Buckley Hall (Abney grounds)

Anyone who has walked around Abney Hall Park over the past couple of years may have seen the odd archaeologist busily digging away searching for remnants of the park's past. What they have been looking for in particular is the remains of Buckley Hall (also known as Buckley Chapel), which stood close to Abney Hall until it was demolished in the early 1960s. It's a building which had a unique and very interesting history and which older members of the community may recall themselves. While Abney Hall itself was built in the late 1840s, under the direction of Manchester businessman Sir James Watts, who became its first occupant, Buckley Hall was erected later in the century by Sir James Watts's son, also called James, who was a close friend of the well-known Didsbury based diarist of the era, Fletcher Moss. What is extraordinary though is that the hall was originally built a few hundred years earlier, close to the village of Milnrow, in Rochdale, about 15 miles from Cheadle, and was used as a private chapel. But towards the end of the 19th Century, the owners were finding it so expensive to maintain, they began preparing to have it demolished and have the land redeveloped for other purposes. When James Watts heard of this, and once the demolition had taken place, he made the effort to save as many of the old stones and other remnants of the building as possible with the intention of reconstructing them around the existing barn which stood close to Abney Hall. The key factor for him taking such a monumental decision was for sentimental reasons as the original building was a special place for his mother, Margaret Anne Buckley, as it was adjacent to the hall where she grew up. The move took place sometime during the 1890s, but it is not clear whether it was done by rail or by horse and cart. What is known is that a large number of stones and other vital components of the building were all individually numbered in advance so they could be repositioned exactly according to the plans in their new location. It was recorded that some Cheadle residents at the time were against the idea of the new chapel being rebuilt here as they said it was inappropriate to rebuild an old hall in the grounds of a fine "modern" mansion (Abney Hall), as modern building design and practices were, by then, so much more advanced. Similarly, as it was going to be expensive to maintain the old building in its original location, it would be just as costly in the grounds of Abney Hall Park. Undeterred, James Watts put his considerable fortune into the venture and as there was no need for planning permission in those days and as the Abney estate was privately owned, the views of local residents were not taken into consideration. Fletcher Moss later wrote that James Watts renovated it with oak beams and fittings and filled it with old oak furniture. He also added a stone window and doorway from the old Collegiate Church​