An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 5 (of 92 parts) - History of the Sherdley Estate in Sutton

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 5 (of 92 parts) - History of the Sherdley Estate
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
The Sherdley Estate
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVII

a) The Sherdley Estate - Introduction

Sherdley Estate Office
Sherdley Park is the largest park in St.Helens and Sutton's main centre for leisure. It's steeped in history, although the present park at 336 acres is only a fraction of the Sherdley estate's past size. In 1873 it was recorded as being 1,207 acres which comprised the eponymous park (which extended to Ellbess Lane a.k.a. Sherdley Road), two Sherdley Halls (old and new), Sutton Hall, Sherdley Cottages and Sherdley Hall Farm as well as farmland occupied by numerous tenant farmers.

There was also a Costeth Hall, which for a while was partitioned into two houses and partly demolished about 1804. The estate also included land in Lea Green, Aughton, Eccleston, Great Sankey, Peasley Cross, Fiddlers Ferry and Penketh as well as Sutton properties like Green End House, Leach Hall, Sutton Lodge and houses in streets such as Ditch Hillock / Waterdale Crescent. There was also much underground mineral wealth and the Hughes family leased many mines to companies such as the St.Helens Collieries Company, Whitecross Company, Bromilow and Haddock and Sutton Heath and Lea Green Collieries Company. However this page will concentrate on the five properties that were located within modern-day Sherdley Park, as well as the history of the deadly Sherdley Delph.

The park is named after the Sherdley family who can be traced back to 1303, where they were recorded as freeholders of Sherdley Hall, its orchard and gardens. The Sherdleys took their name from the pasture land that existed then - see here for more on this. In 1543 the Sherdleys sold their estates to Richard Bold and later Richard Roughley paid Sir Henry Byrom of Parr £440 to acquire Sherdley Hall. This was inherited by Thomas Roughley and on his death in 1613, an estate inventory encompassed Sherdley Hall, a garden, orchard, 20 acres of land, 6 acres of meadow, 14 acres of pasture and 2 acres of woods.

In 1798 industrialist
Michael Hughes purchased the estate for £3,150 and it remained within the Hughes family for 150 years. During the first world war the third Michael Hughes - who was now living in Suffolk with the title of Colonel - became frustrated by being too old to fight and infuriated by the policies of St Helens Council. After a legal case against his Sherdley estate manager in 1919, Hughes ordered that Sherdley Hall Farm be sold and the 20-room Sutton Grange on the edge of Sherdley Park was bulldozed. The estate began to break up and a number of farms were put up for auction in November 1933, including Abbots Farm, Willow Tree Farm, Tunstall’s Farm, Four Lane Ends Farm and Scholes Farm. This continued until Hughes's death in 1938. His nephew Michael Hughes-Young, who became Lord St.Helens in 1964, inherited the estate and he appointed J. B. & B. Leach of St.Helens and their sister company Herbert Johnson & Son of Warrington, to manage it on his behalf.

The estate then amounted to 750 acres, but this was considerably reduced when Sherdley Park (360 acres) was sold to St.Helens Corporation on June 27th 1949 for £18,700. The long wall surrounding the park was demolished (apart from a small section by the gates) and it became a public park. Former Sherdley land on the other side of Marshalls Cross Road, in between Sutton Park and Eaves Lane, was then sold onto housing developers in 1966 - see here for more. The Sherdley Estates still exist, however, with trustees the present Lord St.Helens (Rt. Hon. Richard Francis Baron St.Helens) and his three sisters.

Plan of the Sherdley estates in 1826 - contributed by Rory Hughes-Young (Lord St.Helens)

Plan of the Sherdley estates in 1826 - contributed by Lord St.Helens

Plan of the Sherdley estates in 1826

b) Sutton Hall

On February 22nd 1935 an article by Seth Lewis in the St.Helens Reporter commented on the impending loss of Sutton Hall on the edge of Sherdley Park:
 A link with the historic past is being broken by the demolition of Sutton Hall, which with its ancient associations and manorial rights spread over four centuries, make it one of the most interesting of the old Lancashire family homes. 
Sutton Hall was located near to Elton Head Road and, as the quotation above suggests, it had served as the Lord of the Manor's home in Sutton for many years. The Holland family had lived in it for over four centuries, although in more recent times it was the Sherdley estate managers, including Henry H. Campbell and Dr. Henry Baker Bates who resided there and worked in the adjacent estate office.

Sutton Hall was the manor house that was originally occupied by the Hollands and demolished in 1935

Sutton Hall was the manor house that was originally occupied by the Hollands

Sutton Hall was demolished in 1935

However, the demolished building was not the original structure as a fire had struck the first Sutton Hall around 1700 and so it was subsequently knocked down and rebuilt. The old granary with its rough sandstone and mullion windows was all that was retained within the new building and it was believed that debris from the first Sutton Hall was recycled to create a boundary wall by Elton Head Road. The sandstone slabs within the second Sutton Hall's entrance wall were taken from a quarry at its rear.

