Hidden Gem

Posted by editor on March 15, 2010 under Art, sport and leisure, Community, Education and health

Len Grant accepts an invitation to take a tour around Clayton Hall.

Clayton Hall: once home to the Byron family and  the Chetham brothers

Clayton Hall: once home to the Byron family and the Chetham brothers

East Manchester continues to amaze me. The diversity of what goes on here and the commitment of local people is astonishing. This last week I found myself taking photographs in Clayton Hall, the 16th century ‘moated’ hall concealed in the middle of the unassuming Clayton Park. Each of four rooms are now decked out in the late Victorian style to give visitors a real taste of history in east Manchester’s most notable historic building.

Come and see the sunken cold store, dining room, kitchen and outside wash house

Come and see the sunken cold store, dining room, kitchen and outside wash house

Yes, I’ve seen this sort of thing before in National Trust properties and in museums run by local councils. But here in Clayton – with the trams lines being re-laid outside on Ashton New Road – this piece of historical restoration has not been put on by a team of full-time curators but by local volunteers from the Friends of Clayton Park.

Over the last couple of years these dedicated volunteers have sympathetically renovated four previously empty rooms into what is now a cultural high spot and an invaluable learning resource for local schools.

Small grants have paid for some of the items – the kitchen range was bought from ebay – but others have been donated by friends and relatives and, since the displays have been open to the public, from visitors supportive of the Friends’ work.

Experience a Victorian kitchen: no fridge or microwave here!

Experience a Victorian kitchen: no fridge or microwave here!

The Grade 2 listed hall is open to the public every third Saturday of the month between 1–4pm (so that’s this Saturday, 20th March) and children are particularly welcome. There’s an ID quiz so youngsters can identify items in each room and plenty of hands-on activities from helping out in the kitchen to ‘ironing’ clothes in the wash house.

As a backdrop to the National Curriculum the Friends are keen to encourage more schools to book visits and use the hall as a teaching resource.

To contact the Friends email info@friendsofclaytonpark.org.uk or ring Manchester Leisure on 0161 231 3090.

The Friends of Clayton Park website