By Jennifer Dawson

Think of Manchester and probably the first things that come to mind when anyone mentions the city's history are Cottonpolis, the Industrial Revolution, and possibly The Smiths. 

Put that to one side for a moment and consider that behind all that there are some richly historic buildings tucked away in forgotten places and you’ll soon see what a beautiful tapestry the place has woven - in the hearts and minds of everyone who’s lived there.

Baguley Hall is one such gem and here’s a little bit about the hall and surrounding area you might find interesting. 

Wythenshawe’s finest for good reason

Baguley and Baguley Hall fall under the ancient townships of the area of Wythenshawe, and although it’s the hall we’re interested in, Wythenshawe itself has a rich history that dates back hundreds of years. In fact, the town’s name comes from the Old English for ‘Withy Tree Wood’. It was only in the 1930s that it officially became part of Manchester. 

Let’s take a little look at the locale first - and to slightly paraphrase one Stephen Patrick Morrissey: “Wythenshawe, Wythenshawe - so much to answer for…”. It’s true as it’s been the home to some fantastic film and TV shoots over the years - not least if you’re a fan of the legendary Clocking Off with Sarah Lancashire or Shameless with David Threlfall. 

Less successful was the documentary filmed there in 2009 - The Duchess and The Estate in which Sarah, Duchess of York travelled to the town to meet locals and discuss their way of life, and to open a new local community centre. It was met with a barrage of criticism in which she was accused of patronising the people she met - with the programme being a little more than a promotional exercise for her own image. 

Whilst it’s been a famous spot for film and TV, there’s more to the area than meets the eye. It's rich history makes it a fantastic place to visit and its interesting past adds to the intrigue and makes it a worthwhile stopping point on any visits to the area. Exploring sites like Baguley Hall offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of British history.

Baguley Hall and its environs

Situated on Hall Lane in Baguley, the hall was built in the 14th century for the de Baguley family. It’s one of the oldest surviving Timber Halls left in the United Kingdom. Interestingly, the construction of the house - designed around oversized planks - was believed to have connections with Danish Viking boat-building techniques.

It is thought the hall was created as a manor house before being turned into a farmhouse. It has a medieval north wing remodeled in the 17th century; a 16th-century porch; and an early 17th-century south wing.

The hall was owned by the de Baguley family - but later on came into the possession of the Legh family, who had the property for about 400 years. The final male heir of the home was Edward Legh. He married Eleanor, who was the daughter of William Tatton of Wythenshawe Hall. Together they had three daughters, who couldn’t inherit so at that point the house was leased to the Viscount Allen. In 1749 the estate was bought by one Joseph Jackson of Rostherne who's family had married into the Leghs.

Although the building is now disused, though owned and maintained by English Heritage (with a repair programme implemented during the winter of 2022), it had previously been used as a council workshop and store for roughly 40 years between 1927 and 1968.

Still recognized as one of the finest surviving medieval halls in the northwest of England, studies have been undertaken on the timber framing to understand more about how the hall was put together. Of note was that this framing was something that was more commonly seen on homes of stature in the Dee Estuary area - surrounding Cheshire, The Wirral, and North Wales. Current excavations have uncovered around seven different broad structural phases - outlined from the first aisled hall through 14th-century additions through to more ‘modern day’ Victorian repair work.

Whilst the future of the hall is uncertain (as of 2024, Historic England rate its condition as "poor") - it’s hoped that it can be saved for posterity so that the people of Baguley can perhaps enjoy it as a community centre and place to meet up. The Friends of Baguley Hall and locals have long campaigned for funds so that work can be carried out and it can be turned into a fantastic visitor attraction - after all, it’s still considered to be one of the most important timbered buildings in the whole of Europe.