Turton Tower is a house of modest scale but with a complex building history.
For most of its life the Tower has been a private house; the stone tower was the earliest part of the building built in the mid-fifteenth century by the Orrells, a gentry family. It was originally two storeys high and constructed as a tower house to impress and show off the family’s status. By the 1550s two wooden cruck frame wings were built beside, but not attached to, the tower. More extensions were added in the early seventeenth century as well as a third storey to the Tower. The Orrells’ fortunes waned by 1628, and they sold the tower to Humphrey Chetham, who became an absentee landlord renting the tower back to the Orrells. Chetham’s successors made some small alterations to the tower but none of note and during the Georgian period the house was largely tenanted and there was a period of low investment in the property.
With the acquisition of the property in 1835 by James Kay, an industrialist, the property took on a new lease of life. The property was rationalised and enlarged and the interior was fitted out in a more commodious style, using salvaged and new materials in the Gothic style. The Kays added the Mock Elizabethan wing.
The early twentieth century saw the arrival of Sir Lees Knowles and his wife Nina, who used the house as a weekend retreat. Lady Nina gifted the property in 1931 to Turton Urban District Council (TUDC), following the death of her husband, with the condition that it was used for public benefit of the local community. The property has remained in local authority control since then, being used firstly as council offices and meeting rooms, and then progressively being changed to a historic house museum.
The property is currently owned and managed by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council through a Charitable Funds Committee, which seeks to ensure that Lady Nina’s wishes are adhered to.