Manor Heath

As a family, we love to visit Manor Heath so I’ve chosen this house for entirely selfish reasons! For me, Manor Heath is always sunny. Even when it’s cold, it’s bright. And the cafe sells nice coffee so I can keep my hands warm whilst manning the swings. I think it was this year, in February, that we had our first outdoor picnic at Manor Heath park. It was very cold, but lovely and bright. The children had to be warmed up with hot chocolate.

Manor Heath is, I think, the most recently demolished of all the houses I’m looking at. Many people I have been in contact with remember it. It was a dark and spooky place they passed on their way to or from school. Strangely, there seem to be few photos of it. Perhaps, before it was demolished, it was a grim and un-photogenic place. The few photos I have found of, show it blackened and gothic.

2 photos

Unlovely and empty.

However; from the architects drawings and contemporary descriptions of the place in its hey day, I’ve always imagined it rather beautiful. As I’ve said, the park is so often sunny, and the stone, before it was blackened, would have been warm in colour.

architects drawing

I’ve borrowed a great deal from this illustration as you can see. I could find no photos from this angle, and I love the tower. I can imagine how much of a Halifax land mark it must have been.

manor-heath-1small

The steps are still there. The foundations of the house are laid out as a sunken rose garden. The play area and sand pit are beyond the trees.

Manor Heath was built for John Crossley (1812 – 1879), Son of John Crossley, the founder of Dean Clough Mills. With his two brothers, Joseph and Francis, John (junior) was part of a local, philanthropic family that helped shape Halifax as a thriving, industrial town. They were responsible for the building of the orphanage (now Crossley-Heath school), the alms houses, Park Congregational Church and The People’s Park. John Crossley was twice mayor of Halifax (1849 – 51 and 1861 – 63) and later became an MP for the town (1874-77).

Six architects competed for the design of the mansion and it was the designs of Alfred Smith (one of the architects of the Army and Navy club in Pall Mall) that won the contract.

army navy

The designs were originally Italianate in style, but were changed to be more Neo-Gothic at the request of John Crossley. Thomas Risley, a Manchester based architect, was employed as the on-site architect. Risley is also believed to be the architect for Castle Carr, down in Luddenden Dean.

The manor had a 70ft high octagonal tower. It was described in the Illustrated London News as “a truly magnificent residence… standing in a handsome and well arranged domain and beautifully laid-out grounds about a mile from Halifax”

CDLMS_SH_01190

The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) stayed a night at Manor Heath in 1863, when he visited Halifax to open the new town hall.

I’ve only ever seen this picture of this side of the mansion. I love the archways. It’s referred to as ‘The Arcade” in the plans.

arcade 2

We walk this way (or scoot this way) on our way to the park, so my painting is full of the trees that i know are there now:

manor-heath-painting-2small

Manor Heath was auctioned twice towards the end of the 19th century (first in 1877 and again in 1883), but failed to reach the reserve on each occasion.

John Crossley’s daughter lived there with her husband Guilio Marchetti. The Marchetti’s entertained King George V and Queen Mary at Manor Heath in 1912, on a tour of Yorkshire.

After the death of his wife, Marchetti sold Manor Heath to the Halifax Corporation in 1929 for £18,500.

Th grounds were soon turned into a park, but no use could be found for the house. Many possibilities were considered: A museum, a gallery, a hospital or a home for the elderly. An article in the courier in 1934 described the house as having “fallen on useless days under public ownership” and was costing rate payers thousands to maintain. The house became a soot blackened white elephant.

manor heath FB2

From inquiries I made on the ‘Old photos of Halifax’ Facebook page I have heard of the uses the house was put to in the early part of the 20th century. I’m not quite sure what came in which order:

“In the early 1940′s Manor Heath was used as a convalescent hospital for wounded troops. I remember seeing them walking in the area all wearing royal blue suits, many of them still bandaged. At some stage during the war ( I was only eight and can’t remember the chronology),the house accommodated active soldiers. They left the place totally wrecked internally. My mum was appalled by their vandalism and took me inside to show me how not to behave in someone else’s property. We were attending a barrage balloon demonstration at the time in Manor Heath park.”

I’ve also read that it was used, also during WW2, as head quarters for the National Fire Service. It seems that it saw more use in the 40s than it had for the proceeding 30 years!

In 1958 the Halifax Corporation took the decision to demolish, claiming that the building had dry rot that would have been too expensive to treat. The demolition contract was awarded to Francis Fascione, who paid £150 for the privilege of knocking it down, and keeping all of the stone. The mansion was substantially built, and the contractor had to resort to gelignite to help with the task. The explosions could be heard all over the town and shook nearby buildings.

Fascione made a fortune demolishing Halifax’s fine old buildings. He also demolished the town’s beloved Palace Theatre. He referred to himself jovially as “the most hated man in Halifax”.

demolition

This account was given to me on the FB page:

“As a young child my mother took me to Manor Heath and took two pieces of stone from the building as it was being demolished, and we brought them home in my doll’s pram and put them in the garden. I think one of them was a carving of a face. My mother said it was a ” crying shame to pull that building down” “

max stones

Back in Wiltshire, some good friends of my parents have these stones in their back garden. The gentleman of the house grew up in Halifax and these came from a reclamation yard, probably back in the 50′s, originally from a demolished local building. Though almost certainly not from Manor Heath (he remembers the mansion from his walks to school, but thinks these pre date its demolition), don’t they make you wonder how many pieces of the lost houses are scattered far and wide?

2 Responses to “Manor Heath

  • I love the amount of research you do before starting these paintings. Great read. Thank you!

  • We don’t have a webiste but I am thrilled with this – my husband Joseph is related to John Crossley. I shall be sending this round the family.

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