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  Tonge Hall, Manchester Guardian : Article from Saturday 1st December 1906


In the days of Queen Elizabeth Middleton was a dreamy little hamlet of less than a score of dwellings, clustered round its ancient church, and commanding a view of undulating country, its grass-covered slopes dotted here and there with little groups of trees marking farmers' homesteads.  To the eastward the valley of the Irk stretched away into the blue-grey distance, and to the westward the silvery water of the stream flowed on to join the Irwell.  The lowing of the cattle knee-deep in limpid pools, the click of the shuttle of the creak of the loom, the twang of the bow as some veteran archer of Flodden fame flung his feathered shaft where the golden rays of the setting sun cast the lengthened shadow of the church across the practice ground - these were the sounds that reached the ear and spoke of the occupation of the villagers.  The stone schoolhouse still exists, such as it was in "good Queen Bess's" time, and the timbered tavern  swinging the sign of the crest of the Assheton - the Boar's Head.
On the other side of the stream, among the trees creating the ridge of the rising ground, was the ancestral home of the Tonges, who settled here in the late fourteenth century.  It was a famous old "magpie" mansion, stoutly framed in solid baulks of oak, richly decorated with quatrefoils and filled in with clay and straw, faced with cement.
Little remains of the old mansion, and that little is crumbling away.  It is sixteen years since it was last tenanted, and the storms of wind and rain have played their part unchecked.  The black open beams are rotting, the glass from the leaded windows lies splintered on the floor; fowls roost within its rooms, and cows pasture in its shrunken garden.  One room is panelled round, forsaken but for spiders.  Framed over the fireplace is a painted panel, and, half obscured by darkened varnish, dirt and mildew, one still can see a sleeping knight and his lady posing in a mediaeval garden.  In another room the worms have taken to themselves a fine old Cromwellian table on eight substantial legs.  A spiral staircase of nineteen solid oaken steps leads to the rooms above.  So much is left to interest us, but the glory of the hall is gone.  It lies deserted and uncared for amidst the mills and cottages, and in the usual course of things the time cannot be far distant when Tonge Hall will be but a name.
The present owner - a descendant of the original Tonges - offered it as a gift to the town some little time ago for use as a museum, but the authorities, doubtless on proper grounds, refused it.  Yet it must be a hard-hearted generation that would see it die such an ignominious death.  Cannot something be done to save it?   F.G.W