An advertisement placed in the Liverpool Mercury on November 17th 1848 said: 'TO be LET, the desirable Country RESIDENCE of SUTTON HALL, with 41 statute Acres of very productive LAND, situate in the township of Sutton, and adjoining Sherdley Park. The House is commandingly situate with a south aspect, and within a short distance of the Sutton Station, on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and also of the Parish Church. The House and Premises will be fitted up to meet the views of the Tenant.'

Sutton Hall was reputed to have been a former Roman Catholic study centre and retreat. Underground passages were said to connect it with Sherdley Old Hall and Michael's Mount in Elton Head Road, where the tunnels terminated in the cellar. The Hall was demolished in 1935.
Also see Memories of Sutton 18 article by Eileen Spencer 'Living at Sutton Hall Cottage’

c) Costeth Hall

In a St.Helens Reporter article dated 27th August 1976 the newspaper fleetingly mentioned Costeth House, stating "about which nothing is now known". However Dorothy Hughes has since published her research into Costeth in a Lancashire Local Historian essay (no.16 (2003) pp.25-40), which has provided much detail and part of this section is sourced from her investigations.

In 1786
William Yates drew what is generally considered to the first accurate map of Lancashire and both Sutton Hall and Costeth House are clearly identified within Sherdley Park. Sixteen years later, industrialist Michael Hughes is often said to have acquired Costeth House for £2,555, only to knock it down in 1804. This was a very high price to pay but the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars had caused considerable inflation. However, as Dorothy Hughes explains, her namesake only initially bought half of Costeth House and had to negotiate the purchase of the remaining half from a Prescot charity.

How Sutton was represented on Yates's 1786 map. Note references to Costeth House, Sutton Hall and Toad Leach

Yates's 1786 map. Note references to Costeth House, Sutton Hall & Toad Leach

Sutton on Yates's 1786 map

It's unknown when Costeth House was first built but it is recorded that Richard Roughley bought it in 1607 and then it was inherited by members of his family. In 1729 the death of then owner Thomas Roughley put the cat well and truly amongst the pigeons, as he left his estate jointly to both his daughter Mary and granddaughter Esther. As a result of "divers differences and disputes", it was decided to divide the property into two estates that were separately inhabited by Esther with husband Peter Erlam and Mary. The original Costeth House was extended with a 'New End' fronted with stone on the south and west which contrasted with the brick fronted 'Old End' and a Deed of Partition was drawn up by attorney Edward Deane of Prescot.

In 1972, television's Steptoe and Son portrayed a divided household in the episode 'Divided We Stand', which even extended to division of the television set. This resulted in some classic dialogue in which Harold said "I've got the law on my side" to which Albert replied with the line "I've got the knobs on mine"! The partition of the enlarged Costeth House wasn't quite to the same extent, however. Essentially they became semi-detached houses, although the deed revealed that it did extend to the gardens and the barn plus the property's rights of way.

Left: Advert in the Manchester Mercury of September 21st 1762; Right: Manchester Mercury June 2nd 1767

Manchester Mercury adverts from September 21st 1762 and June 2nd 1767

Adverts in The Manchester Mercury

The Roughley connection with Costeth ended in the late 1760s when Liverpool ironmonger Thomas Greenup acquired the Old End, with the Oliver Lyme Charity of Prescot having been bequeathed the New End in the 1730s. An advertisement had been placed for the sale of the old part of the building in the Manchester Mercury of July 7th 1767. It offered 'One Moiety of a Meffuage or Tenement, called Cofteth Houfe, with about 22 Acres of very good Arable and Pafture Ground'. Moiety means a half or a portion of property. The advert described how the purchaser would automatically acquire a pew in Prescot Parish Church and one in St. Helens Chapel.

Part of the plans for Costeth House which were drawn in 1801 - contributed by Martin Rigby

Part of the plans for Costeth House which were drawn in 1801

Part of the plans for Costeth House

Michael Hughes then acquired the Old End from the debt-ridden Greenups. However he had to wait until 1820 until he obtained full possession of the property, swapping an estate in Eccleston for the New End. The Oliver Lyme Charity knew they had Hughes over a barrel and they made it clear in legal documents that they were seeking a "bonus" in exchange for their interest. In the end they made about £2000 on the swap. Hughes paid a considerable price to have sole ownership of all of the Sherdley properties and for the right to demolish the ancient Costeth House. This enabled him to build a new Hall for himself that would truly reflect his social status in life.

A survey and valuation of Costeth House drawn up by James Heyes in 1818 - contributed by Martin Rigby

A survey and valuation of Costeth House drawn up by James Heyes in 1818

Costeth House survey and valuation

Around 1820 Hughes also built a "good and substantial Messuage or Dwellinghouse of Brick or Stone and Slate", according to a document of that year. This seems to have been the property that was occupied by the Sherdley Estate gamekeeper George Anders and his wife Margaret and their four children and was built from materials from the demolished New End of Costeth House. During the1840s, Ordnance Survey map references to a 'Costeth' or 'Costel' House erroneously refer to the gamekeeper's property.

d) Sherdley Hall

As stated in this page's introduction, a Sherdley Hall in Sutton can be traced back to the early 14th century. However the building that Michael Hughes acquired in 1798 had only been built in 1671 and that date was carved over its front door. It's not known for certain who built it although it's likely to have been one of the Roughley family. The house was constructed in an Elizabethan style with gables and grids of mullioned windows and brick chimneys and built from red and yellow sandstone.

