Robert de Clayton (c 1030-c 1066) was born in Caudebec, Normandy and came to England with William The Conqueror. In return for his services at Hastings he was awarded the manor of Clayton Le Moors in Lancashire. His son, William (b 1060) was born in Normandy and became heir to the estate after his brother was killed fighting against the Scots. He married Mary Hyde (1060-1121). In the 12th century a house was built at Clayton in Manchester and in 1194 Cecilia Clayton married Robert Byron and the house came into possession of the Byron family¹.
The Byron family held land in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and were witnesses to the charter granted to Manchester in 1301. One Sir John Byron fought at the siege of Calais in 1346 and was knighted by Edward III, one of his descendants was similarly knighted by Henry VII at Bosworth.
Gradually the family gained more land in Manchester, including Royton, parts of Rochdale, Blackley and Gorton. The family held the lands until 1621 when Sir John Byron having encumbered himself with many debts and children and was forced to sell the manor, ending the family’s connections with Lancashire.
The brothers George and Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653) paid £4,200 for the Manor as well as Droylsden and Failsworth, and they agreed that the survivor should take the whole of the property. The pair had been successful textile merchants in London. George died in 1626 and Humphrey retained the property living there until his death. Humphrey having little to spend his money on, having like his brother no issue, splashed out on a funeral which cost £1,161-19-6 (£1,161.98).
The estate, including Turton Tower in Preston, passed to George’s nephew, also George, the son of James Chetham of Crumpsall. George died at the Hall in 1664 and eventually Edward Chetham (1689-1769) inherited it. He died unmarried so it passed to his sister, Alice Chetham (1685-1774) who married Adam Bland of Kippax (b 1684) – the nephew of John Bland of Hough End Hall.
Alice and Adam’s daughter Mary married Mordecai Greene, a Spanish Merchant and the Hall passed through them to James Greene (1759-1814), MP for Arundel in 1759.
James took little interest in the Hall, he was initially in favour of the French Revolution and lobbied for peace with France. After the Peace of Amiens he went to France and befriended Marshall Junot. However Bonaparte accused him of wanting to assasinate him which meant he had to flee under cover of an American passport. By now he had separated from Mary Bland who remained at Turton and moved to Llansantffraed where he pioneered the construction of Iron Boats.
He died on 16 February 1814, leaving his daughters to pay his debts, he denied any child born to Mary after their separation could be his, but did stipulate that his daughters pay an annuity to one Susan Scallon who I always respected … as I should have respected my own daughter.
The estate was inherited by one of his daughters, Arabella Penelope Eliza Greene, who married Peter Richard Hoare (1772-1849), a painter and banker.
Peter was heir to Hoare’s Bank, a privately owned bank which continues today, and is the second oldest in the UK, having had Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen and John Dryden as customers. Peter was not a successful partner in the Bank, sharing the duties with his brother Henry on a rotational basis and plunging the bank into peril.
He also did not choose to live at Clayton and the house was leased out to a number of tenants, with the lands being rented to farmers. In 1841 Joshua and Henry Todd, Attorneys at Law of 7 Norfolk Street Manchester were living there. They were promoters to the Lancashire £100 Money Company, which was set up to lend up to £100 to individuals. A £50 Company was established shortly afterwards.
In 1851 it was rented by Josiah Crompton, a smallware dealer, then in 1863 it became the parsonage of St Cross Church Droylsden, inhabited by a succession of rectors of the church and masters of the church school, the Reverends Charles Henry Lomax, William H Burns and John White through the remainder of the 1800s.
Charles Arthur Richard Hoare (1847-1908), the grandson of Peter Richard Hoare, sold the property to Manchester City Council in 1897 and against type, because of the Chetham connections, they set about works to restore the old building, issuing tenders in 1900. The intention was to use it as a museum.
At the time Clayton was still on the edge of open country, but a contemporary account of a visit notes how new houses were robbing the village of its rural setting. At that time, the moat, at its narrowest thirty feet wide, surrounding the Hall was still filled with water. The trench was crossed by a 17th century bridge, offering the building protection from the encroaching urban sprawl.
The house was two stories high, on the east side were diamond shaped panes in the windows which projected over the moat and at their side were narrow loopholes to afford protection from armed invaders.
The walls were mainly plastered but at the south end the old irregular bricks were exposed. The walls were covered in ivy but black oak beams could be seen protruding from the foilage. Entering through the porch there were stone seats and next to them a stone mounting stool bearing the date 1586. This had once stood on the old coaching highway to the front (now the Ashton New Road).
On the right was another doorway with a trellised entrance capped by a turret. This was believed to have been taken from the old parish church of Manchester when it was rebuilt in the 15th century bearing the old English inscription Ie attende meleor (I await the better).
Infront of the house as a grass lawn, with an orchard at the bottom, somewhat overgrown, the branches hanging into the waters.
Entering the house via the kitchen, which was divided by a large beam, supposed to have marked the division between the living and sleeping quarters. Inside other rooms were oak chairs and chests and a table with twisted legs, each piece bearing a brass plate noting that they had been lent to the Corporation by Charles A R Hoare, a generous benefactor to Clayton.
One chair in particular was said to be the chair in which Oliver Cromwell slept on his visit to the Hall. Downstairs was a wine cellar containing a passageway which lead under the moat, emerging in some trees on the other side.
Upstairs the house revealed more secrets, nearly every room contained a large recess, big enough to hold a man and through which other parts of the building could be accessed. The entire floor was honeycombed with these passages.
One of the bedrooms had a bloodstained floor, giving rise to a ghost story of a troublesome ghost, who had to be exorcised at the end of the 18th century by a clergyman from the Collegiate Church, who succeeded in laying the troublesome spirit to rest, declaring:
Whilst ivy climbs and holly is green
Clayton Hall boggart shall no more be seen
Alfred Darbyshire managed the restoration of the hall, he was given a budget of £900 (£115,000 in 2021) for the work.
The Hall and surrounding park survived as a museum until after the war when it entered a decline, the council reverting to type. In 2009 concerned locals formed The Friends of Clayton Park, and started on a commendable voluntary project to convert the house into a living history museum, reflecting life in Victorian times. The council still own the property, but all profits from the group’s activities go to support the maintenance and care of the house.
The moated island is one of Manchester’s six scheduled Ancient Monuments, although the moat itself having been lined with concrete is not, and the Hall and bridge are listed at Grade II. It has been brought back to life through the work of dedicated volunteers, and I recommend a visit once you are able.
Before we leave I will mention the old barn that stood just outside the moat. It was one of three, The Wheat Barn, the Oat Barn and the Great Barn. The Wheat Barn was converted to a farmhouse, the Oat Barn was sold and removed. The remaining building was converted to a shippon. It was said to be built with wood taken from the old church of Manchester before the current stone Collegiate Church was built. Coming from a holy building it was said to be decorated with effigies of the Virgin, Saints, Angels and flowers.
Alas, we cannot see this today, as on the 23 September 1852 a farm labourer tossed a spent cigarette into the hay causing a fire which burnt down the property.
However, Nathaniel Philips did capture the barn for posterity:
Let’s see some pictures, including a curious one from the Manchester Geographical Society who had given it up for demolished in 1893.
¹ Lord Byron, the poet was a descendant
Views of the Old Halls, N G Philips: Henry Gray, 1893.
© Allan Russell 2021.