Jonathan Schofield on some good news from Salford

‘I made a commitment to the city, our residents and communities at the last mayoral election to bring Buile Hill mansion back into community use and it is fantastic news that the planning panel has now approved our ambitious and exciting plans’, Salford Mayor, Paul Dennett says. 

Dennett was urged on this course through the indefatigable Buile Hill Mansion Association. Well done to them.

It’s taken 23 long years to get to this point but Dennett deserves credit for identifying the house at Buile Hill as a problem with immense potential if brought back to active life. He was urged on this course through the indefatigable efforts of the volunteer Buile Hill Mansion Association. Well done to them.  

The way councils across the country let their parks and gardens become rundown over the last thirty years was always one of the more depressing outcomes of late twentieth century municipal decline. Buildings within parks were particularly badly treated especially if they were large: just take a look over the Salford boundary at Heaton Hall in Heaton Park and here at Buile Hill. 

2023 09 27 Salford Mayor Paul Dennett At Buile Hill
Salford Mayor Paul Dennett either cycled to Buile Hill or maybe he always wears a bike helmet Image: Paul Dennett's twitter
2023 09 27 Buile Hill Mansion Restoration 4
Boarded up and bashed about: Buile Hill mansion at present Image: Confidentials

The citation in The Buildings of England series of guides tells us all we need to know of the importance of Buile Hill mansion: ‘Built for Thomas Potter (later the first Mayor of Manchester, in 1827-7 by Charles Barry; additions of the 1860s by Edward Walters.’ 

Not a bad trinity that. Social reformer Thomas Potter was the first mayor of Manchester from 1838 but also a chief sponsor of the Manchester Guardian which started life in 1821. 

Charles Barry was one of the great nineteenth century architects responsible for Manchester Art Gallery, The Athenaeum and Stand parish church in Greater Manchester along with the Houses of Parliament and many other mighty buildings across the country.   

Edward Walters was the architect who gave Manchester the Free Trade Hall (now the Edwardian Hotel) and many of the city’s landmark warehouses and banks. 

Buile Hill Mansion and park were purchased by Salford Corporation in 1902. The house became a natural history museum, then a mining museum but was shuttered up in 2000. 

2023 09 27 Buile Hill Mansion Restoration 5
The Buile Hill mansion in its public park heyday Image: Buile Hill Mansion Association

So, what’s going to happening? 

Salford City Council say: ‘The historic mansion will now be restored and will accommodate the council's registry services as well as community space including a mixed use café bar and wedding venue and function room.

‘Disabled access ramps will be installed along with a lift, an external enclosed staircase, and disabled access ramps, making Buile Hill Mansion accessible for all residents and our communities in Salford.

‘The Buile Hill depot outbuildings, with the exception of the derelict greenhouse, will be demolished and a new car park created, with landscaping.

‘The Council has agreed that the group campaigning for the refurbishment of the greenhouse will be given the opportunity to formally present its business case for the restoration to the Council within the next three months. If successful they will be given more time to develop and deliver the project.’ 

These are the figures: 8,000 sq ft wedding and events venue; 3,000 sq ft of offices for the registry service; a 2,000 sq ft café and bar. 

2023 09 27 Buile Hill Caernarfon Castle Restoration
Buttress Architects awardwinning Caernarfon Castle work Image: CADW

More good news comes with regard to the architects, Ancoats-based Buttress Architects. These restoration specialists will be a safe pair of hands for the building with their careful and considered approach to restoration: one spectacularly successful example of their restoration and refurbishment work is Caernarfon Castle in North Wales. 

Grant Prescott, associate at Buttress, says: “We cannot wait to start work on site and return Buile Hill Mansion back into use so that all people will be able to enjoy this wonderful building for many more years.

“For architects, it’s an interesting building to work on as it was originally designed by architect Charles Barry who was renowned for the designs of the Palace of Westminster and Manchester Art Gallery. We also understand the importance of the mansion and the surrounding park to the people of Salford and bringing it back into use will be particularly rewarding.”

The restoration is expected to take twelve months. 

After the mansion is back in working order perhaps there could be more effort across the park generally. A great asset of Buile Hill park is its airy and elevated location, the views south could be spectacular towards the Quays with the judicious removal of some of the trees, mostly self-seeded. The loss of those trees could be compensated with more trees planted in other areas of the park. 

If you like this story you might like: 

The story of Manchester architecture part one: Beginnings

The story of Manchester architecture part two: The Battle of the Styles

Aviva Studios must not be another Urbis

Get the latest news to your inbox

Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!