History of Gatewen Hall
While the exact building date and original owner of Gatewen Hall are unknown, the Hall’s 350-year history is flecked with fascinating stories, extensive developments and noteworthy inhabitants. Once sitting within acres of untouched countryside, the original Gatewen Hall was an attractive 17th century manor house smaller than the current property.
What’s in a name?
Historically ‘Gatewen’ was known by locals as ‘The place the English came to live’. While records of Gatewen Hall’s history don’t appear to go back much beyond the Jeffrey’s family, several sources suggest that the Hall was the home of a local tanner Captain Hugh Pritchard in the early 1600s. Also the owner of other property in the area, his job was to treat skins and hides of animals to make leather goods. Captain Hugh Pritchard was fairly prosperous through leather tannery and drover trades, and it’s believed that he owned Gatewen Hall from around 1640 to his death 1661. He left his estates around 1640 and emigrated to The New World along with his wife where they bought property near Boston and brought up four children.
1630s: Gatewen Hall’s Humble Beginnings
While records of Gatewen Hall’s history don’t appear to go back much beyond the Jeffrey’s family, several sources suggest that the Hall was the home of a local tanner Captain Hugh Pritchard in the early 1600s. Also the owner of other property in the area, his job was to treat skins and hides of animals to make leather goods. Captain Hugh Pritchard was fairly prosperous through leather tannery and drover trades, and it’s believed that he owned Gatewen Hall from around 1640 to his death 1661. He left his estates around 1640 and emigrated to The New World along with his wife where they bought property near Boston and brought up four children.
1670s: The Notorious Judge Jeffreys Visits Gatewen Hall
By 1678, Gatewen Hall had been passed into the hands of Captain Edward Jeffreys. Born in to gentry, he was the son of John & Margaret Jeffreys of Acton Hall and brother to the notorious Judge George Jeffreys (famously known as The Hanging Judge). There is little known of Captain Edward Jeffreys himself except that he was a Captain in the King’s troops who lost the civil war in England. It is thought that he may have been sent to Barbados with many other soldiers, and from there travelled with the Wilson family to Virginia where he settled and married Elizabeth Wilson in 1681.
Edward Jeffreys infamous brother lived with the rest of the Jeffreys family at nearby Acton Hall, unfortunately demolished in the mid 20th century however Acton Park is open to the public. It is believed that Judge George Jeffreys frequently visited Gatewen Hall, with rumours suggesting his visits increased after he fell out with his family.
Who was The Hanging Judge?
Born George Jeffreys in 1645, he became the 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem and was also known for his role in prosecuting participants in the Monmouth (or West Coast) Rebellion. This rebellion took place in 1685 and was an attempt to depose King James II and place the illegitimate son of Charles II, James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, on the throne instead.
Judge Jeffreys became known for his brutal prosecution of the rebels and tendency to sentence people to death for minor crimes. He was later appointed the Lord Chancellor and also served as the Lord High Steward. When James II was defeated by William of Orange in 1688, Judge Jeffreys tried to flee the country disguised as a sailor but was caught and imprisoned. He eventually died in the Tower of London in 1689.
Gatewen Hall During the 19th Century
1800s: The Generous Hayes Family at Gatewen Hall
By 1810, Gatewen Hall had been passed on to Thomas Hayes, a man who had made his fortune in the slave trade. Him and his wife brought up five daughters, two of which never married and remained at Gatewen Hall until their deaths. It was during Thomas Hayes’ ownership that the property was remodelled and enlarged to its current size. The style of the house was not overly flamboyant for the time but typical of the late Georgian/Regency period. Improvements included the addition of a main tree lined drive in 1844 that was about a quarter of a mile long and crossed through ‘The Park’ (now a field in front of Gatewen Hall). The long drive came out at a gated entrance at Crispin Lodge on Mold Road while a second gated entrance accessed Gatewen Road. These old driveways no longer exist being reclaimed by field and turf, but the routes are often still visible in the height of summer when grass over the driveways scorches brown.
The Hayes’ Sisters at Gatewen
Gatewen Hall played host to a number of charitable events by Thomas Hayes’ generous and devout daughters. Multiple local newspaper articles from the time document the charitable efforts of the Hayes’ sisters, including the Berse Sunday School afternoon tea which took place at Gatewen Hall annually for over fifty years. Miss Charlotte Hayes is also known to have given lectures in the Town Hall on Prince Charles Stuart in 1875, and the sisters also donated some of their land to form part of the Moss Valley Cricket Club in 1876.
1870s: Rediscovery of the Ffynnon Ddeuno Well Near Gatewen Hall
Located on the Gatewen Estate, the Ffynnon Ddeuno Well is expected to have predated Gatewen Hall and may have once had a small medieval chapel built over it. It wasn’t until the 1870s that the well was rediscovered by the Hayes’ sisters and restored, with a roof and benches built to make it a peaceful place to sit. When the colliery opened near Gatewen Hall, the well was disused and dried up due to mine pumping. The structure above it also vanished.
The Magic Well
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the well was thought by the locals to have restorative properties and be beneficial for those suffering from sores and aches. One local legend is of a young farm worker who, in a rage, tried to decapitate his wife. However, using water from the well, she miraculously survived.
