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History of Bank Hall

Location

Bank Hall stands by the River Douglas in the west Lancashire village of Bretherton, being 9 miles from Preston & 25 miles from Liverpool.  Its near neighbours are Tarleton, Croston and Much Hoole. From Tarleton the Hall is reached via Bank Bridge which carries the A59 over the Douglas and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.  Immediately you cross the busy bridge you will see the lodge and it's gates nestling beneath the huge beech tree on your right hand side.  Coming from Much Hoole, also on the A59, your imminent approach will take you past Carr House, a fine Elizabethan farmhouse, and the 18th century windmill.  From Bretherton, vehicle access is via the main road and then via the A59 but walkers and cyclists can take the more tranquil route along a country lane (Eyes Lane) dotted with only a handful of houses and then along a Carriage Drive, a splendid tree lined avenue some 800 yards long. Whichever way the hall is approached, you pass through the cloak of trees which hides the Hall away from the outside world.

Brief History

Robert de Banastrè was born c. 1030 in Normandy and he and his family came over with William the Conqueror in 1066 and by the early 12th Century had settled at Newton, near Stockport. In the mid 12th Century Henry II had built a Mottè & Bailey type Castle at Prestatyn in North Wales and a successor of Robert, also Robert, was appointed to run the Castle which he did do for about 3½ years and was also instrumental in the development of the town of Prestatyn.  Robert then returned to his lands at Molynton (Now Mollington) near Chester, and became Lord of Makerfield and Lord of Molynton.  After the Welsh uprisings he petitioned the king to be re-instated at Prestatyn but this was refused.   In the mid 13th century, the family divided with one remaining at Mollington, one remaining at Ashton in Makerfield and the other sibling purchased the land that became the Bank Hall Estate in 1240. We have no information on what was built at Bank except that we can speculate that it was likely to have been a partial stone and partial wooden structure and from evidence we do have was likely to have been on the same site as the present Hall.  It is also thought that it may have been moated.

Bank Hall is not one of the most well known buildings  in the country, but it is one of the most beautiful and interesting. Its location could be passed every day without realising its existence as the lofty chimneys and the remnants of the clock tower only faintly glimpse over the tree tops. Indeed, only the lodge gives a clue to the fact that there, behind the pines and past the huge sixty metre barn is a veritable jewel.

The Hall is no longer occupied and has deteriorated to a very poor reflection of its former glory. Gone are the lime trees which flanked the drive to the front door. Gone are the stone lions that faithfully stood guard. The giant cedar with its huge spreading branches no longer casts its graceful shadow over the pleasure grounds. The tall chimneys have become overgrown with ivy, which has now claimed more than half of the building. The majestic clock tower has lost its northerly elevation which has fallen into the stairwell below, crashing through the seventeenth-century oak staircase. Dry rot has penetrated the fabric of the building with whole sections of the floor falling down and rain pouring through gaping holes in the roof.

Despite the devastation that time and neglect has brought to this great house, it still retains an air of distinction and the very nature of its ruinous state adds to the mystique that encompasses the entire site. In the solitude of early morning, shrouded in mist, the rocks call from their look out in the tower. What events have taken place in the centuries of Bank Halls' existence? What changes has it witnessed in the conditions of English rural life?

Bank Hall belongs to a period very different to ours, a time of servants and gardeners, butlers and coachmen. Such vast houses had no place after The Great War and gradually became left to dereliction and decay, owner and local authority alike unable to halt the decline. Perhaps it is due to the concealed and veiled nature of Bank Hall that so little appears to be commonly known about the details of its history. Indeed, most people from Leyland or Chorley, for example, would be at a loss to answer the question "Where is Bank Hall?" even though it is little more than five miles from either.
Bank Hall is a two-and-a-half storey brick built house with roofs of Cumbrian slate standing in formerly ornamental parkland. It has a north-facing entrance front and south-facing garden front.

The earliest identifiable phase of the present building dates from the early 17th century and is characterised by brick work in English garden wall bond. The ground consists of a four-bay hall with a parlour to the west and wing containing two rooms to the east.

Probably in the second quarter of the 17th century a four-storey stair tower was added in the re-entrant angle of the hall and wing. This retains its original open well cantilever  staircase. An addition east of the south end of the wing and incorporating a ground floor room, may be contemporary with the stair tower.

In 1832-33 the house was extensively remodelled, probably by the Kendal-based architect, George Webster, in an early example of 19th-century Jacobean style. The main entrance porch on the north side, a drawing room wing at the west end, extensive service accommodation at the east and probably the north wing, were all added in this phase. At the same time the south face or garden front was considerably altered. The angle formed by the 17th century house and the west wing was infilled in the late-19th century.

The Lilford family who inherited the Hall in 1860 never fully occupied the Hall as a residence but they maintained it until the late 19th Century when they decided to rent it out.  During the second World War the Hall was used by the military and after it was handed back to the Estate, occupation was primarily by the Estate Managers in the East wing.  Last occupied in 1971 it has since been left to the vandals and weather precipitating its decline to its present state.

More information can be found on the Bank Hall Timeline