Orford Hall circa 1900

AFTER many hours spent referencing and scrutinising old maps and images, local history enthusiast and animation expert Mark Collins has produced a superb ‘3D’ video (below) that reveals what Orford Hall looked like in the early 1900s.

The history of Orford Hall is fascinating.

Originally a timber and plaster building with ornate chimneys and a thatched roof, it was built for the Le Norris family in 1232. After the Norris family left, the Hall was acquired in 1595 by Thomas Tildesley, who rebuilt it in a Jacobean style.

Thomas Blackburne purchased the Hall in 1638 and during the Blackburne family’s tenure it became known for its outstanding collection of rare plants, trees and unusual animals. The hothouse in its grounds was said to be the first in the country to grow pineapples, coffee, tea and sugarcane and it also had an Orangery where citrus fruits were cultivated.  The Hall was said to be a true ‘botanical’ garden with its plants assembled just as much for their scientific study as their beauty

In its later years the hall was leased to Lucy Hornby (whose grandson Edmund became the first MP for Warrington) and its final residents were William Beamont, the first mayor of Warrington, and his wife, Letitia.

In 1916, thanks largely to the efforts of Alderman Arthur Bennett, the Blackburne family gifted the hall and its surrounding 18 acres of grounds to the town as a War Memorial and public park to honour “the valour of the lads of Warrington in the Great War.”

Sadly, the condition of the Hall deteriorated to the point where it was not financially viable to restore which eventually led to its demolition in 1935. The hall’s grounds however are still very much in use and attract an estimated 1.2m visitors a year as part of the town’s Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub complex.

Warrington History Society would like to thank Mark for bringing the Hall back to life and for allowing the society to share his work with the people of Warrington.

Fairfield Motorcycle update!

Alfred Forster on one of his Warrington made Fairfield motorcycles.

Warrington History Society members may recall the Fairfield Motorcycle that Andrew Spicer of auctioneers Dee, Atkinson & Harrison brought to one of our 2018 lectures prior to it being auctioned off.

Built in Warrington by Alfred Forster (pictured above) in Howley in 1914, its appearance created quite a stir and we’re delighted to say a gentleman called Barrie Fairfield has been in touch to introduce himself as the person who purchased the machine and yes, one of the reasons he bought it was the motorcycle shared his surname!

Says Barrie: “The motorcycle was by no means in working order and it did not run. However after much fettling, cleaning and repairs mainly to the Armstrong gear hub and clutch it was restored to full working order, as good as it was when the machine was first made by Alfred back in 1914.”

Barrie reports that the machine is completely original other than a few consumables he needed to add such as control cables, brake blocks and drive belt (the original items he removed he has kept for historic keepsake).

Adds Barrie: “The machine is completely reliable, starts relatively easy and runs without missing a beat. I have ridden it on numerous occasions and entered into the 2019 Banbury Run – the largest gathering of pre-1931 motorcycles and three-wheelers in the world – which I completed without a hitch apart from running out of fuel once!”

Barrie says a unique point about the machine is the fact it has a three compartment tank, one section for oil for engine lubrication, a second for petrol to start the engine and warm it up and a third for paraffin to run the machine. He says he knows of no other motorcycle of this veteran period manufactured to run on paraffin.”

To assist with our records and archives Barrie has sent us some photos of the Fairfield motorcycle (included on this page complete with its Banbury Race number of 189) to show its present condition.

Barrie has a collection of five motorcycles, three old Classic Nortons from 1959, 1961 and 1976 and two Fairfields, the 1914 model discussed here and a 2020 Fairfield he has just built using the frame of an old mountain bike.

May we take this opportunity to thank Barrie for updating us on this important piece of Warrington history. To view our original Fairfield Motorcycle article click here.

Can you help? Barrie has asked if anyone has any further information on the three wheel cars Alfred Forster built after the first world war which would now be 100 years old. If you do, please contact the society at warringtonhistorysociety@gmail.com and we will pass on your message.

The Fairfield Motorcycle after its restoration.