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The story of Hare Hill 

Metalwork equestrian sculpture of a horse and rider, 1975, by Christopher Hobbs, in the walled garden at Hare Hill, Cheshire
Metalwork equestrian sculpture by Christopher Hobbs, in the walled garden at Hare Hill | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Discover the history of Hare Hill, from its construction as a country estate in the 18th century to the National Trust taking over in 1977. Find out the fascinating stories behind the members of the families who owned the property in between, and how they shaped the estate that we see today.

The early days – William Hibbert

In 1797, William Hibbert purchased an area of land from the Leicester family and used it to build Hare Hill as his country estate.

William was born in Manchester in 1759, the sixth son of Robert Hibbert, a West India merchant and Manchester cotton manufacturer.

In the early 1780s William went to Jamaica, joining his brothers who were partners in their uncle’s slave factorage business in Kingston. Slave factors purchased enslaved West African people from the ships at an arranged price and resold them on to the planters. The Hibberts also had their own plantations in Jamaica which were worked by enslaved people.

In 1782 William won £20,000 (the equivalent of almost £2 million today) or a share of that sum, in the Benefit Lottery, and returned to England. He became a partner in the Hibbert family’s London partnership, which shipped and distributed commodities from the West Indies. He married Elizabeth Greenhalgh in 1784 and they had eight children.

After building Hare Hill it became his country estate, and he and his family divided their time between it and their main house in London’s Clapham Common.

William died in London in 1844, and Hare Hill passed to his son William Tetlow Hibbert. 

The first inheritor – William Tetlow Hibbert

William Tetlow was born in 1792. He joined the family’s London business and, along with his father and at least 11 other members of the Hibbert family, was a major beneficiary of the compensation paid to slave owners when slavery was abolished. 

In 1839 William Tetlow was involved in establishing the Colonial Banking Company of the West Indies which went on to be dominant in the Caribbean and was a forerunner of Barclays Bank.

He sold Hare Hill to Francis Dicken Brocklehurst in 1879, a few years before his death in 1881.

More on the Hibbert family connection to the slave trade can be found on the Legacies of British slavery website and the George Hibbert website.

The Walled Garden at Hare Hill during the summer months - view of plants, trees and red brick wall
Francis Dicken Brocklehurst added the walled kitchen garden at Hare Hill in the early 1900s | © National Trust/AnnaPurna Mellor

The next family – Francis Dicken Brocklehurst

Francis was born in Macclesfield to the Brocklehurst silk manufacturing family in 1837.

He spent his early twenties travelling the world, visiting countries across Asia and North America as well as Australia, at one point writing a letter home to his brother Charles divulging that he had a 'decided aversion' to returning to Macclesfield. But he must have changed his mind as by 1871 he was working as a banker at the family-owned Macclesfield Bank.

After purchasing Hare Hill from William Tetlow in 1879, Francis turned the Hibberts’ pleasure grounds into a garden, adding a walled kitchen garden in the early 1900s which included a glasshouse. Some of its metal framework was used to create the current pergola in the walled garden.

He also put in the rockery and planted many of the older trees and shrubs in the wooded garden. Francis must have been fond of his new garden as on his death in 1905 he left the sum of £100, a generous gift worth around £11,000 today, to his gardener William.

The wealthy Brocklehurst family helped to shape Macclesfield and after inheriting his family home Fence House, Francis turned its gardens into a park and gave it to the town.

He never married, and on his death chose to leave Hare Hill to his nephew Robert Walter Douglas Phillips, on the condition that he change his name to Brocklehurst.  

Plaque set into the the pergola alcove commemorating the gift of Hare Hill to the National Trust from former owner Colonel Brocklehurst
Plaque commemorating the gift of Hare Hill to the National Trust from Colonel Brocklehurst | © National Trust / Chris Gallagher

The final owner – Charles Brocklehurst

In March 1904, the last owner of Hare Hill – Colonel Charles Brocklehurst – was born to the aforementioned Robert and his wife Isabella, along with his twin brother Patrick.

Charles divided his time between Cheshire and his house in London, where he worked for Christie's Auction House as a silver expert and later partner. He was also an army infantry officer in the Second World War and afterwards worked in the North West and Midland regions for the National Trust.

By the 1960s, following the deaths of his parents, Charles spent increasing amounts of time at Hare Hill. He had developed a keen interest in horticulture, and through his influential circle of friends in London had made contact with garden designer James Russell.

Together they improved and restored the overgrown and neglected garden at Hare Hill, enacting a major clearance and planting of trees and shrubs, including many varieties of rhododendron, holly and azalea.

Charles’ final act was to restore the walled garden, planting white flowers in pairs and, in memory of his twin brother, commissioning the two impressive equestrian sculptures by Christopher Hobbs that grace the garden today. (The brothers had a lifelong passion for horse riding, and Patrick had tragically died in a horse racing accident in 1930.)

Charles never married, and on his death in 1977 left Hare Hill as a legacy to the National Trust on condition that the house was sold and the money used to support the garden.

The National Trust takes over

The National Trust developed the garden in sympathy with Charles’ plans: planting more rhododendrons in the woodland, commissioning the elegant metal pergola in the walled garden, and underplanting the equestrian sculptures with delicate pale pink shrub roses.

Today, work to interpret Charles Brocklehurst's original vision continues in the walled garden, the wooded garden and the park.

Two women are standing on a wooden bridge surrounded by tall trees in the garden at Hare Hill, Cheshire. One woman is holding a baby, while the other is pushing a pushchair.

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