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Estate Accounts, June 30, 1888
During the declining years of the Wetheralls in Astley, an agent of Lord Lilford, Atherton Selby supervised the estates in a faint hope to try and keep some solvency. His balance sheet for six months ending June 30, 1888, has been printed to show the plight of a great family in financial decline. The gross income from the estate had been more than doubled by coal mine rents and stood at £5,000 per annum. But this had to carry Caroline Ross's annuity of £150, Mortgage interest of £2,066 and repayments to the principal creditor of £2,400. Out of the meagre slender balance of £384 the heir had to meet taxes, repairs, agents fee, mine surveyor's fee, drainage, law costs, general insurance and the heavy life insurance on himself of £269 3s. 4d. The finances were hopeless and on no horizon could a ray of salvation be seen.

Astley Peat Moss Litter Co. Ltd., 1888
This company acquired the lease of a site for a peat works on August 2, 1888; the rent was £350 rising to £500 after 1893, plus £20 rent for the works site, which was then close to the railway station. The royalty fixed was Is. 6d. per ton of peat, a surface rent of 2s. per acre and compensation of £100 per acre where the moss was worked below such a level as would admit its being drained to a depth of three feet below the surface. Peat was sent to Manchester and Liverpool by rail and there was some trade by canal boat. The entire area leased to the company, which operated successfully for many years, was 300 acres. Its prosperity attracted the settlement of many Dutchmen into the village.

The Sale of Astley Hall Estate, 1889
The last descendants of Adam Mort had by this year come to the end of the long downhill road. There was nothing they could do except sell the estate in the open market and accordingly a sale was expensively advertised to take place on November 19 and 20 at the Queens Hotel in Manchester. The principal Mortgagee Mrs. Catharine Mary Champagne was the seller and the whole forty-nine lots were acquired in block for £90,000 by James Calvert, a solicitor, acting as agent for a syndicate of Leigh business interests. Those who joined to raise the purchase money are given in an appendix. A company was later formed and incorporated November 19, 1891, with capital of £100,000. At some time later a Mortgage of the whole estate was taken up with the executors of John Speakman to secure a loan of £35,000.

Sale of the Hall furniture, 1889
The patrimony of Adam Mort disintegrated for ever on those memorable days of November, 1889, after an unbroken tenure of almost three hundred years. Soon after the sale of the land and buildings, the creditor vultures descended on the contents of the mansion, when it took many full days to clear the place empty. Kaye and Guedalia, solicitors in the Capital, watched from afar and a London firm of auctioneers, Robinson and Fisher of Old Bond Street was entrusted with the task of disperse by the hammer.

They listed altogether 1,032 lots. Catalogues of the sale, now by the passage of time becoming most rare, are comparable in historic matter with the old inventories sent to Chester and annexed to the wills, for they give an exact picture of what the Hall contained. The books in the Library were chiefly military, an interest dictated by the army careers of the last of the Mort descendants. On the walls were 120 pictures and engravings, some by such famous names as Lely, Kneller, Tiepolo, Poussin and Canaletto; nine were portraits of the Froggatt family. In the leisured course of a more prosperous past, had been amassed a collection of armour, weapons, swords, rapiers, claymores, an early English crossbow and a curious bit dug out of Chatmoss many years ago. Everything that had any value at all was listed and sold and one of the last outside items was a Clarence, by Cass of Manchester, dark green, fine lined red, lined blue silk arras, leather apron, pole bar and shafts. A descriptive echo of aristocratic travel in a less crowded age.

George Nugent Ross Wetherall, 1893
The direct representative of the grand line of Adam Mort of Astley, George Nugent Ross Wetherall died in 1893, at Hill Crest, Adlestone, Surrey. In this world of unstable of change and fickle uncertainties he had come down far; he was able to leave only £297. In 1891 he wound up the affairs of Augustus White Wetherall, who had died rector of Stonegrave in Yorkshire, May 7 of that year. The younger brother Henry vanished without any trace. So the last of the squires of Astley rode down to the sea."

The water agreement, 1893
Old houses in Astley had to be built near the brook, which in days of non-pollution supplied the homes unfailingly. When the township inevitably grew, rain water was collected from the roofs into water butts or more expensively, wells were dug for an individual house or fold of homesteads. Along Lower Green near to the former Harts Cottages was a spring source of water of exceptional purity and which belonged to the manor and was let at 2s. per annum. For a long time prospectors tried to extract a plentiful supply for the needs of the township from the bore hole near Fleet bridge, but nothing profitable ever resulted. Demand for water grew during the course of the last century and the old methods of supply proved unreliable and inadequate. In 1893 Astley entered into an agreement with Tyldesley for a bulk intake of piped water, which Tyldesley took from Manchester. It was one of the worst arrangements the local authority ever did, because it produced the most acrimonious disputes fanned by the incompatible ' le character of the two clerks for Tyldesley and Leigh Rural, Matthews and Williams. At one time Tyldesley was paying 3 1 d. per 1,000 gallons and reselling it to Astley at 9d. per 1,000 gallons on notice of requirement and 1s. 2d. for the same quantity, if that figure was exceeded in any week. In 1908 Tyldesley threatened to cut the mains off and arrangements were made to find an alternative supply from Leigh at Marsland Green. When the arrangement came to an end in 1923 it was not renewed and Astley was obliged to do what it could have done in 1893, approach Manchester direct for a supply. But this cost Astley ratepayers very dear: it was carried through and the bill paid for. The arrangement lasted to the year 1933, when Lancashire County, tired of these bickenings, determined to solve the problem by amalgamating Astley with Tyldesley.

Astley Hospital, 1893
After the sale of the Mort estate in 1889 the noble mansion of the Hall stood silently empty for over three years. Its fate hung in a slender balance-riotous decay and ultimate abandon; the sad end of so many stately homes of a gracious past, this seemed its inescapable destiny. But the business syndicates were alive to their interests much more than ever the Mortís had been to theirs and as some of their were in seats on the local councils they sold the Hall in 1893 to the Leigh Local Board for use as a small pox hospital. This news spread consternation in Astley; it was like establishing a colony of lepers in their very midst, for smallpox was a dreaded scourge and there was opposition to such a sale. But after a High Court decision in another part of the country had ruled that such a user was not offensive or noxious, the objections subsided. The final outcome after long deliberations was a joint hospital for infectious diseases, such as smallpox, diphtheria, typhoid, scarlet and puerperal fevers, which then flayed the industrial communities. The hospital would serve and would incorporate Leigh Sanitary Authority, Tyldesley, Atherton and Golborne. An order in approval of such a 'point combination came in 1894 and plans approved for adapting the Hall as a Hospital with 120 beds. The first cost of purchasing the Hall the grounds of 16 acres and other necessary expenditure was £473 1. Then as the whole scheme came successfully through, four isolation blocks for scarlet and typhoid fevers were built and the Hall was used as a nurses home and administrative unit. In 1902 to isolate the smallpox patients three acres of land were bought in a remote corner of Coldalhurst farm and a lodge and buildings erected. This, the annex, as it was known, came to be little used as the infectious diseases were more and more brought in control. Its best emergency use was in 1914 when a number of Belgian refugees invasion, were temporarily lodged there. Further extensions to the main hospital were made in 1938, when the acceptance area brought in Swinton, Westhaughton, Worsley and other districts. In 1948 upon the national reorganisation of the health services the annex was sold; infectious diseases had been effectively subdued and Astley Hospital, ancient seat of the Mortís entered on a new phase.

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