Newton Hall: Rediscovering a Manorial Complex

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Edition: 1st
Isbn: 978-0-9565947-4-7
Publisher: Centre for Applied Archaeology, University of Salford
Cite this publication
The home of the Newton family from the thirteenth century until the early eighteenth century, Newton Hall is one of the oldest buildings in North West England. The surviving timber-framed cruck structure dates from the late medieval period, yet this is only a fragment of a much larger building. Much of that hall was lost when the estate was split up and sold. By the early nineteenth century the site was in use as a farm and in the 1960s was scheduled for demolition. Fortunately, the timber hall was saved and restored, but rest of the complex has remained hidden. In 2012 a community archaeology project, led by the Tameside Local History Forum with the assistance of the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University of Salford, set out to rediscover the ancient manorial site. This booklet records the progress of that project as the twenty-first century inhabitants of Newton explored the archaeology of the hall and the history of some of its occupants.
The location of Newton Hall
Many of Greater Manchester’s medieval hall
sites were demolished in the post-war years.
The story of Newton Hall’s survival is thus a
remarkable one. Having come so close to being
lost it has been saved, restored, and is now
one of Tameside’s most significant heritage
assets. Its historical importance has been
enhanced by research carried out by the
University of Manchester Archaeological Unit
as part of the Tameside Archaeology Survey
and, more recently, by the community archae-
ology project organised by the Tameside Local
History Forum and the University of Salford
Centre for Applied Archaeology.
These investigations have demonstrated that
the surviving cruck-framed hall was just one
part of a much larger complex of buildings originating as a manorial complex. Recent excavations have
revealed well-preserved remains of a farmhouse and its outbuildings, and also tantalising glimpses of
much earlier features relating to the first occupation of the site. But what is even more rewarding is the
way in which the community of Newton and Tameside, young and old, ably supported by professional
and experienced volunteer archaeologists, have come together to share the excitement of exploring
and understanding the site’s heritage. This booklet sets out the captivating story of the
preservation and rediscovery of the historic fabric and buried remains of Newton Hall.
Spreading the word about Greater Manchester’s fascinating but relatively unrecognised archaeology is
challenging. One of the ways to do this is through publication in the form of ‘popular’ booklets. I have
considerable pleasure, therefore, in introducing you to this publication, which is Volume 7 in a series
covering the archaeology of the whole of the Greater Manchester area: Bolton, Bury, Manchester,
Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, and Wigan. This series is called ‘Greater
Manchester’s Past Revealed’ and provides a format for publishing significant archaeology from developer
-funded research or community projects in an attractive, easy-to-read, and well-illustrated style.
The History of Newton Hall......................6
The History of Newton Hall......................6
Newton Hall and Cruck Construction....14
Newton Hall and Cruck Construction....14
Digging Newton Hall.................................20
Digging Newton Hall.................................20
The Finds.....................................................26
The Finds.....................................................26
Life at Newton Hall Farm.........................30
Life at Newton Hall Farm.........................30
Inspiring a New Generation....................34
Inspiring a New Generation....................34
Further Reading...........................................38
Further Reading...........................................38
NORMAN REDHEAD, Greater Manchester Archaeological Advisory Service
One cold evening in late February 2012 more than 50 enthusiastic archaeologists and
historians gathered under the old beams of Newton Hall in Hyde. They had come to hear
about a new heritage project organised by the Tameside History Forum and funded
through the Heritage Lottery. That evening members of the Forum explained how the
history and archaeology of Newton Hall, the very building where the gathering was being
held, would be rediscovered and explored over the following spring and summer. This
would be done through the efforts of local community volunteers and Tameside school
children, with the support of professional archaeologists from the University of Salford.
The results of that community dig, and the experiences of those uncovering their local
past, are recorded in this booklet.
The timber hall at Newton is all that remains of a much larger building. The manor was
founded by the Newton family in the early thirteenth century. In 1617 the hall had 21
rooms and the complex also included two shippons, two barns, a stable, an oxhouse and a
brewhouse. The Newton estate passed by marriage to other families in the eighteenth
century and the hall began a long decline. By the nineteenth century it was a farm and in
the 1960s faced demolition: only a cottage, a barn, and a fragment of the hall surviving.
The remains of the old timber hall were rescued and restored in the years 1967 to 1970. A
generation of fresh research on the fabric of the hall and the surrounding farm buildings
has allowed a better understanding of the historical importance of the site. The timber-
framed structure of the hall was re-examined in the late-1990s and dated to the fifteenth
century. In 2008 for the first time the land around the hall was investigated, revealing
fragments of the lost farm buildings. The dig in 2012 recovered a detailed plan of the
farmyard and the project also captured memories of the old farm, allowing Newton’s role
as a manor house and farmstead to be recorded for future generations to enjoy.