Sherdley Old Hall farmhouse c.1890 - contributed by Rory Hughes-Young (Lord St.Helens)

Sherdley Old Hall farmhouse c.1890 - contributed by Rory Hughes-Young

Sherdley Old Hall farmhouse c.1890

One interesting feature of Sherdley Old Hall was that a number of its windows were blocked off in order to escape a window tax which was levied intermittently from 1696. The glass tax was introduced under the snazzily-named 'Act of Making Good the Deficiency of the Clipped Money' in King William III's time. No wonder everyone just called it the Window Tax!

Sherdley New Hall photographed by R.G. Brook c.1890 - contributed by Rory Hughes-Young (Lord St.Helens)

Sherdley New Hall photographed by R.G. Brook c.1890

Sherdley New Hall c.1890

Hughes decided to retain the somewhat grim-looking old building, which later became a farmhouse for Sherdley Hall Farm (a.k.a. Home Farm), and between 1805-6 he built a new Hall for himself. Hughes had been forced out of his first residence, Sutton Lodge (initially called 'The Tickles'), by the smoke from a new colliery owned by salt proprietor Nicholas Ashton of Woolton Hall. It was located on land adjacent to Hughes's and the fumes were threatening to make Sutton Lodge uninhabitable.

A view of Sherdley New Hall taken by RG Brook c.1890 in winter time - contributed by Rory Hughes-Young (Lord St.Helens)

A view of Sherdley New Hall taken by RG Brook about 1890 in winter time

Sherdley New Hall in winter time

William Lewis Hughes 1767-1852
William Lewis Hughes
After initially considering relocating to North Wales, Michael Hughes elected to build the mansion of his dreams in Sutton and commissioned architect John Harrison. It became Hughes's pride and joy with great care taken in its interior design. The main building work took place between 1805 and 1806 and the builders made quick progress with the master mason discharged in January 1806. The house was insured for the sum of £2000 and the furniture for £500.

In a letter from London dated February 1st 1805, Hughes was advised by his relative
Sir Robert Williams (1764-1830), to make his new home as "snug and comfortable" as possible and to pay more attention to water closets, carpets and fireplaces than "great uniformity in the building...these are luxuries that all the world like." However, Williams implored Michael Hughes not to show his letter to his brother Rev. Edward Hughes {x-1815}, whose Kinmel Park mansion in North Wales was renowned within the Hughes family both for its magnificence and its great discomfort as a residence.

William Lewis Hughes (1767-1852) was Michael Hughes's nephew who was charged with acquiring the furnishings for the new hall and these were brought from London to Liverpool by canal. William wrote to his uncle on July 25th 1807:
 I do flatter myself that your two rooms will be the neatest and most tasteful in your neighbourhood. I have ordered a neat Lantern for the dining room which will light the room sufficiently without the nuisance of candles on the table to obscure the view of your opposite neighbour...It occurs to me that you have never mentioned how your bells pull. Inform me of this and tell me also whether you want grate and fenders Will and fire irons for the two rooms.
On December 1st 1807, William - who in 1831 became the first Lord Dinorben of Kinmel - corresponded again with his uncle at Sherdley Hall. Michael Hughes had clearly been delighted with his nephew's efforts in furnishing his new home:
 I derive great pleasure from knowing that your furniture meets with your and your friends approbation, and tho' I allow the cost will be considerable, yet I hope you will find it compensated in the comfort you will derive from it...the drawing room will of course include some articles of unnecessary adornment to a man, but as I know you will like your female visitants to enjoy every comfort and luxury you can afford them.
With Hughes' first wife Ellen having died nine years earlier, widower Michael was in the market for a new wife. Whether it was the posh furnishings of the new Sherdley Hall that helped persuade Ellen Pemberton, the daughter of a neighbouring Sutton landowner, to marry him isn't recorded but the ceremony took place in 1807. In an article published in the St.Helens Reporter on March 3rd 1939, entitled ‘The Passing of Sherdley Hall’, it was stated how time had largely stood still within the hall since its earliest days:
 Although in recent years the immediate surroundings of the hall and its estate have been greatly developed, there was little in the hall itself to differentiate it from the time when it was first built. There were still old-fashioned oil lamps to light the passages, for the Colonel would never have the lighting system altered.
The article was published after the death of the third Michael Hughes, just before the contents of the hall were going to be auctioned. A reporter described what he had seen whilst attending a sale preview and commented how the furniture was entirely of 18th century design, with the ‘capacious’ dining-room featuring the ‘gem of the household’, an Adams mahogany pedestal sideboard. Nearby stood a Regency leather screen, decorated with classical paintings and the heads of many animals decorated the staircases, which Colonel Hughes had personally shot. What the author of the article considered a ‘curious item’, was a lamp based on an elephant’s foot. There were also many books, and works of art, including paintings of famous horses.

