Mary Maxfield gave a talk to Clough Hall Residents Association on the History of Clough Hall. We have kindly been allowed to publish this material. Kidsgrove historian Philip Leese also compiled some of the information on the history of Clough Hall.
History of Clough Hall
The site of the Clough, or Clough Hall, has been occupied for certainly 400 years, and very probably for another century before that. The first dated reference to someone living at Clough is in 1583 when Thomas Unwyn was in residence, and he was reportedly the fifth in descent from John Unwyn of Clough, which would take the founding of the house back into the 1400s.
Since 1440 there have been at least three substantial buildings at or near the Clough Hall site. In turn, the site has been a farm, a gentleman's residence, and one of the largest public amusement parks in the country.
Thomas Unwyn's son, John, inherited the house; he then pulled down the original building and rebuilt the house before the 1640s. This new house was probably a Stuart farmhouse. On his death the estate passed to Simon Unwyn, a cousin from Wiltshire, and then to Simon's eldest son, Benjamin. On Simon's death an inventory was made of the house and its contents, which reveals that the Hall was a two-storey building with a Great Hall and a gallery, about thirteen rooms in all. Attached outbuildings included a kilnhouse, stable, barn, wainhouse and gatehouse. Benjamin died circa 1693 leaving no male heirs but two daughters; the eldest daughter, who was not married, continued to live at the Hall for part of the year, but after 1733 the evidence about the occupancy of the Hall is very sketchy.
In 1786 John Gilbert, who was closely involved with the early mining development in the Kidsgrove area, bought the entire Clough Hall estate, and when he died in 1795 he left Clough Hall to his son, John. Around 1800 John knocked down the old Hall which had been built by John Unwyn about 150 years before, and built the new Clough Hall - this was a Georgian mansion built of locally-quarried stone overlooking an ornamental lake and the expanse of the Cheshire Plain, a very desirable gentleman's residence.
John Gilbert died in 1812 with no direct heir, and the estate was sold at auction. It was bought by Thomas Kinnersley, a banker from Newcastle-under-Lyme, and it was his son, also Thomas, who later inherited the estate and became a major figure in the Kidsgrove community. He was the local squire and benefactor, and he built St Thomas's Church in the Avenue in 1837. Clough Hall with its gardens, boating lake, walks and carriage drive provided an ideal setting for the life of a prosperous country squire. Thomas Kinnersley lived at Clough Hall until he died in 1855, and his widow continued to live there until her death in 1877. The estate was then taken over by her niece, Georgina Attwood, but she died only two years later, and the Hall fell into neglect.
In 1888 Robert Heath, owner of the Biddulph Valley Ironworks, bought the estate for a reported £11,000 and sold it the following year to a consortium of Manchester businessmen, also headed by a Mr Heath. Their aim was to turn the park and gardens into a pleasure centre (Clough Hall Park and Gardens) to attract people from large areas of North West England. It was to be ‘The Paradise of the Potteries' with pleasure boats, a dancing platform, sports facilities, a fairground near to the lake, aviaries and a monkey house.
On the opening day, Whit Monday 1890, the French tightrope walker Blondin, ‘the Hero of Niagara', was one of the attractions. On his second appearance the following year an estimated 30,000 people came to see him. Many people arrived by train - services ran from both Harecastle and Kidsgrove stations until late at night.
But in 1894 the owners were declared bankrupt; the gardens did however re-open under different management, and in 1899 a Great Industrial Exhibition was staged at Clough Hall. Political meetings were also held there, but in 1902 a local man was murdered in the gardens and the perpetrator was never caught. The possibility that a murderer was at large in the area, and talk of drunkenness and unseemly behaviour, affected the popularity of Clough Hall Park and Gardens; it went into decline and finally closed in 1906.
The Hall was then briefly opened as a public house and hotel; it was used as a residential hotel during the First World War and at one time housed Belgian refugees. By the late 1920s the Hall had been demolished and its stone was used to build the garden walls of houses which were built shortly afterwards in Park Avenue, Clough Hall Road and Kinnersley Avenue.
I began working for Kidsgrove UDC in 1959 and one of my jobs was to do the payroll and I remember a Mr John Mason who lived in Grove Avenue. He was the head gardener and he grew plants in greenhouses at the Grove Avenue end of the park. The park was always a riot of colour in the summer months. His wage back in 1959 was £7 per week. Back in the early 60’s there was a pitch and putt area and the tennis courts were in constant use. Every year KUDC Councillors held a bowls match against the staff and afterwards there was a grand tea party in the pavilion.