The location of the excavated features and trenches at Newton Hall
The first secure reference to the manor of Newton comes in the period 1211-25 when it
was mentioned in a charter. In this charter Hamo de Massey confirmed to Robert the
clerk of Stockport the land of Newton conferred on him by Thomas of Godley and con-
firmed by Thomas de Burgh, the Lord of Longdendale, in the early thirteenth century.
Newton is not mentioned in the Doomsday Survey, a tax assessment for the whole of
England compiled for William I in 1086. It thus seems likely that before this period this
area was included in one of those manors in Longdendale retained by the Earl of Chester
in the Doomsday Survey: perhaps the manor of Mottram.
A Robert de Newton and his
son, also called Robert, were
living at Newton in 1276 and
1306 and were probably
descendants of Robert the
clerk of Stockport. These
were the first two members of
the Newton family who were
definitely the manorial lords
of the manor. A Robert
Newton was recorded in the
Longdendale survey of 1360
The Longdendale Landscape in the Late Medieval Period
as holding the manor from the
Lord of Longdendale. Robert was
obliged to provide arms to the
lord under his knight service, but
he also had to supply labour and
food from his own tenants for the
Lord’s annual harvest in the manor
of Arnfield, next to Tintwistle,
and for the annual spring
ploughing within the Lordship. By 1408 the feudal services listed in the 1360 survey were
beginning to be turned into monetary payments: the plough services provided by Newton
for instance were valued at 8s 1d in that year.
The manor of Newton remained in the family’s possession throughout the fifteenth,
sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. The last male heir, John Newton, died unmarried in
1692, whereupon the estate, including lands in Castleton in Rochdale, passed to his five
sisters, Anne, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Katherine, and Mary.
In 1711 the neighbouring manorial lords, the Duckenfield family, bought the Newton
estate from the surviving heiresses of the Newton family. Although the manor remained
in that family’s hands until the twentieth century it was not their main residence, and the
hall was let to wealthy families and from the mid-nineteenth century was used as a dairy
The lands of Newton Hall (shaded pink) in 1847
The census returns for 1841 and 1851 show that the farmstead was occupied by four
families, and by three families in the period 1861 to 1881. By the end of the century the
farm comprised a set of barns, a cottage, and a farmhouse set around three sides of a
courtyard fronting, to the east, Hyde Road. In 1918 the farm tenancy was taken up by
James Watt and his family, who became the final tenants.
In the 1950s the Dukinfield-Astley family sold much of what was left of the historic
Newton estate: just 128 acres. In 1951 9.5 acres of land to the north and west of the hall
were bought by Messrs William Kenyon and Sons Ltd, whilst in 1953 the two acres on
which Newton Hall Farm stood were bought by the Municipal Borough of Hyde.
Newton Hall Farm around 1920
When James Watt, son of the original James, retired from farming in early 1967
Hyde Municipal Borough decided to demolish the remaining buildings on the Newton
Hall farm site, the cottage and two barns, and once the Watt family left demolition of the
surviving farm buildings began.
In 1982 Christopher Kenyon, son of Sir George Kenyon then the owner of William
Kenyon and Sons, recorded in a letter what happened next:: ‘....when it became known
that Mr Watts had retired, my father approached Hyde
Corporation to purchase the two acres of land on which
the outbuildings stood. He was told by the Corporation
that there were some ‘old beams’ in the barn which were
known to be of architectural interest and should be
preserved in some form, though not necessarily within the
existing barn. Having looked at the beams himself, my
father called in Dr Marsden of Manchester University who
pronounced the cruck framed structure to be of
considerable historic and architectural interest’.
Although these ‘old beams’ had been noted as long ago as
1932 by the local historian Thomas Middleton in his book
on Hyde, who mentioned that the old timber barn had
been partially rebuilt after a recent fire, it was only when
James Watt, Mayor of Hyde for 1938-9
the surrounding brick
walls were removed that
the full majesty of the
surviving structure
could be seen. At the
time of the initial find it
was still thought the
cruck structure repre-
sented a late Medieval
barn, but as the
demolition of the
surrounding brick walls
progressed the high quality of the cruck timbers, the chamfering on the blades, and the
absence of lower tie-beams in each truss suggested that this was originally a three-bay
Medieval open hall. With the support of the Ancient Monuments Society and Dr
Marsden of the Architecture Department at the University of Manchester, Sir George
Kenyon now began negotiations with Hyde Municipal Borough Council with a view to
buying both the land on which the timber-framed building stood and the building itself.
The purchase of the timber building, and the two acres of land on which it stood, for
£2,000, was completed in April 1968. This marked the start of the scheme to restore what
was now recognised as a Medieval open cruck hall. The restoration, envisioned as both a
conservation project and a research exercise, took nine months and cost £23,000
The old timbers at Newton Hall during demolition in 1967
to complete. It involved the re-creation of a three-bay cruck-framed open hall with
around 35% of the timbers being original, including the two Medieval oak cruck trusses
and part of the eastern external wall frame.
There were two phases to this work. Firstly, a concrete raft with under-floor heating was
laid and the sandstone sill on which sat the timbers repaired and rebuilt.
