100 Halls Around Manchester Part 7: Foxdenton Hall, Chadderton

Foxdenton Hall stands today in Foxdenton Park in Chadderton. It is a Grade II Georgian Country house which was built around 1720 for Alexander Radclyffe, and stands on the site of an earlier Hall from 1620 for his ancestor, William.

Foxdenton Hall, Lancashire XCVII, 1882 © Ordnance Survey

Chadderton appears first in 1212 as being given to Gilbert De Notton, the Lord Of Barton and it passed to his successor Geoffrey de Chetham and thence to the Traffords. Richard De Trafford partitioned his estates and part passed to his son, Geoffrey, who adopted the name Chadderton. Geoffrey’s son, also Geoffrey had a daughter, Margery who married John De Radclyffe¹, the illegitimate son of the rector of Bury. John died in 1407 having outlived his wife and son, and his grandson, John inherited the estate, on coming of age in 1415. His estate was divided between his three daughters, Joan married Edmund Ashton, and their descendants lived at Chadderton Hall, Margery married Ralph Standish of Standish, and Elizabeth married Robert Radclyffe of the Ordsall family and they settled at Foxdenton.

The Hall descended through the Radclyffe ancestors. Sir William Radclyffe who fought on the Kings side in the Civil War and was knighted for his service. He died soon after 1646, and his two daughters Mary and Susan married John Byrom of Salford, and Alexander Potter of Manchester. They bequeathed Foxdenton Hall to their cousin, Alexander Radclyffe of Ordsall, who built the current hall.

The first building was constructed in the fifteenth century and was described as a noble and lofty edifice of the 16th century fronting northerly, with two wings, overlooking a beautiful lawn. The current building dates from the early eighteenth century.

There were Radclyffes at the Hall until the end of the eighteenth century, when the family moved to Bath and Dorset, where they can still be found.

Circa 1800 Ernest Hannibal Becker (1771-1852) leased the Hall from the Radclyffe family. The Becker family remained at the Hall until around 1882.

He was a German immigrant, born in Ohrdruff in Thuringia, who became a naturalised citizen. He married Lydia Kay Leigh (1779-1843). In 1829 he started a Vitriol works by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Altham near Accrington, and a Calico Printers at Reddish Mills in Reddish.

He was a keen patron of the Arts and was one of the founders of the Gentleman’s Concerts in Manchester, and a subscriber to the Halle.

His two sons, Hannibal Leigh Becker (1803-1877) and John Leigh Becker (1811-1888) managed these businesses.

Hannibal worked first at the Calico works, living at Reddish Hall, he married Mary Duncroft in 1826 in 1843 they disposed of the Reddish business, after having a bankruptcy annulled, and moved to Altham to manage the Vitriol works. The couple had fifteen children the most notable of which was Lydia Ernestine Becker (1827-1890). In Altham they lived first at Sparth House whilst a mansion, Moorfield House was built for them.

Lydia developed a love of botany and astronomy, and in 1864 published a book on the subject. In 1865 the family moved to Manchester and in 1871 they were living on Grove Street in Ardwick². In Manchester Lydia started a society for ladies for the study of literature and science, and started giving free lectures, with disappointing results.

At a meeting of the Social Science Association of Manchester in 1866 she heard a paper on Women’s suffrage and she subsequently came to the forefront of the Women’s suffrage campaign, eventually taking the position of secretary of the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage and in 1870 was the editor and chief contributer to the Women’s Suffrage Journal, speaking all over the country in support of her cause.

In 1867 a widowed shop owner, Lilly Maxwell appeared in error on the Manchester electoral register, and Lydia escorted her to the polling station where the returning officer had to allow her to vote, her name being on the register. The vote was subsequently annulled, and a court case to allow other women to appear on the register was dismissed, however the die was now cast.

In 1880 she campaigned for the right of women to vote in the Isle of Man for the elections to the House of Keys, and was successful. She is considered to be the key figure in womens suffrage from 1860-1890. She died of diptheria whilst on holiday in Aix Les Bains on 18 July 1890.

John Leigh Becker continued to live at Foxdenton Hall after the death of his father and established a chemical works at Middleton. The Vitriol Works as they were known locally continued to thrive until around 1898 when they were described as being in a crumbling state and empty apart from a sole caretaker.

John married Amelia Ogden at the Cathedral in Manchester in June 1851. They do not appear to have had any children, they continued to live at Foxdenton until 1882 when John fell out with Charles Radclyffe over the lease, after which they had properties in Buxton, at Daisymere in Fairfield and Ashley Road in Altrincham. John continued his business interests in Buxton, being vice chairman of the Buxton Hotel Company. He died in Altrincham in 1888

After that the hall appears to have entered a rapid decline, in 1891 a clogger, possibly named William Wormington (the transcription is unclear) and his family are at the Hall, and in 1911 a General Clerk Thomas Bell and family are there.

The park was being used as a pleasure grounds in the 1890s, and was open daily, offering locals a band, and charging 2d (1p) admission rising to 3d on Band Days. However, on Sundays the 2d admission was returned in refreshments.

The Radclyffe family leased the Hall in 1922 to Chadderton Council who tookover the site. It then stood neglected for many years, and the government refused to help with restoration work estimated at £10,000 in 1951, because it was not considered an ancient monument.

Chadderton Council purchased the Hall and Grounds from the Radclyffe family in 1960. They had initially planned to demolish it. At this time, the building was just being used for storage.

Local pressure however prevailed, and £2,000 was raised in grants and further funds via local appeals, and in 1963 Chadderton Council agreed to the restoration, which by its reopening in 1965 had cost £17,000. The original plans on reopening was to use the Hall to be used as a cafeteria, with meeting rooms and football changing rooms in the basement, with a nod towards perhaps finding a long term use more in keeping with the nature of the building.

It is once more in a state of deterioration, with water entering from both the roof and basement whilst Oldham Council consider its future use. Historic England describes its condition as poor. However there is an active community group campaigning and working on the restoration of the Hall, the link is here.

Foxdenton Hall © Chadderton History Society

¹ The spellings Radcliffe and Radclyffe exist, I will stick to the latter

² The census note for Hannibal says he refused to give information on his occupation

Sources:

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/lancs/vol5/pp115-121

https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/odnb/9780192683120.001.0001/odnb-9780192683120-e-1899

© Allan Russell 2020.

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