So you’ve got an image of Salford. This might include cobbled streets of terraced houses, the tower blocks and bright lights of Media City and maybe green public parks if you have read all of my #surprisingsalford series, but a beautiful Tudor manor house is probably not featuring in your mind’s eye and yet Salford is where you will find Ordsall Hall. Today Ordsall Hall is in many ways the jewel in the crown of Salford. It had fallen in to disrepair and when we arrived in Salford it was covered in scaffolding being refurbished. Over two years the building was fully restored and re-opened and it is now a place for visitors and as a venue for weddings or meetings.
Ordsall Hall is a Grade 1 listed building that is timber-framed and parts of it date back to the 14th century. From the outside Ordsall Hall is a handsome combination of brick and timber-frame set in lawns and restored gardens. Inside the building has many treasures including a Great Hall, medieval stained glass and a rare Italianate plaster ceiling from the 1500s.
With a history spanning over 800 years, Ordsall Hall has seen many dramas and lives and there is talk of ghosts that haunt the building. The house came in to the ownership of the Radclyffe family in 1335, who made their mark on the building. By 1380 Sir John Radclyffe had extended the house to include a great hall, five chambers, a chapel, stables and a dovecote. In the 16th century Sir Alexander Radclyffe became the High Sheriff of Lancashire and he built the current great hall and a brick house on the west end of the house, which is thought to have been the home of the bailiff. The cost of this extension and the English Civil War left Alexander, a Royalist, in prison and in financial hardship and his son and heir sold Ordsall Hall to Colonel John Birch in 1662. There is a legend that Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby plotted to overthrow King James in 1605 at Ordsall Hall.
The house changed ownership many times over the years; from 1872 until 1875 the artist Frederic Shields lived at Ordsall Hall. He was friends with John Ruskin and in a letter to Ruskin described the house as ‘the happiest refuge I have ever nested in’. But Salford changed after this period and the fields and woodland that had surrounded Ordsall Hall were replaced with factories and terraced housing, the Hall was on the edge of Manchester Docks and would have been surrounded by noise and bustle. Amazingly, the hall stayed and was used by Haworth’s Mill, a cotton spinning factory on Ordsall Lane, as a working men’s club with a gym, skittle alley and bowling green. A men’s social club survived through a major restoration and the building was used as Manchester Theological College until 1940.
Salford Council purchased Ordsall Hall in 1959 and it was opened to the public in 1972 as a house and local history museum before undergoing the renovation and reopening in 2011. It is now a building Salford is justifiably proud of.