Restoration on a decaying Jacobean mansion in rural Chorley is finally to get underway after over 20 years of campaigning.
Bank Hall, a Grade Two listed country mansion in Bretherton, has been vacant and going to rot steadily since 1971.
The complete restoration of the historic building has been made possible after a grant of £2.2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has topped up a pot of money for the project to £5.6m.
Chairperson of the Bank Hall Friends Janet Edwards said she was delighted: “The building is an important feature of the heritage of Lancashire having a rare prospect tower with a Jacobean cantilevered staircase. We have moved a big step closer to giving the Hall a new lease of life.”
The Friends of Bank Hall, formerly the Bank Hall Action Group, campaigned for over 22 years to save the building from dereliction and decay.
More recently Chorley Council has facilitated the final stages of the grant application process and will play an active future role in managing the project.
Deputy executive leader of Chorley Council councillor Peter Wilson said: “This has been a long haul to get to this point, we applaud all the parties involved in this tremendous joint effort and are glad that we will all soon be able to see real progress being made on the ground.”
While the outer shell of the building will be repaired and returned to its former glory, the interior will be converted to twelve high quality apartments.
The central area including the tower will be accessible to the public and will include an educational resource centre and space for public exhibitions and meetings.
Peter Wild of Next Big Thing Developments said: “We feel that this was the very last opportunity for this important building to be saved.”
“We are delighted to be starting work on site and look forward to unveiling the finished building in the future.
“The fact that 12 new homes are being created as part of the scheme as well as spaces to be enjoyed by the general public is particularly exciting as the building will become lived in once again.”
Restoration work will include training opportunities for craft tradespeople, volunteers and visitors ranging from hands on practical building skills to heritage interpretation and local history.
Listed building consent and planning permission were granted in July 2013.
A council spokesman said: “Discussions about the future use of the hall with the council go back many years, with serious enquiries going back to at least 2005.
“It was quickly established that the only viable option was as a residential development – that secures the integrity of the listed building and yields the highest return to be ploughed back into the hall.”
Work has already started on site and is estimated to take around 18 months to complete.
The building, which up to now is owned by the Lord Lilford Trust, dates back to 1608. In 1832-33 under the ownership of George Anthony Legh-Keck the house was extensively remodelled 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 and extensive service accommodation were all added in this phase.
The Lilford family inherited the Hall in 1860 and never fully occupied it as a residence but 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 then handed back to the Estate, after which it was primarily used by the Estate Managers.
Last occupied in 1971, it has since been left to the vandals and weather erosion resulting in its decline and present derelict state.
Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West Nathan Lee said: “We are delighted that the partnership organisations and project team are now in place to deliver this exciting restoration at Bank Hall. We look forward to tracking their progress and, thanks to National Lottery players, seeing the finished building in the near future.”
Currently in the highest risk category on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk register, Bank Hall was the first building to feature on BBC Two’s TV series Restoration.
The restoration project will be delivered by Chorley Council in partnership with Heritage Trust North West, Urban Splash and Next Big Thing Developments Ltd.