Platt Hall stands in Platt Fields Park in Rusholme. It was built around 1764, Pevsner considered it to be the finest Georgian building in Manchester after Heaton Hall. The present building is at least the second on the site and was constructed for John and Deborah Carill Worsley.
In 1150 a Matthew, son of William conveyed the lands of Platt to the Knights of St John. In 1190 the Knights transfered the estate to Richard De La More, whose granddaughter and husband took on the surname Platt. Whilst this family gave the name to the estate, they did not make any great mark on history, and in 1625 Edmund Platt sold the land to Ralph Worsley who was a friend of Humphrey Cheetham.
The Worsleys were an established family who can trace their roots to William the Conqueror. Ralph’s father Charles had made his fortune in the textile trade, having bought various lands in Rusholme from Oswald Mosley. Ralph inherited his father’s estates, and carried on in the textile trade, buying up cloth and passing it out amongst local weavers for manufacture, which he then sold from his premises in Manchester. Ralph was on the Parliamentary side in the Civil War, but did not fight, instead he paid John Burdsell of Millgate in Manchester to carry his arms, giving him him thirty shillings plus one shilling per day and a further thirty shillings when he entered military service.
In 1646 the Reverend John Wigan was appointed as minister of the nearby Birch Chapel, and he began to preach the Parliamentary cause. Ralph’s son Charles (1622-1656) was at the time married and living at Platt. He was inspired and threw himself into Cromwell’s fight. By 1650 he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and raised a company of men to march with Cromwell to Scotland. He became a favourite of Cromwell and was given command of a regiment. He accompanied him on 20 April 1653 when Cromwell dissolved the Long Parliament, Charles himself took the mace and it was kept in his custody until the next parliament required it.
Charles was appointed the first MP for Manchester in 1654, and made Viceroy of Lancashire. A strict Puritan, he disarmed Papists, executed legislation outlawing drunkenness, swearing and profanity. The work took a toll on him and in May 1656 Cromwell commanded him to come to London, he wrote back complaining of feeling ill, but promised to attend nonetheless. He had been assigned St James’ Palace for his residence and arrived there with his wife and children, but died soon after and was given a military funeral and buried in Henry VII’s Chapel at Westminster Abbey. He remains the only Parliamentarian to rest at Westminster.
Charles inhabited the old hall, which was a timbered black and white house, and stood at right angles to the current building. The line descended to his son Ralph (1647-1728) then to Ralph’s son, Charles (1673-1753) and then his daughter and heir, Deborah Carill-Worsley (b 1705), who along with her husband John Lees, of the Manor of Charteris, built the present hall.
John and Deborah’s family were the last to live in the house for a while, as after that the hall was leased out to various tenants. The family moved to Winster in Derbyshire. Deborah’s grandson, Charles (1800-1864) married Mary Jane Darwin (b1817), a distant relative both of Charles Darwin and Josiah Wedgewood.
Around 1800, John Birley (1775-1833) and his wife Margaret Backhouse (1773-1856) leased the house. The Birley family hailed from Newton with Scales near Kirkham in Lancashire. They intermarried with the Hornby family and became Lords of the Manor, maintaining the bloodline whenever they needed to exercise wealth and influence.
They were related to the Stanleys, Earls of Derby, who lived at Knowsley Hall in Liverpool, and had produced Edward Smith Stanley (married to Charlotte Margaret Hornby) who was three times Prime Minister of England.
John’s brother was Hugh Hornby Birley (1778-1845) who is said to have led the charge at Peterloo. The Hall was also leased to John’s son, Richard (1801-1845) who lived there also. In 1835 he emigrated to Ontario in Canada with his wife Mary Ann Hardmann (1802-1875).
John and Richard appear not to have made much impression on history, but the influence of the Birley family continues down to this day. James Leatham Birley, pioneered the study of stress amongst pilots in the first world war, his son James Leatham Tennant Birley, became a CBE, a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians
Arthur Birley, another son of Joseph Birley (1780-1847) had a grandson Sir Robert Birley, who was Headmaster of Eton and Charterhouse, and a prominent Anti Apartheid Campaigner, known as Red Robert. Oswald Birley, the grandson of Hugh Hornby Birley, the Peterloo campaigner, became a prominent watercolourist and Royal portrait painter, Oswald’s son Mark Birley married Annabel Goldsmith and founded the nightclub Annabels in London. His son Robin Birley was a prominent UKIP donor, and was married to Bryan Ferry’s ex wife Lucy.
In between John and Richard living at the Hall, it was leased out to various wealthy merchants by the Carril Worsleys.
In 1825 Timothy Wiggins was living there. He became a prominent London Banker of Wiggins & Company, which was one of the three big American Houses in the 1830s until brought down by a banking crisis in the 1830s. After Wiggins Richard Clegg leased the property, then James Fernley (1794-1857) who lived at the hall between 1829 and 1841.
James was born on the Crescent in Salford, and married Maria Beard Holy (c 1795-1859) of Sheffield. He is connected with the Fernley family of Bank Hall in Stockport, possibly being a brother of Thomas Fernley. He certainly operated with him at Rainow in Cheshire, but his main mill was at Gaythorn in Manchester. This area is now occupied by First Street in Manchester. James bought the works from the Provincial Portable Gas Company of London. This company had been founded in 1825 and had the rights to supply gas to Chorlton Upon Medlock. In 1837 disputes had arisen over supply and the works were taken over by the Police Commisioners for their Gas Company.
