Ghosts on the move: transporting a haunted house from Lostock to Bostock
PUBLISHED: 11:11 19 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:32 19 October 2020
Moving house takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to 17th century Platts Hall, which was moved, every brick and beam, to save it from decay
Platt Hall was built, it is believed, in 1631, when Charles I sat on the throne of England and Puritans from across the nation were fleeing to our American colonies. It’s likely that there was a building there prior to the existing form, however, as there’s a rumour that Elizabeth I stayed here during her reign, some 50 years earlier. By the start of the 20th century Platt Hall had fallen on hard times. In 1897 the land was sold to Bowman, Thompson and Co. Ltd, who built an ammonia-soda plant there, which they then sold to Brunner Mond in 1901. Photos taken of the Hall from that period show a melancholy view of a once beautiful wood framed building dwarfed by a huge chemical plant. The Hall was given various purposes during its time with Brunner Mond (now Tata Chemicals) including office space and accommodation for graduates on the management training ladder. In 1998, PJ Livesey, the developers who have built their business and reputation on the restoration and resuscitation of listed buildings, took on the redevelopment of Bostock Hall, another of Cheshire’s glories gradually disintegrating, and at the same time (with the help of the archealogy department at Lancaster University) dismantled, restored and rebuilt Platt Hall, now renamed Platts Hall, in the grounds.
Lucie and Vinny Riley moved into Platts Hall in February 2020, mere weeks before lockdown commenced. Luckily, they had already made plans for certain changes, which were put in place before the doors all shut for seven weeks.
“We loved it the moment we saw it,” Lucie tells me as she greets us at her front door. “Our son, Beau, was fascinated by the work that had been done - coincidentally by a team from Lancaster University, where our daughter Olivia is a student. The owners had a couple of offers but sold to us as we had researched the place and it’s history, and Beau had found BBC news footage about the Hall and showed them. They said they wanted to sell to a family that would cherish it and bring it to life. The black and white timbered part is the original 17th century building and the rest was built when the Hall was moved here. It reflects an extension to the Hall that was built at a later time, in Lostock, but wasn’t suitable to be restored and moved here.”
As she talks she guides us into the garden, where we can see the original hall in all its glory, with the black timbers and white painted plaster looking as smart and crisp as it must have looked over 300 years ago. There’s a carved wooden plaque in the centre of the back wall, with the initials TNM and PH carved upon it. There is no recorded history that Lucie has been able to find that might explain these initials however, much to her frustration. If only walls could talk...
At Platts Hall, the walls do talk, in fact, a little, but it’s a language only a few can hear.
“We have ghosts,” Lucie says, quite matter-of-factly. “There’s never been a moment of disquiet or sense of negativity, though. After our first experience I kindly asked them to respect our home and the people who live in it now, and things are pretty quiet.”
Ghosts? Plural? (As if one weren’t enough.)
“Oh yes. The day we took ownership I left Beau here to meet the WiFi and Sky people to have the lines connected and not long after he called me in a panic, insisting I come back. He had been walking from the kitchen to the dining room and felt something rush past him, then heard children giggling. The first time he just dismissed it, but then whoever it was ran back the other way, laughing again, and he fled the house! During lockdown Olivia was in a Zoom meeting and her colleagues asked who the man was who had just walked behind her, but of course nobody had.”
I start to feel a little creeped out, the sensation isn’t helped when Lucie tells me of watching a drawer of cups open and tip its contents on the floor. Luckily Vinny, standing opposite me in the kitchen, rolls his eyes and laughs. “She’ll be telling you about the doorbell next...” Lucie does indeed tell me – it rings randomly and, seemingly, with no reason. Goosebumps...
Learn how another of Cheshire’s great halls, Hankelow Hall, was saved and restored as a stunning home
Despite the ghostly goings on, Lucie and Vinny are clearly in love with their new home. Lucie is bubbling with the joy of it and is thrilled to have both the old and the new parts of the home to decorate to suit her own style, always mindful of the building’s heritage.
“It was delisted when it was moved here,” she says, “which means we can, if we wish, do what we wish, but we would never seek to take away from its history.”
The kitchen is a beautiful, light-filled space with an extra room attached, which has a pool table in situ and plenty of room for family suppers at the central island. This is the only room where significant change has been made to layout, pushing back into an empty space left by the previous owner, who had decided her sitting room was too large, so simply walled off a section, and opening up a room behind.
“We chose the dark colour of the cabinets and copper accents as we wanted a simple but contemporary look and the Shaker style is a timeless classic that Vinnie really likes. We had the stove powder-coated in the same dark shade and I am thrilled with the result. I wanted artwork that really worked with the colour scheme and really liked the acrylic pour style I had seen around, so I found a local artist – Phillippa Studdart – and commissioned her to do three paintings for me. It was all done in lockdown, so I sent the colours we were using in the kitchen and in the sitting room and she created the artwork without even seeing the rooms – and they are all perfect; I love them.”
The piece for the sitting room tones beautifully with the dark blue velvet sofas she has chosen, which are ideal for collapsing into after a long day.
“The moment I saw this fabric and colour I wanted to use it. The previous owner had tiled the floor, but I wanted softness and warmth so we lifted the tiles (only to discover more underneath!) and laid carpet. We also replaced the tiled floors in the music room and bar area, using golden oak to reflect the choice of wood in the balustrades on the stairs, which they had also put in, sadly (I think) replacing the more traditional dark oak stairway put in by PJ Livesey.”
At the moment, the couple has plans to open up the top floor of the original building, which hasn’t been touched since PJ Livesey rebuilt the Hall here in 1998.
“I can’t wait to get up there. I am hoping there is part of the original staircase there that we could use. We will create another bedroom and a sound-proofed recording studio for out music-mad son. It will be our stamp on this home, which has had countless owners over the years each of whom has left their own stamp.”
And some of whom have never left...
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