Adverts placed in the St.Helens Reporter in February 1939 on the sale of the contents of Sherdley Hall

St.Helens Reporter February 1939 on the sale of the contents of Sherdley Hall

St.Helens Reporter February 1939

There are few other recorded details of the hall's interior, although early 20th century letters refer to a large head of a Highland bullock that was hung on the wall adjoining the landing from the main bedroom to the staircase. This might have been introduced by Michael’s wife Edith Hughes, who was proud of her Highland roots. The correspondence also referred to a ‘Photograph room’ within the hall, with Mrs. Hughes being a keen photographer.

The 1901 census provides a snapshot of the downstairs life in the new Sherdley Hall with nine servants recorded. There was a cook, valet, kitchen maid, scullery maid, ladies maid, footman and two housemaids. Plus a hall boy as well as a head gardener who lived in a separate cottage. Part of the gardener's responsibility - which for many years was Thomas Holland - was the growing of grapes in a vinery. These don't appear to have been used to make wine but many were instead despatched to the two hospitals in St.Helens. The 1911 census tells us that there were 31 rooms in Sherdley Hall. Mosquitoes were endemic during the early years of the 20th century and advice on killing them was taken from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 1911.

Photos by R.G. Brook featuring what appears to be members of the family residing in the former Sherdley Hall c.1890

Members of the family residing in the former Sherdley Hall c.1890

Family residing in the old Sherdley Hall

The Sherdley Hall Farm that was more commonly known as Home Farm, was owned and operated by the Hughes's. Although the family owned many farms within Sutton and beyond, tenant farmers ran them as their own businesses and paid rent for the privilege. The three Michael Hughes's employed farm bailiffs/managers to run Home Farm, working alongside the Sherdley Estate manager. It was a mixed farm raising oats and root crops as well as cattle. The cows provided much milk which was sold at below market price to the Sutton poor. In 1914 several cows died through TB and one was destroyed on suspicion of having anthrax. William Nicolson was the farm bailiff at this time, and during the 1930s, it was run by Harry Done, until John Blundell took over in February 1939. In March 1945 Home Farm was advertised to let and was described as covering 228 acres.

In the St.Helens Reporter's obituary of Hughes, published on August 26th 1938, they wrote more favourably of the old Sherdley Hall than the more recently-built property:
 The present Sherdley Hall is a somewhat plain building in the Georgian style, and only about a century old, but the old hall now serves as a picturesque farmhouse of Sherdley Hall Farm where Mr. H. Done, the occupier (and himself of ancient lineage), is particularly interested in its antiquity. The old house with its gables and string courses, its mullioned windows, its porch with a nail-studded door on iron hinges, seats on either side, and the date 1671 over the lintel, is all too picturesque to be taken as a farmhouse here within sight of colliery wheels. In his farmhouse of many doors and low-timbered ceilings, Mr. Done has assembled furniture and ornaments pleasantly appropriate to the hall. The bedrooms have old doors obviously fashioned by the adze, and a recess over the porch is the ancient powder-closet, where in times gone by the inhabitants used to powder their wigs.
An 'adze', incidentally, is a tool for fashioning wood, like an axe. The Reporter article also described the gardens of the new Sherdley Hall in 1938 which included a "curious stone font" which had been brought from Lea Green and which was related to a past unfrocking of a minister. The article said the "historical scandal" dated back to 1722 and the name on the font was John Jolly. Just whether he was the unfrocked cleric or stonemason isn't clear.

The old Sherdley Hall farmhouse photographed around 1990 - picture taken and contributed by Jim Lamb

The old Sherdley Hall farmhouse photographed around 1990 by Jim Lamb

Sherdley Hall farmhouse around 1990

"Many fine beeches" were said to occupy the gardens but special mention was made of an old chestnut tree which had its top cut off and which the article claimed "suggested Royalist leaning" in the Civil War days. Apparently many Royalist landowners decapitated a tree when King Charles was executed.

Like Sutton Hall, the Sherdley Halls were said to have secret underground passages which led to Loyola Hall and also inter-connected with a tunnel from Phoenix House and one from Sutton Monastery. The Sherdley tunnel was filled in and capped with a flat oblong of concrete during the early 1970s.
Susan Jones lived in the old servants' quarters in the park during the late 1970s and recalls being shown the cap by park manager Norman Clarke:
 Norman showed me the cap, which is at the top end of the first garden in the centre of the park. The first garden was allocated to my flat, so I asked if I could put a greenhouse on the concrete and was told no and why. Norman said that originally it had been stables and the entrance would have been disguised in one of the stalls or inside the building's cellar.
The new Sherdley Hall was demolished in 1949 through subsidence, which has been one of the greatest perils that Sutton has had to endure over the past couple of hundred years. Then the old servants quarters were demolished in 1980. However the old hall / farmhouse still exists and is located by hole 13 of the Sherdley Park Golf Course and near the Cafe in the Park. It's a grade 2 listed building and described in St Helens Council's listing record as:
 Farmhouse. Dated 1671 on lintel. Stone with slate roof, brick stacks. 2 storeys with attic, 3 bays; 1st bay is narrow and projects under gable, end bay also projects under gable. Drip moulds over ground and 1st floors, coped gables. Windows have doubled-chamfered mullions, most of 6 lights but 1st bay has 3-light 1st floor window and blocked 2-light attic window; 3rd bay has ground floor cross-window. Porch has recessed door, which is studded and has strap hinges and latch. Signs of blocked entrance to left of 3rd bay window. Returns have similar fenestration.

