The estate’s dovecote was built in the late 17th century in a Tudor revival style. Having a dovecote was very much a status symbol during the 16th - 17th century. Pigeons were kept primarily for their meat but their ‘guano’ was used as furtilizer and also for making gunpowder and tanning hides. Doves were very easy to maintain: as natural foragers they simply spent most of the day seeking food, then came home at night to roost! During the reign of Elizabeth I 1533 - 1603, ‘a pigeon tower’ was ‘a badge of the elite’ and a privilege reserved only for feudal lords under a law that was rigidly enforced. Commoners were forbidden to even keep pigeons! By around 1650 the law was relaxed in practice, if not in common law. This caused an explosion in dovecote construction and it is estimated that by the 1700’s there were as many as 26,000 dovecotes in England alone!
By the late 1800’s the Lawton dovecote had been converted into a residential dwelling for the gamekeeper and his family. In 1906 Albert Longman took up that post. The ‘house’ consisted of 3 floors with a large octagonal room on each. The living room was on the ground floor and the other two were bedrooms. There was a ‘lean to’ constructed on one side which served as a washroom and water was obtained from the well down the hill. A separate workshop was built nearby a little bit later. During Mr Longman’s time the hall was a hotel and the main entrance to the estate passed his dwelling in order to cross the dam and proceed up to the main hall. What remains of the building can still be seen today.
TRAGEDY IN THE LAKE
On the13th July 1927, Arthur Herbert Lyons was driving a car with his fiend and colleague Herbert Thompson beside him. Their respective wives, Edith Maud Lyons and Mrs Thompson were seated in the back. Both Mr Lyons and Mr Thompson were chemists from Pendleton and were driving to Lawton Hall to attend a picnic organised by the Manchester Pharmaceutical Society. The vehicle was driving down the main carriage drive at 8-10 miles per hour when it swerved and ran into the lake resulting in the drowning of Mrs Lyons and Mr Thompson.
At the inquest Mr Lyons stated that as they approached the bend, a bee flew into the car through an open window. The bee buzzed around him for a moment or two, and then flew to Mr Tompson’s side of the car. Mr Lyons said “Mind that bee”, and Mr Thompson asked “Where?” At which point Mr Lyons took his left hand off the steering wheel and pointed in the direction of the bee. He suddenly saw the lake and tried to straighten the car but to no avail and it plunged into the water at a point where it is 20ft deep. The ladies screamed as the car began to sink. Mr Lyons had no recollection of how he got out but found himself on top of the car. He saw Mrs Thompson’s head coming through the window and managed to get her head above the water. James Grundy who was fishing 100 yards away heard a crash and saw the car run down the embankment. He shouted to Grace Longman (the gamekeepers wife) to bring a ladder, which she did. She placed it between the bank and the car roof as James dived in and extricated Mrs Thompson. Mr Lyons climbed across the ladder to safety. There was nothing more they could do as the car had sunk out of sight. P.C Lloyd said the bodies of Mr Thompson and Mrs Lyons were recovered after the rear of the car had been raised and were taken to the morgue at the Bleeding Wolf Inn. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and expressed sympathy with the relatives of the deceased.
"BULLY" THE BULLFINCH
Following the death of her long time love Anne Lister, Marianne continued to life the life of Squire’s wife immersing herself in establishing a school, teaching needlework and generally engaging with the local community. With her husband Charles often absent from home, Marianne probably became quite lonely. Her key comfort was her pet Bullfinch ‘Bully’. It is recorded that she taught it to sing ‘God Save the Queen’! When it died in 1853 she buried it outside the kitchen and erected a tombstone inscribed with a poem that she wrote:-
“On the Death of a Bullfinch
That sang God Save the Queen
When bidden to do so”.
Dear bullie they voice which so often did charm
Is silenced forever by Death’s mighty arm
God gave the thy beauty; man gave thee they song
Such perfection combined to few Bullies belong
Thy notes were so loyal, so sweet and as gay
As any free bird that sang on its spray
And all who ere heard thee they loss will regret
Thy ready obedience I ne’er can forget
Then farewell my bird. I give thee this grave
In return for the pleasure thou often me gave
The sun will shine o’er thee, thou art free from the storm
These flowers will be freshened by the tears of the morn.
M. P. Lawton March 31 1853
The grave was moved during the rebuilding of the hall and now resides on the front lawn by the visitors car park.