As part of the Manchester City Council restructure Wythenshawe Hall is now managed within the Community and Cultural Services department which sits within the Neighbourhood Services Directorate.
Due to the City's financial pressures the Hall did not open to the public on a regular basis during the 2011 summer season. The closure is allowing emergency building repairs to be carried out and the position will be reviewed in the light of the City's financial circumstances.
A Park for the People
In 2008 a special exhibition opened at the Hall with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. It captured people's memories and photographs and told the story of the Tatton family. Click on the link to see 'A Park for the People - Your Memories'.
There are some special downloads that can be seen by clicking this link. These are a selection of pages from the Scrapbooks of Eva and Alice Tatton, Room Guides, House Detective a special guide for children and A Park for the People - Memories. There is also the Memory Box Trail, showing images from a special outdoor sculpture trail inspired by people's memories of the Park.
A Gift to the City
A hundred years ago Wythenshawe looked very different. It was countryside, dotted with small villages and farms owned mostly by the Tatton family.
Following the demand for new housing, especially after the First World War, Wythenshawe became a 'Garden City'. This was part of the national movement to create more healthy and pleasant places to live than the crowded cities.
Peter Tatton was approached by Manchester Corporation to sell all his land for development but in 1926 he sold Wythenshawe Hall and its Park to Ernest and Sheena Simon, later Lord and Lady Simon. They presented it as a gift to the City, to be kept as an open space for the people of Wythenshawe.
Today it is much loved, especially by local residents. Many have a relationship with the Park that goes back to childhood and they, in turn, have taken their own children and grandchildren there.
The Tattons of Wythenshawe Hall
For over 500 years Wythenshawe Hall was the family home of the Tattons and the heart of their large estate. Members of the family were born there and lived out their daily lives in its rooms. Children played in the nursery, servants cleaned and cooked, whilst tenant farmers worked on the land.
Typical Country Squires
The Tatton family were the most important family in the area. They owned what is now most of Wythenshawe in an unbroken line from the 1300s until 1926.
They rented their land to tenants, owned a corn mill at Northenden and had ferry rights across the Mersey. Wealth was also brought into the family through marriage.
The first Hall, thought to have been built in the early 1300s, was burned down in the 1530s and rebuilt by Robert Tatton who created the famous Tudor-style hall that exists today. Over the years, successive generations of Tattons have altered, restored and extended this unique piece of heritage as family fortunes have changed. The last extension, Tenants Hall, was added in the 1880s.
Drama at the Hall
The most dramatic episode in the history of Wythenshawe Hall took place during the English Civil War.
The Tatton family were Royalists, supporters of the King. In December 1643 Cromwell's Parliamentarian troops laid siege to the Hall. An eye-witness account by Royalist Thomas Mallory, Rector of St Wilfrid's Church in Northenden, shows how the house was made ready:
...Mr Tatton called into his house his tenantry and servants together with as many Royalist Soldiers as could be gathered from the parts around about; and much timber and arms and ammunition of all kinds were brought in such as guns and muskets, powder and shot, and swords...
The siege lasted around three months, coming to an end when the Parliamentarians brought cannons from Manchester and seized the Hall. Robert fled to Chester and the Wythenshawe estate was only returned to him in 1661 when the monarchy was restored.
The Story of Mary Webb
Mary Webb was a girl who lived at the Hall, probably a servant. Her fiancé was one of six of Robert Tatton's men killed in a skirmish with the Parliamentarians. In revenge, or so the story goes, she took a musket, approached her enemy Captain Adams who was sitting on a wall near the house, and shot him dead.
Six skeletons were found in the Hall gardens in the 1700s, a discovery which seems to support the story.
Mary Webb's story is often included in the dramatic re-enactments of the siege. The first of these was held in 1926 to mark the public opening of the Park.
Oliver Cromwell's Statue
It is very unlikely that Oliver Cromwell ever actually came to Wythenshawe. His statue has been in the Park from the late 1960s when it was moved from outside Manchester Cathedral to make way for a traffic scheme.
A family like the Tattons always had servants. As landowners they also had tenants who came to the Hall to pay their rents.
An inventory after Robert Tatton's death in 1579 show that he had a bailiff, a butler, a cook and a housekeeper. The bailiff was responsible for supervising the estate, collecting tenants' taxes, and playing a part in enforcing local law.
A servants' wing was added to the house in the late 1700s as well as a dairy, scullery and wash-house. By the early 1900s the servants included a butler, cook, scullery maids, pantry boys, gamekeeper and gardeners.