e) Sherdley Delph

The Sherdley Delph was an old water-filled pit and woodland located to the north-east of the parkland by Green End Lane and modern-day Scorecross. Sometimes spelt 'delf', it developed an ignominious reputation in the late 19th century as a popular place to commit suicide.

Bill Bate
, now living in Western Australia, recalls regularly "wandering around Sherdley" during his childhood days of the late 1930s and the 1940s and writes that access to the Delph was:
 Along Green End Lane, which had about six houses, and then a track of about 300 yards long leading to the Score path. At each side of this track was farmland with the Delph in the field on the left of the track.
At one time the Delph had been excavated and one newspaper account described it as being an "old stone quarry situate in Sherdley Park" (Liv. Mercury 14/6/1859). Another report said 'the pit is between 30 and 40 feet deep' (Liv. Mercury 1/10/1890) and it measured about 50 yards in diameter with quite steep sides and it proved a magnet for the suicidal or youngsters fishing for 'jacksharps'. On July 11th 1891, six-years-old John Hill of Cairne-street in Sutton over-balanced when making a grab at one of the tiddler sticklebacks that were found in the Delph and drowned. The Liverpool Mercury's account of July 13th, described how the water was of 'considerable depth' and so John's two young pals were quite 'powerless to help him'. In fact the Sherdley Delph was said to have been so deep that no one could dive to its bottom.

The roll call of suicides who ended their days in the Delph, include 20-years-old
Patrick Burke, who drowned himself in February 1890 because his mother wouldn't give him 1½d. He was “stupid drunk” said his father at the inquest. Then there was 15-years-old Ann Makin, a deeply unhappy child who was expected to keep house for her widowed brute of a father and also cook and clean for her four siblings. Ann had told friend Ellen Lynan whilst in Sutton Churchyard, that if her father "beat her or sauced her again", she would drown herself. She did the deed four days later after her father had scolded her and it took several days of dragging the waters of the Delph before her body was recovered. (Read more here)

There were many others who died in the Delph, including 68-years-old
John Curley, whose residence was Back Appleton Street in Sutton. At his inquest held in June 1892, he was said to have been "somewhat strange in his manner for a considerable time past", before jumping into the Delph. Curley's inquest was held at the Griffin Inn in Peasley Cross, as was the inquiry into the death of Reuben Southward in May 1895. The 43-years-old from Appleton Street was described as being "peculiar and a little deranged" for some time prior to entering the waters of the Delph.

Since the break up of the Sherdley estate the old Delph pit where many Suttoners ended their lives has been drained. However the name continues as part of the Delph woodland on the edge of Sherdley Park still exists, and the street Delph Hollow Way off Scorecross. In addition Barratt Homes have named their new housing estate in Ridgewood Drive off New Street, Delph Wood.
Thanks to Bill Bate & Paul Cooper for their contributions to this article
f) Roughley Coat of Arms
Visitors to Sherdley Park are often intrigued by the coat of arms on a stone at the rear of the Walled Garden, not far from a Chinese Pagoda-type ornament. The crest is believed to be that of Thomas Roughley and family, former owners of the Sherdley Hall estate prior to the arrival of Michael Hughes. It bears the date 1698, although this can easily be missed with the fading numerals '16' on its left and '98' on the right.

The Roughley coat of arms which is located at the rear of the Walled Gardens within Sherdley Park

The Roughley coat of arms which is located at the rear of the Walled Gardens

Roughley coat of arms in Sherdley Park

The coat of arms may well have been sited on Costeth House, or possibly Sherdley Hall. Interestingly, another Thomas Roughley tried to reclaim the Sherdley estate from the Hughes family upon the death of the first Michael Hughes. In December 1825 Roughley returned to Sutton after having lived as a sugar planter in Jamaica for about twenty years. Perhaps the change of climate was too much for him, as on December 14th he suddenly died, aged only 46 years. The Liverpool Mercury of December 30th 1825 reported that Roughley, who was the author of 'The Jamaica Planter's Guide', had '…resided many years in the West Indies, and about three weeks ago came over for the purpose of claiming the estate belonging to Sherdley-hall, the seat of the late Michael Hughes, Esq.'
g) The Sutton Grange and 'Choccy Hill'
Sutton Grange to the west of Marshalls Cross Road, Sutton in 1894
Sutton Grange in 1894 off Marshalls Cross Road
Sutton Grange was situated off Marshalls Cross Road, almost directly opposite the southern edge of present-day Sutton Park and set back about 50 yards from the road. A self-contained property with much land of its own, the Grange was contiguous with, but separate from, Sherdley Park and may not have been integrated into the Sherdley Estate until the later years of the 19th century. It was quite a large imposing residence, which was probably built during the 1830s, although it may well have replaced an existing house.

