Institute Cottage: by Clive Marsden
Institute Cottage, next to the Village Halls, is one of the first properties built with a pitch damp-proof course and cavity wall construction. George Devey was the architect and he certainly was looking at new construction ideals in 1872 when the cottage was built. It was part of the complex constituting Leigh ‘Chapel’. It was not, however, occupied by the minister of the time, probably because he was reputed to have had 12 children. With the best will in the world, Institute Cottage, then known as Church Cottage, was too small for a family of such a size, who were instead housed in the White House.[i]
In the construction of the property, all the windows, doorways and much of the internal joinery and stonework came from the old Hall Place following its demolition in the early 1870s. The stone, in particular, is thought to have been taken from the Gothicised north front of Hall Place.
Shortly after we purchased the house in 1980, we attended an open day at Hall Place garden; Lord Hollenden spotted us in the grounds and invited us to view the original sale brochure for the, by then, demolished Hall Place, showing us from where the windows – destined for Institute Cottage – had been removed upon demolition of the house.
When we purchased the property from the estate in 1980, the sale was managed on behalf of the estate by Alfie Houghton, estate manager (a lovely man). Alfie always intended the drawings of Institute Cottage, when they were discovered, should be passed to the present owner of the property.
Alfie, when he first joined the staff of Hall Place Estate, was lodged in the front room of Institute Cottage. When we were negotiating to purchase the property, Alfie said that he used to hang his suit on the back of the door and very often, in the winter, he would take the suit down in the morning when it was so stiff with frost that it would stand up by itself. He said, with a wry grin, “I don’t know why you want to buy the place”.
George Bennett and his wife[ii] had only just recently moved out of Institute Cottage to Charlotte Cottages on the High Street. They also could not understand why anyone would want to buy such a cold house. At that time, Institute cottage did not have any central heating or a bathroom and the toilet was outside. It now has two bathrooms and three toilets, which we were able to show Mr and Mrs Bennett’s daughter once the work was completed. Unfortunately Mr and Mrs Bennett could no longer negotiate the stairs, but were amazed at how warm the house was.
There is a small amount of written history of Institute Cottage in the section Leigh Chapel, including an image from the cover of Leigh Gospel Watchman and Village Messenger dated 1 February 1880. This has to be viewed as having some artistic licence as there are details in the drawing that do not exist in the actual property. The picture is reproduced below with Institute Cottage the building on the right of the picture.
Clive Marsden (February 2018)
[ii] George Bennett and his family lived at Institute Cottage since at least 1930: he is shown as tenant in the hall Place rent Books from 1930 until 1959. In 1930, the rent he paid was £2.12.0 a quarter; it went up to £6.10.0 in 1933; and not again until 1958, to £12.9.2 a quarter. In the 1939 Register (at Find My Past website), George W Bennett, born 2 November 1900, a cycle engineer (and member of the auxiliary fire service) is living at Institute Cottage with his wife, Alice, b. 3 December 1901 and, one assumes, his mother, Mary A Bennett born 16 March 1869. There is also Mavis F. Howell (Bennett) born 22 April 1928, at school. (George was the son of Charles and Mary Alice Bennett (possibly only child). Charles had been born in Leigh and worked as a gardener for the Hall Place estate, living at Gardeners Cottage on the Estate at the time of the 1911 census).