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California Dreaming - ray of sunshine for Hopwood Hall, Middleton

American Hopwood DePree's dreams of restoring his long-lost ancestral home are one step closer to reality thanks to a grant of £139,000 from Historic England, which has been matched by Rochdale Council.

Hopwood Hall has been mothballed and at risk for 30 years. It was added to our first ever Buildings at Risk Register in 1998, and has been there ever since.

Exterior of red brick mansion with wire mesh protecting the ground floor windows, The building dates mainly to the 17th and 18th centuries. The lawn in the foreground is overgrown and stone steps are also overgrown by grass.
Hopwood Hall in Middleton, Greater Manchester dates mainly to the 17th and 18th centuries, but has its origins in a 16th century timber-framed hall, and impressive 19th century additions © Historic England

Actor, screenwriter and filmmaker Hopwood DePree - named after his ancestors who built the hall - discovered the house online four years ago. He has been encouraging owners Rochdale Council to repair the hall, and moved to Rochdale from Los Angeles last year to galvanise the restoration project.

Our grant will fund £276,000 of emergency repairs, kick-starting the process of getting the house back to a stable, weather-tight condition.

Hopwood, founder of TickTock Studios and co-founder of the Waterfront Film Festival, dreams of transforming the hall to an artistic and cultural venue. The restored site could be used for filmmaking and education, enjoyed by locals and international visitors alike.

Dust covered wood carving in Hopwood Hall featuring a bearded man wearing a kilt who is pinning a dismembered head to the floor with a large fork.
One of the fabulous oak carvings in Hopwood Hall. Note the head on a fork!

A hidden gem in Greater Manchester

The house is listed Grade II*, and dates back to the 16th century. It was added to and updated over the years as fashions changed. The different styles of windows are a clue to its differing ages. The original 16th century hall house can still be seen in the roof trusses, screens passage door and bay window, amidst the 17th, 18th and 19th century brick additions. The interior contains wonderful wooden carvings of people and mythical beasts, and a fireplace thought to have been a gift from Lord Byron, who was a guest in 1811. 

The house was lived in by Hopwood's ancestors until the 1920s. After they had emigrated to the US, it passed to Lancashire Cotton Corporation, then the De La Salle brothers, and finally fell into council ownership 30 years ago after it ceased being used by Hopwood Hall College.

Bay window in Hopwood Hall
The striking 19th century oriel window © Historic England

Decline and decay

Despite the Council's efforts to keep the house weather-tight, it suffered extreme dry rot, which colonised the building. Lead theft caused leaks. The house was vandalised. Ideas and schemes for the hall have come and gone over the years, but nothing ever took off.

Thankfully caretaker and conservationist Bob Wall has ensured that important stitch in time measures like ventilation prevented Hopwood Hall from deteriorating irretrievably.

It's fantastic that Hopwood Hall's future is now looking sunnier. Our grant to Rochdale Council will enable critical structural repairs to the most important parts of this fascinating Grade II* listed building. Hopwood Hall is one of Greater Manchester's most important surviving manor houses, and we're delighted to be supporting Hopwood DePree's ambitions to save and showcase it.

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