An additional truss for the southern gable and a new eastern wall-frame were built and
raised. The western wall and the northern gable were built in brick and rendered, whilst
the new cruck frame was made from a single 300-year-old oak tree seasoned for 30 years.
Secondly, there was the research
element of the project. This
focused upon the construction
techniques needed for assem-
bling the cruck truss and the
eastern wall frame. At the time
there was little experimental
information on this aspect of
Medieval timber-frame design
and Newton Hall was one of
the first research projects of its
kind. As far as was possible
The two cruck trusses as
exposed in 1968
tools based upon surviving Medieval examples and manuscript
pictures were used; these included borers, adzes, gouges and
saws. These were used to re-create the mortices and tenons, lap
joints, and scarf-joints that survived in the original timbers. The
construction process showed that the wall sills for the east and
west elevations would have been positioned first, with the rest
of the wall-frame reared on top of this. In contrast, the wall sill
for the gable-end cruck truss would have been fixed to the
bottom of the cruck truss and reared
into place as a single piece.
The replacement southern gable cruck truss, which included
some original rails and posts but new blades from an oak tree in
Bury St Edmonds, was
lifted into place in
March 1969. The gable
end closed-truss
weighed nearly four tons
and the lifting was un-
dertaken using a mobile
long-jib crane. However,
originally this would
Preparing the new oak timbers
Tradtional tools used for preparing the new oak timbers
An adze being used on tthe new oak
cruck truss
have been done using pulleys and scaffolding to prop
the cruck as it was used. To support the cruck truss,
temporarily, diagonal members were inserted and
props secured to the ground. Surviving cruck trusses
sometimes retain wedge-shaped
seatings at about two-thirds of
the height of the truss and these
seatings served to secure the
temporarily inclined props at an
intermediate stage of the rearing
of the truss. Such features can
still be observed on all four origi-
nal cruck blades at Newton Hall.
The interior of the hall was fitted
-out by October 1969 and
the restoration, including land-
scaping, was completed in early
Plaining one of the oak timbers
Eerecting the new oak cruck truss in 1968
Newton Hall is a
timber-framed cruck
building. Crucks are
large curved timbers,
often referred to as
blades and usually
made of oak. They
were formed by
splitting or sawing a
single curved tree
trunk to form timbers
roughly 10 to 12
inches (c. 0.30m) thick. Two such blades were then combined as an A-shaped truss, jointed
at the top (the apex). Beams running across the two cruck blades three-quarters of the
way up (the collar) and at mid-height (tie-beam) made the structure rigid and allowed the
crucks to transfer the full weight of the roof to the ground. Pairs of crucks were linked
by beams at apex height (the ridge tree) and at mid-height (the purlins), which formed the
framework for the roof. In such a structure, as at Newton Hall, the side walls
were independent of the roof and were not load-bearing, though the mid-height tie-beam
was usually extended beyond the line of the blades as far as the feet of the truss to form
the seating for the wall plates (the top of the timber-framed external wall). Sometimes the
base of a cruck blade had a small notch into which an upright post for supporting
Building a typical medieval cruck hall
the external walls would have sat. The size of cruck trusses varied, depending upon the
quality of timber available, but in general the truss was as broad as it was high with the
wall plates one storey above ground level.
The tradition of cruck-framed timber building is long and it’s origins obscure. The earliest
surviving examples have been tree-ring dated to the mid-thirteenth century. Whilst the
earliest surviving example of a particular style of building is seldom the first one of its
type there is no conclusive evidence that the building type was common before this date.
Cruck structures are found in the northern and western parts of the Britain Isles, but not
in the South-East and
East Anglia. The reasons
for this gap in the
distribution, and the
occurrence of the
related building tech-
nique of the base-cruck
in some of this blank
area (a technique tree-
ring dated to the period
c. 1245 to c. 1460), has
been hotly debated. The
distribution of the
The layout of a typical medieval cruck hall
earliest thirteenth century examples may provide an answer. These can be found in
Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, and Shropshire in the Midlands, and Gloucestershire,
Somerset, Hampshire, and Devon in the South-West. On the present evidence it seems
likely that this is the home territory of the cruck building tradition. It emerged at a time
when box-framed buildings were being revived in eastern and southern England. Along
with aisled timber structures these three
traditions, which used almost exclusively
stone plinths and padstones, became
the most common forms of construction
during the thirteenth century, almost
completely supplanting the earlier
dominant technique of earth-fast posts.
In the North West this transition can be
seen at Tatton Old Hall in northern
Cheshire. Here, an early thirteenth
century earth-fast post structure was
replaced by a winged open hall on a stone
plinth in the fourteenth century, though
this was a box-framed structure not a
cruck building. Such buildings are one of
the earliest building traditions to survive
The distribution of cruck buildings in England and Wales
within the region.
