"Perhaps we frightened the poor White Lady away or Sir John Radclyffe or whoever but we never saw a thing…" John Finley
Walking into the `new' Ordsall Hall is a bit of a shock really. The creaky floors, and darkened rooms have gone. And Les, the friendliest museum worker in the world, is no longer there to captivate kids' imagination. They've been replaced with the new Ordsall Hall `visitor attraction' – complete with learning rooms, spotless wooden floors and geometric gardens that have not a leaf out of place. It suits the image of the `new' Ordsall.
The £6.5million restoration of Ordsall Hall has been timed to fit in with the wholesale re-making of parts of the Ordsall estate, which stands strategically between Salford Quays and MediaCityUK on one side, and Manchester city centre on the other. It's just another piece in a bigger jigsaw.
Millions of pounds of both public and private money is being spent around the outer boundaries of Ordsall – over £1million on the `Ordsall River Park', destroying the famous Graffiti Palace in the process (see here); over £200,000 `greening' the two streets - Guy Fawkes Street and Warburton Street - next to Ordsall Hall; and well over £150million on new `town houses', apartments, hotels, a supermarket, schools and offices in the LPC Living led masterplan that aims to make the area more comfortable for BBC workers and professionals. Meanwhile, the indigenous Ordsall community remains one of the most `deprived' in the whole country, never mind Salford.
As Ordsall Hall opened its doors to the press last week, one of the last industrial units opposite the front entrance was being torn down to make way for the brave new Ordsall world.
It's a world which is desperately attempting to get the community on board. In the Hall itself, there's an opening exhibition of local people and Ordsall Hall workers decked out in period costumes, while a mural in the main hall depicts bygone school kids and local characters.
Stone plaques on the ground at the front of house etch people's memories of the place… `I came here with my mum, cousin, nana and brother. We dressed up in Tudor clothes'. Other's trace the history of the Hall (`1251 – the Manor of Ordsall on the River Irwell' … `1335 – Inherited by the Catholic Radclyffe family' … `1920 – Allotments and shelter for destitute people')
The restoration work itself has seen a whole new wing opened up to the public for the first time. One room is so fragile that it's behind a glass case, but another has been decked out with replicas where kids can dress up and bounce on the bed.
As you go down one of the new staircases a section of the old timbers are on show, while the Hall's exterior has been returned to its original brown and white Tudor facade. The project tries as far as possible to bring Salford's seven hundred year old mansion back to its beginnings, and even has a transparent panel in the garden where people can see the original ancient view and contrast it with the current state of the estate.
At the press opening, John Finley, who lived in the Hall for nearly ten years while his father was a caretaker in the 1960s, was thrilled with the way Ordsall Hall looks now but added that its most famous residents don't exist.
"My father and I went round the Hall on late night security jaunts but we never saw the ghosts" he said "Perhaps we frightened the poor White Lady away or Sir John Radclyffe or whoever but we never saw a thing.
"I don't believe in ghosts, I'm not a religious person" he added "I maintain that if you've been brought up on ghosts and angels and demons and all the rest of it, you believe in them but I don't – I never saw them, sorry…"
As the area changes yet again, the spectre of regeneration is currently haunting the estate with the post industrial spirit of MediaCityUK. And the 14th Century Hall is once again a selling point at the centre of the manor. But will the hoped-for prosperity find its way to the Ordsall community? That is the big question.
Ordsall Hall re-opened to the public on May 15th.
For opening times and more information on Ordsall Hall click here (and hopefully it will be updated soon - it's still closed according to this)