A ‘To be Let’ classified advert in the Manchester Courier of July 1st 1843 stated that the house had recently been the St Helens Parsonage and was ‘large and newly-erected, in the Elizabethan style, and contains drawing, dining, and breakfast rooms, of good dimensions; and is besides replete with every possible convenience, hot and cold water, kitchen range, &c., &c.; with two excellent gardens, well stocked with choice fruit trees and shrubs, &c.; together with 22 statute acres of excellent land, with suitable outbuildings. The house and situation is well adapted for a highly respectable family’. A further newspaper advertisement in 1853 stated that the Grange had ‘nine or ten bedrooms, a good laundry and dairy, with coach-house, stables, harness room, &c.'

Thomas Townley Parker
Thomas Townley Parker
Thomas Townley Parker was an early occupier, having moved into Sutton Grange on August 20th 1846 with his new bride Katharine Blackburne. Katharine came from an ancient family who lived at Hale Hall, and which can be traced back hundreds of years. She had a connection with Sir Henry Bold Hoghton as her cousin John Ireland Blackburne married his daughter Mary. Thomas was also connected to the owner of the Bold Hall estate as Sir Henry was his uncle. The Townley Parker family home was Cuerden Hall, a country mansion near Preston, and in November 1847 Thomas was made a county magistrate at just 24. At the time of his death in 1907, he was the oldest J.P. in Lancashire and he left an estate worth over £30 million in today's money.

Townley Parker left Sutton Grange in 1853 and
William 'Roby' Pilkington, who later became Lord of the Manor of Sutton, probably took up residence in 1854 and remained until 1874, when he moved to Roby Hall. The second William Blinkhorn, who was the manager of Sutton Glassworks, also occupied the Grange and probably succeeded Pilkington, dying at home in 1898. John Swallow was an interesting tenant who lived at the Grange from at least 1904, when he was a partner in Wm. Neill's of St Helens Junction. However he broke up his partnership with Edwin Watkins two years later to run his own motor car engineering business in Sutton Oak. This failed and Swallow was made bankrupt in 1909 and another engineer Alfred Davis took over the tenancy of Sutton Grange. Davis and Swallow were also in partnership as motor car makers, although their exact relationship is unclear.
Leo Weisker, considered to be one of St.Helens's pioneering cinema moguls, was probably the last tenant at the Grange. His tenancy began on December 1st 1911 and he paid £70 per annum for the 20-room house, stables and lodge but suffered a tragedy when his two-years-old son Leopold died at home in May 1914. In 1915 St.Helens Council considered leasing Sutton Grange for maternity and child welfare work. However they decided instead to erect a special pavilion at Eccleston Hall, considering it would make more economic sense to utilise land belonging to the Corporation.

Correspondence from 1918 between Colonel Michael Hughes and his Sherdley Estate agent
Henry Bates discussed demolishing Sutton Grange. This was through the difficulty of letting the property and its state of disrepair. After Alfred Davis had given six months notice to quit in 1911, Bates had told Hughes of the likely difficulty in re-letting his property writing that "There is no demand for houses of this size in St.Helens". Although a tenant was briefly found in Weisker, the demand for large properties diminished even further during the war years because of a difficulty in recruiting servants. Most males were in the army and females preferred working in munitions plants where the pay was better. Large houses also required maintenance and builders were hard to find during WW1.
As can be seen from the above photos taken about 1890, the 20-room Sutton Grange was an architectural gem, and it was a great shame for it to have got into disrepair and be subsequently demolished. It's likely that this was a significantly different building to the one built around the 1830s, as there are discrepancies within some of the 19th century map references to the Grange. Local history researcher Harry Hickson has studied the two photographs and writes:
 The rear view was a big, big, surprise for a number of reasons, the first of which was that the owners considered an extension to the house, in spite of having 20 rooms, was necessary. Although relatively small, the part-rounded room with its flat roof (to keep the bedroom views), is typical of the late 1920s /1930s 'Art Deco' architecture, and so is some 30 years in advance of a major period in English houses. The extension appears to be a work in progress, as you can clearly see the drying lime-based render on the left wall over the new large windows and the newly-secured laths to the walls on the right. This is presumably to support future growing of the small planted bush near the downpipe. The suspended bay window in the wing to the left is also unusual, being the only one in the house, and not extending down to service the ground floor room. Also of interest is the picket fence dividing this end wing of the house, which suggests that there may be two distinct families living there at this time.
Sutton Grange also had a 5-room lodge house which in 1911 was occupied by gardener Robert Parsonage and his family. These were self-contained properties, occupying a section of Sherdley Park but not actually within its boundaries. The Grange had its own field at the rear and during Townley Parker’s tenure, prize animals were bred. Pigs, bulls, sows and poultry (including Dorking cocks, Rouen drakes and Toulouse ganders) were exhibited at agricultural shows and many prizes were won. In July 1852 at the Royal Agricultural Society's show in Lewes in Suffolk, Townley Parker won a total of £10 for his poultry, about £600 in today's money.

