100 Halls Around Manchester Part 99: Dunham Massey

Dunham Massey Hall, known simply as Dunham Massey stands in an ancient deerpark south west of Altrincham. The manor has existed since at least Norman times. Watling Street runs past the Hall, and the Bollin flows to the south, on its way once to the Mersey, but now forming a crossroads with the Mersey and Ship Canal.

Dunham Massey, Sheet 98 Stockport © Ordnance Survey 1896

In 1086 the Manor of Dunham is recorded as in the possession of Hamon De Massey. He also owned Bowdon. Hamon had obtained the lands, probably by force from a saxon known as Elward. Hamon probably built a castle on the grounds. Hamon had a son, Hamon, who also named his son the same. This Hamon’s son and heir was Richard De Massey who held the castle against Henry II in 1173 during Hugh Of Chester’s rebellion. He also owned Bramall and Portwood amongst other lands. The fourth Baron Massey, again Hamon, founded the priory at Birkenhead. His son was again Hamon, his other son William founded the Tatton line of Masseys.

Massey ownership ended with the sixth Baron Hamon who married Isabel the daughter of Humphrey De Beauchamp. The marriage lasted a matter of hours as she died the same night. He then married her sister Alice and had four daughters and a son¹ who died young. He divorced Alice and married Joan Clinton, who was the sister of the Earl of Huntingdon. During his time Hamon granted a charter to Altrincham, thus establishing a free market in the town.

Having no male heir, he sold the estates to Oliver Ingham, the Justice of Chester. He died around 1342, the line now died out. His daughters tried to seize back the Manor whilst Oliver de Ingham was in France having been made Steward of Gascony. Long legal battles ensued until the Duke of Lancaster bought out all parties and gave the property to Roger Strange, the Lord Of Knocking, who was descended from Ingham by marriage.

The manor then stayed with the Strange family until the reign of Henry V when the Booth family come into the picture. In 1402 Richard De Venables, the heir to the Bolyn estates drowned in the Bollin and his sisters, Alice and Dulcia inherited. Dulcia (c1400-1453) married Robert Booth (1392-1460) of Manchester in 1409. Robert took his seat at Dunham.

Memorial to Robert and Dulcia at St Bartholemew Wilmslow – the oldest brass in Cheshire

Robert and Dulcia had a son, William whose son, George, married Catherine De Montfort, the heir of Robert De Montfort. This brought great wealth and estates into the family, as did his son, William who married Margaret, the co heiress of Thomas Ashton of Ashton Under Lyne

Their son, George Booth (1622-1684) rallied the last Royalist troops in the Chester uprising during the Civil War, and led them to defeat at Winnington Bridge in 1659. He was captured and briefly imprisoned, but released on the Restoration and awarded a peerage, becoming the First Baron Delamer of Dunham Massey. He married first, Lady Catherine Clinton, the daughter of the Earl of Lincoln, and on her death married Lady Elizabeth Grey, the daughter of Henry, the Earl of Stamford.

George made substantial improvements to the house at Dunham Massey, making an outward court and brick wall and building a new north wing.

George Booth

His son Henry (1651-1693) succeeded him in the Booth and Staley estates. Seeing the threat of the Duke Of York making alliances with Catholic enemies in France, Henry was an ardent supporter of the Bill of Exclusion. This caused him great issues as the Duke’s influence grew, and he was imprisoned briefly in the Tower.

Things got worse when the Duke ascended the throne as James II and he was imprisoned a further two times. Henry had worked hard to eliminate corruption from the judiciary and they came to his rescue, parliament was prorogued and Henry put on trial for treason. After an eloquent defence he was found not guilty and returned to Dunham abstaining from public life for a few years.

Until 1688 that is, when William of Orange arrived in England. Henry mustered a large force of men to stand by him, promising that he would renew their leases to their children, and joined with the Prince of Orange on his way to Windsor.

On his arrival there, Henry was sent with the Marquis of Halifax and Earl of Shrewsbury to King James to tell him to quit the palace. A remarkable turn of events for a man who had been on trial for treason a few years earlier.

As a reward William made him a Privy Councillor and Earl of Warrington as well as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire. He was also awarded a pension of £2,000pa²

The line continued to the 7th Earl of Stamford, George Harry-Booth Grey (1827-1883). He was a keen sportsman, playing eight first class matches for the MCC between 1851 and 1858, being master of the Quorn from 1856-1863 and a patron of the Turf, winning the 2,000 guineas in 1861.

