Buile Hill Mansion (Grade II listed) is a villa residence in the Anglo-Greek style built between 1825 and 1827 for Thomas Potter to the designs of architect Charles Barry. A successful textile merchant, Potter (1774 - 1845) was a significant figure in the commercial and civic life of Manchester during the early nineteenth century, becoming Manchester’s first mayor from 1838 to 1840, the year he was knighted by Queen Victoria. After Potter’s death Lady Potter continued to live at Buile Hill, as did her son Thomas Bayley Potter, his wife Mary and their five children. In 1877 the Buile Hill estate was sold by T. B. Potter to John Marsland Bennet (died 1889) a Manchester businessman, Alderman and also Mayor of Manchester from 1863 to 1865.
The Bennets put the Buile Hill estate on the market in 1897 but it wasn’t until 1903 that the estate and house were finally purchased by Salford Corporation. Salford paid £20,000, borrowed from the Local Government Board, with an additional £7,000 allocated for conversion to a public park under the supervision of park superintendent A.Wilsher. Donations totalling £2,500 were secured from local businessmen including the Agnew family, Laurence Pilkington and Sir William Mather. Buile Hill Park was officially opened on 22nd of July 1903 by the Mayor of Salford, Alderman William Stephens and was subsequently combined with Seedley Park by the closure of the 'Dog Entry' path which divided them.
In 1906, the former Buile Hill house opened to the public as a natural history museum after a period of conversion. Council minutes confirm that many internal alterations took place at that time in order to provide suitable exhibition areas. It is likely that much of Barry’s original interior design and layout was eradicated at this stage. However, the house had also been subject to other modifications from at least the 1850s onwards. These included the construction of the porte-cochere (c1860), the addition of an extra storey in 1879 and a ‘conservatory’ on the western side of the house. An extra wing on the eastern side, constructed at some point, was later demolished due to dry rot. Further alterations also took place throughout the twentieth century.
Many changes have also taken place in the park including the addition of a second bowling green in 1903 (Now the home of and five tennis courts, opened in 1906, relocated to their present position in 1937 to make way for the Buile Hill Pavillion. The park was also the central location for the Salford pageant in 1930 when the 700th anniversary of the granting of Salford’s charter was celebrated in the park. This was followed in 1934 by the opening of an 18 holes pitch and putt course using 18.5 acres of the Hart Hill estate.
During both world wars, Buile Hill was used for military purposes. In the First World War the park became the site of an anti-aircraft gun, while in the Second World War it was home to a barrage balloon attachment and a depot for 800,000 sand bags. Unfortunately, the park did not escape the blitz when a direct hit was sustained in 1940 from the German Luftwaffe. At the end of the war and after a period of refurbishment, the park reopened to the public in 1948. In 1963, a garden for the blind and in 1972 a pets corner were provided.
Visitors to the park include Pendlebury artist L. S. Lowry and author Frances Hodgson Burnett who was writing her classic children's novel The Secret Garden during one of her visits to the park. But of much more significance are the generations of Salfordians who have benefitted from the green space, museum collections, brass band concerts and sport facilities during a period of increased industrialisation in the surrounding districts.
From 1975 until 2000 Buile Hill mansion was the home of the Lancashire Mining museum although mining had been a specialism since the 1960s. Faced with £13m budget cuts Salford council made the decision to close the museum in 2000. Since that time it has remained closed despite several proposals to convert the building for a variety of uses including a training centre, a conference venue and a hotel. The park was recently featured as part of the BBC Manctopia series where the controversial planning application for housing was discussed https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000m7ps/manctopia-billion-pound-property-boom-series-1-episode-3
Today the park, collectively known as Buile Hill, covers 68 acres, and includes the former Seedley Park, (1876), Buile Hill (1903), Springfield Villa (1927) and the Hart Hill estate, purchased in 1924.
More detailed information on the Eccles Old Road area can be found at www.ecclesoldroad.uk/place/hart-hill/ Further information on the history of Buile Hill will appear on www.ecclesoldroad.uk/ in due course.
There are a lot of Urban Myths surrounding the Park and Buildings within it that we would like to explore in more detail. To this end we will be forming a focus group for History to collect oral history, provide outreach work and create in depth knowledge information boards for the Mansion area. The lead from this group will be a volunteer.