One gorgeous summer’s afternoon, we went along to arguably the most beautiful building in Stockport. With enough history to fill an ocean, we were keen to get to know more about it and share it with you. We are of course talking about our very own Bramall Hall.
Alison Farthing was the lovely lady we met up with. In 2002, she started working for Stockport council.
Alison was born and raised in Leicester. She jokes how not many people will have heard of Leicester until the wonders of their football team a couple of years ago! She left there in 1998 to move up to the Peak District where she enjoyed walking and climbing amongst other hobbies. Alison began working in Sheffield for an organization which promoted Sheffield’s many museums, galleries and parks as a place to visit. This was during the release of the Full Monty – the film about redundant Sheffield steel workers and interest in Sheffield across the world was huge! Her interest in museums, heritage, history and visitor attractions was always there for Alison, meaning that her current job at Bramall Hall fits her like a glove.
When the council got their heritage lottery grant for the restoration of the hall, that is when Alison started this particular job. She travels from her cottage near Buxton where she enjoys walking her little Jack Russell, Amy (Amelia Cordelia is her Sunday name!)
The Hall needed restoration for a number of years prior to the grant. Originally, it was just to mend one decorative ceiling in one historic room in the hall. The Heritage Lottery Fund said that they’d love to help repair this part of the hall, but after looking at the remainder of the hall and the potential for restoration and re-development, they suggested the council made a more ambitious request for funding. The bigger bid was put together and submitted in 2010 and after building surveys, conservation & archaeological reports several visits and consultation was finally approved in 2013!
“How much was it?” We hear you cry… well: £2,000,000! In the hall, this was to make the ground floor accessible with a platform lift, new eco boilers, improvements to the stained glass and leaded windows, extensive repairs to the magnificent plaster ceiling in the Withdrawing Room, the opening of 2 new historic rooms (a Butler’s pantry and a Small Dining Room), new visitor interpretation, the conservation of antique furniture, pictures and historic objects. The adjacent Grade II listed stables were completely re-developed to create a visitor centre, gift shop, café and education suite for schools and adult learning.
We sat with Alison in the chapel – which is beyond beautiful, English and quaint. Some objects had also been restored around the Hall too, such as the Davenport Pew which is in the chapel and the table carpet in the Plaster Room. These can be a nice little surprise for you when you go and visit, so we won’t ruin how gorgeous it is!
“The restoration has been a big success!”
DID YOU KNOW – There are long eared brown bats who also inhabit the building. Restoration time took longer in order to protect them… and they’re breeding!
Have you ever noticed that there is no H in the ‘Bramall’ of Bramall Hall? We asked Alison why this might be. She told us how it is an interesting question and a popular one at that. She told us how the H was simply dropped a number of years ago to avoid saying ‘Bram-Hall-Hall.’ Doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily does it!
If you didn’t know much about the history of the building, Alison filled us in on it. Originally there would have been earlier buildings on the site dating back to the 11th or 12th century. Standing today, the oldest parts are Tudor, but there are many Victorian additions too. Like many old buildings, it has evolved over time and a number of historic styles from the 15th to the 19th century sit side by side.
A family has actually lived in the hall right up until the surprisingly recent date of 1936. For about 400 years, it was occupied by a long line of the Davenport family. Charles and Mary Nevill occupied the house in the 1890s until 1927 when it was sold to John Henry Davis. This was the man who formed Newton Heath Football Club – which later became Manchester United Football Club. When he died, his wife Amy lived there for a few years before it was sold to the Hazel Grove & District Unitary Authority – which later became Stockport Council).
Bramall Hall speaks for itself in how incredible it is. You don’t need us to convince you of that! If you have a spare couple of hours, go and have a tour of the Hall before enjoying a walk around the grounds and then a coffee and a cake at Stables Café. It’s the perfect day out and it’s right on our doorstep. Thank you Alison for letting us in to find out more about the history and restoration – we LOVE it!