Walton’s Past Residents
Warrington Borough Council bought Walton Hall and Gardens in 1941 during World War II and opened the hall to officers and troops. When the war in Europe ended on 8th May 1945, the council opened the gardens 11 days later on 19 May 1945. The estate remains owned in council ownership and hosts charity fundraising events, outdoor theatre, film, markets and weddings.
A Home For Animals
Prize winning cows and pigs
Lord Daresbury was a respected breeder of pigs, cattle and horses. Especially famous was Lord Daresbury’s prize-winning herd of large whites which he showcased at ‘The Walton Show’ and exported around the globe.
The Daresbury’s prize-winning herd of black Kerry cattle grazed in front of the hall and their rubbing post can be found on the lawn near the Children’s Zoo.
Over several generations, a number of famous horses were bred in Walton stables. Racing horse Love-In-Idleness was an unusually small lop-eared brown mare. Praised for her courage, Love-In-Idleness won several prestigious races between 1920 and 1921 and received a total of £12,561 in prize money (the equivalent of over £500,000 today!).
Did you know that Lord Daresbury’s horse Bubbles is buried outside Walton Hall alongside the family’s pet cat and dog, Dinah and Bristles? See if you can find the gravestones marking their place of rest up by the hall.
Polly the swearing parrot
One of Walton Hall’s earliest exotic residents was Polly the parrot. Polly lived outside the hall and was known for her profanity. It’s rumoured that Polly learnt how to swear by listening to the lady of the house, Lady Daresbury….
How true that is only history knows! These days we’ve got better behaved parrots and other exotic birds in the Children’s Zoo alongside our other friendly animals!
The Greenall Family
The Greenall family purchased Walton Estate in 1814 and then built Walton Hall in the 1830s. Between 1910 and 1930 Lord and Lady Daresbury, who shaped Walton’s spectacular gardens, opened the estate to the public during open days and an annual agricultural show: ‘The Walton Show’.
Walton Hall’s history began way back in 1762 with the establishment of the Wilderspool brewery by Thomas Greenall. It was his son Edward, having established the business and looking to retire, who purchased Walton estate in 1814 and built Walton Hall in the 1830s.
Not having long to enjoy the estate before his death in 1835 the hall then passed to his son Gilbert and became the Greenall family home and country estate. Gilbert continued to control the family brewing business but also harboured political and social aspirations, serving as Warrington’s Conservative Member of Parliament for over 30 years!
Such was his influence and standing in the local community that Gilbert was granted a peerage in 1927 and became ‘Sir’ Gilbert Greenall thereafter! Sir Gilbert spent his life establishing Walton Estate and in the 1870s extended the hall to accommodate his children and added the iconic clock tower. However, it was Gilbert’s son, also called Gilbert but more commonly known as Lord Daresbury, who transformed the estate into a model of agricultural excellence with gardens that could attract up to 45,000 people during open days.
Thanks to the Greenall family’s accumulated wealth, Lord Daresbury was free to pursue the lifestyle of an aristocratic country gentleman. He was a prominent agriculturalist and a widely respected breeder of horses, pigs and cattle. His wife Frances was a passionate gardener and with the help of 26 gardeners and a pony-drawn lawn mower, she shaped Walton’s spectacular gardens.
As the Greenall’s wealth and business grew, they bought up to 7,000 acres of land around Walton Hall and financed local buildings including St John the Evangelist’s Church in Walton village. The estate employed stable lads, gardeners, gamekeepers and foresters. Local farmers rented land from the family and the estate hosted open days and agricultural shows.
When Lord Daresbury died in 1938, the onset of the Second World War and payment of death duties owed on his fortune forced his son to sell Walton Estate. Warrington Borough Council purchased it for £19,000 and opened the hall and gardens to the public in 1945.