By Margaret: Our first question was: ‘Where is Clayton Hall?’ the answer was: ‘In Clayton’. A few members admitted to knowing where and what it was but we concluded it must be Manchester’s best-kept secret.  That’s a pity because we had a thoroughly enjoyable and informative trip, hosted by friendly volunteers, who also provided home-made cakes and soup.

To begin with, a few facts.  In the 12th century the Byron family built a moated manor house and farm by the village of Clayton.  The moat was for self-defence in turbulent times and it is still there today, though a little overgrown.  The drawbridge has been replaced by a stone bridge, which now gives access to the building.  In 1620 the Byrons sold the property to Humphrey and John Cheetham, who were wealthy fustian manufacturers, staunch Protestants and Parliamentarians.  John died soon after but Humphrey became High Sheriff of Lancashire, refused a knighthood (for which he was fined £25!) and left plans and money in his will for a school and library.  Cheetham’s School still flourishes today and is named in his honour.

In 1896 the property was transferred to Manchester City Council.  However, it was not well maintained and even threatened with demolition.  Then along came an enterprising and committed group of local volunteers, who became the Trustees.  With the help of local residents and businesses and a few modest grants they rescued the building and created a museum full of interesting objects and activities.  Archaeologists and archivists have been involved throughout the process and are still unearthing more of the history.

We went on a private tour but the Hall is open to visitors on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Details on their website.