They are often associ-
ated with the earliest
settlement within a
manor and are thus
good indicators of the
spread of Medieval
settlement within an
area. Yet precisely
how many cruck
buildings were built in
the North West is
In 2010 the Vernacular Architecture Group recorded 630 known buildings of this type in
the North West, with 125 in Cheshire, 226 in Cumbria, 73 in Greater Manchester, and 13
in Merseyside. This includes both surviving and demolished or lost structures.
Recent research in Greater Manchester has increased the number of known crucks,
surviving and lost, to 95.
One feature that is found in most linear plan-form cruck houses and in all winged cruck
houses was the open hall. The houses of the manorial lords, freeholders, and some of the
The distribution of cruck buildings within Greater Manchester
wealthier tenant or yeoman farmers, in the late
Medieval period were focused upon such open halls.
These were usually two or three bays in length, and
were often, but not always, flanked by one or two
multi-storey wings containing service rooms or
private apartments, giving a characteristic T-shaped or
H-shaped plan to the house. The term open hall
indicates that the room was open to the roof timbers,
with no first floor. This arrangement was necessitated
by the heating of this space, which took the form of a
hearth centrally placed on the floor with the smoke exiting through a louvred opening in
the roof. The gothic arch of the cruck truss lent itself naturally to this open hall style. Yet
it also reflected contemporary society since the open hall was where guests and visitors
were first received and was the
administrative centre of the estate.
Within the North West the earliest surviv-
ing building with such a classic Medieval
open hall and cross-passage plan-form is
the ruinous stone structure of Warton
Old Rectory, which is probably a manor
house of the late thirteenth or early
fourteenth century. It even has the ruins of
Wall spurs for the northern Newton cruck truss
Original (dark) and replacement (light) roof timbers at Newton
a separate kitchen wing, a Medieval design feature often used to reduce the risk of
fires. The earliest surviving cruck open halls in the region appear to be fifteenth century,
for instance Kirklees Hall and Peel Hall, both near Wigan. The open hall was some-
times emphasised by decoration. Within the Manchester region this was most typically by
simple chamfering along the edges of the blades within the hall. Such examples
include Apethorn Fold, Newton Hall, and Taunton Hall, all in Tameside.
Occasionally wall paintings are found on one wall of the open hall, as at Onion Farm in
Warburton. By the mid-seventeenth century the spread of brick as the main building
material combined with the shift towards politer domestic architecture made
timber-framed buildings, and the cruck truss in particular with its Medieval gothic-looking
arch, outdated architecturally.
A measured plan and cross-section through the north cruck truss at Newton Hall showing the surviving medieval upright timbers in black
After the restoration of the hall a generation
passed before historical interest in the site
was revived. During the late 1990s survey work
recorded the remaining timbers in detail,
and suggested a construction date in the late
Medieval period for the hall. A decade later
archaeological excavation work was undertaken
in 2008 with the digging of nine test trenches.
This investigation was part of the Tameside
Archaeological Survey and showed that there were extensive remains of building
foundations around the courtyard, and that some of these walls might be
seventeenth century in origin.
Though this work was published in 2010, it
left many questions unanswered. These included
the origin of the farmhouse and cottage,
evidence for the winged hall as suggested
by the sixteenth and early seventeenth century
Newton family wills, and the location of
Medieval remains to go with the timbers of the
cruck hall. The aim of the excavation work in
2012 was to answer these questions. Thus,
three large trenches were opened over the
Newton Hall Barn around 1900
The early, pre-hall, ditch in T2
north-western part of the courtyard (T1), the
farm buildings south of the hall (T4), and over
the farmhouse and cottage range (T3). A
number of smaller trenches were also
excavated around the outside of the
hall to the north (T6 & T7), west (T5), and
south (T2).
The earliest evidence from the dig was found
in T2, where an ancient ditch was discovered running beneath the south-western corner
of the hall. There were no finds from this feature to date it, but it was cut by a later ditch,
running west to east, which contained a large sherd of a Bellarmine jug from the
late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. The earlier ditch probably represents a
field boundary before the first hall was built, whilst the later ditch provides the southern
boundary for the hall complex. Two sherds of green-glazed late Medieval pottery,
Left, the remains in T6 of the north-
eastern corner of the brick hall barn
foundations, with a stone wall
foundation for the northern end of the
medieval Newton Hall visible
Right, the stone foundation for the
southern wing of Newton Hall as
excavated in T1
Excavating Newton Hall Cottage and Farmhouse in T3
probably of the fourteenth or fifteenth century, came from
beneath a wall of the farmhouse in T3 (see page 26).