There are many reports of him breaching Factories Act regulations, in 1836 he was fined 20 shillings for employing unregistered child labour, and in 1848 for not reporting an accident where a girl, Sarah Berry, lost her finger. He at first claimed no knowledge of the incident (despite his son being stood next to Sarah at the time of the accident), then claiming that the summons had misspelt his name, then protesting that the girl had been careless. He was fined £5 but still said he would appeal.
The same year his mill caught fire four times, the final time on 15 November 1848. Conveniently perhaps he was running down his business at the time, having leased out most of the looms. The last two people to leave the mill before the fire were his sons. At around 10pm the night watchman spotted the fire, and immediately raised the alarm. However, the floors were saturated with oil and despite the entire Manchester fire brigade being brought out the old mill was destroyed.
Three engines drew water from the canal, and three were placed in front of the building attempting to douse the flames. In total ten engines attended the blaze, which was visible from six miles away.
The night watchman stated that there was no problem when he had completed his rounds but half an hour earlier, and Fernley was conveniently fully insured, however, his workforce of 800 were not so lucky and were now unemployed. He subsequently sold salvaged equipment for a comfortable profit.
James died on 28 February 1857 at Longsight Abbey on Plymouth Grove in Manchester.
After James Fernley, the Worsley family took up residence again, with Thomas and Margaret Worsley living there in 1841 Charles-Carril Worsley and Mary Jane Darwin moved in around 1851. They lived there until the late 1860s when Alfred Whitworth (1821-1891), a fustian dealer and manufacturer moved into the Hall and lived there from ca 1871-ca 1875
Alfred was born in 1821 in Philadelphia, Pensylvania to Nicholas Whitworth and Sarah Lear. The stay in the United States appears brief as his brother Robert was born in Ireland in 1821. The Whitworth family had extensive undertakings in Drogheda, Ireland, and his brother Benjamin (1816-1893) founded the Greenmount and Boyne mills there, as well as overseeing the construction of the town’s water system.
Three brothers operated under the style B Whitworth and Brothers, and Bernard became a director of the Metrolpolitan Railway as well as MP for Drogheda. Alfred ran the Manchester side of the business, marrying first Martha Bowman in 1851 and after her death, Isabella Sophia Atkin.
In 1873 the partnership between the brothers was dissolved and Alfred carried running the merchant side of the business. After Platt, they moved to the Polygon in Ardwick and then to York Place. He died in 1891 and was buried at St Paul in Withington.
By 1881 Nicholas Tindall (1848-1910), of Aylesbury Manor, Buckinghamshire was in the Hall. He had married Charles’ and Mary Jane’s daughter, Elizabeth Carill Worsley at the British Consulate in Geneva in 1875. In 1878 he was granted the name and arms of Carill-Worsley and henceforth the family name became Tindall-Carill-Worsley.
The family had moved out of Platt Hall by the beginning of the 20th century, and lived at 54 Kensington Park Road, London. Their children distinguished themselves in service to the UK. Captain Charles Nicholas Tindall Carill-Worsley (1876-1920) served on the Royal Yacht HMY Victoria and Albert, before commanding the HMS Prince George at Gallipoli. He was awarded the Legion D’Honneur in 1918. His brother Ralph (b1881) served as well on the Royal Yacht and fought at the Battle of Jutland. He came out of retirement during World War II to command a WRENS training school.
Eventually the city was encroaching on the Platt estate, and public clamour grew for a park. Long years of negotiations followed, with the original asking price being £184,000 (£22.7m in 2020) in 1901. The Hall went up for sale in 1906, but was withdrawn at £46,300 (£5.7m in 2020), not having reached the reserve. Many schemes were discussed over what could be done with the estate, including the construction of a teacher training college. Many of the ideas involved demolition of the hall and building housing on the grounds.
The council were now at a loss over what they could use the Hall and grounds for. There was a public outcry over the plans for demolition. This was lead by William Royle, a Rusholme man who campaigned vigorously to save the estate for posterity.
Eventually John Harrop the Lord Mayor, and his deputy were despatched to London in 1907 to negotiate with the Tindalls, agreeing a price and borrowing £60,500 (£7.3m in 2020) from the Local Government Board to purchase it.
The following year Platt Fields was the site of the Royal Lancashire Show and the Manchester Electrical Exhibition, which showcased modern appliances.
The council then commenced on draining the badly flooded fields to fashion a park out of the grounds, and build the boating lake and the park was formally opened in 1910.
In 1917 the Hall was requisitioned to house 25 conscientious objectors who were engaged in agricultural work, but this was not enough to rescue the Hall, and demolition was once again being discussed in 1925.
It was not until 1925 when Yorkshire Businessman, Charles Lambert Rutherston (1866-1927) donated his extensive collection of mainly modern British Art to Manchester City Council. The council now had to find a home for it, and that home was Platt Hall.
The Art Gallery was opened the next year and became a venue for artistic and musical experiences. In 1931 the Hall hosted an experimental Chamber Music Broadcast by the BBC. There were also many educational evening lectures held there.
During the Second World War, the Art School relocated there, and in 1947 the Council opened up the first Gallery of British Costume at Platt. The first week saw 4,000 people view the 60 costumes on display (out of a collection of 1,000)
However, the future of the Hall is once more in doubt. In August 2017 an infestation of moths caused extensive damage, incurring costs of over £350,000 in restoration, repairs and maintenance in the Hall since then. The Art Gallery in Mosley Street is slated to house the collection from 2021, and the council plan for the Hall to house a user generated museum, whatever that is.
Anyway, let’s look at the Hall, the picture on the far right is from 1907.
Rusholme: Past and Present, William Royle : Wm Hough & Sons 1905.
The Buildings Of England, South Lancashire, Pevsner : Penguin 1971.
© Allan Russell 2020.