The Tattons of Wythenshawe


HAMON de Mascy (the 'Hamo' in the Domesday entry and the 'Massey' in Dunham Massey) gave Northenden church in 1119 to the Abbey of St Werburgh, the abbot becoming lord of the manor of Northenden. The Masseys were rewarded in 1270 with the lease back of half the manor of Northenden. This was possibly the area around Wythenshawe Hall as there has been a Massie's field recorded nearby from the time of the earliest maps. Meanwhile the Tatton family, who were destined to oversee most of Wythenshawe down to the present century, were established in the manor of Tatton.

The Tatton family preserved an unbroken line as owners of the large estate in Wythenshawe from the fourteenth till the twentieth centuries, finally selling their property to make space for new homes for the people of Manchester.

The Tattons added to their fortunes over the years through carefully placed marriages into other notable families. They also owned Northenden Mill and had ferry rights across the Mersey.  The twin manors of Tatton passed through an heiress to Sir Richard Massey in 1286 and very soon afterwards we have the first record of the Tattons at Kenworthy in Northenden.

Established in the manor of Tatton, they were destined to oversee most of Wythenshawe from the 13th down to the 20th century. In Anglo-Saxon times, an adventurous villager named Tata left his home in Rostherne to set up Tata's tun, hence Tatton, on the site of the present Old Hall at Tatton Park. After Domesday the manor was left partly under the control of Order of St John of Jerusalem. As the knights of this order had links with both the Tattons and the Crusades, this might explain the presence of the Middle-Eastern variety of autumn crocus whose display in Ford Lane is one of the finest in the country. The twin manors of Tatton were passed through an heiress to Sir Richard Massey in 1286; by what course we do not know, but very soon afterwards, in 1297, we have the first record of the Tattons at Kenworthy in Northenden.

The first mention of the name Wythenshawe is in a charter of 1316 when Thomas de Mascy of Wythenschawe granted land to his son and to his neighbour Sir William Baggelegh. The land passed to the Tattons by the presumed marriage of heiress Alice Massey to Robert Tatton in 1370. Beginning with Nicholas as Baron of the Exchequer of Chester in 1451, through a well placed in-law, the Tattons began to be the regular holders of the office of sheriff of Chester . Later they acquired, usually by marriage, much of the manors of Baguley and Etchells and, for a quarter of a century after 1780, their old homestead, Tatton Hall.

We know nothing of the first Wythenshawe Hall, but we do know from a footnote to a deed that Robert Tatton rebuilt most of it after a fire in the 1530s (hence the moat discovered in the 1953 renovations). The new hall, of timber frame, consisted of the square hall with a passage on the north side. On the opposite end was the kitchen with a solar above to which the lord and his wife would retire. Originally the front was on the west where a studded oak door remains. Outside were other kitchens, dairies, a brewhouse, gatehouse and moat. A chapel was added to the north and in Queen Elizabeth's time the west was rebuilt in brick. A Bacchus-like figure and a workman’s gralfiti dating from these early alterations remained hidden till the 1980s. Over the next three hundred years a library, billiards room, smoking room and a tenants' hall spread to the north; guests and servants' quarters were built to the south and over existing rooms. A coating of stucco helped to give it a unified appearance - and dry rot.

Baguley also changed hands by marriage, initially in this case in the 13th century, passing from the Masseys to the Baguleys, whose money came from salt mines. Sir William Baguley was granted Ryle Thorn (Royal Thorn) and Alveley Hey (Haveley Hey) by the de Stokeport family (who held the Baronacy of Stockport) and around 1320 built Baguley Hall. Probably the finest medieval hall in the area, it is built in the Viking style of an upturned boat of heavy planks. To the original central hall, with a passage to the north, a later medieval wing was added, later refaced in brick, and a wing to the south in Georgian times. The manor passed through the marriage of Isabel Baguley to the Leghs of Booths, near Knutsford, in 1355. At the end of the 17th century, after the death of the last of the Leghs in 1691, it passed through the hands of Aliens, Jacksons and Masseys before becoming part of the Tattons' estates in the mid-18th century and being leased out as a farmhouse until 1931.

It was a tennis ball that helped shape the story of Etchells. The name Etchells means 'extra cleared land' - the part of Wythenshawe that is today east of Baguley Brook, the line of the M56. After 1086 it was split along the old hundred boundary marked by Gatley Brook (later moved west to the boundary between Baguley and Northenden). The halves were held at times by the Stokeports and the Ardernes, who built Peel Hall. Later it was held by the Stanleys until in 1508 John Stanley, the sole heir, was killed by a tennis ball. Because there were no rightful claimants the land was acquired by the crown, under feudal law, in an early version of '. . . in the interests of national security'. The Tattons were a suitably righteous and loyal family and in 1556 Etchells was sold to William Tatton who already had bought Ryle Thorn. So by the 1560s the Tattons owned Northenden and Northen Etchells and, being sufficiently landed, they became, after some dispute, full lords of the manor. Their stewards held manorial courts from 1580. Peel Hall (a peele being a small castle) was used as the Tatton dower house, although in 1578 Dorothy Tatton, widow of Robert Tatton, was installed at Northenden Rectory because Peel Hall ... 'is not sufficiently buylded for her to dwell'. The stone bridge that crossed the moat alone remains and Peel Hall Farm, which replaced the hall in the 18th century, has itself now been demolished.

Robert Henry Grenville Tatton inherited the estate in 1924. At this time Manchester Corporation were in need of land for housing for ‘The Garden City’ and RHG Tatton yielded to pressure, selling the land.

Wythenshawe Hall and 250 acres of land were bought by Lord and Lady Simon in 1926 who immediately donated them to the City of Manchester  - "to be kept for ever as an open space for the people of Manchester .”

In 1926 the Council acquired the whole of the Tatton Estate of 2,569 acres for £205,520.

Shortly after Wythenshawe was sold, Robert’s eldest son, William Grey, died at Eton on 25th February 1926, aged 14. He had only started at the school the previous September; he died of an illness which lasted 5 days. Robert’s younger son subsequently died on the HMS Prince of Wales in 1941, aged 19, leaving him without an heir. After the war, the Tattons moved to Kent, where Robert died in 1962.