THIS week in Yester Years, we look back to when Orford Hall was one of the most important buildings in Warrington.

The residence of John Blackburne esquire, present-day Battersby Lane provided a grand southern approach to the hall, which was home to the Blackburne family.

The story of the hall and surrounding parkland, now known as Orford Park was told in The A-Z of Warrington penned by Warrington historian Janice Hayes.

The hall itself was largely rebuilt around 1716 while John Blackburne (1693 to 1786) created its magnificent park lands.

Janice said: “The Blackburne family had prospered by their indirect involvement in the notorious slave trade with John Blackburne’s son investing in Salt House Dock at Liverpool, a major port for slavery.

“Blackburne’s nephew, Thomas Patten, also prospered from his copper trade with Africa and the West Indies. Blackburne’s wealth and family trading connections gave him the resources to import rare plants to Orford Hall and establish his reputation as an early botanist, bringing a rare Cedar of Lebanon to his park.

“Blackburne is probably best known for his ‘pine stove’, which was the first in the north of England to produce ripe pineapples.

“In 2001 Warrington Museum purchased a painting of John Blackburne that appears to show that he had once been holding a pineapple on his outstretched hand but this was over-painted to show the outline of the first hothouse in the north west of England.”

The family sold up and leased the hall and by 1871, one William Beamont, the first mayor of Warrington, had moved in.

When the Cheshire Lines railway arrived in 187, it made the hall and its grounds a less tranquil environment and it faced an uncertain future.

Arthur Bennett eventually persuaded the council to buy the hall from the Blackburne family as a memorial to Warrington’s soldiers of the First World War.

Indeed in 1917, then mayor Peter Peacock promised that ‘after the war the council will formulate a scheme for the use of the hall and grounds’.

However in the post-war austerity, and without Bennett’s championship, the hall decayed and was eventually demolished in the mid-1930s, although the park survived.