On the eastern and northern sides of the hall two trenches
revealed stone foundations relating to the surviving
building. In T6 to the north of the hall was a stone wall
foundation, with lime mortar, on the same alignment as the
surviving eastern wall of the standing building. Although it
had been truncated in the eighteenth century by the brick
walls for the later barn, enough survived to indicate that the
foundation may have carried a timber wall. Along the
western edge of T4, close to the south-eastern corner of
the present hall, a second stone foundation, c. 0.5m wide,
was found. This ran parallel to and roughly 3m in front of
The foundations of the cottage and farmhouse, T3
Top right, the
seventeenth century
stone foundations
of the original
Bottom right, a
suggested recon-
struction of the
hall based upon
the Newton family
will of 1617
the hall, with what appeared to be a cobbled surface
and stone drain to the east. This was below the
nineteenth century stone sets of the farmyard. Again,
this appeared to be the foundations for a timber-
framed wall, perhaps a projecting eastern wing. The
remains in these two trenches thus demonstrated
that the surviving timber-framed hall was once much
bigger and had at least one cross-wing.
Similar wall foundations were found in T3 associated
with the part of the farmhouse and cottage that was
available for excavation. This trench revealed floor
levels and stone walls for a larger rectangular building
with at least two rooms at its
western end perhaps forming a
cross-wing. These remains were
associated with seventeenth
century pottery and clay pipes (see
pages 26 to 27). This phase of
activity marked a significant
expansion of the hall site, with the
creation of the farmyard to the
east of the hall by the building of
The farmhouse cottage cellar, T3
The southern elevation of the cottage and farmhouse in the 1930s
the northern stone barn (T7), which was to survive,
like the cottage, until demolition in 1967. The timber-
framed farmhouse in T4 appears to have been rebuilt
in brick in the eighteenth century (a George I far-
thing minted between 1718 and 1724 was found in
one of the brick walls), although the earlier stone
foundations were re-used. This seems to have
coincided with the conversion of the hall range into
the partially brick-built hall barn (T6). Later still, in the mid-nineteenth century, a one bay
cottage, with a cellar, was added to the western gable of the farmhouse.
In the period 1898 to 1910 there was another major rebuilding of the farmyard. New
stone setts were laid between the farmhouse, northern stone barn (T1), and the hall,
The remains of a fireplace in the farmhouse
The foundations of the late nineteenth century brick barn (T4) The foundations of the new single-storey range added to the hall barn
whilst a brick barn (T4) was built to the west of the farmhouse. An extra single storey
brick range was also added to the eastern side of the hall barn. This included a concrete
machine base for some form of farm
machinery, perhaps associated with milking,
which was introduced to the farm at the end of
the nineteenth century, as was the western brick
barn which appears to have been used as a
shippon. This formed the farm complex rented
by the Watt family in the first half of the
twentieth century, memories and photographs
of which have been captured for this booklet.
Excavating the stone setts of the farmyard in T1
The hall barn range in the mid-twentieth century
The excavated remains of the Newton Hall manorial complex included not only brick
walls, stone floors, and cobbled surfaces but also objects from the
daily life of the families living and working on the farm.
Individual items from the earliest years of the hall have been rare. The
oldest objects so far identified are a fragment of a green-glazed jug and a
broken green-glazed jug handle, not necessarily from the same pot. These
came from the deposits beneath the later farmhouse excavated in T3 and
date to the Medieval period, probably the fourteenth or fifteenth
centuries. They are thus the earliest artefacts so far found at Newton Hall and
help to confirm the documentary evidence for occupation during this period.
A single sherd of a Midland Purple pot (fifteenth and sixteenth century vessels
fired almost to the point of fusion giving them a purple sheen to the surface) and several
small fragments of Cistercian type pottery (a highly fired dark brown or purple fabric with
a rich brown to black glaze) were also found in the deposits associated with the
farmhouse. These latter sherds were probably sixteenth or very early
seventeenth century in date. More Post-Medieval pottery was
found in a ditch to the south of the current hall, in
T2. This included a stoneware Bellarmine jug of the
seventeenth century or early eighteenth century,
probably imported from Germany. A range of clay pipes
were also excavated from the farmhouse area and these dated
from the seventeenth century to
the late nineteenth
century. These finds
included a seven-
teenth century
pipe bowl
with deco-
the rim.
Finds from the Newton Hall dig. Clockwise
from the top of the page opposite: a late
Medieval jug handle; a nineteenth century
transfer-print dinner plate; sherds of a
yellow and orange slipware plate of the early
eighteenth century; and a seventeenth century
clay pipe bowl
Most of the objects recovered from the farmhouse and cottage
trench (T3) were domestic crockery of the late seventeenth to early
twentieth centuries. These included a large number of sherds from
eighteenth century slipware storage jars, in a ridged red fabric with
a think black- or brown-glaze, probably produced at Buckley in
north-east Wales. There were also slipware sherds from plates and
bowls with feather decoration, probably manufactured in the
Stoke area during the late seventeenth or eighteenth centuries.
Nineteenth century material included an almost complete buff
earthen ware
storage jar
found in the
cellar of the
cottage (T3)
and parts of a
blue transfer-print
dinner plate and other
fragments of transfer-
print creamware cups and plates in the farmyard area
A collection of early to mid-twentieth pottery that included a spout from a mid-twentieth
century brown-glazed teapot and white-glazed cups and plates from the farmhouse and
cottage area (T3) probably belong to the period when the Watt family were tenants of
Newton Hall Farm. They may well have graced the Sunday dinner table. Bronze buttons
and glass marbles from this same area also belong to the Watt family era. Material relating
to the farm’s final use as a dairy unit included a complete milk bottle, inscribed
1 PT’. There was also an enamelled metal badge for the ‘Hyde and District Farmers and
Milk Sellers Association’.
