IT is now 80 years since Warrington Borough Council bought Walton Hall and 171 surrounding acres from the Greenall family for the princely sum of £19,000.

Much has changed since then. For example, Warrington Borough Council was called Warrington Corporation at the time and £19,000 then would be equivalent to £5 million today.

Much, however, has stayed the same. Eighty years ago there was a war in Europe and money was tight and some councillors – you could call them a Stop the Warrington Corporation Debt group – did not want the corporation to go through with the purchase.

A lively debate of the full council followed at Warrington Town Hall and was reported on the front page of the Warrington Guardian on Wednesday, 15 October 1941 under the headline ‘Town to buy Walton Hall and grounds for £19,000’.

Walton Hall was built by Gilbert Greenall between 1831 and 1842 but following the death of the first Lord Daresbury in 1938, his grandson was forced to sell off the hall and estate to pay Death Duties.

Part of the deal was that, for the rest of the war, the hall and grounds were to be maintained by the council ‘at a cost generally estimated to be in the region of a twopenny rate’.

This was too much for some councillors to stomach.

When it came to the crunch, common sense prevailed, and the purchase was approved by 21 votes to four.

The council maintained the estate for the rest of the war until, finally, the gardens were opened to the public for the first time on 19 May 1945.

The Warrington Examiner reported: “It is estimated that on Monday alone there were 2,000 to 3,000 visitors. Children in particular, enjoying a week’s holiday, have found the grounds a delightful rendezvous.”

Those 21 brave councillors were vindicated and would doubtless now support a council that continues to invest in the town with projects such as Time Square and new market, a new railway station (Warrington West), improved flood defences, a new road (Slutchers Lane), cycle lanes and solar farms.

If the corporation or borough council won’t invest in the town, who will?