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Marple Hall Shutters return via cyber-space

Today, the shutters from Marple Hall on display in Marple Library are essentially part of the fixtures and fittings and it's now (in 2017) almost 18 years since they were recovered, restored and installed there by the Marple Website. Here's how it happened.

....my partner has in her possession shutters from Marple Hall. We would like them to go to a caring home please contact by phone or email.

This short message, left in the Marple Website Guestbook on 18 March 2000 may not have meant much to most people, but to someone as interested in local history and Marple Hall in particular as myself, it was cause for great excitement. That contact had been made due to the large amount of information about the Hall displayed on the web site made it most rewarding. Accompanied by fellow enthusiast Peter Clarke, I made a hasty visit to see the shutters.

Marple Hall shutters before starting restoration
Marple Hall shutters before starting restoration

They were bought by a local builder in a sale following the Council's belated purchase of the historic hall in the late 1950's when, in their view, vandalism and neglect had rendered it fit only for demolition. It is not clear if the shutters were bought for a project that didn't come to fruition or if it was simply to prevent them from being lost forever. Whatever the intentions, they remained unused and gathered a thick layer of dirt and cobwebs for close on 50 years.

In March 2000, the daughter of the builder was in the final stages of moving from a large house to live on a canal narrowboat and had to be ruthless about disposal of unessential possessions. Fortunately she was aware of the historical significance of the shutters in her garden shed and rather than put them in a skip, posted the message hoping to find them a caring home. Fortunately we were able to convince her of our good intentions and returned with all four in our possession.

The problem now was how to fulfil our promises. The shutters were a filthy grey colour, covered in dirt, cobwebs, old varnish or paint and going rotten along the top and bottom edges. Despite their unattractive appearance we were encouraged after a visit from Marple Library representatives Jane Evans and Sylvia Davies, who agreed that the shutters could be displayed at the library once they were restored.

Restoration step 1Restoration step 2Restoration step 3
3 stages of restoration

The shutters are an internal type and made from solid oak. Three of the four appeared to have splits the full height of the main central panel, although closer inspection revealed that these are actually two separate pieces of wood. Each shutter is fitted with large hand-made hinges fixed with hand-made nails. The shutters were probably fitted to the windows of a room in the Hall with matching oak panelled walls. Records show that there were at least two rooms at Marple Hall that matched this description. The first was Ante-Room, the second and possibly most likely, was the old Dining Room. Unfortunately there are no photographs of either of these rooms that show the shutters, so we can only speculate. The age of the shutters is also uncertain, the hall would have been 350 years old now, but they could have been added many years after the original construction. It would be interesting if an expert were able to provide an opinion and maybe this will happen now that they are on display.

Several attempts were made to find a local company who would be prepared to help or advise on the restoration, including requests to local newspapers to feature an article on the shutters and letters to individual businesses. Disappointingly they did not respond to these enquiries. After resorting to library books and the internet for information, a minimalist approach to the restoration was followed.

Marple Hall shutters before
Marple Hall shutters before restoration

The fronts of the shutters were first cleaned using medium grade wire wool to remove the ingrained dirt. This was followed by further cleaning using a solution of linseed oil and turpentine applied with fine wire wool. The colour was restored by applying two coats of linseed oil, each allowed to dry for 24 hours. Finally, a coat of Briwax polish was applied with fine grade wire wool and buffed with a bristle brush and soft cloth. The backs of the shutters, which are painted black, were cleaned using white spirit and then lightly oiled and polished. Protective wooden strips have been attached to the hinges to avoid injury to curious fingers on their sharp edges.

Marple Hall shutters after restoration
Marple Hall shutters after restoration

All cleaning and restoration work was carried out by myself and wife Gill over a period of five weekends and the results were better than we dared hope for. The quality of the old oak underneath all that dirt had remained intact. The brackets were made by Peter Clarke, who also helped with the fitting at the Library. In 2001 prints of the Marple Hall Glass were added above the shutters.

Marple Hall shutters installed in Marple Library
The shutters installed in Marple Library, with prints of the glass from the hall above.

The shutters are some of the very few relics of Marple Hall that remain in the public domain. It was hoped that putting them on display it would encourage other people who possess items of similar historical interest to make them available for display, or even just to be photographed and exhibited "virtually". That's still true today and if you have anything that may be suitable please get in touch.

This page appeared as an article by Mark Whittaker in the September 2000 issue of the Community News, in our regular feature "Local History & Heritage with the Marple Website".
Photo credits:
All images: Mark Whittaker.
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