It is, though, easy to get carried away with the thoughts of the young Watt children
playing in the farmyard with their toys during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Thus,
a die-cast toy model of an F-84 Thunderstreak aeroplane used in the Korean
war by the USA and found in the spoil heap close to the cottage
might suggest a vivid link with the Cold War and the Watt
children. However, this item was stamped with the brand
Dyna-Flites, one of the lines of the Zee Toys Company of California
manufactured in Hong Kong. This firm manufactured toys
from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. So this item can not be associated with
the Watt family, but was rather, perhaps, lost by
another local child playing in the grounds of the
newly restored Newton Hall.
Finds from the Newton Hall dig. Left to right:
an enamelled plaque, a mid-twentieth century
milk bottle; and a die-cast metal toy plane.
Nineteenth-century documents show that Newton Hall farmhouse and cottage regularly
changed tenants during this period. In the 1841 census the farmhouse was occupied by
George Derbyshire, farmer, and his five children. But there were also three other families
(Charlesworth, Thorpe, and Wilde) giving a total of 20 people living at the farmstead:
Newton Hall Farm was a hamlet. The 1847 tithe map for Newton records that
the farmstead was rented by Henry Lees and Samuel Swire from the landowner, Francis
Duckenfield-Astley, neither of whom occur on the 1851 census. In that year there were
four families once more: the Bayleys, Thorpes, Walkers, and Whittakers (23 people). By
1871 the number of families living at the farm had dropped to three (the Astleys, Willsays,
and Whittakers) and the number of people to 10. Three families, amounting to 13 people,
are also recorded in 1881 (Dobsons, Nobles, and Whittakers).
By 1891 this had dropped to just two
families and seven people. John and
Martha Ashton lived with their
daughter, son, and a servant in the
farmhouse. Rachel Whittaker and her
daughter Ann lived in the cottage, as
they had probably done since c. 1851.
The Whittakers had gone by 1901,
leaving just John and Martha Ashton,
their two children, a servant and a cattle
man. The family were still at Newton
Newton Hall Farmhouse and Cottgae, home of the Watt family from 1918
until 1967
Hall Farm in 1911, although by
1914, according to Kelly’s Directory
of Cheshire, the farm was run by
just Martha Ashton. This directory
also described Newton Hall in that
year as ‘an ancient mansion about
200 yards west from the church,
[that] has been converted into
cottage houses; on a stone over the
porch door is inscribed “H.I.L.
1670”’. These same documents also show that the farm estate was gradually shrinking. In
1847 the farmstead had 128 acres, but by 1881 this had dropped to 82 acres and by the
time the Watt family took over the tenancy in 1918 this had shrunk further to around 40
The life of this final family to live at the farm sheds light on how a small diary
farm functioned on the fringes of large industrial urban area in the mid-twentieth century.
James Watt, his wife Elizabeth, and their two children, Annie and James, moved from
Stronsey in Orkney to the Hyde area in 1902, renting Harbour Farm near Hyde Mill. By
the time the family arrived at Newton Hall Farm there were six children: Annie,
Charlie, Ena, James, Lillian and Margaret. They drove their cattle down from Werneth to
Newton Hall during the move, which was on a misty day, losing two cattle en route for
several days. James and Elizabeth’s youngest children went to the Flowery Field primary
Newton Hall Farmhouse and Cottage in the 1960s
school in Newton, but helped out with the
two milk rounds, as later did the grandchil-
dren, morning and evenings, measuring the
milk into jugs straight from the churn, before
and after school. James senior did the farm
accounts, and quickly became an important
figure in the town, as a Liberal Councillor,
eventually becoming mayor of Hyde in 1938-
9. James’ son, also called James, took on the
tenancy at the end of the Second World War. His family occupied the farmhouse whilst
one of his sisters, Annie and her husband, Jack Chatterton, occupied the cottage until the
whole family moved out in early 1967, when James Watt junior retired.
Two of the grandchildren remembered living at
the farm in the 1930s and 1940s. The farm had
up to 30 cows (milked by a machine), geese, hens,
horses (for the milk floats), and pigs. Charlie
Watt, who was a butcher, took and prepared the
pigs whilst Jack Chatterton, Annie’s husband,
acted as a farmhand. A land girl, Edna Lamb,
provided additional help on the farm during the
early 1940s, and for the first time a tractor was
used. The family were obliged to grow crops by
The younger Watt children playing on the dairy cart in the 1920s
The Watt family in the 1920s
the Ministry of Agriculture - potatoes
and oats - for the war effort. Hands from
the local mills helped with the harvest
during the war, but it was mainly a family
business and there was never much
money to spend on the buildings. The
grandchildren played in the meadows by
Nicholson Road and helped make the hay
stacks. Their friends also helped with the
milking and played around the farm in
the farm buildings, including the old hall
barn and its old timbers, which had hay stacked up to the roof at harvest time.
