Wish list for Wigan's Haigh Hall has land train and dining

Visitors have been flocking through the doors of Haigh Hall to have their say on what should happen to the historic building and surrounding park.
Al Taylor chats to Cherril Mansell and Carol NeafcyAl Taylor chats to Cherril Mansell and Carol Neafcy
Al Taylor chats to Cherril Mansell and Carol Neafcy

Artists Al and Al are working with Wigan Council to gather views before drawing up plans for the popular site.

Top of the list so far are requests for a restaurant to be opened in the hall and for the land train to return to the park.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They are also asking for memories and photographs related to the hall, so they can create an archive detailing its history over hundreds of years.

Al and Al in the vestibule at Haigh HallAl and Al in the vestibule at Haigh Hall
Al and Al in the vestibule at Haigh Hall

And there is still time to get involved, with the pair based at Haigh Hall for two more weekends.

Read More
Have your say on what happens to Wigan's Haigh Hall

Al Taylor said: “It’s been amazing. It’s been quite moving to hear everybody’s memories and stories from the past and it has been really inspiring to hear everybody’s passion for the future.”

The pair have been based in the vestibule of the hall, where there is a large table for people to sit, enjoy tea and cake, and share their memories.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A blue screen is being used when they film people, so it will be easy to edit and insert a background.

They also created a film related to the hall, which is being projected onto the wall on each side of the room, in the exact spot where painting The Intercession of Christ once hung. It is now in New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

Al Holmes said: “People have been coming in with their own memories and hopes for the future. It’s been great. As they are chatting away and having tea and cake, they look up at the film and remember things.”

Among the visitors so far were a 92-year-old woman who read a poem she had written about Lady Mabel and Karen Buckles, who was artist-in-residence for 25 years.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

One couple who had lived in Oxford for 30 years decided to visit Haigh Hall on the way home from visiting relatives in Chorley for the first time in more than a decade. They were married at the hall 48 years ago, so shared their memories and will send photographs from the day.

Friends Cherril Mansell and Carol Neafcy popped into the hall during a rainy dog walk.

Carol, who recently moved from Ashton to Coppull, talked about her son working there 15 years ago and remembered the large staircase.

The women said they would like to see Sunday lunch served at the hall, weddings and conferences held and a cafe outside where people could enjoy the views.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Cherril, who lives in Ashton, said: “The main thing would be opening the house up. I have never been in here.”

While there have been visitors from Wigan, many people have come from further afield, showing the popularity of the hall.

Al Taylor said: “We have had all sorts of people coming. What is really brilliant is that every day people come from all over. Some people who have never been to Haigh Hall before asking what’s happening.”

There have been a range of suggestions for what should be done to the hall in future.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Al Taylor said: “What was inspiring about it is I feel everybody’s dreams for the hall are completely in line with what we are thinking about.

“Everyone wants to see heritage stories and culture in the hall. People want to see a brilliant restaurant here. People want to see the continuation of weddings and events. People want to see these things in the hall.

“We have had, for example, people saying there should be a taster menu, which is a really high-level restaurant, and people saying they want afternoon tea. There’s been very nuanced details to things and that’s been very inspiring.

“As well as the hall, we have been asking what they feel, for example, they would like to see back at Haigh Hall that used to be here or something that has never been here. Number one is the land train.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Everybody remembers the land train from when they were kids and used to play on it. That’s something people really want to see back.

“The glasshouse near the ornamental pond is another thing people have mentioned over and over again. In terms of the estate, there is a big passion to see some of these older ideas.”

There have also been some more unusual suggestions, such as one visitor saying they would like to see frisbees in the woods.

Al and Al are keen to attract more people to the ancient woodland at the park and they are looking at ways to do that.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They will be based in the vestibule at Haigh Hall for two more weekends, from 11am to 3pm on Fridays, Saturday and Sundays.

People are invited to go along to share their views on what should happen there, as well as their memories.

Al Taylor said: “We have been saying to everyone who comes to tell their friends and for everyone to come down and chat. This is everyone’s opportunity to share the past and dream about the future together. Let’s carry on this brilliant conversation together.”

Al and Al are speaking to people about Haigh Hall after it was returned to the council’s control earlier this year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was being used as a hotel, but the operator was forced to leave after many complaints and a legal battle in the High Court.

After finding out what people want to happen to the historic building, Al and Al will draw up plans for its future

They are also creating an archive of photographs and memories.

Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here

Related topics: