IF you were to take a stroll down Sulgrave Road in Virginia, USA, you might find something you would not expect to see ­— a Tudor manor house from the Irwell Valley.

Once home to the powerful de Prestwich family, in the early 20th century the by-then decaying Agecroft Hall was purchased by an American business tycoon, dismantled, shipped more than 3,500 miles and rebuilt piece by piece.

The hall was one of three manors held by the noble family from around 1291 when the lord Adam de Prestwich was granted land on the Irwell from the Earl of Lancaster.

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Tragedy struck in 1349, as England was ravaged by the Black Death, and the de Prestwich family was devastated by the pestilence.

The following year the manor ­— then known as the manor of Pendleburg ­— passed to Robert de Langley of Middleton and was renamed Agecroft ­— meaning field of wild celery.

It would remain in the hands of the de Langley’s until 1561, during which time Agecroft hall was greatly enlarged and embellished. Its facade was modernised again during the Elizabethan era when the hall passed to William Dauntesey and his descendants.

Prestwich and Whitefield Guide: The original layout of Agecroft Hall in Lancashire (left) and William DauntesyThe original layout of Agecroft Hall in Lancashire (left) and William Dauntesy

However, over the decades Agecroft Hall succumbed to the weathers of time, and by the 20th century it had fallen into a sorry state of dilapidation.

The industrial revolution took its toll on the manor as coal pits were sunk to service a nearby colliery and expanding railway lines scarred the estate.

It was at this time that an extraordinary project of town planning was underway half a world away in a suburb of Richmond, Virginia.

In 1926, wealthy financier and tobacco magnate Thomas C Williams, together with architect Henry Morse, and under the guidance of US Ambassador Alexander Weddell and his wife Virginia, began work on a planned neighbourhood in the then popular colonial revival style ­— known as Windsor Farms.

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The Richmond suburb, overlooking the James River, was envisioned as a model community, based on the quintessence of the English village, and inspired by its creators’ romanticised vision of the past, and preconceptions of their own Old World pedigree.

“The elites of Virginia were often of English stock, so there was a certain Anglophilia at that time and a great level of admiration,” Anne Kenney-Urban, executive director of Agecroft Hall and Gardens, tod the Bury Times.

But the story of how Agecroft came to be in Virginia actually begins with its neighbour, the former Warwick Priory.

While on a trip to Britain, Mr Morse and the Weddells sojourned to countryside of the Midlands following a newspaper advertisement for the demolition of the former Augustinian priory.

Determined not to let the property meet such an ignominious end, the party arranged to buy it and relocate the building to Windsor Farms.

While the project was underway Mr Williams saw a similar advertisement for Agecroft Hall and resolved to buy the house and its contents as well.

This was by no means a common occurrence and aroused considerable uproar in England.

Many complained that this was nothing short of avaricious theft of English heritage both on the part of the 'greedy, philistine American buyers' and the 'contemptible British sellers'.

Such protestations were even elevated all the way up to Parliament – eventually informing amendments to the Ancient Monuments Act.

Nonetheless Mr Williams succeeded in purchasing Agecroft Hall for $19,000, and it followed its Warwickshire sister across the ocean.

However, despite the sizeable price tag, the sale was the least of Mr Williams’ financial concerns, Mrs Kenney-Urban said, as dismantling and transportation costs reached a staggering $250,000 – roughly $3.6 million in today’s money.

After being disassembled piece by piece, the building was shipped across the Atlantic to Norfolk, Virginia, from where it made its way to Windsor Farms via railroad; except for the windows which were taken up by canal barge.

“It was an absolutely immense undertaking,” Mrs Kenney-Urban said. “Although the English were up in arms about it, Agecroft Hall would never have survived in England with all the coal mining, pollution and railway lines that were going on.

“The place was to be sold off and then demolished. But it does at least survive today.”

Once in its new location, Agecroft Hall was meticulously rebuilt in a reconfigured F-shape of the style of an American country house.

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Mr Williams and his wife Elizabeth moved into the hall in Christmas, 1927. However their tenure together was short lived.

In February 1929 Mr Williams succumbed to ill health and died. Elizabeth never remarried and remained as Agecroft’s sole occupier as childless widower until her death in 1967.

Prior to his death, Mr Williams had stipulated in his will that the hall should become a museum for the benefit of the people of Richmond.

With the passing of his wife his last wishes were executed, and the huge building was converted into a public reliquary of life in Tudor and Stuart England.

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Today the museum sees thousands of people pass through its halls each year as it regularly hosts lectures and tours, as well as living history events on subjects such as the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries, the plague and Judaism and women’s experiences in the early modern period.

It is also home to the Richmond Shakespeare Festival and every summer audiences are treated to picnics on the hall’s lawn and performances on an outdoor stage.

"It is wonderful if you can go and see the original," Mrs Kenney-Urban said.

"But for people who cannot get all the way to England, we give Americans an opportunity to go across an ocean and back in time, and it's wonderful to be able to see history and experience it."

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Back in the Irwell Valley, the former site of Agecroft Hall was converted to Agecroft Power Station in 1925 before the facility was demolished in 1993. It is now home to the prison, HMP Forest Bank.