There was running water and gas in the downstairs of the cottage and farmhouse, but oil
lamps were used in the upstairs bedrooms. There was a flushing toilet behind the cottage
and a tippler toilet behind the farmhouse. Electricity was only installed during the early
1940s and a television for the first time in the 1950s. Family meals were in the living
room, whilst bread, lardy cake, meat, pies, and tripe were cooked in a large range in
the farmhouse kitchen. The kitchen of the cottage was smaller and one corner had been
blocked off to provide a pantry for the farmhouse. The cottage kitchen contained
a set boiler, Belfast stone sink, and a range. There was no bathroom in the cottage so
they used a tin bath in the kitchen, and between times this was stored in the cottage cellar.
The two grandchildren remembered their life on the farm as a wonderfully happy time.
The layout of the farmhouse and cottage during the Watt’s tenancy
An important aspect of the project was the involvement of local school children -
the potential archaeologists and historians of the future. Despite the cold and wet weather
297 children from ten local schools with 40 teachers and helpers, 17 children from the
Young Archaeologist’s Club at Manchester Museum, 17 A-Level students from Oldham
Sixth Form College, seven students from a pupil withdrawal unit with five supervisors,
and seven local scouts enthusiastically helped with the dig in April and May 2012.
Primary school classes visited and explored
Newton Hall from all over Tameside. Before
the dig every class involved in a site visit was
visited by the project’s education archaeologist,
Sarah Cattell. The school children were
introduced to the site and historical maps for
the hall area, told how archaeologists date
finds, and shown the tools used by
During April each class came along to take part in the dig, experiencing the thrill
of excavation, and the more mathematical task of surveying the hall building. The
children followed up their visit with class work around their experiences. Finally, there
was a second visit from the education archaeologist to report on what was found dur-
ing the dig and to hand over a teachers’ pack about the hall. The work of the children was
presented at a special school’s event held at the hall on the 6th July. Each school sent
Colonel Edward Montague’s Regiment of Foot parading at
Newton Hall during the open day
four pupils and gave a five minute presentation about the work they had done
back at school after the dig. This was supported by a display from each class. Bradley
Green Primary School imagined living in Newton Hall and wrote brochures to persuade
people to buy the hall. Broadbent Fold made a miniature model of Newton Hall and pro-
duced their own quiz about its history.
Canon Johnson School made a DVD of
their experiences and produced a
timeline of the halls history. Gorse
Hall Primary performed a medieval
square dance and wrote a series of
poems about the hall’s history. Milton St
Johns created a mosaic of the Hall.
Oakfield School; present a history of
the de Newton family. Finally, Yew
Tree Primary School created a play
about their dig experiences and ran a
dig at their own school.
By the end of the project 126 adult
excavation volunteers, 143 visitors during the excavations, and 397 visitors to the
organised public open days had helped to dig up new material about Newton’s past. Most
agreed that the experience at Newton Hall, through the work of the Tameside
Local History Forum and the University of Salford, had made history come alive.
Some of the creative work generated by the school
children who visited the Newton Hall dig
Pairs of inclined timbers or blades usually curved that rise from
a plinth to meet at the top and support the weight of the roof.
Projecting courses at the foot of a wall or column.
The pair of inclined lateral timbers of a truss which carry the
common rafters and purlins
A horizontal longitudinal timber bracing the roof structure and
supported by the roof trusses
Horizontal member at the bottom of a window, door, or wall-
The main horizontal, transverse, timber which carries the feet
of the principals at wall-plate level.
A main structural component of a roof formed by a horizontal
tie-beam and inclined principle rafters.
A timber wall (either exterior or partition), often standing on a
plinth, comprising sill, posts, rails, and studs.
The timber that lies on top of a wall and supports the rafters.
Alcock N W, 1981, Cruck Construction. The Council for British Archaeology Research report No. 42.
Alcock N W, 2002, ‘The Distribution and Dating of Crucks and Base Crucks’, Vernacular Architecture
33, 67-70.
Burke T & Nevell M, 1996, A History and Archaeology of Tameside. Volume 5: Buildings of Tameside. Tame-
side Metropolitan Borough Council with the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit and the
Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit.
Hartwell C, Hyde M & Pevsner N, 2004, The Buildings of England. Lancashire: Manchester and the South-east.
Yale University Press.
Hartwell C, Hyde M & Pevsner N, 2010, The Buildings of England. Cheshire. Yale University Press.
Middleton T, 1932, The History of Hyde and its Neighbourhood. Hyde.
Nevell M, 1991, A History and Archaeology of Tameside. Volume 2: Medieval Tameside. Tameside Metropoli-
tan Borough Council with the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit.
