What has the Mort family got in common with the Bronte Sisters, the Houses of Parliament and a TB Hospital? The answer is Peel Hall. Read on....
The former site of Peel Hall can be found in Little Hulton at the junction of Peel Lane and Armitage Avenue. Enter a long driveway and to the left you will see a hospital for the elderly (Woodlands) and St Ann’s Hospice. To the right is the former site of the manor house. Outlining the roads, the original stone wall that marked the boundaries of the estate can still be seen. Before Peel Hall was constructed, a former moated hall known as ‘Wicheves’ existed. To the south of the hall and down to the boundary of Tyldesley, there was an ancient wood mentioned in 13th century documents as ‘Wychshaw’. The name of the original hall was descriptive of its position at the edge of an elm wood.
From 1195, Little Hulton belonged to the Manor of Worsley and the tenants of Wicheaves. At this time, the Hall was occupied by the Hulton family. It is said that the Hall was destroyed in 1341 by Thurston Tyldesley, who killed Richard de Hulton of the Wich and destroyed his ‘peelhoues at the Wicheaves’. A peelhouse was a fortified dwelling.
By the end of the 14th century, the residence had been restored and was occupied by a branch of the Tyldesleys of Tyldesley. In 1550, William Tyldesley mortgaged the house to Robert Fleetwood of Rossall. In 1631, Adam Mort of DamHouse in Astley, inherited Wicheaves and Smithfold in Little Hulton. Adam Mort was a very wealthy man, who when he died in 1638 was said to have doubled the fortune of his father before him. Adam Mort himself had been raised in Highfield Hall in Farnworth.
A new Wicheaves Hall was built. This was described as ‘a moated stone building, consisting of a centre, two wings and three gables to the front’. At this time there were three Halls in the Little Hulton area which were in use by the Mort family:
The original Wicheaves Hall
The new Wicheaves Hall (later to be known as Peel Hall)
A genealogy search on many of the Morts of this area, will show their places of birth as being in one of these three grand Halls. Adam Mort’s Grandson ‘Thomas’ was a textile merchant who inherited Wicheaves following his Grandfathers death. Thomas died childless, as did his brother Richard. Richard’s widow Catherine Mort inherited the Hall after her husband’s demise. Being without issue, Catherine left the Hall to her nephew ‘John Fletcher’. In 1739 John sold the estate to Sir Joseph Yates for £1,450.
It was Joseph who first used the name of ‘Peel Hall’ for the manor house. Joseph sons (also called Joseph) fell into financial difficulties, and in 1803 leased the mining rights of the land to Matthew Fletcher (a mining engineer from Clifton). The leasing of the coalmines later came under control of the Bridgewater estates in 1903.
In 1807, that Hall with gardens, orchards, woodlands, cottages, farms, a stone quarry, mill and waterfall were auctioned at the ‘Antelope Hotel’. Matthew Fletcher purchased the Hall, but died soon afterwards in 1808. The Reverend Allen was allowed to live there until his death in 1834, and supplemented his income by turning the use of the house into a boarding school. It is said that the school was attended by the famous ‘Bronte sisters’. Mathew Fletcher left the house to his nephews, John and Ellis. Ellis Fletchers son inherited the house and became heir to the Clifton estates. Jacob Fletcher had the new Peel Hall built in 1840. Charles Barry (best known for the houses of Parliament) was the architect. The deeds of Peel Hall changed hands many times through the passing years. Death, inheritance, illegitimacy, re-marriages, all brought about many changes in ownership. In 1912, the house became vacant and it was given to Lancashire County Council who used it as a Hospital for the treatment of TB.
Peel Hall later became a hospital for the elderly until 1990. It then fell empty and was sold to a development company for refurbishment into apartments. The developers ignored the plight of this Grade 2 listed building, and local youths finished the work that time had started, by vandalising and tearing apart its ancient walls. Thieves stripped lead slates and ornate timber, destroying the magnificent Jacobean staircase.
The council considered a ‘compulsory purchase’ but alas had no money to spend on repairing the mansion. The Hall had become dangerous and unstable, and so the once home of the Mort family of Little Hulton, was demolished in the mid 90’s.
There are few clues now that Wicheaves and Peel Hall ever existed. However, should you find these names mentioned in your search for your ancestors, at least you will know what and where this places used to be and what became of them.