I think my great-grandmother was a lady's maid. She met this young man who worked in the grounds. The servants lived in one little pokey wing and she was waving him off one night and fell out of the window and broke her arm. Julie Gilkes
My father worked in the kitchen gardens in the walled garden. There were greenhouses against the wall where the aviaries are now. There were pears and all that, grown on the walls. It was all hand work, hand dug. Dad didn't work in the greenhouses. In kitchen gardens there was always the indoor men and the outdoor. Graham Sant
There was some function on and Lady Tatton lost her pearls. So she got all the gardeners out looking. In the end my dad found them. She gave him two pounds and said, 'You can go home for the day.' Doris North
We weren't really allowed in the kitchen but we used to go in once during the visit and say 'How do you do?' to the cook. There was one called Mrs Chapman. She used to make us the most lovely toffee and we liked that very much. There was a pantry and scullery and all those things. The butler was in there and the pantry boys cleaning the silver. The housekeeper was very grand. She didn't mingle much with the other servants. She was always brought her meals in her room. Betty Broun, daughter of Peter Tatton
Grandmama used to summon us and we would take little walks with her visiting people. We used to like going to Stockport Lodge very much. Mrs Aylesbury lived there with her husband who was the head gamekeeper. They always curtsied to my grandmother, right down to the ground. Betty Broun, daughter of Peter Tatton
The great excitement of our Christmas visit was to be invited to tea in the Servants' Hall. My brother Grey and I were dressed in our best party clothes and arrived downstairs to be greeted by the housekeeper, the cook, housemaids, kitchenmaids, butler, and pantry boys. We all sat round the big long table laden with the most delicious food. After tea the table was pushed to the wall and we played games. Betty Broun, daughter of Peter Tatton
Charles Browning was chauffeur to the Tattons from 1914. After the sale in 1926 he looked after the Hall whilst his wife Lucy ran the tearoom. Like other servants he was allotted a house for the rest of his life. As part of his post-sale duties he tended the Tatton graves at St Wilfrid's Church in Northenden, where he himself was buried at the age of 90.
Mr Browning was our best friend. He had been a groom in the days before they had a car. We used to go and watch him wiping down the Daimler, and he always made that hissing that you do when you groom a horse. Betty Broun, daughter of Peter Tatton
Mr Browning used to cut all our hair when dad took us there. Doris North
My grandfather was retained and he became caretaker for the Hall from 1926. He was presented with a clock by the staff on the occasion of his retirement in 1934. Ron Green
After the place was opened to the public a friend took me to see the house and there was poor old Mr Browning. 'Oh Miss Betty, Miss Betty', he cried, tears pouring down his face, 'Isn't this terrible?'. I said, 'Well it is very sad but it isn't terrible, Mr Browning. People are here because they enjoy themselves.' Betty Broun, daughter of Peter Tatton
The Last Tattons
Peter Tatton was the last Tatton to own Wythenshawe Hall. Family scrapbooks show him with his family and friends around the early 1900s, a time when house parties were a popular form of entertainment for wealthy families.
In September 1904 Peter celebrated his 21st birthday or 'Coming of Age'. This was marked by a week of events involving tenants as well as prominent local families. His presents included a portrait of himself with his dog Patch.
In 1924 Peter inherited Wythenshawe estate but two years later he sold it to Ernest and Sheena Simon, later Lord and Lady Simon. They presented it as a gift to the City, to be kept as an open space for the people of Wythenshawe.
Peter married Maud Hamilton in 1911 and had four children; Grey, Betty, Christopher and Susan. Tragically Grey died at Eton in 1926 and Christopher was drowned at sea during the Second World War. Peter died in 1962 without an heir to the Tatton name. Like many of his ancestors before him, his ashes were interred at St Wilfrid's Church in Northenden.
He loved the Hall. I think it was very sad for him when it was all sold up. But he never talked about it. He was a very quiet man, never talked about anything very much. Betty Broun, daughter of Peter Tatton
Betty Tatton was born in 1914, the first daughter of Peter Tatton and his wife Maud. Betty never lived at the Hall but came on long visits to stay with her grandparents. She was interviewed in 2008 at the age of 94. Her memories capture a lost world, those last few years when the Hall was still a family home.
It was much bigger than our own home so it was all rather awe inspiring. Everyone kept in their own places. My grandfather was always in his study and my grandmother was always in the library, sitting there. We always used to go to the library after tea. We were brought down with hair brushed and everything and had an hour with the grandparents.
When it was very wet and we couldn't go outside we played in the Tenants Hall. There was my grandfather's bath chair, which we used to race round and round in. He also had a tricycle and that was another thing for racing around in.
When I was older I used to have tea with my grandma in the conservatory. The butler used to come in with a table and then the pantry boy would come in with trays of sandwiches and lovely things like that. I thought I was very grand to have tea with my grandmother.
The day nursery was what you would call a living room. We had all our meals up there. Then the night nursery was next door, where Grey and I slept. Nanny slept there too, all very cosy.
There was lovely old Aunt Alice. She was the unmarried daughter in the house and she loved us very much. She used to take us out for walks, all round the Park. In the summer she used to have a rug out at the back of the house where the garden is and she read lovely stories to us. Then we used to have lovely games in the garden. It was good for racing about and playing hide and seek in the bushes.
Moocha is buried in the Hall gardens and some of the other dogs too. My grandmother always had Pekingese. She liked them very much. I think they were horrid little dogs, very yappy.
After Christmas lunch we gathered in the ante-room. Great-granny Cholmondeley sat in her armchair beside a huge roaring fire. The tree was lit all over with little candles and a pantry boy stood beside it holding a long cane with a damp sponge on the end, ready to put out any candle that seemed to be getting out of control. The presents were all heaped at the foot of the tree and as Grey and I opened ours we took them over to Great-granny for her to see what we had been given.
More information about Wythenshawe Hall can be read on the Manchester Art Gallery web pages.