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Ordsall Hall

Ordsall Hall, viewed from Ordsall Lane
Ordsall Hall is located in Greater Manchester
Shown within Greater Manchester
Town Ordsall, Greater Manchester
Country England
Coordinates 53°28′10″N 2°16′39″W / 53.469444°N 2.2775°W / 53.469444; -2.2775

Ordsall Hall is a historic house and a former stately home in Ordsall, an area of Salford, in Greater Manchester, England. It dates back over 750 years, although the oldest surviving parts of the present hall were built in the 15th century. The most important period of Ordsall Hall's life was as the family seat of the Radclyffe family, who lived in the house for over 300 years. The hall was the setting for William Harrison Ainsworth's 1842 novel Guy Fawkes, written around the plausible although unsubstantiated local story that the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was planned in the house.

Since its sale by the Radclyffes in 1662, the hall has been put to many uses; working men's club, school for clergy, and a radio station amongst them. The house was bought by Salford City Council in 1959, and opened to the public in 1972, as a period house and local history museum. The hall is a Grade I listed building.[1] In 2007 it was named Small Visitor Attraction of the Year by the Northwest Regional Development Agency.



Ordsall Hall is a formerly moated Tudor mansion, the oldest parts of which were built during the 15th century,[2] although there has been a house on the site for over 750 years. David de Hulton is recorded as the owner of the original hall, in 1251.[3] The manor of Ordsall came into the possession of the Radclyffe family in about 1335, but it was not until 1354 that Sir John Radclyffe established his right of inheritance. The manor was described in 1351 as a messuage, 120 acres (48.6 ha) of land, 12 acres (4.9 ha) of meadow and 12 acres (4.9 ha) of wood.[4]


Radclyffe family home

A view of the west side of the west wing of Ordsall Hall in Salford, with the Great Hall in the middle.

During the 1340s Sir John Radclyffe campaigned with Edward III in France, distinguishing himself at the battles of Caen, Crècy and Calais. As a reward for his service, the king allowed Sir John to take some Flemish weavers back to his Ordsall estate, where he built cottages for them to live in. English weaving skills at that time were poor, and textiles from Manchester were considered to be of particularly poor quality, so the Flemish weavers were employed in instructing the local weavers. They also started up a silk weaving industry, the foundation for Manchester's later cotton industry.[5]

The Dutch humanist and theologian Erasmus stayed at Ordsall Hall in 1499, and described it thus:

... the floors are made of clay and are covered with layers of rushes, constantly replenished, so that the bottom layer remains for 20 years harbouring spittle, vomit, the urine of dogs and men, the dregs of beer, the remains of fish and other nameless filth ...[2]

The original cruck hall was replaced by the present Great Hall in 1512, after Sir Alexander Radclyffe was appointed High Sheriff of Lancashire. The hall is typical of others built at that time in the northwest of England, although it is one of the largest, and is unusual for the period in having no wall fireplace. The hall has an elaborate roof structure, as in the similar Rufford Old Hall. There is a slightly later small room above the large oriel bay, which may be an early addition as at Samlesbury Hall.[4]

Other alterations and additions were made during the 17th century, including a modest brick house added onto the west end in 1639, perhaps intended as a home for Sir Alexander's bailiff, as he himself no longer used the hall as his main residence by that time. The house was built at 90° to the timber-framed building, to which it was later joined. During the Civil War Sir Alexander, as a Royalist, was imprisoned and suffered financial hardship. Reduced means eventually forced his heir, John Radclyffe, into selling the hall to Colonel John Birch in 1662, thus ending over 300 years of his family's occupation.[4]

Later use

The Great Hall. The corridor to the left of the staircase leads to the Star Chamber.

At the time of the 1666 hearth tax survey, Ordsall Hall was the largest house in Salford, with 19 hearths. [6] The Oldfield family of Leftwich, near Northwich, bought the estate at the end of the 17th century, and in 1704 it was sold again, to John Stock, a trustee of Cross Street Chapel. The Stocks were almost certainly the last owners to live in the hall. The two wings had probably been occupied by tenants since 1700, so the Stocks lived in the hall's central section, comprising "a large hall, lounge dining room, a chapel, six rooms on a floor, with brewhouse, large courts, stable, etc".[4] In 1756 the hall was sold to Samuel Hill of Shenstone, Staffordshire. Two years later, on Hill's death, the house passed to his nephew, Samuel Egerton of Tatton.[4]

The hall remained in occupation until 1871, the last residents being the descendants of John Markendale, who had taken over the lease of the building in 1814. The land surrounding the hall was used by the Mather family of cowkeepers and butchers for many years. The last quarter of the 19th century saw the hall, once moated and surrounded by fields and woods, engulfed "in mean streets and industry".[7] Its future was uncertain until 1875, when it was let to Haworth’s Mill for use as a working men’s club. The Great Hall was converted into a gymnasium after being cleared of the inserted floor and later partitions, and provision was made elsewhere for billiards, a skittle alley, and a bowling green. In 1883 the hall was bought by the Earl Egerton of Tatton, and restored during 1896–8 by the Manchester architect Alfred Darybshire at a cost of £6,000 (£480,000 as of 2010).[8][7] At the same time, St Cyprian's church (demolished in 1967) was built in the north forecourt and a rectory formed out of the east end of the hall, where a new servants’ wing was added on the south side (demolished in 1962). The clergy school transferred to Egerton Hall in 1908 as the Manchester Theological College, but an associated men’s social club survived until 1940. During the Second World War the hall was used as a radio station.[7]

