Damhouse or Astley Hall is a Grade II* listed building in Tyldesley but considered to be in Astley, Greater Manchester, England. It has served as a manor house, sanatorium, and since restoration in 2000, houses offices, a clinic and tearooms.
Adam Mort bought Astley Hall and the 60-acre (24 ha) estate in 1595 and bought the manorial rights in 1606. Mort was a wealthy man, and replaced the old hall with Damhouse. After his death Damhouse had a succession of owners. The last resident, Henry Augustus Wetherall, was in financial difficulty and sold the house in November 1889.
From medieval times Astley Hall, the manor house for the lords of the manors of Astley and Tyldesley, was on the site now occupied by Damhouse. It stands just inside the Tyldesley boundary with Astley. Hugh Tyldesley was the first recorded occupant of Astley Hall in 1212. He was succeeded by his son Henry. The manors were separated after the death of Hugh’s grandson, Henry, in 1301 and Astley Hall became the manor house for Astley.
In 1345 Richard Radcliff took possession of the hall and became lord of the manor in 1353. The Radcliffes remained in possession until the failure of the male line with William Radcliff’s death in 1561 and his half sister Ann Radcliff inherited. Ann’s husband, Gilbert Gerard, became lord of the manor. He was attorney general to Queen Elizabeth I and knighted in 1579. His son, Thomas Gerard, inherited the house and mortgaged it to James Anderton of Lostock.
Adam Mort bought the hall and 60-acre (24 ha) estate in 1595, and the manorial rights in 1606. Mort was a wealthy man and built Damhouse. He also built Astley Chapel, the first chapel of ease to Leigh Parish Church and Morts Grammar School, Astley’s first school. Adam Mort died in 1631 and was succeeded by his son Thomas who lived at Peel Hall in Little Hulton. Thomas’s son, Adam, inherited Damhouse whilst a minor in 1638. The inscription over the lintel reads, “Erected by Adam Mort and Margret Mort 1650”.
Adam died in 1658 leaving the property to his son Thomas who was four years old. Thomas died unmarried in 1733. The property was bought by Thomas Sutton, a distant cousin in 1734. After Sutton’s death in 1752 his cousin, Thomas Froggatt inherited the estate which was in turn left to his son, Thomas. After 1799 the house was occupied by tenants including George Ormerod who had inherited the Banks Estate from his uncle Thomas Johnson in Tyldesley.
Thomas Froggat’s granddaughter Sarah, married twice. By her first husband John Adam Durie, she had a daughter Katherine. Her second husband was Malcolm Nugent Ross who she married in 1844. Ross leased the coal rights under the estate to Astley and Tyldesley Collieries in 1857. Katherine Durie became lady of the manor on the death of her mother in 1860, by which time the estate was in decline. Katharine married Henry Davenport who died in 1845, and then Sir Edward Wetherall. In 1856 he was living at Damhouse. After his death in 1869 he was succeeded by George Nugent Ross Wetherall, and then by his brother Henry Augustus Wetherall, who was in financial difficulty. The house was sold in November 1889 and remained empty until 1893, when it was sold to Leigh Council for use as a sanatorium for treating infectious diseases. Four isolation wards were built to house patients with scarlet and typhoid fevers, and the house was used as offices and a nurses’ home.
The earlier building on the site was a stone and timber hall close to a large barn and corn mill powered by a water wheel. The house gets its name from the dam on the brook that was built to power the wheel. The manor house Adam Mort built, dating from around 1600, is described in his will; he died in 1631. The house had a kitchen, parlour with a parlour chamber over it, bed chamber, little chamber, buttery, dairy, loft and clock loft with a bell. The house may also have had a chapel. Outside there were stables, pig sties and a ruined stone and timber barn. The three-storey building was built of handmade bricks with a timber frame. A timber lintel over an inglenook fireplace has been dated to before 1600.
Much of this building survives, although Mort’s grandson altered the frontage in 1650 as evidenced by a plaque over the door. Considerable additions were made in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the two-storey east wing was built for the Froggatts. It contains a large first-floor billiard room with four decorative gothic roof trusses. A single-storey north wing with a two-storey coach house was added before 1845 and a single-storey west wing added some time after 1845, when the house was restored by Sarah and Malcolm Ross.
The house, built around a quadrangle that is open at the south-west corner, is built of rendered brick with stone details and a slate roof. The three-storey frontage has five unequal bays with stone mullioned windows and crosswing gables. There are canted three-storey bay windows in two of the crosswings. The central three-storey porch bay has a studded oak door with Doric columns, pediment and a fanlight. The frontage is largely as built but the plaque over the door is a 20th-century replacement. The east wing dating from the early 19th century is of rendered brick and has four-bays which included a chapel on the first floor. The north and west extensions are built of brick.
Restoration in 1999–2000 uncovered a “short” long gallery in the attic, 64 feet (20 m) in length. It had been sub-divided, and is the only known example in North West England.
Astley Hospital closed in 1994, and Morts Astley Heritage Group was founded with the aim of saving the listed building. After fundraising and acquiring grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Rechar and other organisations the group bought the house and surrounding woodland to preserve it. Damhouse was renovated by 2000, and space within the property rented to the local clinic and various businesses. On site is a tea room, and a conference room and community room are available to hire.
The house is set in an area of woodland, and there is a pond with accessible footpath.