HONRESFELD (pictured right)


William Law (Senior)  was a Fulling Miller who married Sarah around 1822 and they had 6 children, including Alfred (born 1825), John (b 1830), Ellin (b 1830), Mary (b 1833), and William (born  1835).

In 1847 Alfred Law went into partnership with a local businessman, James Fletcher under the name of "Law and Fletcher". The company was included in an 1852 Trade Directory as Flannel Manufacturers at Lydgate Mill on Blackstone Edge Old Road (an early Turnpike)/ this mill was built by the partnership.The company lasted for 18 years before each partner went their separate ways.

It is reported that Alfred and John, set up the flannel manufacturing business of A & J Law but it is unclear when and where it operated. After 1865, the youngest brother, William, joined the business. Having lived at Bent House for some years, in 1873 William had a large house built for Alfred and himself which cost £5,000. It was located across the main road and William named it "Honresfeld", a variation on Hundersfield, an old name for the area.

After the deaths of William & Alfred their nephew, Alfred Joseph Law (pictured opposite) inherited Honresfeld and A & W Law in 1913. A bachelor like his uncles, he had numerous business interests, was a member of the Conservative party, and became the MP for Rochdale in 1918 (for 4 years) and 1929 was elected as the MP for the High Peak constituency. Knighted in 1927.


Whist Alfred was the businessman, William was much more interested in art and literature and employed the services of leading London book dealers to acquire a collection of books and manuscripts which was to become one of the most outstanding Libraries in the country including works by Shakespeare, letters written by Sir Walter Scott, a collection of Burns manuscripts, and an important collection of Brontë memorabilia, including original pencil and water colour drawings by Charlotte and Emily.

Alfred Joseph Law (pictured opposite) was not an avid collector like his uncle but he did make a number of donations over the years including to the Red cross during WW1. After Sir Alfred’s death in 1939 his estate was largely inherited by his niece, Mrs Emma Dixon but there is no mention of the book collection in Sir Alfred's will or that of Mrs Dixon's twelve years later. After that little was heard about the library and where it was kept until 2021 when it was offered for sale by Sotheby’s.

Following sterling efforts by the Friends of National Libraries (FNL), funds to purchase the library were raised from many benefactors including £4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. FNL and its consortium of libraries and writers houses, and the FNL is profoundly grateful to the lead donor, Sir Leonard Blavatnik, who has, with exceptional munificence, match-funded the sum raised by FNL and the consortium institutions. He has donated half the purchase price. In recognition of his great generosity, the collection will henceforth be known as the Blavatnik Honresfield Library. This name was determined by Sotheby’s based on a letterhead received by them albeit Honresfeld was the name of the house when built so far as the Society’s records show.


In  1959 the vacant Honresfeld House was acquired by Leonard Cheshire Homes who undertook many alterations and added various additional structures to assist with the care of their patients. After nearly  60 years caring  for its residents the home closed in March 2017


Following it closure as a care home, there was concern about the future of the building and the important internal features contained within. However, following agreement with the local council Planning Permission was given for the restoration of the main house (including sensitive conservation etc of important interior fittings in the main house, wood panelling, plasterwork, fireplaces, tiled flooring etc being retained).and a number of new properties being constructed which will form a gated community..

Work commenced during 2022 building works commenced on the main house with the later Leonard Cheshire extensions demolished. This required extensive work to be undertaken by the new owner and it is pleasing to report that an excellent standard or refurbishment and conservation has been achieved and and has been accompanied by sympathetic restoration of removed or damaged features.

Thanks are due to Richard Fletcher, a member of the Society who instigated research into the missing Honresfeld Library in 2011

in 2022 being part of a series on local Industries and their families. It is priced £3:00 and available from Kelsall’s book shop, the coach House and the History Centre. Above right is a splendid, copiously illustrated book on the Library. Being sponsored it is excellent value at £5:00 and is available from the History Centre or via lborohist@gmail .com

Below - Photograph of a large model of Honresfeld viewed from the main entrance (which faces the Hillside). The model was presented to the Society when the Leonard Cheshire Home closed. The model is fairly accurate but the roof detail is incorrect. When the extension was built (the 2 bay 2 storey section on the right) the roofline wasn’t connected with the gable end of the original roof still visible and can be seen in the picture above. Bottom - picture of restored south front of Honresfeld courtesy of the new owner. Note: construction work still in progress.

2 books have been published on the Law family and the Library. Above left, is the Society’s book on the Law Family and the library first published