Following a significant and essential programme of works at the 18th century property, Heaton Hall is starting to look forward to inviting the public back into the house.
Local people are now being asked how they would like to see it used.
In response to huge public demand, the ambition is to work towards opening the hall for weddings and other events in the future, as well as being able to view the beautiful decorative interiors.
Already confirmed, Heaton Hall will be open to the public every second Sunday of the month between April and September for open days with guided tours by The Friends of Heaton Hall group.
The hall will also host other special events throughout the year, including the national Heritage Open Days events, Christmas at Heaton and some performance-based events.
A range of works have been completed by North West contractor, Conlon Construction to maintain the building and halt further decline.
The West Wing has been closed since 1983 after fire gutted the section of the historic building, but work is now underway to reinstate the original windows and shutters, which have been in storage since the fire and in keeping with the Grade I status of the hall.
Historic England, which has been a long-term partner in restoring Heaton Hall, has so far provided £400k funding over the last two years to meet part of the cost of the glazing and joinery and associated stonework repairs.
Heaton Hall, designed by James Wyatt in 1772, is one of the region’s finest properties. Since 2012 phases of work have been completed to ensure long-term protection against the elements, beginning with substantial works to repair the roof.
As a second phase of works last year, locally-based craftspeople also sensitively repaired the historically significant windows, joinery and stonework in the central and east wings – all in accordance to the property’s listed status.
Improvement work has also been completed across the park using £600k investment from the Clean City Fund – allocated in part to Heaton Park from a one-off dividend paid to the city council as part-owners of Manchester Airport Group.
The funding has replaced bins and benches across the park, along with improvements to pathways and a new toilet block at the farm building.
Announced last month, Clean City funding is also going to be used to fully refurbish the play area, which will replace or rebuild all of the current play pieces, including the ten metre tower slide.
Inclusive play pieces will be a key addition to Heaton Park’s play offer, with basket swings capable of supporting wheelchair users and a brand new roundabout, which will also have full disabled access.
Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council’s executive member for culture and leisure, said: “We have a huge responsibility as guardians of Heaton Hall to make sure it is protected for Manchester people to enjoy for generations to come.
“Working on historic buildings present huge challenges – both financially and in terms of quality – but the on-going work has protected the building from further deterioration. These are the essential first steps towards bringing the much-loved hall back to life.
“We have some plans to invite the public back to the hall – including monthly tours with the friends’ group – but we’re eager to know what you think should be done and how we can use this magnificent building in the future.”
David Blood, Chair of the Friends of Heaton Hall, said: “We’re thrilled with the progress being made at the Hall. Slowly and surely the life and character is being brought back to this historic property. We would urge anyone who is interested to join one of our monthly tours and get a glimpse inside. It goes without saying, the interiors are just as impressive as the exteriors.”
Charles Smith, Heritage at Risk Principle for Historic England in the North West said: “It’s exciting to see progress at the Grade I listed Heaton Hall, one of Manchester's most special buildings. The hall has been on our At Risk Register for several years due to its deteriorating condition and a fire in the 1980s. We’re proud to be working with the council on this wonderful building and our joint goal is to strengthen the hall’s position in the lives and economy of local people, eventually leading to its removal from the Register.”
Michael Conlon, chairman at Conlon Construction, “We’ve a lot of experience in heritage projects and understand the skill, materials and budgets required to deliver a project of this nature. We take great pride in our work and are very pleased to have delivered a programme of work that will further extend the life of the landmark building.”
Please email the Heaton Park management team with your ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org