1877: Gatewen Colliery
In 1877, the Gatewen Colliery was opened close to Gatewen Hall. A deed dated 1909 reveals the Hayes family leased land to ‘The Broughton and Plas Power Coal Company Limited’ who mined minerals and ironstone under the Gatewen Estate however it is widely acknowledge that the colliery did indeed open in 1877. During this time, Gatewen Hall was released to a new owner named Mr William Williams of which little is known. Gatewen Colliery provided jobs to locals until its closure in 1932 and even had a railway line running through it towards Wrexham. Up until the 1980s, the colliery was still used by the coal board unofficially. The site of Gatewen Colliery is now known as Gatewen Village, a new residential housing development, and the old railway line is frequently used as a walking and cycling path.
Gatewen Hall During the 20th Century
1910s: New Ownership
On 23 February 1910, the Hayes family placed the main portion of the Gatewen Hall estate for sale by auction with Messrs Jones and Son Auctioneers at the Imperial Hotel in Wrexham. Details of what was for sale can be found on the document below. It is unclear who woned the property during the next three decades however in 1911, some of the land was sold and the Gatewen Villas were built. The land came with an agreement that it was ‘at no time to be used as a public house or tavern for the sale of beers, wines or spirits or other intoxicating liquor’. It is believed that the houses were built for housing the workers from the Gatewen Estate, such as groomsmen, dairy workers, general workers and likely colliery workers also.
1940s: The Roberts Family
On 1st July 1943, Gatewen Hall and The Gatewen Estate including Gatewen Farm and 73.050 acres in the parish of Broughton was sold to Mr and Mrs Roberts. Mr. Roberts was thought to be a horse trader and the family actively farmed the land on the estate. They lived in what was the substantial servants quarters and rented out the main residence of Gatewen Hall, sometimes to the manager of the colliery. Despite renting the main house to others, Mrs Roberts insisted that her family entered the main front door when returning from church on Sundays, much to the tenants irritation.
Mr & Mrs Roberts sold Gatewen Hall and it’s barns, outbuildings and surrounding gardens in 1972 to a family from Cheshire and moved into a newly constructed bungalow off a new access way serving the Gatewen Estate. Mr Roberts died not long after but Mrs Roberts continued to live there, reaching 100 years of age. She was well known in the area and possessed both a great sense of humour and thirst for hard work. Even in her 90’s, she could still be seen out in the fields, scythe in hand, crushing or cutting weeds. Sadly, she died on Christmas day in the early 2000s.
The Farming Tragedy
At some point during Mrs Roberts occupancy at Gatewen Hall, a young farm hand accidentally tipped a tractor turning on to the steep paddock field just north west of the Hall. He was crushed and, saddened by the event, Mrs Roberts declared no tractor was ever to be used on the field again- and none has to this day.
Gatewen Hall during WWII
It is claimed that that during World War II, locals would arrive at Gatewen Hall when the bombing sirens rang out and they would all seek shelter in the cellars until the second siren signalled that it was safe to come out.
1966: Gatewen Hall becomes a Listed Property
In October 1966, Gatewen Hall was granted a Grade II listed building status and deemed a good example of a 17th century house. The fireplaces, staircases and plaster features were all listed however much of the plaster was removed before the 90s and the original staircase was ripped out and burned as it was affected by woodworm.
The 20-acre field in front of Gatewen Hall has been known for many years as ‘The Park’. Various rounded mounds on the land a have been identified as Bronze Age Burial Mounds ‘round barrows’ and are listed on the CADW Ancient Monument Register.
There is nothing known of the family that bought Gatewen Hall from Mr & Mrs Roberts, except that they resold it on 6th January 1978 to a Mr Griffiths who turned the Hall in to a school. It was used as a school and sometime later a children’s home throughout the 70s and 80s until it closed in the early nineties. Gatewen Hall had by that time fallen in to disrepair and was unoccupied for several years.
1990s- Present: Gatewen Hall Renovations
In October of 1997 Gatewen Hall was sold to the present owners, Mr and Mrs C Brown (previously of Curzon Park, Chester). Mr Christopher Brown, a businessman later turned building contractor and property developer, was born in Wales and previously resided in or around Chester. At this time, Gatewen Hall was derelict and required a full renovation to restore it to its former glory, having been under maintained for a number of decades and unsympathetically adapted for commercial use. The new owners put much effort into repairing the neglect of Gatewen Hall’s earlier commercial abuses to both the interiors and outbuildings.
Whilst investing a lot of time and money into the refurbishment of the main house, they have also renovated the adjacent barns into four residential dwellings, installed underground utility services, re-landscaped the gardens, created a new private driveway, and built sympathetic outbuildings as premises for a family owned business. Discover more about Gatewen Hall’s transformation in the ‘Renovation’ section.
2003: Gatewen Hall Featured in Cheshire Life Magazine
All the renovations to Gatewen Hall were completed by 2003, which was when the property was featured in Cheshire Life magazine. This was unusual as the property is not in Cheshire however it was probably due to its historical significance and attractive (and extensive) refurbishment.
2005: Helicopters’ Land at Gatewen Hall
In 2005, the current owner learnt how to fly a helicopter and decided to fly them in and out of Gatewen Hall. Landing on the private landing site on the lawn area to the rear of the property, the family are able to fly around for fun as well as capture stunning aerial imagery of the local area and Gatewen Hall. For more information, see the ‘Helicopters at Gatewen Hall’ section.
Certain information has also been sourced from original documents and public record offices.