At a show in August of that year, a reaping machine was exhibited which Townley Parker had modified, suggesting that he may have also used his field to farm crops. In 1863 when William Pilkington had the Grange, he laid the foundation stone for the new Sutton National School and then entertained the schoolchildren on his field, where according to the Liverpool Mercury, they 'amused themselves until a late hour by racing and all kinds of games'. As recently as 1961, local newspapers described Robins Lane School holding their annual school sports at the 'Grange Field' in Sherdley Park. This now forms part of the golf driving range in Sherdley Park.

The so-called Choccy Hill a.k.a. Michael Hughes Folly which was used in WW2 as a buttress - contributed by Lynne Phelan

So-called Choccy Hill a.k.a. Michael Hughes Folly used in WW2 as a buttress

Choccy Hill a.k.a. Michael Hughes Folly

The precise date of the demise of the two properties is presently unknown, although they are not depicted on 1920s OS maps. However not all that far from its location is a curious mound of earth and bricks which locals have dubbed ‘Choccy Hill’. It has been suggested that it was created from spoil dug out of nearby ponds to hide an unpleasant view. Or it may have simply been a remnant of the old lodge or house. Eileen Spencer's grandfather William Vose Spencer was a Sherdley Estate agent and her family lived at Sutton Hall Cottages. Eileen remembers playing on the hill as a child in the 1950s:
 The mound of earth was known to my family as Michael Hughes' Folly. I used to run up and down it with my friends on the way home from school.
Harry Hickson doesn't believe that there is any connection between Sutton Grange and the mound, which is situated near the Sherdley Park Driving Range. During the late 1940s he was informed by farmer Joe Heyes that it had been used by the Home Guard during WW2. The Sherdley C Company had used it for training exercises and along with the many surrounding trees, the mound simulated a good position for both defence and attack. The brick wall when built would have extended fully across, supporting the most-used part of the mound to prevent erosion.

Joe lived in the large house behind the Lodge (shown on the map above), and farmed the land from Sutton Park up to the railway line. The memories of
Graham Hanson, who played as a child on Choccy Hill during the late 1960s and early 1970s, also support this. Digging between the two old brick walls, Graham reports having found dozens of flattened and mushroomed .303 bullets. This was the ammunition used by the Lee-Enfield rifle which was the British Army's standard weapon throughout the 20th century until 1957. However the mound of earth clearly pre-existed the creation of the WW2 walled buttress and its original purpose is still not known.
h) Sherdley Lodges

The Sherdley Lodge in Marshalls Cross Road in Sutton photographed by R.G. Brook about 1890

The Sherdley Lodge in Marshalls Cross Road in Sutton about 1890

Sherdley Lodge in Marshalls Cross Road

There were two Sherdley lodge houses, excluding the lodge attached to Sutton Grange. One was situated in Marshalls Cross Road adjacent to the main gates and the second was by the Score footpath entrance off Sherdley Road (known until 1902 as Ell Bess Lane). The latter was known as ‘New Lodge’, so would have been built after the first (probably at the turn of the 20th century), and the property still exists.

Two photos of Sherdley 'New' Lodge in Sherdley Road in Sutton as it is today pictured in 2015


Sherdley 'New' Lodge in Sherdley Road in Sutton as it is today


Sherdley 'New' Lodge in Sherdley Road

In the 1911 census New Lodge was described as having five rooms with Henry Barrow and his family residing there. Barrow worked as a horseman on the Sherdley farm and two of the estate’s gardeners also lived at the lodge. In December 1913 Henry and wife Lottie were given two pictures by the Hughes’s and their young daughters Elsie and Lily received a 'carved wooden bear cotton holder' and chocolate.

The gardener resident of the 3-room Marshalls Cross lodge,
James Penketh and his wife Sarah, were given an inkstand as their Christmas present and their young children Norton and Edith received a pen knife and work basket. The lodge house opposite Eaves Lane was demolished in the 1950s as part of St Helens Council’s acquisition of Sherdley Park. Probably the last resident was Seth Lewis who lived with his brother at the small cottage. Seth began his working life as a pony boy driver down the pits and was a well-known physical fitness trainer in the 1940s /50s, working with the Saints team during that period.
The above photograph (top) was taken about 1905 and shows part of the Marshalls Cross Road lodge, along with the entrance gates. The latter was probably removed during WW2 and the entrance pillars and walls have since been remodelled, as shown in the bottom photo.
APPENDIX: The Remarkable Life of R.G. Brook
A 13-photo slideshow of R.G. Brook's North American journey of 1884 which included attending the British Association for the Advancement of Science Annual General Meeting (all pictures contributed by Bob Brook)
A number of the Sherdley photographs above were taken by Robert Goldthorpe Brook {1833 - 1917} about 1890. Brook, known as RGB, ran a hardware business from premises at Wolverhampton House, near the Raven Inn in St.Helens. The company boasted that it had available ‘anything from a needle to an anchor’, and also claimed to be ‘The oldest, largest, and cheapest establishment in the trade’. Bicycles and tricycles were also sold. The owner and founder of R.G. Brook & Co. (Ironmongers) was also president of the town's Association for the Pursuit of Science, Literature and Art and the society held their meetings in his home.

