Hulton is first mentioned around 1235. In time it became three townships, Little, Middle and Over Hulton. The manor was first held by the Barton and Worsley families. The district was split into several smaller parishes, including Wharton and Peel. Confusingly there were two Peel Halls in the area. We are going to look at the one known as Kenyon Peel Hall, or sometimes Old Peel Hall.
The confusion for the Victorian Postman can be seen on the Ordnance Survey map below, our Peel Hall is the one to the left, under the T of Little Hulton.
Kenyon Peel Hall was also referred to as Old Peel Hall, as it was believed to be the older of the two Peels, and Kenyon Hall, because of its association with the Kenyon family. For clarity I will refer to it as Kenyon Hall.
The Old Hall was possibly built on the site of a previous residence around the beginning of the 17th century, or it may be that there were substantial alterations made at that time to a 16th century building.
The earliest mention of an occupant was in 1595 when Alexander Rigby of Wigan lived there. He married Eleanor Shaw and in 1617 he modernised the hall. Alexander was Deputy Clerk of the Peace, in charge of recording the proceedings of Quarter Sessions. The Clerk in charge was his cousin, Roger Rigby, whose brother Edward, an attorney at Grey’s Inn had recently inherited the post of Clerk of the Crown for Lancashire. The Rigby family therefore had two of the three most important legal roles in Lancashire. Alexander himself was also educated at Gray’s Inn and had been a clerk to Sir Gilbert Gerard, Master of the Rolls. In February 1607 Roger purchased letters patent which gave him the right to pass this on to his own son, another Alexander, then to his grandson. However, he could not afford this and having other large creditors, he had to seek help from his son in law, James Winstanley. However, this agreement only paid off his two largest creditors and he ended up signing over his properties to James, and going into hiding.
Eventually Roger was found in York and began to believe that Winstanley and his cousin were defrauding him. The two men decided they would keep the properties, and did little about Roger’s debts, so legal proceedings were initiated.
Roger was tricked into signing an agreement which left most of his property, but none of his debts in Winstanley’s hands, and he begged his son Alexander to pay off the debts, resorting to stopping his allowance and then allowing him to be thrown into debtors jail. This ploy worked, and then Roger made provision for the clerkship to revert not to his son Alexander, but to his cousin Alexander (of Kenyon Hall) on his death.
in 1612 King James then signed letters patent giving Alexander of Wigan the clerkship for his lifetime and then to his eldest son. Roger Rigby attempted to get the letters back, but his debts forced him again into hiding allowing the action to lapse.
Alexander had a growing legal practice in Wigan, and despite paying out for the Clerkship now had a greatly increased income and significant wealth. He then bought another letter patent to guard against any forfeiture of the first, giving the Clerkship to his other sons, George Rigby (1602-1644) and Joseph (1600-1671).
Alexander died on 16 April 1621 at Kenyon, and having summoned a quorum of JPs he passed over the clerkship to his eldest son, Alexander in trust for George. The eldest son carried out a very honest job for his brother, properly accounting for the profits and also used the fees earned to put George and Joseph through Gray’s Inn.
George returned to Kenyon on 6 July 1627 and on this date the clerkship was handed over to him. He married Beatrice Hulton (d 1643) in 1630 and the couple had four daughters , Beatrice, Lucy, Katherine and Alice. Katherine died in September 1643 George died after a three month illness in July 1644. At the time the Civil War was raging through England, his brother Alexander (now an MP) was besieging Lathom House. George had passed the clerkship to a friend Richard Whitehead to carry it out for the benefit of his girls. Alexander was in no doubt that his brother had intended the proceeds of the clerkship to be for the benefit of George’s daughters but his brother Joseph was also asking for the clerkship, to apply it also for the benefit of the girls.
Beatrice was finding it hard to get by on a reduced income at the house, and to add to her grief, Lucy died in 1646. She was relying on her brother’s advice which led to her falling out with Alexander and he passed the clerkship over to his brother Joseph, on condition that if any law showed that any of George’s daughters were entitled to profits, they should receive them immediately.
Beatrice died in 1648 and the daughters were more attracted to the Hulton home, rather than the stern puritan environment of Alexander.
The legal battles continued and eventually judgement was given for the daughters, that they should have the office carried out on their behalf, and £200 compensation be paid to them. This was thwarted by parliament suppressing the court, leaving Joseph to enjoy the profits. Beatrice died in 1656 leaving only Alice alive, and therefore increased Joseph’s hopes that he could ride the problem out.
Alice was perhaps a little more canny as she married Roger Kenyon (1627-1698) on 17 June 1657. Roger was cut from an altogether different cloth. He saw the potential inheritance, moving into what now became in reality, Kenyon Hall, and the income stream from which he could benefit if he were a litigious. He was so.
He was also patient. He waited, and in 1660 his chance came. Charles II returned to London in 1660 and he immediately travelled south to tell the King his grievances. The King instructed his Chancellor, Lord Seymour to hear the case. The Rigbys heard of this an issued a counter petition, which was to be heard on the same date. It was decided that the office should go to Roger Kenyon on the death of Joseph Rigby.
Whilst this was a good victory in the long term, it was not such a good idea in the short term. Roger had spent by his reckoning £230 to secure the letters patent, and had to temporarily pawn the letters, for £100. Fortunately he was able to redeem the pledge.
