Wrightington Hall and the People who lived there
By Donald Anderson (11/11/79) with kind permission
Wrightington Hall was the home of the Wrightington family for several centuries. They are said to have been descended from Fitz Orm, the son of Orm, a powerful noble in these parts in the 12th century who is credited with the founding of the church at Ormskirk.
The Wrightington estate descended in that family until Sir Edward Wrightington died in 1658. Many of the family had held important positions in the county. Hugh Dicconson, Sir Edwards's heir, erected a very fine tomb for Sir Edward Wrightington in Standish St Wilfred's Parish Church.
Hugh Dicconson was an Anglican like the Wrightingtons, but two of his sons, William and Roger, became Roman Catholics and were implicated in a plot to overthrow the government of the day under William and Mary and bring back the exiled King James II.
William, together with several other Lancashire Catholic gentlemen, was put on trial in Manchester for treason in 1694, but they were acquitted, as there was insufficient evidence to convict them. Immediately afterwards however, William fled to France to join James II in exile. He became "governor" (tutor) to Bonnie Prince Charlie and his wife became "Maid of Honour" to the exiled Queen, Mary of Modena.
Roger Dicconson, William's brother, was living at Wrightington Hall and supported the Old Pretender in the abortive 1715 rebellion, but surprisingly neither he nor the estate suffered for his part in it. Since the rebels were beaten at Preston and had to retreat from there Roger probably did not get too much involved.
The Hall was then a typical Tudor manor house - gabled and half-timbered on a stone base. This ancient Hall, which formed the north wing of the present Hall, was only demolished in about 1930 when the hospital was established. The brick portion of the nurses home was built on the site of it (known as ' The Annex' ).
A Roman Catholic priest had been maintained at Wrightington Hall from the 1680's and a private chapel dedicated to St. Joseph was provided for the family, tenantry and employees. This fell into disuse after St. Joseph's Church was built in 1894. The registers of the Hall chapel are preserved at the County Record Office at Preston, the names of members of the writer's wife's family appearing in it from the 18th century onwards.
William Dicconson had begun the building of the present Hall but it was not completed until 1742. It was said to contain the earliest sash windows north of the Trent. The beautiful balustraded bridge carrying the main road across the Fish Ponds was built in 1778.
The Hall and estate was inherited from Edward Dicconson by Thomas Eccleston, his nephew, of Eccleston Hall, St. Helens in 1784. He had also inherited the Scarisbrick estate near Southport. His son Charles succeeded to Wrightington in 1810 taking the name of Dicconson. On his father's death in 1833 he also came into possession of the Scarisbrick estates, changed his name to Scarisbrick and subsequently was said to be the richest commoner in England, leaving a fortune of £3,000,000 (3 million pounds). He began the rebuilding of Scarisbrick Hall by the Pugins, which was completed after his death by his sister, Lady Anne, who took the name Scarisbrick after her husband's death.
Charles was an eccentric recluse. He lived with a mistress and had several illegitimate children by her, but he would never see anybody, not even his agent, although he carried through some good business deals like the purchase of a large slice of land on which Southport was to develop. When he died in 1860 his corpse was carried as he directed in his Will from the Hall to the church in a straight line across three ditches, a meadow, a wheat field and a field of cabbages and through a gap left in the churchyard wall at Bescar Lane. Up to then nobody knew, not even the priest, what purpose the gap served. He left Southport and everything else he could to his illegitimate children, one of whom afterwards built Greaves Hall.
Another sister, the widow of Captain Edward Clifton of Lytham, had succeeded Charles at Wrightington. She spent £17,000 on altering, restoring and rebuilding the Hall in 1860-62. It is not known when the riding school (now the recreation club) was built, but it is an extension of a 16th or 17th century building. Mrs Clifton was succeeded by her son, Thomas Clifton Dicconson who died in 1881 after being insane for 6 years. He was followed at Wrightington by his brother , William Charles Clifton Dicconson, who, dying in 1889, was again succeeded by a brother Charles Clifton Dicconson.
The Clifton Dicconsons, like most of the Catholic gentry of Lancashire, notably their relations, the Garards of Garswood Hall, Ashton-in-Makerfield, insisted on their tenants and employees being Roman Catholics. Hugh Morris (the great grandfather of the writer's wife) and all his family had to change their religion when he was appointed Head Gamekeeper on the Wrightington estate. Under the Game Laws, he was registered as Gamekeeper for the Manors of Wrightington, Parbold, Heskin and Welch Whittle. He was provided with eleven acres of land at the Keeper's Lodge for his own use.
At that time the Wrightington Estate comprised 5050 acres mostly in Wrightington, Parbold, Shevington, Eccleston, Heskin, Burscough and Penwortham. The rent role, exclusive of mine rents, was £7250 in 1860 but the mine rents alone during the early part of this century exceeded that figure. In the middle of the 19th century Charles Scarisbrick had his own colliery, known as Greenslates Colliery, with pits in the Moss Lane and roundabout areas.
The senior staff at Wrightington Hall in the 1870's consisted of Mr Moubert, the Estate Agent (who was also agent to Lord Gerard); Mr Jackson - Steward; Mr Wake - Farm Bailiff; Mr Clark - Butler; Mrs Gibney - Housekeeper; Mr Morris - Gamekeeper and Mr Kenyon - Coachman.
On the death of Charles Clifton Dicconson the estate passed to his nephew the Hon. Robert Joseph Gerard, brother of Lord Gerard, and he added Dicconson to his name, becoming Gerard-Dicconson.
Robert had married Eleanor Bankes, sister of George Hildyard Bankes, Squire of Winstanley Hall near Wigan. They had previously lived at Blackley Hurst Hall Billinge, the property of the Gerards and Bispham Hall, Billinge, which belonged to the Bankes family.
"Bobby" Gerard (as he was known) never earned the respect of the local people as the Dicconsons had done before him. He was a spendthrift and fanatically addicted to blood sports. He built kennels at the Hall and at the Home Farm, the former being used for breeding hounds. He hunted both the stag and the fox and for the former he kept twelve couples of staghounds at the Home Farm. A description of Wrightington, written towards the end of the last century, stated that the park abounded in deer and game of every kind.
THE HALL AS IT LOOKS TODAY: