Etherstone Hall in Leigh is set to become a major local attraction. In fact, officials are keen to promote visitor numbers as widely as they can.
But there’s nothing to be seen…yet.
The former grand residence of the cotton broker Thomas Jones, south of the town centre, was demolished a century ago. In its day, Etherstone Hall was a widely renowned medieval hall and home to several families. The last part of the estate, a farmhouse, was demolished in the 1970s. But the near 700-year history of the site is now about to be unearthed.
Local ward councillor John O’Brien has been involved in plans to study the heritage of the area. He has been working with Leigh Sports Village Management, Salford University’s Centre for Applied Archaeology, Morrison's Supermarkets and Wigan Archaeology Society.
Cllr O’Brien says: “Etherstone Hall is an important part of our town’s identity and history. We have a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our past by getting involved in an archaeological dig right on our doorsteps. Please get involved in helping us bring our past to life.”
The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) are funding digs in each of its ten council areas along with Blackburn with Darwen. It’s a five year project to widen involvement in local heritage and promote understanding of local areas. Salford University are acting as project managers of Dig Greater Manchester and want locals to join in the event which will start on 5th March and continue Monday – Saturday for at least two weeks. There will be around 20 adult volunteers on site each day.
Ten local schools are already involved in the programme. At least 30 local pupils from each school will be getting their hands dirty at specially organised sessions on school days, working with experts to learn how careful investigations can reveal details about how people used to live. Saturday 17th March is a public day when anyone can come along, find out what’s been unearthed and even have a go at archaeology themselves.
Etherstone Hall is situated by Leigh Sports Village. The Etherstone estate is first recorded in 1338. By 1415 it was owned by the Pemberton family and later owners included the Leylands and the Tyldesleys of Morleys, Astley. From 1548 the Renacres family lived at the Hall. In 1862 the Hall and estate were bought by Thomas Jones, a wealthy cotton broker. Jones built a new Hall next to the old one, which became a farmhouse. Thomas Jones also built a long row of cottages on the north side of Etherstone Street. The first edition of the “Leigh Chronicle” in 1852 saw the Etherstone estate advertised for sale or to let. It was bought by Richard Guest, owner of Firs Lane Cotton Spinning Mill. The newer Hall, built in the late 1800s was demolished in 1908. The older Hall had been demolished by the late 1970s.