Newton Hall was a Medieval timber manor house, and home to the Newton family. Today, the huge Medieval cruck beams remain in place. However, the rest of the hall has been rebuilt in the Medieval style using materials and tools that would have been contemporary to that era. The story of how the hall passed from being a manor house to part of a large farm barn, and then finally to being rescued and restored in the 1970s, is a fascinating one.
The Newton family lived in the area from the early 1200s and built the hall in the 1400s. During that time, the hall would have grown from being a relatively small building into an expanded complex. A snapshot in 1617 from the will of Alexander Newton shows us how far the residence had progressed from its relatively simple beginnings. The will lists a main hall, great parlour, little parlour, kitchen, buttery and wet larder – a pretty standard layout from the Medieval times onwards. But the hall now also had an upper storey consisting of three rooms. It may well have had two cross-wings added by now as, in all, 21 rooms are listed in the will.
Together with the outdoor buildings, it formed three sides around a courtyard. The other structures were all to do with farm work: two barns, two shippons, a stable and an oxhouse. There was also a brew house and nearby on the banks of the River Tame was the family-owned mill.
The male line of the Newtons reached its end when John Newton died in 1692. He passed the estate on to his five sisters Anne, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Katherine and Mary.
The Hall is Leased Out and Becomes a Farm
Just nine years later, the neighbouring manorial family, the Duckinfields, bought the estate from the sisters. They would own it for the next two hundred years, but leased it out. The first tenants were wealthy, but over time the whole hall complex was converted into a farm. By the 1800s, the original Medieval hall had been incorporated into a five bay brick barn. The central area was used for threshing and there were hay lofts either side of this.
The farm progressed into becoming primarily a dairy farm, with a regular turnover of tenants. Census records show that four families were living there in the 1850s, and farmed the 128 acres. A large rebuild occurred at the turn of the century, but by 1918 only 40 acres were attached to the farm.
The final tenants were James and Elizabeth Watt. They had relocated from Stronsey in the Orkney Islands down to Hyde, in 1902, to run Harbour Farm on Werneth Low. In 1918, they moved from there with their six children to Newton Hall Farm, driving their cattle before them. It was a misty day, and they lost two cows on route. Records show that in the 1940s they had 30 machine-milked cows, and their livestock included pigs, geese and hens. During the Second World War, the Watts had a contract with the Ministry of Agriculture to grow potatoes. James Junior took over from his father, but when he retired in 1967 the family left for good.
Demolition and Resurrection
Hyde council then demolished the farm, except for the barn where it had long been known that some ‘old beams’ existed. Sir George Kenyon of Willliam Kenyons and Sons had bought up much of the land around the farm in the preceding years, and when his firm bought the two acres the farm had stood on, they were informed of the existence of the beams.
Sir George enlisted the help of Dr Marsden of the University of Manchester, and it was he that realised that they belonged to an three bay Medieval open hall, and had been standing in their original position for over 500 years. Sir George was keen to preserve them, and to recreate the hall to appear much as it had done in Medieval times. This was to be carried out through the use of traditional craftmanship and materials. Tools used included Medieval style adzes (an axe that was held and used like a pick), saws, gouges and borers.
The original parts of Newton Hall included two huge pairs of crucks (curved oak trusses joined together at the top), two purlins (the cross beams that connect together the rafters), wind-braces (arched braces that run from rafters to the purlins) and part of the ridge-tree (the internal ridge of the roof that runs along the apex). In the eastern wall fragments of Medieval timber framing survived in the form of uprights and short rails. The sandstone plinth the hall had stood on was also in place.
Restoration work was done by the local building firm of L. Brown and Sons of Wilmslow, to plans made by Dr Marsden of University of Manchester and the Royal Commission. Two new oak trusses were put in place to form a new, third cruck. This was made from a 300 year old tree that had been seasoned for 30 years. The original sandstone sill was repaired and the rest of the building was then recreated. The completed restoration was not quite as large as the original, having been reduced in length by a third. It also did not have the later upper rooms, so resembles the original, simpler manorial hall.
A decision was made to put the large glass windows into the hall at some stage. This feature looks incongruous at first sight, and there is nothing in the sources to suggest the thinking behind why this was done. Perhaps it was done to give more natural light to the interior. It certainly gives Newton Hall a unique look.
In 2008, and again in 2012, two archaeological digs were carried out by Tameside Archaeological Society, both times led by professional archaeologist Brian Grimsditch. Their remit was to investigate the disappeared buildings around Newton Hall. As well as discovering parts of the later farm buildings, more importantly they uncovered the remains of the eastern wing of the hall. Finds included Medieval fragments of pottery and parts of a green-glazed Medieval jug. There was also 1500s-1600s Cistercian ware and a Bellarmine jug (these feature a bearded man’s face) from the 1600s. Clay pipes from the 1600s through to the 1800s were a common find, as was a lot of domestic crockery from the time as a farm.
There are other examples of manor houses that can be visited in Lancashire. Some survive either as parts of later halls or as ruins. A simple stone built one is Warton Old Rectory. One that has become part of a much larger building can be found at Smithills. At Ightenhill in Burnley there is no trace of a hall, but the site can still be visited and its fascinating history read about on our page here.
Newton Hall Today
The building is Grade II listed and is still in a good state of preservation today, over 50 years on from its 1970s rebuild. There are good views of the outside of the hall on Dukinfield Road and Dunkirk Lane. Viewing the interior is more difficult, but read below to see the access advice.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2019. This page written 2020.
Viewing the exterior:
Newton Hall lies just off Dukinfield Road in Hyde. There is a small parking place on Dunkirk Lane which affords good views. Otherwise, just park locally on the housing estate opposite and walk down to the perimeter fence. There are good views on each side of the hall if you follow the fence.
Viewing the interior:
The hall was open on the last Heritage Open Weekend (September 2019). There are hopes that Tameside Local History Forum will be taking a more active role in opening up and managing the hall. Contact them here
Newton Hall and the Cruck Buildings of North West England, Michael Nevell (2010), University of Salford. This superb publication is available from Portland Basin Museum shop. Dr Nevell has also allowed it to be downloaded for free from the ResearchGate website here
Newton Hall: Rediscovering a Manorial Complex, Michael Nevell (2013), University of Salford. Dr Nevell has also made this booklet available for free from ResearchGate website here