Tonge

 

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  Tonge Hall 2007 Fire : Series of articles by Emma Mountford published in the  Middleton Guardian following the devastating fire at Tonge Hall on the 4th June 2007.  Also five photographs taken by Stephen Tonge three weeks after the fire.

 

 

Tonge Hall - fire damageTonge Hall - fire damageTonge Hall - fire damage

Tonge Hall - fire damage - insideTonge Hall - fire damage

 

Historic Tonge Hall torched

Published: 7th June 2007 - Emma Mountford

A MAGNIFICENT Tudor building has been badly damaged in a suspected arson attack just days after being targeted by burglars.

Forty firefighters battled to get the blaze under control at Tonge Hall after being called to the scene in the early hours of Monday morning.

The fire, which is believed to have been started deliberately just after 5am, has left the upper floor of the impressive black and white building gutted and the roof completely destroyed.

Spokesman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Tony Hunter said: "There is substantial damage to the first floor and the roof. The property was already boarded up and unoccupied, it is believed the owner is away.

"As crews tackled the fire there was a partial collapse of part of the building and firefighters who were inside wearing breathing apparatus were withdrawn.

"The most likely cause at this stage is deliberate ignition."

Firefighters were at the scene for more than three hours extinguishing the blaze, but the future of the Grade II listed building is now in some doubt.

Tonge Hall, which lies on William Street, off Oldham Road, is already on English Heritage's Register of Buildings at Risk in the Greater Manchester area.

And it has been repeatedly attacked by vandals over the last 12 months leaving its owner, pensioner Captain Norman Wolstencroft devastated.

Just two days before the blaze, sometime between 3.30pm on Friday and 9.45am on Saturday, burglars broke into the property via the kitchen window stealing numerous ornaments.

And in April vandals and intruders targeted the building three times causing extensive damage to the already vulnerable property.

Numerous fires have also been started in and around the premises.

The property has been in the Wolstencroft family for more than 100 years but rumours have been circulating around Middleton for some time that the building had in fact been sold, but no sale has ever been confirmed.

The Tudor black and white building dates back to around 1580 and has many of its original features, including oak beams and inglenook fireplaces.

It has had considerable restoration work and alterations but has been a regular target for burglars.

In January last year intruders ransacked the building and then returned three times in April causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.

A number of local residents have spoken about a gang of youths who congregate around the building, often drinking and causing damage.

One neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "It was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

"The place has been done over time and time again.

"It is absolutely disgusting. It is one of the oldest buildings in Middleton and should have been treated with more respect."

Members of the Middleton Civic Association have been busily contacting various organisations to ensure the future of the building is saved.

An official from English Heritage is expected to inspect the damaged building over the next few days.
 


Destruction of a Middleton gem

Published: 7th June 2007 - Emma Mountford
 

TONGE Hall has stood as one Middleton's best known and much-loved historic buildings for centuries.

Built in the 16th century, over the years its postition above the river Irk and overlooking Middleton has become a symbol of the town's rich heritage.

But recent mindless vandalism - culminating in a devastating fire on Monday - has left the building a shadow of its former glory and left a question mark hanging over its future.

The impressive Tudor mansion dates back to 1580 and was the ancestoral home of the Tonge family for many years.

In 1638 the hall became occupied by a member of the Wolstencroft family when May Wolstencroft married Richard Tonge.

From Richard, the estate passed to his son Jonathon Tonge in 1678. Jonathon's surviving son, Richard, then inherited the estate. It is his initials - together with his wife Alice - that appear on the rainwater heads which were part of the alterations and improvements to the building in 1703.

Richard and Alice had two sons, Thomas and Jonathon. In 1725 Jonathon devised the estate to Thomas with instructions that the heavily morgaged estates were to be sold.

In 1726 the estates were bought by John Starky of Heywood and through his son John passed to James Starky.

In 1795 James paid more than half the land tax for Tonge and later left the estate to his relatives, Anne Hornby of St Michael's and Joseph Langton of Liverpool. These families, who were once the principal landowners in Tonge, are commemorated by streets being named after them - Langton Street and Hornby Street.

Throughout the 19th century the hall had a variety of tenant farmers and passed through numerous hands.

Eventually the hall was bought by William Assheton Tonge in 1890 but by then it had been empty for some time.

During his ownership, the hall fell into disrepair - although it is believed he did carry out some important restoration work.

In 1902 the building was offered as a gift to the town by William Assheton Tonge for use as a museum - but this offer was rejected due to financial reasons.

The hall was then intermittantly occupied by squatters and part was used as a poultry house.

In 1904 the Wolstencrofts returned to Tonge Hall. The hall was taken on a repairing lease by James Henry Wolstencroft, grandfather of the present owner, Norman Wolstencroft. It is estimated that James Henry spent the equivalent of £1M in today's money on labour and materials. The hall was later taken over by his son, Albert.

In 1984 following inheritance the new owner of Tonge Hall, Captain Norman Wolstencroft applied for restoration grants to Greater Manchester Council, Rochdale Council and English Heritage. It is believed Rochdale Council and English Heritage both declined, but Greater Manchester Council offered to pay 15 per cent of the costs.

By the early 1990s, weatherproofing of the hall, complete rebuilding of two gables and general improvements had been achieved.

