The Friends of Bank Hall: the tenacious locals who saved a 17th century Lancashire landmark from ruin
When it comes to tenacity, few can match that demonstrated by The Friends of Bank Hall.
And, what’s more, that tenacity is baring fruit: following a 27-year campaign, the group’s tireless work has finally resulting in Bank Hall in Bretherton, a spectacular Lancastrian manor house dating back to 1608, being removed from the Heritage at Risk register after undergoing a transformative restoration
Formed in 1995 in order to save the grand mansion house, which began life as the manorial seat of the Banastre family before being called home by nobility and even the Royal Engineers during WWII, The Friends of Bank Hall saw their dreams realised last year when they secured a £2.2m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to save the property.
“It’s fantastic to see the remarkable transformation that Bank Hall has gone through,” says Louise Sutherland, Head of Engagement for England North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund. “It’s also testament to the hard work and unwavering belief that The Friends of Bank Hall have had in restoring this special building.
“We’re very proud that, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this spectacular manor has been saved for the local community and future generations to enjoy and continue to build on its captivating heritage,” she adds, with Bank Hall having been left abandoned in the 1970s and falling into disrepair before being signed over to the Heritage Trust in 2017.
“It’s wonderful that this stunning building has been brought back to life,” says Elizabeth Moss, Heritage Trust for the North West. “The positive tenacity and passion of The Friends of Bank Hall over the years has been essential in realising the extraordinary restoration of the house. They’ve been instrumental in getting us involved and convincing people of the true potential of this historic landmark.”
While the wings of the house have been given a new lease of life as 12 apartments thanks to the sympathetic work of Next Big Thing Developments, other elements of Bank Hall such as Prospect Tower have recently been opened to the public for the first time ever, housing a brand-new exhibition and community space.
“The Bank Hall Action Group formed just over 27 years ago following a public meeting of local people, who had a common interest of saving the derelict manor house from the ruin it had become,” says John Howard, Chair of Friends of Bank Hall. “Now known as the Friends of Bank Hall, the group have now achieved the goals set out to save Bank Hall.
"However, the story is far from over as we look to a new era for the house and gardens with the opening of the Prospect Tower and exhibitions, and the plans for the restoration of the gardens, which will start with the Potting Sheds, Greenhouse, and Walled Garden,” he adds.
Speaking to the task of converting the venerated landmark into modern housing, Peter Wild of Next Big Thing Developments explains: “This project was incredibly challenging given the dangerous state of the building when we took it on. It’s a credit to all of the contractors and professional teams involved to see the building completed to such a high standard.
“To see the building now fully-occupied brings great satisfaction.”