You can drive past this moated hall without knowing it’s there, but I’d been lucky enough to visit years ago, and I knew just what a hidden gem it was.
Clayton Hall is very close to Manchester City Football Club in the east of the city, is accessed via a seventeenth-century stone bridge, and is on the site of a Scheduled Ancient Monument dating back to the medieval period. Former notable owners include Byron, the Hoare family and Humphrey Chetham.
For far too long the Friends of Clayton Park had been wrestling with the task of bringing this Grade II* listed building back to life. I came on board to unlock the many challenges and guide them through these, all while respecting the unusual history of the site, drawing on my intimate knowledge of old buildings, and navigating the complexities of funding applications.
Working with Friends
The Friends had been making good use of the site as a ‘living history museum’ since 2009, but it was when the early timber-framed section was vacated in 2014 that they had the opportunity to further reveal the history and heritage significance of the site.
Drawing on a thorough understanding of its historic development, I prepared both a Conservation Statement and a Condition survey. These then guided the scope of ‘light touch’ proposals to move the café from a freezing and crumbling outbuilding to the ground floor, and to open up the first floor for display and interpretation.
But there was a lot of work to do to make the building fit for its new purpose. It required a major upgrade of the mechanical and electrical services, as well as repairs to the timber frame, internal joinery, internal plasterwork and stonework. All this had to be done with great care, attention to the fabric of the building, and a full understanding of the sensitive nature of listed buildings.
Funding to finish
Pulling together funding for an ambitious restoration project like this can be another headache for community groups, and I worked with the Friends on an action plan to articulate the funding requirements to key stakeholders.
We secured help from Manchester City Council as well as a generous donation from the Oglesby Charitable Trust, and, alongside significant volunteer time from the Friends and Trustees, this was enough to take the project to the finish line.
It’s been a brilliant project for the community, and giving the café pride of place amongst the medieval timbers has been transformative. Now everyone can enjoy the space, soak up a bit of history, and play their part in giving this beautiful old building a whole new lease of life.