Brook's ironmongers; R.G. Brook in 1890; Silver-plated cup given by Brook to his grandson - contributed by Bob Brook

Brook's ironmongers and the silver-plated cup that Brook gave to his grandson

Brook's ironmongers; R.G. Brook; Silver-plated cup given to his grandson

Brook at different times became a councillor for West Sutton and Hardshaw and in his election leaflets styled himself the 'working man's friend'. RGB also claimed that he'd established the first picture exhibition in St.Helens and had been the first to advocate baths in the town. Also he'd given the 'little museum to the park', had provided a 'useful and ornamental' lamp in Church Street and 'led the way to technical education'.
R.G. Brook photograph of builder John Whittaker and wheelwright Joseph Jackson
Wolverhampton House on Raven Street, now Church Street, was built by John 'Bally' Whittaker of Sutton. Above is RGB’s famous picture of the 31-stone Whittaker - who also ran the Oak Tree Inn in Gerrards Lane - sitting with other corpulent characters in Lymm. Whittaker is shown on the left of the photograph with 22-stone wheelwright Joseph Jackson in the centre, of whom Jackson Street was named after. 18-stone glass flattener Charles Rigby is on the right, with builder J. Roughsedge and W. Gardiner also shown. As well as creating an album of photographs of Sherdley for the Hughes family, Brook also created a photograph album of Speke Hall.

Research undertaken by Great-great-grandson Bob Brook of Ontario, Canada has revealed that RGB was also an inventor, writer, traveller and juror on one of England’s most intriguing murder trials. In 1884 R.G. Brook journeyed to Montreal, Canada to attend the Annual General Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and to tour parts of Canada and the United States. During this excursion he met with Chief Sitting Bull and took the photograph of 'Indian Chief Crowfoot and his three wives and six other Indians', as the National Archives record descriptor states. The NA also hold Brook's group photograph which was taken on board the ship Parisian of Lord Rayleigh, Sir Frederick Bramwell, Earl of Rosse and thirty-five other members of the British Association.

R.G. Brook at Niagara Falls in 1884 which was glued into his journal with a notation that he looked "seedy" - contributed by Bob Brook

A portrait of R.G. Brook at Niagara Falls in 1884 that he glued into his journal

R.G. Brook at Niagara Falls in 1884

During his 1884 excursion, Brook visited Niagara Falls where he had his own portrait taken at a cost of five dollars. This was very expensive at that time but covered the expenses involved in the picture being taken and the plates processed, printed and mailed to St. Helens. On the photograph RGB made a notation of self-observation that the 'figure looks rather seedy'. The surface wrinkles are due to the photograph being glued into the pages of a journal that documented his trip. Bob Brook is in possession of two of his ancestor's handwritten journals, although a third is missing. These contain many photographs, receipts, itineraries, political drawings, maps and a well-written documentation of his journey. Written on acidic paper, the fragile journals are deteriorating and so are kept sealed in a fire-proof safe.

Two views of Brook's ironmongers in Wolverhampton House and an election poster for St.Helens Town Council

Views of Brook's ironmongers in Wolverhampton House and election poster

Brook's ironmongers and election poster

RGB was a juror in the sensational trial of Florence Maybrick, who was found guilty of murdering her husband James by poisoning him. RGB and G. H. Welsby, a fellow juror from St.Helens, were interviewed by the press about their verdict in the trial which had become a Victorian cause célèbre. During the 1990s, James Maybrick was named as a prime suspect in the "Jack the Ripper" killings.

Pictured above is a photograph by Bob Brook of a silver-plated cup, which was given by RGB to his grandson, who was also named Robert Goldthorpe Brook, on the occasion of his birth in St. Helens in 1891. This cup was then given to Bob by his grandfather and he believes that it was made and engraved by RGB.

R.G. Brook's remarkable photograph of Indian Chief Crowfoot and his three wives, plus six other Native Americans taken in 1884

R.G. Brook's remarkable photograph of Indian Chief Crowfoot and his three wives, plus six other Native Americans which was taken in 1884

R.G. Brook's photo of Chief Crowfoot

Robert Goldthorpe Brook Snr. was buried in St. Helens Cemetery (Section 4, Number 97) on December 6th 1917 at the age of eight-four years.

A portrait of R.G. Brook taken by Jos. Frank Cooper, 16 George Street, St. Helens, plus Brook's signature which has been taken from an original IOU which was found in his journals - contributed by Bob Brook

Portrait taken by Jos. Frank Cooper, 16 George Street, St.Helens

Portrait of R.G. Brook and his signature

Next:  Part 6)  Sutton’s Halls & Houses
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
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