In September 1899 Hoole Bank Estate was sold. A five-day auction took place to sell the contents of house which included antique china, books, wine, furniture and paintings. The report in the Cheshire Observer is a fascinating read!

The auction catalogue from 1899.

The house was advertised as a ‘Modern Family Mansion with the ornamental grounds, gardens, orchards, cottages, outbuildings, two arable fields, and six valuable old pasture fields’. The estate covered 57 acres. The house was beautifully laid out, and included a morning room decorated by Liberty of London, a long drawing room, an Arabian-themed smoking room and a billiard room – echoes of which can still be seen today. The house was decorated in the latest style and equipped with all modern conveniences including incandescent lighting along the driveway, a telephone line to the stables, tennis courts, an ornamental tea house and a maze!

The estate was bought by George Whitley Hayes and his wife Eva. George was a coal and stone merchant, and Eva was the grand-daughter of George Elkington who had first patented the commercial electro-plating process. The couple married in 1895. Their first son Harry Urmson was born in 1896, and their second son Eric Gerald (Joey) in 1900. The Hayes appear to have quickly turned Hoole Bank into a perfect family home, extending the far wing of the house to three stories.

Baby Eric Gerald (Joey) and his nurse in Mannings Lane by the stable block (now Garden House – Prep School).

By 1911, the boys were away at school and Eva and George were living in Scotland. The census still shows a gardener and his family, and a butler and his family living in quarters at Hoole Bank, while in the main house were a footman, cook, three housemaids, kitchen maid and parlour maid.

Joey and Harry Hayes. Copyright David Hayes

Harry Urmson Hayes attended Charter House School from 1910 – 1913. He does not seem to have been particularly academic, and left school after completing Upper IV form (Year 9) in the summer of 1913.  He played football and cricket for his House, Pageites, and was a member of the School Rifle Corps (OTC).

Harry Hayes was same age, and a childhood friend of, Madeline Chambres – who from the 1925 to the mid-1950s was the secretary for the Miss Hammond School. Miss Chambres recalled in 1969 playing with Harry in the maze at Hoole Bank – “I could never get out of it except by accident”.

In August 1914 George Hayes donated the house as a Red Cross Convalescent Hospital. From October 1914 till May 1919, over 1200 soldiers were treated here.

Photograph of Harry Urmson Hayes and a plaque bequeathing Hoole Bank House in the Institute of the Blind in his memory. Copyright RNIB

Harry became a Second Lieutenant with the 1st Battalion of The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) in 1915. He was tragically killed at the Battle of Loos on the 13th of October 1915, aged 19 years. A total of 59,247 British soldiers died in this battle. In June 1917, Mr and Mrs Hayes endowed a twelve-bed ward in the Albert Wood Wing of the Chester Royal Infirmary in Harry’s memory. A memorial tablet in white marble was also placed in Chester Cathedral.

Eric Gerald, Joey, attended Sandroyd School. He is believed to have enlisted in 1916, and graduated from the Ruffy-Baumann Flying School in late 1916. He became a Lieutenant in The Royal Flying Corps. Eric was declared missing in action in June 1918, but was subsequently found wounded in France. After being treated for severe burns to his face, hands and legs, he was transferred back to England at the end of August 1918. Eric survived his injuries and spent the 1920s and 30s working as a rancher in South America. He later settled in Scotland, where he married and had two children.

Joey Hayes aged just 17. Copyright David Hayes.

The Hayes never returned to Hoole Bank, and in 1921 the house and land were bequeathed to the National Institute of the Blind to be used as a guest house.

Hoole Bank House in 1921. RNIB.