The story of Foxhill House

Foxhill House has enjoyed links with the Church since it was built more than 130 years ago. 

Early 1860s      

The Revd Richard Greenall, Rural Dean of Frodsham, bought a piece of land from the Marquis of Cholmondeley’s estate in the part of Frodsham known as Woodhouses.

September 1866       

The Revd Richard Greenall was appointed Archdeacon of Chester.  He decided to build a house at Woodhouses for his family, as Frodsham had a railway station, which would help his visits around the archdeaconry.

During 1886/7        

The building of the house began.  It was designed by an architect whose name is not known, in the then popular ‘Italianate style.’  The bricks were of the yellow glazed type often used in cities, as they were easy to clean in the sooty atmosphere.  There is a well shaft below the cellar that is 103 feet deep, and carved out of the solid sandstone rock. For everyday use, the architect and builder added a rock-hewn water cistern in the hillside, which connected to the water tank in the house. 

27th November 1867       

While Archdeacon Greenall was chairing a meeting of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Northwich Town Hall, he was taken ill and died. 

29th September 1868       

The Woodhouses estate was bought by James Reynolds, a hide leather merchant from Liverpool who had known the Archdeacon for many years.  Reynolds had to borrow most of the money for the purchase.

1870       

The House was completed, and Reynolds must have changed its name, for it is called Woodlands in the 1871 census.

1874       

Woodlands was renamed again, and became Foxhill House.  The carved coat of arms, situated above the Library window, displays a portcullis with a fox. 

30th May 1894       

James Reynolds died.  In the months that followed, his widow Mary downsized to ‘Fir Grove’, opposite the gates of Foxhill. 

1895 – 1917       

Philip and Eliza Speakman owned Foxhill House.  They were self-made and highly respected in the Liverpool and Runcorn areas.  Philip was in ship-building and also the coal and lime merchant business.  Among other roles, he was a Cheshire County Councillor for 25 years, and President of Runcorn Football Club.  

1917 – 1920       

Frank and Jane Brocklehurst owned Foxhill.  Frank was a partner of a ship-building firm in Liverpool.  They moved on only because Frank became MP for West Kirby.

1920 - 1944      

Robert and Alice Newton Davies bought Foxhill for £11,000.  Robert was senior partner of Messrs Simpson, Davies and Son of Liverpool, a firm of coal, sand and lime merchants.  It was Robert and Alice who laid out the croquet lawn.  They employed nine staff to look after the gardens and woods. The Davies were known for their generosity, and gave annual Christmas boxes to the operators of the Runcorn Transporter Bridge. 

1945 - 1960      

Christopher and Coraline Posnett bought Foxhill at the end of the War, so that their sons could grow up in the countryside.  Posnett was proprietor of the Highfield and Camden Tanneries in Runcorn, employing up to 3,000 people. The Posnett family were keen Methodists, and Christopher was a lay preacher.  He also helped set up the Frodsham branch of the National Children’s Home.   He was known to be very concerned about the welfare of his workforce.  The Posnetts planted the daffodils in the bank lawn, and employed four full-time gardeners.  When their family had grown up, they sold the house for £8,500.

January 1960 - 1968      

Dr Lawrence and Norah Pilkington and their two daughters moved into Foxhill. Dr Pilkington was a recognised authority on trees, and set about restoring the woodlands and creating the Arboretum.  After their daughters married, the Pilkingtons decided to downsize by building a smaller house, ‘The Holt’, in the walled garden. They then had to decide what to do with Foxhill House.

The Pilkingtons were close friends with the then Bishop of Chester, Gerald Ellison.  He had mentioned his hope of opening a Diocesan Retreat and Conference Centre, and the Pilkingtons generously offered to give Foxhill to the Diocese for this purpose. 

March 1968       

The Diocese took over Foxhill House.  Dr Pilkington retained ownership and care of the woodlands and adjacent field.

July 1969       

Donald, Archbishop of York, dedicated Foxhill House and its immediate grounds as the Chester Diocese Retreat and Conference centre.

July 2019 

Foxhill House and Woodlands will celebrate 50 years as Chester Diocesan Retreat House.