The History of Alderley Park
Zool Digital, a Digital Marketing Agency Cheshire, is lucky enough to have our Headquarters in the amazing BioHub, which is part of Manchester Science Parks’ site at Alderley Park. We love the fact that we are so close to the bustling community of Alderley Edge, yet we are surrounded by countryside every day! We were intrigued to find out the history of the site and wanted to share our findings with you!
The very earliest documented history of Alderley Park can be traced back to the Doomsday Book of 1087, where the land we now know as Alderley Park was then two separate parts. The Northern Part, consisting of the Mere and surrounding area, was owned by Godwin (a Saxon Freeholder) while the part where Alderley House now stands was owned by the very wealthy Dieulacres Monastery at Leek.
Nothing more is heard of Alderley Park until we get into the 16th Century when the Stanley family arrived. There are many stories about the Stanley family, too many to mention here, but their influence can be seen throughout the park even today. For example, in the 17th Century, the Stanley Family built and extended Radnor Mere to support the water mill, which is situated at the boundary of Alderley Park near the A34. An interesting local fact that is not well known is that the Beech Trees planted by the Stanley’s in 1621 were the first Beech trees to exist in Cheshire. Rumour has it that they were planted by one of the Stanley’s to comfort his new wife who had moved to Cheshire from the South of England, and missed her home. Unfortunately, many of the beech trees were lost during the two World Wars, but in recent years the Parks owners have begun to achieve proper reforestation with a programme of sensitive forest management.
During their time at Alderley Park, the Stanley’s lived in a large house of brick construction with a stone façade, at the North side of the present park. However, this was destroyed in 1779 by a huge fire. The 7th Baronet then commissioned a new hall to be constructed in the South of the Park, which was finally completed in 1818. This new hall was named Alderley House, and when completed it consisted of 60 bedrooms and six great entertaining rooms. As part of the landscaping for this house, the Stanley’s also created a sunken walled garden and an Italian style water garden – both of which still remain today and are considered to be some of Alderley Park’s most beautiful features.
After the house was completed, and the fourth Earl of Stanley took over, it became the place to meet for people with power. For example, the Prime Minister of the time Mr Herbert Asquith stayed at Alderley House every Christmas during his time in Office. He famously bought a young Winston Churchill with hi one year, who planted the sweet chestnut tree, which stands by the road below the conference centre and is always known as the Churchill Tree.
Catastrophe struck again for the Stanley’s though, in 1931, when yet another fire ripped through Alderley House, and the consequences of this meant that the house was partially demolished and eventually left unoccupied. Unfortunately, the sixth Earls finances were also demolished by gambling debts, two expensive divorces and huge death duties, which meant that in 1938 he decided to put the Estate up for sale in a rather piecemeal way. It was felt at the time to be a local tragedy for the area, as the 77 farms and 166 houses went for prices well beyond the existing tenant’s means, and so families who had lived on the estate for generations soon found themselves homeless.
No bids were actually made for Alderley House and the Park itself at that time, and with the onset of World War Two, both the House and the Park fell into disrepair.
Fast forward to 1950 and the development of the modern park begins. On the 22nd June 1950, it was announced in The Times that Imperial Chemicals Ltd (ICI) had purchased the park for the bargain price of £55,000. The article in the times went on to say that ICI had stated that of the 350 acres, the 150 acres of water and woodland would remain undisturbed and only a small proportion of the remaining 200 acres would be allocated to buildings.
Alderley Park then became the new home of ICI’s small but thriving pharmaceutical business, and the first laboratories were opened at the Mereside on the 1st October 1957. While these were being built, the team were also undertaking a massive renovation of the woodland, the gardens and the surviving buildings belonging to the old Mansion. Construction of the new Alderley House began in 1963, on the historic site of the original house in the South of the Park. The site also saw the development of ICI’s Animal Health business, which has seen the Park stocked with a commercial flock of about 300 breeding sheep and some rare breed cattle too – all adding to the wonderful rural ambience of the park.
In 1993, Alderley Park changed hands again when Zeneca was created as a divestment from ICI. Between the years of 1975 and 199, the site’s population had grown from 2150 people to 3500, and this grew again in 1999 when the newly merged company AstraZeneca bought Alderley Park and invested in modern Research and Development facilities that provided employment for about 4200 staff and 1000 contractors.
But change was afoot again for Alderley Park in 2013, when AstraZeneca announced it would be transferring its research and development staff to Cambridge, which meant that although it’s non-R&D staff would remain at Alderley Park, the site was put up for sale again. In March 2014, Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP) purchased the site for around £30-million pounds. MSP propose to spend about £107 million over the next ten years to decommission unused research facilities and create multi-occupancy buildings. Their aim is to create a campus style environment with a vibrant community of businesses on site.
Zool Digital is lucky enough to be amongst the first to experience the world-class facilities available at the BioHub, Alderley Park while remaining an independent operation. If you would like to pop and see us at the beautiful Alderley Par, then just contact us using our website: www.zooldigital.co.uk or ring us on 0161 408 7001.