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Hough End Hall: let's make it ours!

Tucked away in Chorlton, almost hidden, behind two monstrous 1960s office blocks, in the crook of Metrolink's new branch line to Wythenshawe is a hidden gem of a building, Hough End Hall, a former manor house built by Nicholas Mosley in 1596, just before he became Lord Mayor of… London.  As an interesting side note, when Manchester City Council was established in the 19th century, the State had to buy some rights from the said Mosley family, including that of driving pigs down Deansgate!

Some of us have been troubled by the neglect of this fine, Grade 2* listed building, seeing it as a potential resource for the local community and indeed that is just what the recently established Friends of Hough End Hall is trying to achieve, turning it into a local community hub, and creating a vibrant and welcoming space for a wide range of people to meet, mix, work and play.

The Hall has indeed a chequered history, and in the 1960's was derelict, roofless and in danger of demolition.

The Hall has indeed a chequered history, and in the 1960's was derelict, roofless and in danger of demolition.  At that point the council apparently did a deal with developers to restore the Hall in return for building the two office blocks that today blight it. The worst of those is Mauldeth House, formerly the home of various NHS organisations, but since the demise of the Primary Care Trust, it has an uncertain future.  The Hall has been a club, offices and a restaurant but was acquired by Royal Bank of Scotland, possibly, like many other buildings (some say through questionable practices), when the last business got into financial difficulties. They have been trying to sell it for more than two years, and although the asking price is less than that attained by many houses locally, by March this year they had no buyer.

At that point the city council, on the initiative of the Friends of Hough End Hall, listed the building as a community asset under the government's Community Right to Bid provisions. That meant a six month moratorium on the sale, to give the Friends time to marshall resources. Realistically though, a lot of money is needed, not just to buy the building, but to restore it, make it fit for purpose and to subsidise its running costs while it works to achieve self-sustaining financial viability. The most promising source for this is the Heritage Lottery Fund, and an ambitious bid has been made to them.  But the HLF won't make a final decision until December, 2015.

So with the moratorium running out in November of this year, and RBS keen to sell (remember they were bailed out by the government and are supposed to be 'de-leveraging' their assets to improve their viability), the Friends launched a campaign to ask the bank to delay the sale.  That campaign, with petition, letter writing, and other publicity, resulted in exchanges of letters  between the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the bank is 80% State owned now), RBS and the Friends.  It was partly successful: the bank agreed to defer any sale until after HLF makes its decision on Stage One of the grant application with the promise of further consideration of a further delay to the sale if at that point the Friends are still in the running for the big grant.

All this has taken considerable work by the small Friends group requiring incorporation, surveys, business plans, cash flow modelling, historical research, and importantly a consultation with the local community to gauge their support for the plan and seek ideas on the future use of the Hall.

The aims of the campaign now are

  • To secure the Hall for the benefit of the local community now and for future generations
  • To create a flexible space meeting the needs of local people with a creative and dynamic programme of events
  • To produce an income from some local enterprises and use it to maintain and promote the activities of the Hall so that they are accessible to all
  • To establish cultural, educational and participation activities as a core part of the Hall’s purpose and to ensure that it contributes fully and effectively to the social, economic, cultural and environmental regeneration of Chorlton and the surrounding areas of South Manchester.

We are exploring alternative funding sources and one thing we do need now is supplementary funding to support our HLF bid.  We have launched a crowdfunding appeal, asking people to pledge a donation that will support the development of heritage resources, linked to the Hall, but not actually dependent on its successful purchase.  They include a book about the Hall's history, a heritage walk and an interactive website featuring the Hall and manor and their role in the local economy and culture of Chorlton and South Manchester.

Can you add your support by pledging a donation large or small? Remember, you pay nothing unless we reach our target.  The crowdfunding site is on Spacehive, here

Pledging your support does make it more likely that we can turn the Hall into a resource for local people, supporting sustainable cultural and economic renewal.

To find out more visit the campaign (including rewards for crowdfunders) website.