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…’