Clegg Hall following restoration
|Town or city||Littleborough, Greater Manchester|
|Client||Theophilus Ashton (1584–1621)|
The "Clegg" in the name of the current hall refers to the location (Little Clegg or Great Clegg) rather than the local family by the same surname – the house was built by Theophilus Ashton (1584–1621) in the early 17th century, and it has never been suggested that the house has been lived in by Cleggs. It appears to be on the site of an earlier Clegg Hall(s) whose occupants were Cleggs.
According to Oakley's highly romanticised version, the first known Cleggs, Bernulf (and his wife Quernilda) de Clegg were in the Domesday book, though they are more commonly said to date to King Stephen's reign (1135–1154). That would seem sensible dating from the names, as they are all Anglo Saxon apart from the "de" which is a Norman addition, typical of the period before Norman Christian names became common.
Clegg Hall is reputed to be haunted. The Clegg Hall boggart (as the ghost is better known) is usually placed in the 13th century. The longest version is a fictionalized account in a book called In Olden Days written by a local vicar (Revd. Oakley) in the early years of this century. It reckoned that the master of the house went off to France to fight with Henry. While the father was away the wicked uncle killed both his nephews, throwing them over the battlements into the moat of what was presumably a fortified house. Eventually the father returned. His brother crept through a secret passage from a nearby hall (possibly Stubley Old Hall), ready to do away with the distraught father, when one of the children's voices was heard calling out "Father beware!" (or words to that effect) and the father awoke, sending his evil brother running terrified to plunge to his death. Ever since, allegedly, the phantom boy has been heard issuing warnings.
The current building was described in a 1626 survey of Rochdale as "a faire capital messuage built with free stone with all new fair houses of office there-unto belonging with gardens, fishponds and divers closes of land". It also refers to "barns, stables, courts, orchards, gardens, folds and pigeon houses".
At least two books refer to the ghost and later uses of the current building. One is Harland and Wilkinson's Lancashire Legends, originally published in 1873. This says: "After many changes of occupants it is now in part used as a country alehouse; other portions of it are inhabited by the labouring classes, who find employment in that populous manufacturing district. It is the property of the Fentons, by purchase from the late John Entwisle Esq of Foxholes." The other, Lancashire Legends by Katherine Eyre (1972), says that from 1818 to 1869 it was a public house called the Horse and Hounds, but generally known as the Black Sloven, the name of a favourite hunting mare of legendary speed which belonged to the former owner, Mr Charles Turner. He died in 1733. It says that "The Boggart Chamber" became a place to be avoided, although it is not clear if this was in the pre-1620s house or not. It is alleged that a young girl was playing hide and seek and she was found dead behind a wall and a curtain. It also says that "during the Commonwealth era, there were hints of counterfeiting activities in the vaults and cellars of Clegg Hall"; it was common for smugglers and counterfeiters of the period to use tales of ghosts to scare off locals.
Ruin and restoration
Some time in the 1950s there was a fire at the hall which caused severe damage. A picture in Oakley's 1910 edition of In Olden Days shows it as a complete building. However, the text of a 1920s edition describes it as "a ruined hall", and in fact the hall was in such poor condition in the 1840s, when it was used as a public house, that it had its licence removed because of the dangerous condition and decay of the building. Sam Garside who was born in the hall in 1917 moved out in the 1939. It was left in ruins until its 20th-century restoration. A local resident remembers playing there in the 1950s, when the upper floors were still present, and a farmer used the ground floor to house his cows. Some time between the 1970s and 1999, the most impressive external feature – the portico from the front door – fell down and was removed.
In the late 1980s, following the building's purchase by the environmental organisation Pennine Heritage, rumours of a large-scale theme park centred on the hall led to the formation of a local residents' group to petition councillors for assurances their properties would not be compulsorily purchased. At one point there was a suggestion that Clegg Hall, which is near the Rochdale Canal, could be turned into a museum, but this proved too expensive. Pennine Heritage Trust protected and saved the hall from demolition until a new owner who would sympathetically rebuild and restore the hall could be found.
Clegg Hall was restored to its pre-1608 condition between 2005 and 2011 during the ownership of Jason Stead who also restored another large mansion in Rochdale, Healey Hall, from 2000 to 2005. He owned both buildings at the same time. This massive task was started in February 2005 and completed by September 2009 leaving only kitchen and bathrooms, decoration and furnishings to complete. After receiving heritage awards and having been removed from the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register in 2007, the hall was opened to the public for heritage weekends raising money for a multiple sclerosis charity throughout the restoration. Due to private ownership, it is no longer open to the public but videos and photos of the restoration are available.
- "Clegg Hall". Pastscape.org.uk. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
- Eyre, K. (1972). Lancashire Legends. Dalesman Publishing.
- Farrer, W.; Brownbill, J., eds. (1911). "Townships: Butterworth". A History of the County of Lancaster. V. London. pp. 213–22 – via British History Online.
- Oakley, Rev. G.F. (1911). In olden days: Lancashire legends, Rochdale and neighbourhood. Edwards & Bryning. ASIN B00GTM4T14.
- Historic England. "Clegg Hall (Grade II*) (1309615)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- John Harland and Turner Wilkinson: "Lancashire Legends". EP, 1973
- "Manor (2004)". 4 February 2004. Archived from the original on 17 August 2009.
- "Clegg Hall Restoration". Healey Hall Developments. Retrieved 6 October 2019.