A Brief History

Gorsey Clough can trace its history as far back as the late 18th century when a map of the local area showed Gorsey Clough along with other properties and names that are still familiar to this day.

Gorsey Clough was originally a farmhouse. Its early history is a little sketchy but a local history publication mentions a man named Michael Howard who lived at Gorsey Clough and along with other locals marched to Manchester to demand better economic conditions for themselves and their families.

It briefly describes Michael and five other Tottington residents being involved in what was to be known as the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.

Gorsey Clough was the home of Mrs “Granny” Clewes. At 97, she was Tottington’s oldest inhabitant and regarded as one of the Village’s most colourful characters.

The old farmhouse was demolished in 1893 and rebuilt with the building that still stands to this day. It was first home to a local businessman called John Rothwell (a master bleacher) and his family but their time living at Gorsey Clough was overshadowed by a family tragedy that took place in the house. On the morning of the 2nd June 1897, John’s son, Lionel Rothwell (a keen marksman) was unloading his new rifle in the kitchen when he accidentally pulled the trigger and a bullet ricocheted off the floor and fatally wounded his older sister.

In 1928, a local industrialist called Harold Hardman and his wife moved into the property. Harold was the Managing Director and Chairman of the Bury firm and woollen and mechanical cloth manufacturers Thomas Hardman and Sons Limited of Fernhill Mills, Bury.

In his younger days, Harold was a well-known amateur footballer. His wife was a staunch supporter of St. Anne’s Church in Tottington and an official of the Tottington Ladies’ Lifeboat Guild.

A major point in the history of Gorsey Clough came when World War 2 broke out and the proceeding war years when it was home to three Manchester evacuees and significantly, a young girl called Sylvia Fairhurst.

As Sylvia recollects in her book ‘Time to Stand and Stare: A Manchester Evacuee remembers Tottington’ that describes her experiences living at Gorsey Clough:

We gasped when we first saw the long drive, the nursery, orchard, pond tennis lawn, greenhouses, and the ‘palace’ itself… it was the biggest house I had ever seen… especially coming from an area like Bradford in Manchester.

We were introduced Joan, the young maid and to Jock, a white Sealyham dog, and Nick, a tan Airedale that both belonged to the owners of the house, Mr and Mrs Hardman.

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We lived in the staff quarters… and would hear the bell summon the maid… it took us a long time to realise that the device on the wall told the maid which room she was summoned to. A glass-covered panel on the wall had two rows of room names, each with a round opening beneath it. With a click, a disc dropped to conceal that room name’s opening.

We had a bathroom, there were radiators, and when Joan pulled a cord, the heavy velvet curtains glided together silently, as if by magic. I have to say that in our part of Manchester things were far from grand. Our home had one cold tap over a sink where we washed ourselves, the pots, the clothes, and anything else that needed it; a black-leaded grate and one gas ring. We had just recently got an electric light downstairs but we had no plugs.

Mrs. Hardman did her best to show us the fun of living in the country. I remember haymaking at the local farm in the summer… and seeing a frog for the first time. Until then a frog had been a dear little storybook creature, which could speak and usually turned into a prince. Now there were frogs everywhere!

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Each day on our way to school, Mr. Brooks, the Head Gardener would be waiting by the greenhouse to give us little parcels prepared for us to open at playtime. They contained a sample of anything that was ready in the garden that morning at Gorsey Clough. Depending on the season, we had raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries; red, white or black currents, an apples, plums, or some carrot, swede or turnip; a chunk of cabbage or cauliflower, pods of peas or broad beans – the choice was endless, and this treat was ours every school day for four years.

As we lived a long way from the village, we had to enjoy life up at Gorsey Clough. Along the corridor from our bedroom was a lofty, whitewashed workroom with a sisal mat down the centre and a long carpenter’s bench, complete with vice, against one wall. This was now our playroom. It had its share of animal head trophies round the walls and there was a fascinating structure against one wall like a tree–sided pyramid of tiny step, which we would try to climb which was in fact a chimney. On the wall above, it was the most fearsome trophy yet: the skull and backbone of a tiger!

