On a hill overlooking the town of Stalybridge is the 35 acre site of Gorse Hall. Once a private estate, now managed by a voluntary group “Friends of Gorse Hall”. The site (which runs through the boundaries of Stalybridge and Dukinfield) is now a public open space with woodland, meadows, a pond and access to open moorland beyond.
Panoramic views of the Cheshire Plain and Greater Manchester can be seen from the highest point of the site. Much of the area is covered with undergrowth which is gradually being cleared to reveal the many features of historical interest.
The earliest reference to the site is contained in the will of Robert Duckinfield of 1621. The Dukenfield family held the Manor of Dokenfield and Colonel Robert Dukinfield was a famous figure in the Civil War. Ruins of the building, named in Robert Duckinfield’s will as “Gorses“, can still be seen today. Part of the ruins were excavated in 1998 and capped for safety. The excavations revealed the remains of a 17th century fireplace and an earlier inglenook fireplace. Other excavations by the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit revealed that ‘Gorses’ had been built in two phases.
The site of the new Gorse Hall Mansion can now be seen with the remains of their foundation walls capped, the rest of the site is a grassed area overlooking Stalybridge and with a view of Hartshead Pike beyond. John and Jane Leech, the grandparents of Beatrix Potter, built this impressive mansion in 1835/36. John Leech was a wealthy cotton manufacturer in the mid 1800’s with his mills being in the valley below. He died in 1860 and after the death of Jane in 1884, the mansion was left empty until bought by a wealthy local builder and given to his son, George Harry Storrs, as a wedding present. George was brutally murdered on November 1st 1909; a crime which has become much discussed over the years since and is dealt with in another section of this site. His widow ordered the hall to be taken down in the summer of 1910 with the stone reused elsewhere, including the NatWest Bank in Stalybridge.
The huge stable block and outbuildings with living accommodation have also been exposed with the help of more than 600 local children in a “Dig for History” project. Another feature on the site was an overgrown area that was originally a bowling green, sheltered by a bank of rhododendrons with views also over to Hartshead Pike; this has been cleared and levelled, to be used as an open-air classroom.