from intrested parties to keep the buildings of intrest in good repair. But also certain people dont help as yuo say if its not fixed or bolted down lets damage or nick the contents people with no morals i dare say

NortherngeezerMay 21st 2010.

Ahhhhh, memories. Being a Chorlton lad i remember playing in the ruins of hough end hall as a kid in the early 60s before "The Two Graces" were built to hide it. It now looks just like any other plastic beer/shyte food theme pub. Shame.

NodgerMay 22nd 2010.

As a schoolboy I would pass the derelict(?) farm house on the corner on Nell Lane and Mauldeth Rd.There were peacocks strutting about to lend atmosphere. My more courageous mates would explore the roof-free hall. Kellogs, I think, used the slope next to the stream for dumping, one would find plastic submarines and other exotic products designed to pressurise mums into buying corn-flakes. Even to a schoolboy the imposition of those lacklustre buildings seemed a travesty.

DavidMay 25th 2010.

just like today with Piccadilly Gardens buried under an office block (thank Howard Bernstein) or the Chethams extension, a real piece of vandalism, made possible by a threat by Chethams to leave M'cr.

Christopher BryanMay 26th 2010.

Johnathan if you really wanted to check you could check the Council's records and see which Councillors (on the planning committee) gave the consent. There's a very small possibility that some of them may still be alive and kicking.

Eddy RheadJune 9th 2010.

The building has now become meaningless in its current setting. Im sure its a listed building and therefore protected but the kindest thing to do would be to demolish it. There is no point dwelling on the mistakes of the past. Hough End Hall is now just an incongruous artifact and serves no real purpose both functionally or architecturally.

ChortoniarexJune 9th 2010.

I can't believe this guys saying this. Dynamite the sixties pair. Landscape the area, and have it as an extension of Chorlton Park

Eddy RheadJune 9th 2010.

.......and in the real world!

LeeJuly 1st 2010.

A lot of the fittings from the hall were moved out and resited in Tatton Park during the 1860's, as the family owned it and then got rid of it minus some bits. The staircase is from the hall aswell as some parts of the tower within the gardens

OrigenJuly 7th 2010.

Interesting that you want to be on the side of the angels when it suits - but I seem to recall your magazine doing a hatchet job on one of Manchester's oldest buildings,St Mary's Mulbery Street, because the resident priest dared to oppose the adjacent bar/nightclub development(which didn't last too long).

Ewan HannahDecember 15th 2010.

Thanks for an interesting and informative article. I live in West Didsbury, a few minutes walk from this building. I would never have known it was there until I recently stumbled upon a reference to it on Wikipedia. I'll be walking over to have a look at it as soon as I get a chance.

Chris WatkinMarch 8th 2014.

British Fascist Leader Sir Oswald Mosley celebrated his 80th birthday here in 1976.

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