As a child growing up in America, I always wondered why I’d been given such a strange name. My grandfather was also named Hopwood and would tell me stories of ancestors who’d built a Hopwood Castle in England. As I got older, I became more interested in history and genealogy, so I started surfing ancestry websites. It’s like being a detective on an adventure – you never know where it is going to take you; you type in the names of your parents or grandparents and suddenly an old photo or birth certificate pops up. I quickly became addicted – the people that lived before me had been through so much; booming industry to world wars and plagues – just like we are experiencing today.
One night, I stumbled across Hopwood Hall online. I did some more digging and found an email address and, on a long shot, I sent an email off into the ether and went to bed.
I was living in Los Angeles at the time, so with the time difference, I already had a response from the council when I woke up. Later that day, I was on the phone with a local historian and he said they had been looking for a member of the Hopwood family. I got on a plane to Manchester, which kicked off the adventure of a lifetime.
Hopwood Hall was falling down and I was told that if no one did anything to save it then 600 years’ worth of history would be lost within five to 10 years. I thought, “If I don’t do it, then who will?” The hall had existed for the previous generations of my family; I couldn’t let it disappear during my lifetime – I felt a sense of duty.
I entered into an agreement with Rochdale Borough Council, whereby I have the option of wholly acquiring the hall once I develop a plan that will provide for the preservation of the building. I currently live in a house nearby and will move into a portion of the hall as soon as it’s ready.
I’m planning to turn it into an arts and culture venue and have made some great friends in the community along the way.