Calls made to protect vacant historic building in Wigan from collapse

Fears have been raised that a once-splendid Wigan landmark could collapse altogether if action is not taken to protect it.

By Gaynor Clarke
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 12:30 pm
Winstanley Hall
Winstanley Hall

Grade II*-listed Winstanley Hall has stood vacant for more than 20 years, after being bought by Pemberton-based Dorbcrest Homes from the Bankes family.

But it has fallen into dereliction, plagued by extensive dry rot, roof leaks and collapsed floors, and there are concerns its condition is only getting worse.

Winstanley Hall and its stable block have been on Historic England’s Heritage At Risk register for years. Its condition is described as “very bad” and the building is at priority A for “immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric”.

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Coun Paul Kenny

Calls are now being made for something to be done to protect the historic building before it is too late.

Winstanley councillor Paul Kenny said: “I have no doubt that unless action is taken by the owners Dorbcrest Homes, the hall will deteriorate further and may well collapse.

“The ball is in their court to come forward with a plan. I have written to Dorbcrest on several occasions and they do not even have the courtesy to respond.

“The hall is a historic listed building.

“Yet under Dorbcrest’s ownership, I have seen nothing that leads me to believe that this special site will be returned to splendour any time soon.”

Winstanley Hall was built in the 16th century for the Winstanley family, before it was bought by the Bankes family, who owned the house and surrounding land for the next 400 years.

It was sold to Dorbcrest Homes in 2000 and a planning application was submitted to Wigan Council three years later to repair, refurbish and convert the building into residential units.

However, the plans were withdrawn before a decision was made. Emergency repair work was carried out in 2015 after campaign group Save Winstanley Hall and Save Britain’s Heritage (SAVE) raised £250,000 from English Heritage, the Country House Foundation, the Georgian Group and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Wigan Council bosses have previously met representatives from Dorbcrest Homes and Historic England to discuss the future of Winstanley Hall.

An options appraisal was carried out and three years ago Dorbcrest was reported to be working on a scheme, but no proposals have been forthcoming for the site.

Aidan Thatcher, acting director for economy and skills at the council, said: “We make regular contact with Dorbcrest Homes seeking to understand their ambitions for the site.

“We have been engaging with Historic England to discuss future potential and are continuously looking to engage in discussions which seek to bring back the site into beneficial use as we are aware of its historic importance and importance within the community.

“We continue to seek a further meeting with Dorbcrest to identify their aspirations as owners of the hall.”

A Historic England spokesperson said: “Winstanley Hall is a grade II* listed building.

“ It is a 16th century house with 19th century alterations and extensions.

“Of particular interest is one room which has wall paintings dating from the Second World War when it was occupied by the RAF. It is on our Heritage at Risk Register and has been for over a decade.

“We are concerned about the deteriorating condition of Winstanley Hall and are providing advice to Wigan Council about how to tackle the challenges the building is facing.”

A Dorbcrest Homes spokesperson said: “We are continuing to find a viable solution for Winstanley Hall - but due to the huge financial defect of refurbishment all parties involved have currently been unable to find a realistic solution that will breathe new life into this collection of buildings.”

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