When Nigel Daly and Brian Vowles bought Biddulph Old Hall the inhabited house was in a dangerously poor state of repair and the 6-storey tower attached to the ruins was in imminent danger of collapse. The first priority was to dry out the house and repair the roofs and guttering.
The first year of restoration work was followed by the BBC 2 programme ‘Restored to Glory’. Work included restoring the kitchen, the Great Hall and Staircase Hall. In the Great Hall the 14ft fireplace was unblocked and brought back to working order, the timber framed walls uncovered and repaired, and the fine stone-mullioned window restored with its glazing conserved.
In the Staircase Hall an inserted floor was removed, the fireplace restored and a new English Oak staircase installed to Nigel’s design, winning acclaim at The Wood Awards in The Carpenters Hall after installation.
The tower was scaffolded for inspection, and with the help of English Heritage a plan for stabilisation and restoration drawn up. The structural work was completed to restrain the bulging centre section, a new lead roof with gold finial and weather vane added and the tower repointed with all the windows unblocked and re-glazed. While restoring the floor of the tower a remarkable priest’s escape tunnel was also uncovered and restored, and the link to connect the tower to the house has now been rebuilt and Robert Bateman’s studio fully restored with gothic plasterwork reinstated.
The next stage is to install the staircase and form the small Chapel of Reconciliation half way up, then restore the Banqueting House and Viewing Gallery at the top; a public sponsorship scheme is planned for the treads of the staircase.
The Tower at Biddulph Old Hall was a project that Nigel was passionate about. It was not only the restoration itself, but the opportunity it presented to create a small Prayer Room or Chapel on the middle floor of the tower. Nigel wanted it to be a chapel of reconciliation for the forces that brought the Elizabethan Mansion to ruin. The double height, or Banqueting Room, at the top of the tower we intended to dedicate to the memory of Robert and Caroline Bateman, with all their collected artefacts and drawings placed for all to see. It is a romantic space, complete with fireplace, which resonates with their spirit.
During Nigel’s lifetime it was a constant frustration that other demands prevented us from achieving the full funds to install the oak staircase in the tower. David and I have resolved to install the staircase as a lasting memorial to Nigel and the inspirational work he oversaw on the restoration of the hall. In due course we intend to hand over Biddulph Old Hall to a charitable foundation, preferably Perennial (formerly the Gardeners Benevolent Fund) so that it may be enjoyed by the general public in perpetuity as a living memorial to both Nigel, Brian and David. We ask that any donations in Nigel’s memory please be made to our restoration fund, specifically for the completion of the Memorial Staircase.Please email us if you would like to donate
So far we have raised 20% of the funds we need to complete the staircase.