Salford Corporation purchased Ordsall Hall from the executors of the Baron Egerton of Tatton in 1959. After major restoration work, it was opened to the public in April 1972, as a period house and local history museum.[4] The hall was named Small Visitor Attraction of the Year at the 2007 Northwest Tourism Awards.[9]

In March 2007 the Extraordinary Ordsall Campaign applied for a grant of £5.1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to regenerate Ordsall Hall and to secure its future.[10] After supporters of the hall raised £1M by September 2008, the hall was given £4.1M by the HLF. In 2008, only 40% of the building was open to the public but with restoration more rooms are expected to be opened. The museum will close in spring 2009 while the building is refurbished, which is expected to take about two years. Barry Warner of Salford City Council said "with this investment, we can better showcase this much-loved Salford landmark".[11]


Ordsall Hall from the east, showing the south range to the left and the west range to the right

There are two separate elements to the present-day house: the timber-framed south range built in the 15th century, and the brick west range constructed in 1639. The hall was originally built around a central quadrangle, but the other wings making up that space are no longer present. In the earliest description of the house, from 1380, it is described as comprising a hall, five chambers, a kitchen, a chapel, two stables, three granges, two shippons, a garner, a dovecote, an orchard and a windmill, together with 80 acres (32.4 ha) of arable land and 6 acres (2.4 ha) of meadow.[7]

The Star Chamber, which takes its name from the lead stars on its ceiling, leads off the Great Hall; it and the solar above—a private upper room that would have contained a bed—are the oldest remaining parts of the hall.[12]

Substantial alterations appear to have take place during the early years of Samuel Egerton's ownership in the mid-18th century. The canopy at the dais end of the Great Hall was destroyed—although part of it can still be seen in the north wall—when a floor was inserted and new rooms were formed with lath and plaster partitions. The east wing of the hall was probably demolished at about the same time, but certainly before 1812, the date of the earliest estate map.[4]

There are believed to have been underground passages leading from the Hall into Manchester. One of them, running under the River Irwell to the Hanging Bridge Hotel, at the northern end of Deansgate, was described in 1900, following the rediscovery of the Hanging Bridge after it had been buried for 200 years:

... I was shown a door in Hanging Bridge Hotel cellar where the arches could be seen and a door made up ... it was the entrance to an underground passage under the Irwell, possibly to Ordsall Hall ... the owner had not traversed the passage himself, but the previous owner had, but had to turn back because of bad smells ....[13]
Letter to the Manchester Guardian, April 1900

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes Street runs down the eastern side of the hall

Harrison Ainsworth, in his 1842 novel Guy Fawkes, wrote about the local story that the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was planned by Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby in Ordsall Hall's Star Chamber. Guy Fawkes is supposed to have escaped capture by the king's soldiers by way of an underground tunnel from Ordsall Hall to an inn at the cathedral end of Hanging Bridge, at the northern end of present-day Deansgate. There is no firm supporting evidence, but the Radclyffe's were prominent Roman Catholics and were acquainted with the Catesby family. The legend is remembered in the name of the modern road that runs to the east of the hall, Guy Fawkes Street.[14]


Like many old buildings, Ordsall Hall has stories of hauntings. The White Lady who is said to appear in the Great Hall or Star Chamber is popularly believed to be Margaret Radclyffe, who died of a broken heart in 1599 following the death at sea of her twin, Alexander.[15] There are webcams overseeing the areas that are said to be the most haunted.[16] An episode of the television programme Most Haunted was filmed in the hall in 2004.[17]



  1. ^ Ordsall Hall, Images of England,  . Retrieved on 22 December 2007.
  2. ^ a b Cooper 2005, p. 90.
  3. ^ Brazendale 2005, p. 125.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g History of the Hall, Salford City Council,  . Retrieved on 20 July 2007.
  5. ^ Cooper 2003, pp. 101–102.
  6. ^ Farrer, William; Brownbill, J. (editors), A History of the County of Lancaster, 4,,  . Retrieved on 7 July 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d Robinson 1986, p. 159.
  8. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Measuring Worth: UK CPI.
  9. ^ Ordsall Hall wins at Northwest tourism awards, Salford City Council, 19 October 2007,  . Retrieved on 8 July 2008.
  10. ^ Hunt is on for the descendants of the nobility of Ordsall Hall in Salford,, 4 April 2008,  . Retrieved on 4 July 2008.
  11. ^ Mike Keegan (7 October 2008), Ordsall Hall's £4.1m Lotto boost, Manchester Evening News,  . Retrieved on 27 January 2009.
  12. ^ Cooper 2005, p. 92.
  13. ^ Cooper 2003, p. 103.
  14. ^ Cooper 2003, p. 102.
  15. ^ Cooper 2003, p. 104.
  16. ^ Ordsall Hall Ghostcam, Salford City Council,  . Retrieved on 30 November 2007.
  17. ^ Salford's "Most Haunted" on Living TV, Salford City Council,  . Retrieved on 14 December 2007.


  • Brazendale, David (2005), Lancashire's Historic Halls, Carnegie Publishing, ISBN 1-85936-106-4  
  • Cooper, Glynis (2003), Hidden Manchester, The Breedon Books Publishing Company, ISBN 1-85983-401-9  
  • Cooper, Glynis (2005), Salford: An Illustrated History, The Breedon Books Publishing Company, ISBN 1-85983-455-8  
  • Robinson, John Martin (1986), The Architecture of Northern England, Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-37396-0  

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