The Billiard Room

Since Sir Thomas Egerton bought a billiard table from Gillows of Lancaster in 1771, a year before he embarked on the rebuilding of his home, it would seem that this room has always been used as a billiard room.


Around the room are large oil paintings set into the wall, which is why, perhaps, they remained in the Hall when it was sold off to Manchester Corporation in 1902.

The paintings are by a Polish-born artist, Michael Novosielski, who had originally been employed by the architect of Heaton, James Wyatt, to assist in the decoration of the building that made his reputation, the Pantheon in London. At this stage in his career Novosielski  was a theatre scene painter, who later became an architect in his own right.

These paintings in the Billiard Room at Heaton are the only works of Novosielski that are known to survive.

Building Heaton Hall – a long term project

Building work to transform the old 17th century house began in 1772 continued for well over a decade.

Sir Thomas Egerton, like most people of his class, lived away from home a great deal of the time.  For most of that time he lived in London, particularly during the parliamentary year of November to June, since he was one of the two MPs for Lancashire.

The chief contractor of the building work was John Turner of Manchester, closely monitored and aided by Sir Thomas’s trusted Agent, William Rogers.  Sir Thomas, despite his absence, maintained a close interest in, and control over, the progress of the work, as the following two extracts from his letters illustrate.

Sir Thomas to William Rogers, April 1775: ‘… I rejoice to hear you have got so far forward with the building.  I dare say Towneley will pay due attention to it now he has not Weston to hinder him.  I told Robinson he was to put down on paper what timber would be wanted and to give it to you and that you would order it…”

Sir  Thomas to William Rogers, May 1778: ‘William, I received your letter last night. … I certainly do not mean at present to go on with the other wing, but as we have hitherto had great difficulty in getting the large stones, I told John Turner he might send the dimensions to Sefton, and when woking in the quarry he got one that would suit us he might put it aside till he got a load, and then send it to Heaton.  If he sends the small stones he has acted contrary to my orders, and John Turner must stop any more coming ….’

Sir Thomas and his family, by living away, escaped a great deal of the disturbance of living on a building site, but his mother remained at Heaton. To allow her to escape the tumult of living amid the building work, in 1773 he took out a lease on a house in Quay Street, Manchester, and Lewis’s Directory of 1788 shows that the Dowager Lady Egerton was still living there in that year.

No doubt she came back to Heaton whenever her son returned home and the house was made comfortable again.  As the following extract from a letter of 1778 to William Rogers shows, building work was put on hold, or much reduced, when Sir Thomas came back to Heaton; ‘…. I am glad to hear you go on so fast at Heaton. As it will be some time before we get down, you will, I conclude, have got the rubbish away and make the place look very neat…’


The Music Room

The Music Room was completed in  1789 by Samuel Wyatt, elder brother of James, and clerk of works at Heaton. Sir Thomas Egerton was a great lover of music, and an able performer himself, particularly on the cello. Subsequent generations of the family continued the musical tradition at Heaton, musical ability continuing to run in the family.

The room was inaugurated in August 1789 with a concert comprising some of the Lord Wilton’s favourite musical works, with Lord Wilton (as Sir Thomas became in 1784) being one of the cellists.

One of the gems of the room is the Samuel Green organ, seen in the picture above, which was taken on one of the guided tours of the Hall.  The organ case decoration features a portrait of Handel, Lord Wilton’s favourite composer. The organ  was modernised in the 19th century, when further stops were added.


Building Heaton Hall – where the money came from

Sir Thomas Egerton came of age in 1770 and quickly embarked on rebuilding Heaton Hall, a late 17th century house, into the house we see today.  In its day it was the latest in modernity, designed by the young architect James Wyatt. This project required a great deal of money.

The sale of timber from the his Wrinehill estate, the original family seat, raised  £6,500, a considerable sum of money in the 1770s, and this has often been cited as the starting point in financing the new building.

But in 1771 Sir Thomas received an unexpected inheritance.  A cousin, another Thomas Egerton, owner of an estate at Harleston in Staffordshire, died without a direct male heir, and the estate passed Sir Thomas Egerton of Heaton House.

A survey of the estate valued it, for sale, at £15,108.  Very shortly afterwards a second, three-day survey was made by William Rogers, the Agent at Heaton. (William Rogers had been responsible for running the Heaton estate since Sir Thomas had inherited it at the age of seven).

This survey valued the estate at £526 ‘yearly value to let’, and at £730 ‘yearly value for sale.’  The custom of the time was for the sale value to be around 30 years rent.  In 1772 the Harleston estate was sold for £19,000, a sum worth around £1.2 million in today’s money.  This was a good starting point from which to finance the building of the new Heaton Hall.