One day in 1995 a couple, Jack and Pat Curren, were taking a walk through the village of Bretherton in Lancashire. They walked gingerly up a long avenue marked "Private" that was obviously the approach to a place of some importance. Reaching the end of the drive they found themselves in a place overhung by trees, densely wooded, overgrown with undergrowth and close to a river.
Looking over a locked gate bristling with barbed wire they saw long grass, tall weeds, brambles, nettles, ivy and somewhere, encased in this leafy cage what appeared to be a forlorn palace, something like a scene from Sleeping Beauty.
Here is Pat's account of the moment that Bank Hall was saved:
It was a lovely Spring evening when we took our occasional walk down a lane we knew in Bretherton, fresh leaves were bursting out on the tall trees at either side of us and a black bird went through its usual repertoire reminding us that all nature was renewing itself. MY eyes lifted from the rustling brown leaves underfoot to the new green above - the green that only spring produces. A pheasant silently slid into the bushes like a flash of jewels, a south wind ruffled the upper branches of the trees and the blackbird flew away giving its alarm call. How beautiful and peaceful it was... but now we had come to the usual spot where we always turned back again I was reluctant however as something was pulling and urging me to go on, so I walked on. As I turned the corner a magnificent sight came into view... Bank Hall. It left me stupefied and I stared at the building in disbelief thinking of how many times I had walked down the carriageway and never turned that corer.
Sometime later we returned with our family and they immediately fell under its spell just had done in spite of the fact that it was badly neglected and in need of urgent repair. My eldest daughter began to make contacts............
Many people before them had taken that same walk, seen the same sad scene, witnessed the magnificent old house dying beneath a tangle of uncontrolled time.
They had all walked away, saddened, but resigned. Patricia though could not forget the place. She told her family and friends about the place she had seen. Pat's description was inspiring. Her daughter Diana, sharing her mother's enthusiasm and curiosity contacted the local council and local press, determined to find out more about the mysterious overgrown mansion.
John Quirk, a journalist on the Chorley Guardian took up the baton, running the award-winning Save Bank Hall Campaign, raising public awareness, prompting the council to organise an emergency conference to discuss the plight of the building and inspiring like-minded people to form the Bank Hall Action Group.
The first meeting of the group was held in June 1995 and it has continued to meet every month, Its object to “Save the Hall”. The group has a committee of officers, a formal Constitution and charitable status through its affiliation to the Heritage Trust for the North West.
The group first gained access to the grounds of Bank Hall in December 1995. There followed three solid years of physical work, stripping ivy off the Hall, removing trees which grew out of the foundations, and clearing the jungle which had once been the gardens.
Since then the grounds have been opened to the public, a small visitor/museum centre was created, a wide variety of events organised, and continuous conservation and research work goes on until full reconstruction occurs.
Bank Hall Action Group has transformed Bank Hall from a tragic lost cause into a beautiful vibrant place, it has been a transitional period which has brought the hall back from the brink of extinction to the point where it is now ready for its re-birth and a new life.
Over the last few years certain stabilisation work has been carried out at the Hall in order to protect the remaining walls from further damage and collapse which can be caused by falling roof structures. This work has involved removing areas of the roof that were in danger of collapse and the erection of the scaffolding at the front of the Hall. The scaffolding on the Tower erected at the end of the last decade is so structured to stabilise the Tower and prevent any further collapse. Late in 2011, the building team from Heritage Trust for the North West removed brickwork from the north-west wing door in order to prevent collapse and damage to stone work.
The preparation has been long and extremely complicated but has been very rewarding. The work is far from over but the work of the Action Group will be completed once the Hall is being restored. Ancillary to this will be the restoration and conversation of the Potting Sheds and a future plan for the Grounds. It may be the end of the beginning but it is not the beginning of the end. The Group firmly believe that Bank Hall has a future and will be a building for the 21st century and beyond.
Bank Hall Action Group is to be succeeded by “The Friends of Bank Hall”.