Winstanley Hall, built in the 1560s, is one of only three Tudor buildings in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan. It was originally built for the Winstanley family, who had been the Lords of the Manor since c.1252; however, only three decades later in 1596, the estate was sold in its entirety to James Bankes, a London goldsmith and banker, and the property was owned by the Bankes family until 2000. Additions were made to the property predominantly in the nineteenth century by the Bankes family, adding a more modern Victorian style to the already prevalent myriad of motifs, ranging from Norman to Tudor to Baroque, exemplifying English artistic quirks.
If you were allowed to visit this Grade II* listed Hall today, (the current owners are Dorbcrest Homes, an independent company who designated the estate too dangerous for any public visits), it would be a sorry sight, as the building itself has been in a state of constant decay since the occupants left in the 1960s.
This particular Elizabethan property drew my attention not because of its grandeur – it’s hardly Hampton Court Palace – but because of the desolate condition of something so historically precious. One must remember, however, the costs of the renovations that need to be undertaken in estates such as Winstanley Hall, despite preventative efforts actuated by the English Heritage (funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport), such as the ‘National Heritage Protection Plan’. The organisation Save Britain’s Heritage is raising funds to match those of the English Heritage and get this great house off of ‘Death Row’; however with the on-going wrangling between the authorities and developers, and a slow accumulation of funding, the process is excruciatingly slow.
In my opinion, the importance of estates such as Winstanley cannot be emphasised enough; not only are they a great source for academic research, but they are also pieces of art, and representative of the English heritage we should all want to maintain and be proud of.