The Adlington Hall Estate, whose center is Grade I listed, is on the market for the first time in nearly three-quarters of a millennium. Penny Churchill takes a look at a magnificent place that isn’t so much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Coming to market for the first time in 700 years is one of Cheshire’s great estates, the 1,921-acre Adlington Hall estate, which is located five miles east of Wilmslow, seven miles north of Macclesfield and 16 miles south of Manchester. At its heart is Grade I listed Adlington Hall, a quadrangular building set around a central courtyard.
Built on the site of a Saxon hunting lodge, it has been the seat of the Legh family since 1315.
The historic estate, comprising six leased farms, 22 other houses and cabins, plus several ancillary buildings and parcels of land, is for sale through Savills and Mark Wiggin, at a list price of £30m — a huge amount, and in recognition of the fact that not everyone would want to take it all in, the sellers are willing to split it into 25 lots.
The first of three articles in Country Life (November 28, December 5 and 12, 1952) traces the history of Adlington Hall, from ‘Saxon hunting long gone; Tudor reconstruction in two stages; Restoration of Carolina after the Civil War; [and] Georgian additions that completed the ring, to modern demolitions that have made the house more manageable in these increasingly difficult times.”
Adlington is mentioned in the Domesday survey as Edulvinstane, owned before the conquest by the Saxon Earl Edwin and later by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester and nephew of William the Conqueror, who inherited the family passion for hunting. In those days, the estate was located within Macclesfield Royal Forest, a famous hunting ground that, in its heyday, stretched from Macclesfield to Mersey.
On Lupus’s death the lordship reverted to the Crown, and in the early 13th century it was granted to the Norman family of De Corona, four generations of whom lived in Adlington. The last member of the family to own it was Thomas de Corona who, having no heir, gave the mansion to her sister, Ellen, and her husband, John de Legh. There have been Leghs in Adlington ever since.
In the late 15th century, the Adlington hunting lodge was replaced by the original Adlington Hall, built by Thomas de Legh between 1480 and 1505. The next stage in the house’s development was undertaken by Thomas’s great-grandson, also Thomas, who was High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1588.
By 1581, he had refurbished the hall, added the porch, and built the series of black-and-white half-timbered buildings that fill part of the north side and all of the east side of the hall. The west side of the quadrangle was probably left open, while to the south there would have been a separate gatehouse with a bridge over the moat that once surrounded the entire house.
During the Civil War, Adlington was held for the crown by Thomas’s grandson, Colonel Thomas Legh, and was twice besieged by Parliamentarian forces. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Colonel Thomas Legh the Younger, whose estates were confiscated after the Civil War but finally returned to him in 1656.
After two sieges and several years of neglect, the house was in dire need of repair and the restoration that followed included the addition of the present north front of the house, which dates from around 1660.
Col Legh died in 1689 and was succeeded by his eldest son, another Thomas, whose reign at Adlington was short. According to a diary kept at nearby Tabley House, Knutsford, on 6 April 1691: ‘Col Legh, of Adlington, lying on a railing at Adlington, which as it broke fell, broke his neck and died.’
He was followed by his eldest surviving son, John, who made considerable alterations to the hall’s interior, though it was his only son, Charles, who was responsible for Adlington’s next and greatest transformation.
Charles inherited the estate on his father’s death in 1739 and, within a few years, embarked on major improvements to and around the house. He began by filling in the open west side of the quadrangle with a wing containing a staircase, dining room, drawing room, library, and ballroom, which was completed around 1749.
He then replaced the buildings on the south side of the quadrangle with a range connecting his new west wing with the old east wing. Bays projected at both ends of the south front, demolished in 1929 when the size of the house was greatly reduced.
In enlarging the house, Legh also built the Grade II* listed stable yard to the east of the hall and extensively redeveloped the park and gardens, also Grade II* listed, creating a formal water garden to the north and a pleasure park . known as The Wilderness around the River Dean, which meanders through the property from north to south.
A wonderful example of a woodland garden with a number of follies, showy and many specimen trees, The Wilderness is entered through gates dating from 1688, which lead to the Dutch Lime Walk planted to commemorate the accession to the throne of William of Orange and Queen Mary.
For sale at a guide price of £12.5m, Lot 1 comprises the south side and the Georgian part of the hall, which has been used as a private family home in recent years. The east side of the 20,000-square-foot building includes the estate’s office, kitchen, and chapel, while the north section houses the magnificent Tudor Great Hall with its organ, forever associated with Legh’s friend Handel, and some one of the oldest and most important rooms in Adlington Hall. predominantly used in recent years for weddings and other events.
Lot 1 also includes the North and East Cottages, 10 period mews houses in the former stable yard (currently rented on short secured leases), along with Adlington’s Park, Gardens and The Wilderness, some 160 acres in total .
Alex Lawson of Savills comments: “What is significant about the sale of the Adlington Estate is that it is a complete country estate with royal historical provenance, including an important Grade I listed hall that has been in the same family for 700 years. This is doubly rare in Cheshire, where nothing of similar scale has been seen on the market in decades. In fact, to our records only one farm of over 1,000 acres has been seen on the open market since 1995.’
Catch up on the best country houses for sale this week that have hit the market via Country Life.