Bank Hall in Bretherton: The amazing story of how this beautiful building is being saved for future generations
Andrew Allen from Friends of Bank Hall describes the fantastic combined effort that has saved one of Lancashire's architectural gems.
As we mark 150 years of the Chorley Guardian, we're reaching out to the community for their stories about what has made the borough special.
Here Andrew Allen updates on the story of Bank Hall in Bretherton.
Historic Bank Hall at Bretherton had remained derelict and abandoned for many years until one day in 1995 a couple were taking a walk when they found themselves looking over a locked gate bristling with barbed wire.
Encased in long grass, weeds, brambles and ivy, somewhere, there appeared to be a forlorn palace, like a scene from Sleeping Beauty.
This was Bank Hall and they were determined to do something about it.
The following weeks, with the help of an article in the Chorley Guardian, the first meeting of the Bank Hall Action Group was held in June 1995, the objective was 'To Save Bank Hall'.
Nobody could have foreseen that 26 years later that the objective would be realised.
Over that time there have been many dedicated people taking part in the campaign.
Some people have helped once or twice; whilst others have been regular volunteers, members and trustees for a number of years with some being involved for the whole period.
Sadly, some members have been lost to ill health along the journey but every contribution has been a vital part in the group's history.
The Action Group has now become a registered charity – The Friends of Bank Hall.
The Friends have worked closely with Heritage Trust for the North West in the procurement of grants and the development of a forward plan for the future use of the Hall.
They have relied on the support of visitors and the goodwill of local people throughout all of their activities.
In the early days it was possible for volunteers to work on the building, removing vegetation and also saving artefacts from inside.
It soon became more dangerous to do this, so energy focused on the grounds which were cleared of weeds and are now maintained as a woodland garden.
Many fund raising events have been held, ranging from Lawn Mower Racing and Civil War & Viking re- enactments to the more subdued open-air theatre and Snowdrop Sundays.
The members have also published of a history book.
Many thousands of visitors have been welcomed over the years, many come back regularly to check on progress.
Talks have been given and also organised visits from many different interest groups including university students who have undertaken fieldwork in the grounds.
There have been many milestones in the history of the campaign, some high and some low.
Being featured on BBC TV programmers, ‘Restoration’, ‘Restoration Home’ and ‘Gardeners World’ are particular highlights that have drawn attention to the campaign, whilst low points have been witnessing parts of the building collapsing, disappointment at the loss of funding and the Hall suffering from vandalism and theft.
In July 2017 following the awarding of a £2.2m Heritage Lottery Grant the development Company 'Next Big Thing' started work to completely restore the building’s external envelope to its original condition, a stone mason has been working on site for many months re-creating much of the ornate carved stonework.
Internally, a range of houses and desirable apartments of a high standard have been created.
The building offers the opportunity for fantastic modern living spaces within the shell of the important Jacobean building.
This work has revealed many interesting artefacts that give some insight into the lifestyle of past residents of the hall and also provides vital information on its history, parts of which date back to 1608.
Discoveries have included a large stone carved with the initials 'A B' thought to be those of Adam Bannister the original founder of the hall.
Remains of the original ornate plaster work and fireplace tiles have also been discovered.
The restored Prospect Tower and central two floors of the hall will be open to the public and will host exhibitions, events and educational seminars.
The Friends of Bank Hall will continue to campaign for the restoration of the historic potting sheds and greenhouse that form part of the spectacular walled garden that once had walls heated from a central furnace.
Do you have a Chorley community story to tell? Email [email protected]
Read more stories from our 150 countdown.