He first married Elizabeth (Bessie) King Billage (d 1854) in 1848. This caused great ripples. Bessie was the daughter of a Cambridge shoemaker, and snubbed by Manchester Society. George abandoned Dunham Massey, vowing never to set foot there again. He married Catherine Cox in 1855 and although he did relent, he never again considered Dunham to be his home.

During this time the house was rented out, first to Robert Platt (1802-1882) and his wife Margaret Higgins (1819-1888). Robert was a cotton manufacturer and entered his family business as manager of his father’s Bridge Street Mill in Stalybridge. He married Margaret on 11 September 1839 at the Collegiate Church in Manchester. He built more mills at Quarry Street and Albion Mills. The couple lived first at the Woodlands on Mottram Road before renting Dunham Massey and finally settling at Dean Water in Woodford.

The Gatehouse at the Woodlands © Wikipedia

In 1870 they funded the building of a Public Baths in Stalybridge for the people of the town, and endowed £2,500 (£320,000 in 2022) to provide for the upkeep of the amenity. Robert was also a keen supporter of the Arts, and gave money to Chester Cathedral and Owens College.

Busts of Robert and Margaret Platt that once stood in Stalybridge Baths © playingpasts.co.uk³

The Hall was then rented by Thomas Andrew Walker (1828-1889). Thomas was born in Brewood, Staffordshire and studied engineering at Kings College in London. He started his career in the first great railway boom, surveying future lines, including the Grand Trunk Railway in Canada.

He spent nine years in Canada building railways for the Government of the Lower Provinces, returning to England in 1861 only to travel to Russia to survey the Orel and Vitespik line in Russia, followed by a stint in Egypt building railway lines there.

Arriving back in England he accepted the management of the contracts for the Metropolitan Railway and construction of the Metropolitan District Line. He designed the Severn Tunnel for Sir John Hawkshaw, although he felt that one subaqueous tunnel enough for a lifetime. Other works of note were Barry Dock and Railway , Preston Dock and Buenos Aires docks.

His time at Manchester was spent on as sole contractor in charge of the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. He completed this task at the same time as he was supervising work at Barry and in Buenos Aires. The Ship Canal made Manchester a Seagoing port, and Thomas was the man who achieved that. During this time, he ensured that his men had adequate accomodation and hospital facitilies.

The strain of all this shortened his life, and he died of Brights disease after returning from Buenos Aires, not being able to witness the completion of his masterwork.

Thomas Walker

Returning to the Grey family George Harry Booth Grey died at Bradgate House in Leicestershire. The Earldom of Warrington became extinct and Dunham passed to his third cousin once removed, the Reverend Harry Grey (1812-1890) who became the 8th Earl of Stamford.

Harry was living in Cape Colony and working as a labourer and miner. He married three times, the last time to a freed slave, Martha. The couple never returned to England to see their estate. On his death the title passed to WIlliam Grey, the ninth Earl (1850-1910) who was lecturing at Codrington College Barbados as Professor of Classics and Philosophy.

William returned to England and came to Dunham on 3 August 1906 and worked on bringing the Hall up to date after its long years of neglect, installing electricity. When he died in 1910, his son, Roger (1896-1976) was only 13. He took over the estate in 1917 and lived his life as a recluse in the Hall. Whilst it was used as a military hospital during the First War and POW campt in the second he rarely opened the house to the public.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth dined at Dunham on 17 July 1946, hosted by Roger and his mother Elizabeth Louise Penelope Theobald (1865-1959). Roger died in 1976 and the lines died out with him. He left Dunham Massey to the National Trust.

Let’s see some pictures:

¹ Hamon, incase you wondered.

² Only paid for six months, and stated on a list of King William’s debts, drawn up by Queen Anne.

³ Unveiling the busts, the mayor, Alderman Kirk said they were very good specimens of art, the bust of Mrs Platt was perhaps not so good a likeness as the other, but taking them together they did very great credit to the sculptor….


A History of Altrincham & Bowdon, Alfred Ingham : Mackie, Brewtnall & Co, 1879

The History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster, Edward Baines: Brooke Herford, Croston, 1889.

Thomas Walker Obituary ICE

Harry Grey Eighth Earl Of Stamford

© Allan Russell 2022.


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