The Friends have had a very busy couple of years 2008/9 the Gorse Hall Heritage Project funded by the Leader Councillor R. Oldham has seen archaeological excavations and surveys of the buildings and features on site.
Supported by the Countryside wardens this has culminated in new information boards being placed at main entrances, and in the near future a Heritage Trail leaflet will be available.Some of the features that have been uncovered include a Victorian fernery, the floor of a summer house and remains of a Victorian kitchen garden and orchard. We hope at a later date to do more renovation work on the orchard and kitchen garden.
Some tree work has opened up the area around the New and Old Hall sites, with some of the views looking out over to Stalybridge and the moors beyond.
The leaflet will also contain information about the children’s Nature Trail, nine stone animals depicting what we hope Beatrix Potter saw on her visits to Gorse Hall plus Information on our very popular Orienteering course and Trim Trail, much used by runners and walkers.
2009 marks 100 years since the unsolved murder at Gorse Hall of George Harry Storrs. To commemorate this we will be taking a guided walk on to the site on 1st November, please look out for further information at a later date.
We had the first week of our ‘Dig for History’ project in May, this year was about being a ‘Historical Detective’ local school children came on site to look on the ground and at photos. Going back to 1909 to find what the house was like who lived there and what happened from the evidence given. The finds from the excavations, the story about the murder gave them lots to think about. Another week will be held in June.
On July 10th there will be a presentation of all the schools work and their findings, prize’s will be given to the children for the best poems later to be published in a book.
We hope you will visit Gorse Hall and if you have a day to spare come along and join us on our workdays.We are all volunteers promoting the site for the community to enjoy.
If you have a story or information the Gorse Hall murder please contact us through this website.
FRIENDS OF GORSE HALL
USING THE PAST TO PROMOTE THE FUTURE
Gorse Hall is situated on a hill overlooking Stalybridge and bordering Dukinfield
covering approximately 35 acres of woodland and meadow, with panoramic views over to the Cheshire Plains and the Pennines.
The site was once a part of the Dockenfeld Manor held by Lieutenant– Colonel Robert Duckenfield, well known in the Civic War. The Manor was never sold but passed on through generations. “Old Gorse Hall” can be traced back to the 17th century although it probably goes back much before this. Remains of the “Old Gorse Hall” can still be seen.
On the death of Lady Dukinfield–Daniel the estate passed on to her husband John Astley, a famous portrait painter of that era. Francis Dukinfield Astley, a great sportsman, built Hunters Tower on Gorse Hall in 1807, and was involved in the formation of the Astley Riflemen Volunteers; the rifle range wall can still be seen today near to the site of the Tower.
The Towns of Stalybridge and Dukinfield were typical cotton mill towns in the 18th and 19th century. John Leech one of the many wealthy cotton manufacturers of the district, bought land from Mr. Astley to build his mills. His son John bought the Gorse Hall estate and with stone from the local quarries built a “New” Gorse Hall mansion in 1835/6. He laid out formal gardens, an orchard and a bowling green, now used as an open classroom.
John and Jane Leech had eight children, one being Helen born at Gorse Hall, she was later to become the mother of Beatrix Potter famous children’s author. A Blue Plaque can be seen at the main entrance on High St. Stalybridge.
After Jane’s death, William Storrs bought the mansion and gave it to his son George Harry and his wife as a wedding present. On the night of 1st November 1909 George Harry was brutally murdered by an intruder at the Hall, he was stabbed 15 times.Two people were tried and acquitted; his widow had the house taken down in 1910 and moved away never to return. Through a Heritage Lottery Grant the site of this tragedy was opened up and the remaining foundation walls consolidated with support from the UMAU and the Friends of Gorse Hall volunteers.
On the 12th November 1909 George Harry’s coachman was found hanged in the stables of the hall, perhaps he felt guilty for not being there when his master was murdered, the mystery still remains, but Julian Fellowes has produced a drama recently, about what may have happened on that dreadful night for the BBC.
The stables area has been excavated by 2,500 local school children over the last five years, a project that has been very successful in giving the children ownership of their heritage.
The site is now managed by the Friends of Gorse Hall, who have a lease on the land, which is owned by TMBC. The aim of the “Friends” is to promote the site for leisure,
educational and historical use.
Winning the Award from the Mersey Basin Trust, the Unilever Dragonfly Award for Conservation work
FRIENDS OF GORSE HALL
The work we do is supported by TMBC, other
Agencies/groups, businesses and funders.
- The Friends have regular workdays for volunteers on site on a Tuesday and sometimes at weekends, to do conservation work/projects.
- We have several walks each year, and go out to other groups/church’s to give talks on the work that we do.
- We promote our work by showing exhibitions/presentations.
- A project involving local school children in real Archaeology has been
very successful over the last five years.
- Local schools use the site for conservation and local history Projects.
- We conduct regular surveys of the wildlife, flora and fauna on the site.
- There is an Orienteering Course on site, and we plan to have a “Trim Trail” in the very near future.
- We are constantly researching the long and varied history of the estate.
The group is a member of the Tameside Local History Forum of which there are
30 Local and Family history/Civic Societies.