Bank Hall was the home of the Banastre family who lived in the Bretherton area from the 1200s onwards and were lords of the manor. The 1577 Saxton map of Lancashire shows a Bank Hall, but this was probably demolished to make way for a second one on the same site. Built in 1608, the core of this Jacobean house remains in place today. The hall was to stay in the hands of the Banastres (or Bannisters- to give them their later more modern spelling) until the 1700s, when it passed to the Legh family. The Bannisters were an influential family in Lancashire, also having properties at Darwen and Park Hill in Barrowford (see our page here).
The hall stands near the River Douglas and Leeds Liverpool Canal, just off the A59 road. Close by are a Tudor farm house (Carr House) and a windmill from the 1700s. An impressive driveway 800 yards long and flanked by lime trees leads up to the house.
The earliest part of the present structure consists of a four bay hall with a parlour to the west and a wing of two rooms to the east. The property has two fronts – a north facing front entrance and a south facing garden front. In the mid 1600s a large four story tower was added to the garden front, in the centre of the building.
In 1832 George Anthony Legh- Keck commissioned a major restoration and enlargement. On the north side a new wing containing a study and smoking room was added, along with a main entrance porch. On the west end a drawing room was constructed and on the east end service accommodation and a kitchen was built. Cumbrian blue slate was used to top off the roofs. The work was probably done by the Kendal based architect George Webster, who remodeled Penwortham Priory house near Preston at the same time.
In 1860 George Anthony Legh-Keck died and the hall passed to the Lilford family. Although the Lilford family would have a long association with the hall, it was rented out to wealthy tenants for the most part. During the first world war it was used by convalescing soldiers.
In 1940 it was taken over by the Royal Engineers and the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the latter consisting of women telegraphists. Bank Hall was a communications centre for the north west ports and coordinated the movements of ship, men and materials being sent out to the conflict zones of the second world war. The grounds were also used as a prisoner of war camp, Camp 65. The English Heritage Pastcape website informs us that it “comprised of huts scattered under trees south east of Bank Hall. It functioned as a German work camp”. The camp was in use from 1939-1948 (For more on Lancashire prisoner of war camps, see our sister site Lancashire at War by clicking here).
After the war the hall was once again in the hands of the Lilford family and the estate office worked out of the east end of the building right up until 1972. After this the hall became empty and from then on its fortunes began to look very bleak. The villains of decay and vandalism have taken their toll. Dry rot has done much damage to the fabric of the building. Parts of the walls have fallen down- the collapse of the north side of the tower has destroyed part of the 1600s oak staircase.
In 1995 a group of local people formed the Bank Hall Action Group. They cleared ivy off the walls and vegetation from the hall buildings, to prevent further damage to the masonry. They cut back the badly overgrown gardens. Over the years more ambitious work has been done- unstable parts of the roof have been removed to prevent it falling and causing further damage. On the south garden front scaffolding has been erected around the tower. The north side also has scaffolding to prevent further collapse of the walls. Today the work of the action group is being taken over by the Friends of Bank Hall. The excellent website these groups have set up can be seen in the references section below or viewed by clicking here.
Latest News 2017: Bank Hall has now received the funding to be restored – partly converted into apartments but more importantly to have the central tower accessible to the public with an educational resource centre. See the bankhall.org website and click on their press release section here.
Opening Times: Days on which the hall is open are limited, but there are opportunities to visit during the year. Consult the Bank Hall website for full details. The Snowdrop Sundays of February to early March are hugely popular with the public and very well managed by the Bank Hall team.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2015
www.bankhall.org Lots of information on the history of the hall plus details of opening times and up coming events
Nearby, just a short drive away Becconsall Old Church, Hesketh Bank
Bank Hall Bretherton (2004), Paul Dillion and Geoff Coxhead, Bank Hall Action Group This booklet is available on the Bank Hall Open Days or through their website
Bank Hall Timeline (2012), Lionel Taylor, leaflet, Friends of Bank Hall and Bank Hall Action Group
English Heritage Website Pastscape; http://www.pastscape.org (accessed 4/3/15)