Over the next months he returned to London to have the decisions enforced, and in 1661 after some hard slog through the courts he offered to place the matter in arbitration, but Rigby deliberately caused the arbitration to collapse. In 1662 Kenyon managed to get the case heard at the Lancaster Assizes, and took great trouble to gather witnesses from far and wide in his favour. The court however decided that it was the intent that the Rigbys held the office during their lifetime.
Kenyon was tenacious. He believed that the documents supporting the transfer from George Rigby were forgeries, and managed to prove this in court when a key witness broke down and admitted to perjury. Rigby had now to hand over all documentation to Kenyon. This was to prove also hard to do as he managed to evade Kenyon on visits to his properties, and even let it be known that the members of his household were armed, deterring Kenyon.
Eventually Kenyon got to the front door of Rigby’s house, but Joseph’s son, Alexander refused to bring his father to the door. However, Kenyon boxed clever and threw the decree on the floor of the hall, saying
since he could not come att his said Father to deliver itt, he thought he could not leave itt in a likelier place for him to find itt
Kenyon was not yet finished with his adversaries. He wanted compensation and he had meticulously noted all of his expenses to date, which bill he rendered to Joseph headed, An Account for Joseph Rigby:
For good measure he added the fact that his men had covered in this endeavour totalled £22,622. This too went to court, and judgement was granted for far less. However, again Rigby managed to avoid payment. Joseph Rigby had had the last laugh, he died on 7 November 1671 without having paid over any money. Roger Kenyon and his son had won the clerkship and Kenyon Hall, but it had cost them dearly.
Roger and Alice’s eldest son, Roger (1660-1728) became a trader, and sailed to Barbados in 1681. He did not initially do well and wrote back that he was working as a teacher in a gentleman’s household when infact he was indentured to pay off his debts. He asked for money to return to England, which his father duly sent expecting his arrival back in Plymouth in 1684. He never arrived, having married Mary Ray (1667-1714) on Rhode Island in October 1683. Mary was the daughter of Simon Ray (1638-1737) a wealthy farmer who had emigrated from Suffolk, and his wife Mary Thomas.
Another son, Thomas (1668-1731) married Catherine Lloyd, the daughter of Luke Lloyd of Bryn in Flintshire. The Hall fell into the ownership of this family and remained in their possession until demolition. Their son Lloyd (1696-1773) inherited the Gredlington Estate in Flintshire from his grandfather Luke Lloyd – his son Lloyd (1732-1802) became the first Baron Kenyon, and served as Attorney General, Lord Chief Justice and Master of the Rolls.
George Kenyon (1665-1728) succeeded his father in the Clerkship, and was educated at Manchester Grammar School, St John’s Cambridge and Gray’s Inn. Old enmities were however not far from the surface and he clashed with Sir Alexander Rigby MP for Preston and Joseph Rigby’s nephew and the Earl of Macclesfield (Charles Gerard of Gawsworth) tried to stop him being appointed Wigan Recorder.
In 1698 he succeeded his father as Clerk and took up residence at Kenyon Hall. He married his cousin, Alice Kenyon at St Mary in Stockport in September 1696. In 1706 he became Vice Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and in 1713 was elected Tory MP for Wigan, which seat he held until 1715. However, he had made many enemies over the years, including the Rigbys who still bore grudges, and in 1715 he lost his Vice Chancellorship and moved from Kenyon Hall to Salford in 1718 to concentrate on his clerkship of the peace. He died on 1 December 1728 in Salford.
The Kenyons lived at the house until 1836 and the last family member to live there was Alice (d 1836).
After that the house was used as a farm. In 1881 James Roscoe¹ (1820-1890) is living there with his wife Mary Bennett (b 1821). James was the son of Roger Roscoe and Elizabeth Grundy of Farnworty. He began working as a miner in Astley and then moved to Leicester where he patented an automatic locomotive lubricator. This enabled him to invest in a mine in Little Hulton, where he started extracting the coal using horse and cart until the railways came.
In 1872 he formed James Roscoe and sons, which continued until taken over by Peel Collieries in 1938. The mines however contributed to the downfall of Kenyon Hall. The Hall fell victim to settlement caused by the mines underneath and had to be restored in the 1880s. It was given a new blue slate roof to produce what was described as hard and glossy glitter in the place of picturesque decay.
The Kenyons retained their connection with the house and in the 1920s Lord Kenyon’s caretaker was living there. However, the house was falling into decay, Lord Kenyon offered to sell it to the council, but it was hard to raise the cash to do this. It was given a grant for restoration but when surveyed in 1958 it was beyond saving and demolished.
Let’s see some pictures:
There are some excellent pictures in Anne Monaghan‘s leaflet if you wish to follow the link.
¹ Although a colliery owner, he was still farming at the Hall.
Views of the Old Halls: Nathaniel George Philips : Henry Gray, 1822
The Halls of Little Hulton: Ann Monaghan : 2006
Old Halls In Lancashire & Cheshire, Henry Taylor : J Cornish, 1884
Burke’s Genealogy, Bernard Burke : Burke’s Peerage, 1885
Kenyon V Rigley, J J Bagley MA : 1954
Lost Houses of Britain, Anna Sproule: David & Charles 1982
© Allan Russell 2021.