Today Cuerden Hall is a Sue Ryder care home, but there is public access to the grounds, gardens and surrounding historic parkland. The outside of the hall itself can be viewed up close, and there is access to the stable-yard part of the hall as this is where the charity’s café and shops are located – but not for much longer. The care home is going to relocate to new premises in 2020 and it is not clear what will happen to the building. This page sets out the history of the site and the surrounding landscape from the 1600s to the present day.
Henry Banastre of Bank Hall (see our page on it here) owned the old Cuerden Hall in the early 1600s. In 1666 we know from tax accounts that a Christopher Banastre had to pay tax on his six hearths. The hall had twelve main rooms, and its outbuildings consisted of a brewhouse, dairy, workshop and brick kilns. No trace of any of these buildings now remain. When Christopher died, in 1690, one of his daughters inherited Cuerden, and she married Robert Parker of Extwistle Hall in Burnley, bringing the property into the Parker family.
Elizabeth and Robert’s son was imaginatively named Banastre Parker. He decided to move the Parker family seat from Extwistle to Cuerden. In 1717, he had the old timber frame hall demolished, and a new hall built. It was two stories tall on a rectangular plan, constructed in a plain classical style. The building still exists today, but in the middle of the current mansion.
The Parker family married into part of a branch of the Townley family, from Royle Hall in Burnley, and succeeding members took the surname Townley Parker.
The Present Hall is Built
Robert Townley Parker inherited Cuerden in 1794. He served as High Sheriff of Lancashire and was twice a Conservative MP for Preston. In 1817, Robert bought nearby Clayton Hall and its land. Clayton Hall was a medieval moated manor house and perhaps the most grand in the area, but under Robert it was Cuerden Hall that was to become the dominant house. The Townley Parker land now covered Cuerden, the south part of Clayton-le-Woods and the north east part of Walton-le-Dale.
Robert employed Lewis Wyatt to build the hall that we see today, in a style that has been dubbed ‘picturesque classicism’. Wyatt is well known for his work at Lyme Park and Tatton Park, both just over the border in Cheshire. The new build enveloped Banastre Parker’s earlier construction, which was also resurfaced to blend in with the new building. Square towers were placed at each corner and the upper parts of these rise above the flat roof to form chimney stacks. In the middle of the house a belvedere tower was constructed, the first of its kind in any British house. The new east wing contained the main rooms used by the family, while the new west wing contained the servants rooms and offices. A very large stable block was also added.
During the time of Robert and his son Thomas, the grounds and surrounding parkland underwent a dramatic transformation. The parkland saw a mixture of uses: extensive pasture for grazing animals, trees planted to form woodlands, damper areas serving as water meadows and a reservoir added for water supply. Wyatt designed a meandering drive from the Stag Lodge entrance up to the hall and had new imposing gateways put in place.
But there was a darker side to their improvements. Both father and son valued uninterrupted views of the landscape and so surrounding buildings used by the local population were removed. The George & Dragon and Eagle & Child pubs were both demolished. A whole community at Clayton was displaced, with the corn mill, smithy and several cottages all being knocked down.
To protect what they considered their right to privacy, a wall and fence were erected around the entire estate. Footpaths that had been ancient rights of way were hidden from the house behind tall stone walls. Gamekeepers were employed to keep the locals out.
When, in 1906, Thomas Townley Parker died without children, Cuerden passed to his nephew Reginald Arthur Tatton. He carried out a number of modernizing plans. One of his projects involved improving the water supply to the hall and estate buildings. Three hydraulic rams were built on the far side of the dam. Water was sent to the belvedere tower in the hall where it could be stored, as well as to a tank in the stable block and another one located underground. Electric lights and a telephone were installed in the hall, and he converted several of the stables to accommodate his cars.
During the First World War, Reginald and his wife converted the hall to be used as an auxiliary hospital for wounded soldiers. They furnished beds, linen and equipment and changed some of the rooms into wards, complete with their expensive paintings and family portraits still hanging on the walls. The hall gardens were managed to produce extra food on top of the soldiers’ rations. Recuperation involved the men helping with hay making, taking boats out on the reservoir and visits to the Tatton’s other nearby house of Astley Hall (see our page on it here) .
During the Second World War, Cuerden Hall was taken over to home evacuated children. It also saw use as the headquarters for the No. 4 Anti-Aircraft Command and as an army education centre. After the war was over, it was still used by the military sporadically. In 1958, the Tatton family sold it to the army which then used it full time as its headquarters for its North West District. The Major General in command also used it as living accommodation.
In 1977, the Central Lancashire Development Corporation moved into the hall and it became their headquarters. The next year, the landscape was developed and converted into Cuerden Valley Park. By the late 1980s ownership of the house changed again, with the Sue Ryder charity buying it. Extensive renovations occurred over four years to make it suitable for their residents, the first one moving in in 1990. For the past three decades it has cared for adults with neurological conditions and chronic diseases. However, the building of a new centre at D’Urton Manor in Preston means that the Sue Ryder charity will be leaving the hall in 2020.
Visitors today can view the exterior of the hall in its landscaped parkland setting, as well as visit the Pinetum and American Garden (which will be the subject of a future page on this site). Cuerden Valley Trust do an excellent job of maintaining the countryside around the hall for thousands of visitors today. What was once so jealously guarded for the pleasure of a wealthy few, is now available for all, for free. The trust also run an excellent café at their visitor centre. What happens to the use of the hall in the future remains to be seen.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2019
The parklands, grounds and gardens are open during daylight hours. There is a parking charge at each of the car parks. For more details of where to park and what to see visit the Cuerden Valley website here.
Cuerden’s Historic Gardens: Discovery Trail 2 leaflet (out of print approximate date 2009) Cuerden Valley Park Trust
Secret’s in the Landscape: Discovery Trail 1 leaflet(out of print approximate date 2009) , Cuerden Valley Park Trust
Cuerden’s Natural World: Discovery Trail 3 leaflet,(out of print approximate date 2009), Cuerden Valley Park Trust
Cuerden Valley Park: Visitor Information & Map leaflet, Cuerden Valley Park Trust. Current leaflet