Agecroft Hall, a home that's forever Lancashire

PUBLISHED: 23:13 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:37 20 February 2013

The house today, pictured from the sunken garden

The house today, pictured from the sunken garden

Eighty years ago one of our ancient houses was packed up and shipped thousands of miles across the Atlantic. Roger Borrell tell the extraordinary story

IT is the quintessential English historic home and Lancastrian from its delicate leaded windows right up to its ornate Tudor chimney pots. But if you wanted to visit Agecroft Hall, a National Trust card would be useless - you need to travel more than 3,500 miles to sample its delights.

In an extraordinary feat of engineering, this lovely landmark was dismantled, brick by brick, and transported by ship to a new site in Richmond, Virginia. Once, it overlooked the Irwell at Pendlebury - today it stands on a very similar site but the river is called the James, which spectacularly cuts through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Agecroft was completed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth although there was a house on the site in much earlier times. It stood proud for four centuries and, while beetles couldn't destroy the oak beams, its deadliest enemy was man.

Industrialisation swept through the Irwell valley. Coal pits were opened all around the house and railway lines cut across the manor with little regard for the inconveniently placed house.

Debris discoloured the walls and an abandoned mine created a filthy lake on the edge of the estate. Fires plagued the neglected structure and by 1923 it seemed that time was up for Agecroft. Demolition looked inevitable.

It was 80 years ago that a philanthropic American couple called Williams saw the house and decided to save it. They bought the building and the most historic and valuable parts were taken apart and shipped to Richmond for rebuilding in an area called Windsor Farms.

They took the finest 15th and 16th Century elements of the manor house and put them together in a single fine facade. The result was architecturally consistent and structurally impressive.

The loss of Agecroft provoked anger in England and the subject was even debated in the House of Commons.But, in the end, the argument put forward by the Manchester Guardian prevailed. It said Agecroft Hall was too much of 'a jewel to leave in that ruined landscape.' How right they were.

Now, each year around 15,000 visitors are able to stroll through its impressive rooms and beautiful grounds to enjoy this little piece of Lancashire.

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