Walton Hall, on Walton Lea Road, was built between 1836 and 1838 and is a Grade II listed building. The Greenall family bought the estate in 1814, their wealth the result of the family brewing business founded by Thomas Greenall in 1762. Thomas was a hard-working businessman who had also ventured into other areas such as spinning, coal mining and nail making, but brewing was his most successful business. By 1800, Thomas’ three sons were also involved in the brewery business but by 1817 only Edward remained.
Edward Greenall bought the Walton estate and built the Hall, which then passed to Gilbert, his son. Gilbert continued to run the brewery business but also served as a Conservative MP for three decades – a service which earned him his peerage. Walton Hall next passed to his son, also Gilbert, better known as Lord Daresbury, who ran the estate as an agricultural venture and hosted the Walton Agricultural Show each year. Lord Daresbury’s wife was largely responsible for laying out the Hall’s magnificent gardens which were often open to the public.
Lady Daresbury (Frances Eliza Griffith) died in 1953 but, according to rumour, she continues to haunt Walton Hall, her beloved home. I’m not sure how accurate this is, because Walton Hall was sold to Warrington Borough Council just after the Second World War and both the Hall and the gardens were then open to the public. Would Lady Daresbury have remained in residence? Perhaps her ghost simply preferred to haunt the home she had loved so much during her life.
The legend of Lady Daresbury’s demise, however, says that she died in the bathroom adjoining her bedroom. Some of the visitors touring the house have found those rooms very unwelcoming and are left with the impression that they are unwanted intruders. Lady Daresbury has also been seen standing at the top of the staircase and some visitors say they have felt unsteady on that staircase, as if someone was deliberately pushing them, in the hope that they might fall.
There is no doubt that Lady Daresbury would have known how to project a commanding presence; as well as handling a large household of servants, she also employed twenty-six gardeners and no doubt would have expected excellent work from her work-force. It stands to reason that if she objected to people invading her private rooms, she would make her presence unequivocally felt.
However, it is interesting that an early mention of a haunting at Walton Hall dates from June 1915, when a young couple were rudely awoken by their bedroom door noisily opening and then slamming shut again. When they mentioned this the next morning, they were told that an old lady haunted that room. This was clearly not Lady Frances Eliza Daresbury, who lived until 1953.
Lady Daresbury aside, Walton Hall is also said to be haunted by ghostly children who are heard running through the hall or playing in rooms which are then found to be empty. One specific child, known as Alice, is said to have been a former resident of the Hall who died there before she was fully grown.
An unidentified male ghost haunts the function room and spectral servants have been seen in various locations. Some rooms are studiously avoided by today’s staff, who have known objects in them to move and are certain that even when they are alone in these rooms, there is something otherworldly in there with them…
Over the years, several teams of ghost-hunters have spent the night at Walton Hall. In 2008, a group of staff from Deeside College stayed overnight to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society. A newspaper report of that event (which raised a healthy £700) described the hauntings a little differently to modern reports, saying that Lady Daresbury’s ghost was often seen standing at her bedroom window, looking out at the gardens. Also, staff had reported hearing a woman crying on that upper floor but, when they investigated, all the rooms were empty. TV’s popular series ‘Most Haunted’ also came to Walton Hall in 2016. There are certainly no signs that Walton Hall’s haunted reputation is fading away.
I came across an entertaining fact whilst researching Walton Hall – it has nothing to do with ghosts but the urge to include it here was irresistible. Walton Hall and its gardens now house a variety of exotic creatures and one of the first of these, many years ago, was a parrot called Polly who was well-known for her bad language. She had, allegedly, learned all these awful words from her owner, Lady Daresbury!