Grotton Hall was the seat of the Buckleys of Saddleworth, it stands in Lydgate, overlooking Oldham.
The current building was in the Buckley family for centuries. In 1656 John Buckley built or rebuilt part of the house. The Buckleys were originally tenants of Dunham Massey but they became wealthy in the early 17th century and in 1629 Richard Buckley bought part of Quick Moor in Saddleworth. He now described himself as a yeoman of Grotton Head.
John improved on his father’s landholdings, buying several farms in the area, as did his son and grandson after him, also called John.
In 1781 another John Buckley (1759-1805) inherited the hall. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and settled in Chester. He mortgaged the estate, and part of his farm was purchased to build Lydgate Church. The last of this line to own Grotton Hall was Richard Fosbrooke Buckley who sold the Hall to Sir Edmund Buckley (1780-1867) of Manchester, the son of John Buckley who built the White Hart Inn in Lydgate.
Edmund was a self made industrialist who operated as a canal carrier, coal merchant and manufacturer, by 1850 he was considered to be the richest man in Manchester. He sat as MP for Newcastle Under Lyme between 1841 and 1847, but never spoke in the House.
He was born on 24 December 1780 in Lydgate and started by working in the local cotton mills and also helped his father who became an agent for the Huddersfield Canal company. Working in the transport industry he entered the firm of Booth and Company who carried goods between Manchester and Hull and rose to be partner, renaming the company E Buckley & Co. Rising in wealth he entered into other industries and helped fund others in their endeavours. In later life he became a magistrate for Lancashire, Derbyshire and Merionethshire (where he had land) and also Chairman of the Manchester Insurance Company as well as director of the Rochdale Canal Company along with seats on a number of railway boards.
Grotton Hall was heavily modernised by Edmund Buckley in 1844, and the general opinion of the time is that he did not improve the building with his tinkering.
In his private life he was a keen racehorse owner and owned a large stud. He died on 21 January 1867 in Ardwick. He was succeeded by his illegitimate son, Edmund Peck (1834-1910) who was born out of wedlock to Sarah Peck.
Edmund had his name changed by royal warrant in 1864 to Buckley and inherited the estate, and the sizeable manufacturing empire of his father. He lived at Higher Ardwick and Grotton Hall and had control of his father’s Prussiate and Copperas factories in Manchester and Elland, a farm, a coal and lime company and slate quarry at Dinas Mawddwy and a Brick and Tile Company at Whitchurch.
He had also inherited his father’s seat at Dinas Mawddwy in Merionethshire and had been created the first Baronet in 1868. He sat as MP for Newcastle Under Lyne. He settled at Dinas Mawddwy marrying Sarah Peck (d 1883) and building a mansion he called Y Plas as well as a Hotel, the Buckley Arms, which is the oldest reinforced concrete building in Europe.
Despite all these advantages he misappropriated his father’s estate and took control of various legacies for himself and inevitably got caught out, his whole empire collapsing with debts of over £500,000 in 1876 (£59.2m in 2021). His brother, John Peck, emigrated to Australia with his wife Emma where they had two children, and John died there in 1869. Emma sued to make the trustees liable for the misappropriation of legacies. The plaintiffs subsequently discovered that the legacies had not been paid over, and that Edmund had not taken over the annuities provided in the will. Coupled with this his business empire also collapsed leaving him almost penniless.
In 1879 it was ordered that the estate was sold to the trustees to pay for the misapplied legacies, the final dividend was 7s in the £. He took the Chiltern Hundreds and retired to his Welsh home. Sarah died in 1883 and he married her cousin, Sarah Mysie Burton, nee Jenkins. He died on 21 March 1910, and was succeeded by his son, also Edmund (1861-1915) His son, Edmund (1888-1915) was killed in action in World War I.
Grotton Hall in the mean time passed to his aunt, Elizabeth Buckley (1795-1878), his father’s sister. Elizabeth married Captain Walter Whitehead¹ (1798-1862) of Saddleworth and the couple lived initially on Atherton Street in Liverpool where he owned ships. However around 1851 they moved back to Grotton Hall where they lived until their deaths. They had no children and were buried at St Chad in Saddleworth.
After the last of the Buckleys the Hall was first occupied by John and Elizabeth Smith and their nine children in 1881. John and many of his children farmed the property, but some were working in local cotton mills.
After the farmer, Grotton Hall was occupied by John Stocks (1840-1914), his wife Zillah Kathleen Simpson (1854-1907) and their children. John was born in Oldham in 1840 and married first Grace Mills (1841-1876) in 1864, with whom he had four children, Jackson William (1865-1928), Frank (1869-1871), John (1875-1946) and William (1876-1890). He worked as a cotton waste dealer and the couple lived on Radcliffe Street in Oldham. After Grace died he married an Irish girl from county Sligo, Zillah Simpson in 1878 and they had two more children, Zillah Rebecca (1881-1949) and Caleb Henry (b 1879). They briefly moved to Grotton Hall in the late 1880s, staying for around a decade, but after that found Radcliffe Street more attractive and moved back there, living at number 161 until their deaths.
Next to move into Grotton Hall were John Vernon James Hollingworth (1865-1944) and his wife, Stella Nayler (1864-1944). John was a draper born in Dukinfield. He married Stella in Doncaster in 1891 and they had two children, Stella Nayler (1892-1982) and Francis Vernon (1894-1983). In 1901 they were living on Old Street in Ashton, but moved in the mid 1900s to Grotton Hall, however they too saw the benefits of a return to their native town, and were soon back in Ashton Under Lyne, living on Newmarket Road.
In the 1930s Elias Wild (1862-1936) and his wife Sarah Harriett Taylor lived at the Hall. Elias was born in Whaley Bridge in 1862 but soon moved to Ashton Under Lyne and Stalybridge, where they lived on Stamford Street. He founded the building supplies merchant, Elias Wild & Sons,which survives to this day as part of the Travis Perkins Group.
Lastly for this story, we have Fruit Merchant, Richard Ernest Boardman (1872-1951) who was in the house during the second world war. He married Harriett Agnes Richbell (1868-1916) in 1895. Harriett died on 20 March 1916, and his son Alfred Henry Boardman (1896-1916) was killed in the Dardanelles whilst serving with the Royal Fusiliers. He mourned them both, and placed an advert every year in the Manchester Evening News to remember them, as did his other sons, Charles, Harry and Frederick.
The Hall is still occupied today, and a cottage in the grounds is available for holiday bookings.
Let’s see some pictures:
¹ It may be that he is related to the Whiteheads of Shaw Hall, I suspect so, but have no evidence.
Mapping Saddleworth : Saddleworth Historical Society 2007
Saddleworth Sketches, Joseph Bradbury: Hirst & Rennie, 1871.
The Palatine Notebook, J E Cornish: 1883
© Allan Russell 2021.
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