1000 Years of History
by Simon Green
The history of Tulketh Hall, inevitably, begins with the hall’s end. After years with no fixed role, a stately home anachronistically surrounded by terraces, the hall succumbed to a fire in 1952, which made its demolition in 1959 almost inevitable.
Much of Preston is such an obvious product of the industrial revolution, with its old mills and terraces, that it’s easy to forget that the city’s history stretches hundreds of years before the reign of Queen Victoria. Tulketh Hall’s history also stretched back many hundreds of years, although the hall and its grounds, until around 150 years ago, were beyond the outskirts of Preston itself.
Tulketh Hall, and any mentions of the word Tulketh in Preston, can be traced back to the 12th century when the site was the seat of Marmaduke de Tulketh. The specific date when the hall was first constructed is not known, but the history of the area could even stretch back to Roman times. One document suggests that the hall was built on an old Roman granary, whilst another hints that a Roman stronghold or castle had once been located here. It’s easy to see why, until recently, this site was so important, with its excellent vantage point overlooking a bend in the River Ribble.
There was also a monastery on the site, although its construction date is also unknown. Between 1124 and 1127, monks from Savigny, in Normandy, occupied the site before moving north to found Furness Abbey. The hall’s religious links would live on throughout its history with remains of the old monastery still remaining in the early 1800s. An 1844 map, for example, distinctly shows the site of the monastery.
Following the monks’ departure, according to a 1959 article in the Lancashire Evening Post: ‘The Travers family took over the hall. Although this was the best part of 100 years after the Norman Conquest, Travers refers to himself as a Norman […] with the true diplomacy of the French, he married Tulketh’s daughter and heir and “Thirty winters thus were worne in spousalls, mirth and glee”‘.
Tulketh Hall was a Catholic stronghold during many of the early years of its history. During the reformation, Mass was held in the hall’s chapel, but in the late 17th century, the owners at the time were forced to sell the house after years of religious persecution. The hall was taken over by one of Preston’s most famous families: the Heskeths.
The Hesketh’s occupied the hall for the next 150-200 years. Notable residents included Roger Hesketh, who was High Sheriff of Lancashire and Mayor of Preston at different times in his life. He restructured the hall, giving it a distinct castellated appearance which could still be seen in photos of the hall’s demolition.
In the early 19th century a Mrs H M Hesketh resided at the hall, being, according to one document: “aunt of the late Sir Peter Hesketh Fleetwood”, the title suggesting that the family was still powerful even by this time. Our research hasn’t uncovered why the house was sold out of the Hesketh family, but Tulketh Hall had become a school by 1847.
Late Victorian era and early 20th century
Different accounts give different reports of what happened in the late Victorian era and early 20th century.
Some accounts suggest that Joseph Hansom, architect of St Walburge’s and the creator of the Hansom cab, lived in the hall around 1860. Although we are not sure that he lived there, it is certain that he renovated the hall around that time. Apparently he later regretted the renovations, particularly the felling of an avenue of trees that had led up to the hall. The hall changed hands many times during the later Victorian era, with this lack of stable ownership perhaps explaining how the hall’s lands were divided up and sold.
As Preston grew, terraces, which still stand today, were built on the former grounds of the hall. Tulketh Hall itself, by the end of the 19th century was taken over by the Brothers of Charity. The hall was run as a “Home for Infirm and Afflicted Boys” and became an "Industrial School”, but dwindling student numbers meant that the Brothers of Charity sold the hall on in the 1930s.
Second World War
The Diocese of Lancaster bought Tulketh Hall to create its own school just before the Second World War. Early in the war, however, the hall was leased to the military and taken over as a military barracks. As the war came to an end, the world, and the British education system, had transformed beyond recognition. The hall was never to be a school again, instead taking on the role of Army Infantry Records Office.
This new found purpose turned out, it could be argued, to be cause of the hall’s eventual demolition. The hall was packed with papers which turned the building, it seems, into a fire trap. The fire, according to the Lancashire Evening Post, was first spotted at 12.30 am on 5th December 1952. A defective hearth in the corner of one room set fire to copies of army records - the originals were fortunately safe. A wall of fire engulfed the hall, causing huge structural damage. There was no money at the time to save it.
Leveled to the Dust
Seven years later, the Lancashire Evening Post reported sadly on the end of Tulketh Hall’s 1000 year history: ‘Demolition has been rapid and already the building is roofless. Soon the castellated turrets will also disappear, then the walls, and in four weeks the “ancient monument” will have been leveled to the dust.’
Although it’s sad that such a historic building was lost, not everything could be demolished. The history remains. The Tulketh name is arguably more important now than it has been for decades, if not centuries. Many street names are inspired by the hall and its residents: Tulketh Brow and Tulketh Road are two of Ashton’s main thoroughfares; Hesketh Street and Hall Street still stand in the former grounds of the old hall.
With the building of Tulketh Mill and Tulketh High School, a whole area of Preston came to be known as Tulketh, even now creating a direct link between the 21st Century and a man who lived in the times of William the Conqueror.
The Story of Tulketh and Tulketh Hall