When we came in from school one day, there was unexpected activity. Mr and Mrs Hardman were there, the mat was rolled back, and a trap door open. The rat-catcher had been called because of noises heard by Mr. Hardman in his study below. We saw his dog catch the intruder!

A flight of stairs in the corner of our playroom led down to the outside. A barn door opened on to the courtyard where pigeons came down. Mr Brooks did everything possible throughout our stay to show us how much there was to enjoy here in the country.

One of the first things was to show us the pigeon loft. Along one side of the courtyard were what had been the stables. To get to the loft, we had to climb some ladders.

The gardens were always ours to explore and enjoy, except for those as the front of the house, which consisted of the rose garden, the lawn with its ornamental flowerbeds, and the nursery, which was along the drive and had a sundial.

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A low parapet wall separated the side of the house and front gardens, which were on level ground, from the valley or clough which formed the gardens beyond. Further on were fields where the clough became deeper and on its slopes the gorse, which gave the house its name, grew freely.

We reached the gardens by crossing the courtyard at the back of the house. A large, enclosed vegetable garden was there with a small bright green square of chives, salad vegetables, peas, and beans on trellises, onions, and horseradish.

In the greenhouse were tomatoes in their season and all kinds of flowers. Beyond the greenhouse was a crab apple tree. Going down the left path into the bigger garden, we passed beds of lupins, grandmother’s bonnets, and other colourful flowers to reach gooseberry bushes and raspberry canes. The right hand path led to the rockery and above it was the flat area of the tennis lawn. The path went on down the rockery and the orchard was there, with a single pear tree at its entrance, then lots of apple trees, a plum and a cherry tree.

Right at the end of the garden, out of sight of the house, was a small pond where we watched water-skaters and dragonflies in their season. The path led up steps to the highest boundary of the garden and up there were the potatoes, carrots, turnips, swedes and also the strawberry furrows. There was a kind of wooden pulpit up there too where we could play and look at the view. Mr. Hardman contributed to the war effort from there, keeping a routine evening watch on the skies with his binoculars.

Mr. Brooks the gardener played an important role at Gorsey Clough. He worked in the garden every day and would bring buckets of water from the well to replenish the supply of drinking water in the big stone jar in the kitchen. He even once had a column in the Bury Times – a column for ramblers.

During the summer, a net was put up on the lawn for us to try to play our version of tennis. Summer also meant days of coming home from school to find the warm smell of jamming in the kitchen, big pans bubbling and rows of jars to be filled and labelled, ready to be stacked in the cupboard to supply us for the year. Appes galore stood on racks in a garden storeroom.

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The cold of winter meant we got our clogs and the time for pixie hoods and long black stockings.
Christmas was a time of great festivity with all that children could wish for. The first Christmas, a small local band woke us. We looked down from our bedroom window as they played carols outside the house. That same year, Father Christmas came up to our room and talked to us and even brought presents.

We did have an air raid shelter at Gorsey Clough. It was across the courtyard, next to the garage, under the field. It had a two-foot covering of concrete. Inside it was a room with two beds for the Hardmans and bunk beds for the rest of us. There was a box of emergency food, which included a giant-sized tin of fruit salad. Most impressive was a big, very strange machine, dark green metal with handles, levers, and pipes. This was an air purifier, we were told.

In one corner was a door giving access to a small room with a grand-looking chair with a decorative wicker seat. This was a commode. By standing on this when it was closed, we could reach a small door in the wall which was an emergency exit to the garage.

Although my years at Gorsey Clough happened only through war, they were an unforgettable experience.

Mr and Mrs Hardman both died within a few weeks of each other in 1958 and shortly afterwards the house was put up for auction, along with all its contents.

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The house was again put up for auction in 1969. By then, the well had been boarded up, its drinking water declared unfit to drink. What was once the nursery was now a forest of mature trees. The stables had been refurbished and the orchard was now a solitary pear tree.

The last family to live at Gorsey Clough were the Storer family. John Storer was a local Surveyor and along with his wife Janet and their two children called it home until 1985 when it was turned into a care home, which it still is to this day.