In recent years, Captain Wolstencroft has also undertaken repairs to the roof and various remedial works.

However over the last few years English Heritage has classified the Tudor building as being in a "poor state".

In 2006 it was categorised as being at "immediate risk" of further rapid deterioration, with only three other buildings in the whole of Greater Manchester being classed as needing such urgent action.

At the time, an officer from English Heritage said: "Due to the condition of the exterior, the interior is very vulnerable. The building is now unoccupied and is continuing to deteriorate with a high risk of vandalism and theft."

But Captian Wolstencroft hit back saying: "It is a Grade II Star listed building and there is no way that it will be allowed to reach a state where its survival will be in doubt. It is part of Middleton's heritage and there is no chance that it will be allowed to decay any further.

"It is an important part of Middleton's history, one of the town's few remaining historical buildings, and I will not allow it to be put in jeopardy."

Over the past year, the Tudor hall has been broken into on a number of occasions. The windows have been left smashed by groups of drunken youths which gather in the area at weekends and the building has fallen into a state of disrepair.

The hall has been put up for sale in recent years with a rumoured asking price of more than £500,000. There were also whispers that a buyer had been secured - although no confirmation has been given.

However, after the fire on Monday and the tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage caused, the future of the hall looks bleaker than ever.
 


Historic hall blaze still being probed

Published: 14th June 2007 - Emma Mountford

AN INVESTIGATION into the suspected arson attack at Tonge Hall is set to continue this week

As the Guardian went to press, a meeting was being held by fire officers to determine a way forward in investigating the blaze which left the Grade II listed building severely damaged.

The area around the once stunning Tudor building has been cordoned off since the fire, which ripped through the upper floors of the building in the early hours of Monday 4 June.

As reported in last week's Guardian, 40 firefighters battled to get the blaze, which is believed to have been started deliberately just after 5am, under control.

Our photographer was on hand to capture the dramatic events moments after part of the building collapsed and firefighters had to be withdrawn.

The fire has left the upper floor of the impressive black and white building gutted, part of the building collapsed and the roof completely destroyed.

Many now fear there is no way forward for the Grade II listed building and its future is in doubt.

Tonge Hall, which lies on William Street, off Oldham Road, is already on English Heritageís Register of Buildings at Risk in the Greater Manchester area.

It has been repeatedly attacked by vandals over the last 12 months leaving its owner, pensioner Captain Norman Wolstencroft devastated.

Just two days before the blaze, burglars broke into the home and in April vandals and intruders targeted the building three times causing extensive damage to the already vulnerable property.

Numerous fires have also been started in and around the premises adding to the tens of thousands pounds worth of damage which has been caused over recent months.

The property has been in the Wolstencroft family for more than 100 years but rumours have been circulating around Middleton for some time that the building had in fact been sold but no sale has ever been confirmed.

The impressive black and white building dates back to 1590 and has many of its original features including oak beams and inglenook fireplaces. Although at this stage the extent of the damage inside the property is not known, many fear such artefacts of by-gone days have been destroyed.

Structural engineers working on behalf of English Heritage are currently advising a conservation officer who has visited the building.

A spokesman for English Heritage said: "Our structural engineers are working as an advisory body giving advice and opinion on the situation."

Rochdale Councilís conservation officer is due to meet with English Heritage in a bid to safeguard the hallís future.

 


Ruined Hall on priority list

Published: 20th September 2007

TONGE Hall has been named as a top priority for conservation area status in a bid to safeguard its future.

The once magnificent Tudor mansion was partially destroyed in a devastating arson attack at the beginning of June after months of vandalism.

Since then a question mark has surrounded the fate of the grade II* listed building, which once stood as a proud monument to Middleton's rich heritage, with many people fearing it could be lost forever.

But last Thursday, at a meeting of Middleton Township, a prioritisation scheme for making new conservation areas in the town was agreed by councillors.

This means the township has devolved powers to decide which areas should be made into conservation areas - and how quickly this happens.

A list of possible areas in need of conservation status has now been drawn up - with Tonge Hall named as a top priority.

Alan Whale, from Rochdale planning department, said: "The owner of Tonge Hall doesn't have any insurance and no money to pay for the repairs so we have to consider what action to take.

"We could serve an urgent works notice which sets out a series of specifications such as fencing and removing the parts of the building which are unstable.

"The notice is served on the owner/occupier but if he doesn't carry out the work then the council would do it. But this can be very expensive.

"If the council is unable to recover the costs, English Heritage would underwrite 50 per cent of the costs but the council would have to spend the money first."

Councillor Peter Williams, chairman of Middleton Township Committee, said: "Perhaps people don't understand the significance of Tonge Hall. It is one of the most significant buildings in the borough."

Although the list is not comprehensive, and is open to change, Tonge Hall and the surrounding area, has been named as the top candidate for conservation status.

The Edgar Wood buildings on the Broad Street area of Rhodes, The Temple Street Baptist Church and terraced housing nearby and a pub and cottages, possibly by Edgar Wood, at Birch Hamlet, follow on the list.

Other historical and important buildings and areas making the list include the 19th century housing and memorial gardens on Manchester Old Road, the residential enclave in Archer Park, Alkrington Hall and selected parts of Alkrington Garden Suburb.

Arkholme on Towncroft Avenue has not been included in the list because it was recently given urgent conservation status.