Time to draw up plans for the future of Wigan's Haigh Hall
Plans are being drawn up for the future of Haigh Hall, after 700 people had their say on what they would like to see there.
Artists Al and Al met people in the vestibule of the historic building over recent weekends to hear their memories and find out what they want to happen to it.
And now they are working with a team at Wigan Council to come up with a proposal for Haigh Hall.
Their ideas could be unveiled as soon as the New Year and Wiganers will be invited back to say what they think.
The pair will also put together an archive related to the hall from all the stories and photographs they have collected.
Al Taylor said: “The memories have been beautiful. The idea of starting a public archive has been fantastic.
“People have been very honest with how they feel about the hall. Being able to sit down and have a cup of tea and cake has really relaxed people.
“What’s been nice is there is a huge alignment. We are all generally thinking the same things. Everyone wants to see culture and heritage at the centre of the hall, so they can go round the whole hall and explore it and tell its story through history.
“Everyone does want to see weddings continue there and a brilliant restaurant where they can go for special occasions.
“Most of the ideas on the table that people have been coming in with, it’s nearly everyone saying these things. It’s been really brilliant on every level.
“It’s been brilliant to reassure people also about the commitment of the team. There’s a long time to go with funding and planning, but there is a huge commitment from the council and the team to make sure this is really special. It’s been really magical.”
As well as telling Al and Al what they would like to see happen to Haigh Hall, many people shared their memories from over the years.
They spoke to couples who got married there or guests who celebrated nuptials and took along photographs.
They also saw pictures of the glasshouse that was once on the site and bananas growing inside.
There was a man who enjoyed potholing in disused mines in Wales and said he would like to explore the tunnels under the hall.
Spookily, they met an eight-year-old girl who spoke of seeing ghosts in the building and a ghost hunter who claimed four experts established the hall was haunted.
A resident on the Haigh estate, who lives in a smaller version of Haigh Hall built by James Lindsay for his wife to occupy after his death, took along deeds from the Earl of Crawford.
There was also a visit from a man who wanted the soldiers based there during the First World War to be commemorated.
Many people wanted the land train to return.
Al and Al gathered a wide range of information about Haigh Hall during their “conversation” events and will now use it to consider what should happen next.
Al Taylor said: “We have probably had hundreds of people - close to 700 people - and we have got a lot of information to collate and go through. We made a lot of notes - I filled two big notebooks and took notes on my computer too.
“The next stage is to collate all that information and go back to the team.
“We will see what’s working and what’s not working and what people have said. We will start to work from those suggestions and those ideas, and together we will come up with a plan which we will bring back to the people and they can feedback on that. That will probably be in the new year.”
Al Holmes added: “It’s finding a way of making these dreams a reality.”
Al and Al are working with the council after Haigh Hall returned to the local authority’s control earlier this year.
The building had been used as a hotel, but the operator was forced to leave after a legal battle in the High Court.
Members of the council are delighted that so many people in Wigan got involved in the consultation.
Coun Chris Ready, who is cabinet member for communities, public relations, corporate land, community assets and culture, said: “The two biggest ideas people have brought is the council ownership, which we have ticked off, and the public access, which we have ticked off. We will try to incorporate a lot of the things people have brought forward into our plans.
“We have a lot of hurdles to get over, but I think people will see a lot going on in the next year and we will get them back in before that to discuss our future plans.”
He said nothing was “off the table” and even welcomed a suggestion by The Lathums for them to play a homecoming show at Haigh Hall one day, similar to The Verve.
Coun Ready said: “I would love to do that and I am sure that when the time is right, we will be doing these kinds of things.”
Other work is being done in the meantime, with the council looking at what needs to be done to the building, such as to the windows.
They want local businesses to get involved with whatever happens at the hall both now and in the future.
A pilot bus service from Wigan town centre to the park finishes at the end of the month and will be reviewed to see if it can continue, while a full transport and travel survey of the park is also being carried out.
Work is also continuing on a Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the wider estate.
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