Nevell M, 2010, The Archaeology of Tameside Volume 8: Newton Hall and the Cruck Buildings of North West
England. University of Salford Archaeological Monographs Volume 1.
All of the historical maps and images used in this booklet can be found at the Tameside Local Studies and Archives
Centre, Ashton Library, Ashton-under-Lyne
A copy of the detailed excavation report, together with the project archive and artefacts, has been deposited with Tameside
Historical images can also be viewed at
Publications in the Greater Manchester’s Past Revealed series are available from GMAAS at the University of
Salford. Other titles in the History and Archaeology of Tameside and the Archaeology of Tameside series
are available from the Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre
The text was prepared by
Design and illustrations by
Produced by
Funded by
Published by
Printed by
Dr Michael Nevell.
Dr Michael Nevell & Brian Grimsditch, CfAA,
University of Salford.
CfAA, University of Salford.
Heritage Lottery Fund.
Centre for Applied Archaeology, University of Salford, 2013.
Acorn Print Media, Loughborough LE11 1LE.
This booklet arose out of a community archaeology project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and
run by the Tameside Local History Forum with the support of the Centre for Applied Archaeology,
University of Salford. The project was supported by many organisations and individuals, but in
particular by Christopher Kenyon, Fresh Fast, Hills Biscuits, and the New Charter Housing Trust.
Thanks also to Steve Swallow of SGS Fire Solutions for the in-depth fire risk assessment of the hall.
The first excavations at Newton Hall were carried out in 2008 by a team from the University
of Manchester Archaeology Unit, led by Brian Grimsditch, as part of the Tameside Archaeological
Survey. The community archaeology excavations undertaken in April and May 2012 were led by staff
from the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University of Salford, once more under the direction
of Brian Grimsditch and with the assistance of Sarah Cattell and Vicky Nash. The open day, school
events, and oral history research were organised by members of the Tameside Local History Forum.
Historical images of Newton Hall have been reproduced through the courtesy of the Tameside
Local Studies Librarian, Alice Lock, and with the permission of Mrs Doreen Bailsford and Mrs Rita
Friday who also passed on their memories of life at the farm in the mid-twentieth century.
This booklet is dedicated to Brian Grimsditch for all his hard work and enthusiasm over the last decade in supporting
and encouraging volunteer participation in rediscovering Tameside’s rich heritage
The home of the Newton family from the
thirteenth century until the early
eighteenth century, Newton Hall is one of
the oldest buildings in North West
England. The surviving timber-framed
cruck structure dates from the late
medieval period, yet this is only a
fragment of a much larger building. Much
of that hall was lost when the estate was
split up and sold. By the early nineteenth
century the site was in use as a farm and
in the 1960s was scheduled for demoli-
tion. Fortunately, the timber hall was
saved and restored, but rest of the
complex has remained hidden. In 2012 a
community archaeology project, led by
the Tameside Local History Forum with
the assistance of the Centre for Applied
Archaeology at the University of Salford,
set out to rediscover the ancient manorial
site. This booklet records the progress of
that project as the twenty-first century
inhabitants of Newton explored the
archaeology of the hall and the history of
some of its occupants.
Front cover: The southern gable of Newton Hall showing the reconstructed cruck truss erected in March 1969.
Back cover: Volunteers excavating the nineteenth century cellar at Newton Hall Cottage in May 2012.
ISBN 978-0-9565947-5-4
ebook version
© CfAA, University of Salford 2013
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
  • Cruck Construction. The Council for British Archaeology Research report No
    • N Alcock
    Alcock N W, 1981, Cruck Construction. The Council for British Archaeology Research report No. 42.
  • A History and Archaeology of Tameside
    • T Burke
    • M Nevell
    Burke T & Nevell M, 1996, A History and Archaeology of Tameside. Volume 5: Buildings of Tameside. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council with the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit and the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit.
  • The Buildings of England. Lancashire: Manchester and the South-east
    • C Hartwell
    • M Hyde
    • N Pevsner
    Hartwell C, Hyde M & Pevsner N, 2004, The Buildings of England. Lancashire: Manchester and the South-east. Yale University Press.
  • The History of Hyde and its Neighbourhood
    • T Middleton
    Middleton T, 1932, The History of Hyde and its Neighbourhood. Hyde.
  • The Archaeology of Tameside
    • M Nevell
    Nevell M, 2010, The Archaeology of Tameside Volume 8: Newton Hall and the Cruck Buildings of North West England. University of Salford Archaeological Monographs Volume 1.
  • Buildings of Tameside. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council with the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit and the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit
    • T Burke
    • M Nevell
    Burke T & Nevell M, 1996, A History and Archaeology of Tameside. Volume 5: Buildings of Tameside. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council with the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit and the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit.
  • Medieval Tameside. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council with the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit
    • M Nevell
    • History
    • Archaeology Of Tameside
    Nevell M, 1991, A History and Archaeology of Tameside. Volume 2: Medieval Tameside. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council with the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit.