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Tony Flynn

FROM THE VIDEO ARCHIVES: HISTORIC MONKS HALL MUSEUM

Following on from our feature last week looking at the sad present-day situation with the Monks Hall Museum on Wellington Road in Eccles, we investigate the fine past of this historic building.

 

The naming of Monks Hall could go back as far as the 1200's. It is known as a Tudor residence with modern additions, which would make Monks Hall almost as old as Ordsall Hall if not quite as grand a residence. 

From the 1230s the monks of Whalley Abbey owned much of the land in Eccles, which could haven given the hall its name. 

Alternatively, in 1394 there was living in the town a Henry de Monks; it could be that his family may have given their name to the house or taken their name from it. 

Situated on Wellington Road, this once-famous museum stands empty and has been sadly neglected for the last ten years as legal wranglings over planning permission to build flats on the site drag on. 

This building has not only an amazing history attached to it but it still has a place in the hearts of many people of Salford and Eccles, who have memories of visiting the attractively laid out gardens and special exhibitions. 

After the Reformation in 1660 the hall became a place of worship for the Nonconformist congregation established by the Rev Edmund Jones who in 1662 was expelled from being the Vicar of Eccles and when the congregation moved out a family named Willis took up residence. 

In 1836 Monks Hall was a farmhouse and it was further modernised in the 19th century. 

No mention of Monks Hall is complete without the story of the Monks Hall Hoard; when a new road was being constructed in 1864 a hoard of 6,000 medieval coins were discovered close to the boundary wall, money probably buried by the owners of Monks Hall when the country was torn with civil strife. 

In the latter half of the 19th century the building became a doctor's residence and for 50 years was the home of a Dr George Sidley and subsequently his son Dr I. M. Ridley. 

Dr Ridley was also the Doctor in charge of children at St Joseph's Home in Patricroft and often children would be invited along to the house for a look around. 

Eccles council purchased the house from him in 1959 after he had retired from practice, the house, land and furnishings cost £7,155. 

The opening ceremony was carried out on Thursday 6 July 1961 by Lord Derby, assisted by the Mayor of Eccles, Ald R. Benson, Cllr G. Edwards, Cllr Dow and Dr Owen, Director of the Manchester Museum. 

Interestingly enough the first exhibition was a collection of memorabilia loaned to Monks Hall by Manchester United, it contained such items as gold medals, trophies, team pennants, international caps and football jerseys worn by such stars as Billy Meredith and George Wall. 

Such was the interest in the new Monks Hall museum that it attracted a 1,000 visitors in just three days after the opening, obviously many of them had come to gaze at the Manchester United display! 

Over the years the museum held some fascinating exhibitions including artwork by LS Lowry, Harold Riley, and Geoffrey Key, also local schools and painting and photographic societies held regular exhibitions there. 

Many people still fondly recall the bee hive which you could observe through glass panels as they built their honeycombs, and the prehistoric dug out canoe on display in the magnificent gardens, which was found in the bed of the River Irwell when the Manchester Ship Canal was being excavated. 

I can recall a room at the museum that displayed children's toys from over the years, including dinky toys, dolls and games. 

There were also a couple of large grandfather clocks including one made in Eccles by a certain James Collier, again, where have they gone? 

As you went into the garden there was a replica of Nasymth's hammer and other items relating to the industry of Eccles. 

Sadly and for reasons unknown to us the museum closed its doors for the last time in the late 1980s. 

It remained empty and neglected for over a decade until a local business man, Grant Chapman purchased the museum and turned it into Monks Hall Restaurant in April 1997, this too closed in 2002. 

Property developer Mark Hammond then purchased the land with plans to turn the museum building into four luxury flats with a further 24 flats at the rear. No work has ever started on this development and the building looks as if it is ready to collapse following years of neglect and vandalism. 

So the future of Monks Hall looks bleak and I fear that once again another of our fine buildings will disappear and we will be left with just our memories.

The above article first appeared on SalfordOnline and is lovingly reproduced here with the permission of a man with a few habits, Mr Tony Flynn.



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