In 1848, William Adam Hulton bought land in Penwortham with the intention of creating a new house and gardens for his family. He had trained as a barrister and at the time of his purchase was a county court judge. He came from a rich, land-owning family whose ancestral home was based at Hulton Hall, south west of Bolton. His wife was Dorothy Anne Gorst and together they had eight children.

The carriageway up through the grounds of Hurst Grange

The new residence consisted of a large house with a coach house containing stables next to it. Two wells were dug to provide water for the family and servants. Ground improvements included planting a range of native and exotic trees, and culverting a stream that ran through the estate. A kitchen garden and orchard were cultivated to supply the household with fresh produce. By 1861, the census shows that the Hultons had seven servants in residence, including a cook, lady’s maid, housemaid, kitchen maid and coachman.

William Adam had his chambers in Chapel Walks in Preston, which is now covered by the St George shopping centre. As a circuit judge he first rotated through Bolton, Chorley, Leigh, Ormskirk, St Helens and Wigan. Later, he requested the Preston circuit of Blackburn, Chorley, Garstang, Kirkham and Lancaster. He would commute via the train station, with his groom dropping him off and picking him up each day. He had wider historical interests and was a member of the Chetham Society. Here he got involved in researching documents about the Medieval Monastery of Penwortham Priory (see our page on it here).

The Hulton family had a long association with the judiciary. Even today, portraits of some of the family are on display at the Judges Lodgings in Lancaster . William Adam’s cousin, also named William Hulton, was the magistrate who signed the order to send in sabre-wielding troops against unarmed civilians at the Peterloo protest. Perhaps because of his cousin’s subsequent notoriety, William Adam preferred to be known as Adam, to prevent confusion.

William Adam continued being a judge into his eighties. He only retired a year before he died in 1887, with his wife recently predeceasing him. Their funerals were at St Mary’s, Penwortham and ten years later their children had a lychgate built at the entrance to the churchyard . Made of English Oak, it bears a brass plaque that reads To the Glory of God and to the memory of William A Hulton of Hurst Grange parish who died March 3rd 1887 aged 83 and of Dorothy Anne his wife who died May 1st 1886 aged 81 years. This lych gate is dedicated by their children.

The lychgate at St Mary’s Church, Penwortham

The Forshaw Family

The Hulton children produced no male heirs, and so the family sold the property on to John Forshaw after the death of William Adam. John was a solicitor and a partner at Parker and Forshaw in Cannon Street, Preston. Very active in town politics, he was an alderman, mayor and chairman of the Ribble Committee. He played a large part in the commissioning of the Albert Edward Dock (see our page on it here). Initially he had been against the planned dock, thinking it would prove to be too large a debt for local tax payers to pay after its completion.

John was married to Hester Elizabeth Horrocks, and together they had six daughters and two sons. Their main edition to the Hurst Grange estate was to build a lodge house at the entrance, which was completed in 1895. Its design echoed that of the main house, with roof tiles in the same fish scale pattern and the gateposts resembling the chimneys.

The Gatehouse (private residence)

This became the accommodation for the coachman, William Ravenscroft, and his wife Fanny. William had previously been a groom at Ribbleton Hall, and Fanny was a former servant of a house in Broughton. John clearly held his coachman in high esteem, setting up a legacy for William of £200 on the condition he stayed in their family’s service throughout John and Hester’s lifetimes. In later years, his duties expanded to being a chauffeur of a newly bought motor car.

On 28th February 1900, William heard a sound outside the lodge and went out to investigate. On the ground, he found a bundle of wraps and a brown paper parcel next to it. Inside the wraps was a baby girl, well dressed and well fed. In the parcel was a woollen shawl, an extra set of clothes, two feeding bottles and brushes to clean them, a bottle of milk and a bottle of gin. A fine linen handkerchief had embroidered on it Edith Maud. In an envelope was five shillings and a note saying: We want you to take care of the child for a few weeks and you will receive 5S per week as long as it remains with you. You must cherish it as your own and you will be rewarded. The baby’s mother was tracked down to Blackpool. She was a prison warder, and perhaps knew that William was a coachman for John Forshaw. She was prosecuted but not gaoled, as the judge believed she had intended to retrieve the baby and had made some provision that it would be cared for in the meantime.

John Forshaw lived at Hurst Grange until 1921, when he died aged 85. After this, Hester moved away to live with one of her children, passing away at Belsize Gardens, Middlesex, eight years later. John and Hester’s graves are in St Mary’s Church, Penwortham.

William and Fanny Ravenscroft continued to live at the lodge and became caretakers for Hurst Grange, probably remaining there into the 1930s. The main house lay empty and by the time that Preston Rural District Council bought it in 1936 it was in a poor condition. The lodge house and coach house were well cared for, as the Ravenscrofts had been able to maintain them. The council was keen to provide an open air play space for local children, as Penwortham was under rapid house-building expansion.

Hurst Grange Park

Hurst Grange appeared an ideal site for a public park, with little more needed to improve it. The King George Jubilee Trust and the Carnegie Trust donated money to the purchase, along with a local campaign to raise funds. Hurst Grange was bought for £3000 and adjoining land of Mill Hill was added for £7,500. A couple of years later, another three and a half acres was bought from the Sandon Estate.

The fate of the house remained to be determined. An architect named Mr Bluhm was commissioned to survey it. He reported that it would probably cost several thousands of pounds to repair it, and so recommended demolition. The neighbouring coach house would be saved and used to store park equipment. A demolition company that put a very cheap bid to demolish the house won the contract, aiming to recoup the cost by selling off the materials for salvage. By 1938, it was gone.

The large mature trees and grounds were excellent for a public park

Playing fields were laid out, a toilet block built, and paths resurfaced. Mr Reay was appointed estate foreman and his deputy, Mr Woan, was allowed to rent the lodge house. Despite being a huge boon to the local population, there were difficult issues to tackle in the first couple of decades with anti-social behaviour being a concern. Bicycles and motorbikes being ridden through were deemed a frequent nuisance. Seating was moved around and fires were set. A spate of broken windows led to accusations against Hutton Grammar School boys and the local scout troop, but these were angrily denied.

During the war, local farmers rented grazing space and part of the old nursery garden was sequestered as part of the Dig for Victory campaign. Soon after the war further improvements were made. For the park foreman residing at the lodge a flushing toilet and bathroom were installed, with an accompanying raising of his rent. A drinks fountain was put in to prevent children pestering local residents for drinks, and a set of swings were installed.

In 1974, the park was taken over by South Ribble Borough Council. A big extension occurred twenty-one years later when seven hectares of fields were added, doubling the overall size of the park. This brought in five ponds, which would boost the biodiversity of the park. They probably began life as marl pits, where farmers had dug below the clay to find marl, an alkaline substance that they would use as a fertilizer to spread on the fields. The ponds are old, perhaps somewhere between a hundred to two hundred years. They are named Dragonfly, Long Bob, Hill Road, Open and Seasonal. All support a host of nature. Dragonfly Pond has four species of dragonflies recorded, while Long Bob Pond has smooth and palmate newts, frogs and toads. The wildlife meadow has been designated a Biological Heritage Site due to its quality of wildflowers. Nuthatch, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker have been recorded in the woods.

The Friends Group Rejuvenate Hurst Grange

The coach house was the headquarters of the friends group but was in a poor condition with no public access

In 2003, the local ranger service suggested that a Friends of Hurst Grange Park group be set up. Initially, the group took part in litter picks, planting of native wildflower and hedgerow trees, pruning larger plants and survey work. A 2007 survey identified seventy wildflowers and a further survey showed around thirty bog- and shade-loving plants in the wet woodland area. With time, the friends group became more ambitious and decided that the semi-derelict coach house, which they used as their headquarters, could be renovated and become a visitor centre. This was not an easy undertaking, and although it was being discussed in 2008, it wasn’t until nine years later that plans had worked up a full head of steam.

The group obtained money from Heritage Lottery and commissioned Taylor Armitt Consulting (TAC) to help devise a strategy to boost awareness of the potential of converting the coach house. TAC gave detailed feedback on ways to engage with local stakeholders and the public with an aim to both convert the building, and ways to raise the profile of the friends group with local users of the park. Work finally began in 2020 to restore the coach house and was completed the following year. Money was obtained from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, South Ribble Borough Council, Lancashire Environmental Fund and from fundraising by the friends group. This meant that the building could be now transformed into a visitor centre, event space, café and toilets. This has been a huge enhancement to the park and visitor numbers will surely increase.

The newly restored coach house. This picture is taken from nearly the same position as the last image, and bears comparison

Although the original house at Hurst Grange is long gone (it stood next to the coach house) there is much of historical value within the park. The coach house retains much of its outward features. The lodge, now a private residence has been extended and is well cared for. Its decorative tiles on the Hill Road side are worthy of inspection. The original 1800s landscape survives well as parkland. The tree planting by William Adam Hulton has resulted in large specimens of native and exotics specimens. Unusual species such as Swamp Cyprus, Colorado Spruce, Atlantic Cedar and the Tulip Tree can be seen. The park is large enough to give space to its many visitors who are out for a stroll, want to walk their dog or enjoy the mix of nature and history.

Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2022


There is a free car park on Hill Road. The Coach House café is open every day.


Penwortham Castle

Penwortham’s Lost Medieval Monastery

Penwortham Priory Gatehouse

Penwortham Bridge

West Lancashire Railway Bridge


A History of Hurst Grange Park Penwortham, Elizabeth Basquil (2008) Friends of Hurst Grange Park. This excellent booklet provided much of the historical information for this page. It can be obtained from the friends group, or is available from Lancashire Libraries interloan service.

On site interpretation at the Coach House

Tree Trail leaflet, undated, Friends of Hurst Grange Park

Friends of Hurst Grange Park Coach House Restoration Project Marketing and Publicity Report September 2017 Taylor Armitt Consulting Ltd (available online as a pdf)