A 17th century status symbol that grew in public affection

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A STATUS symbol, Cupola House was built by Thomas Macro in the 17th century as a way of showing off his wealth to the rest of the town’s people.

And boy did it work.

Back then, with no shops directly in front of it, the house dominated the town centre.

“Macro was an apothecary and a prominent man in the town,” said historian Dr Pat Murrell, an expert in the late Stuart and Georgian period, who worked on the building as part of its restoration 10 years ago.

“It was designed to be impressive. It was built as a showpiece.

“It looked out on to a huge open space and people would have seen it, a five-storey building at that time, and would have thought this is a guy that has arrived, he has made it.”

Earlier that same century, the town had been ravaged by The Great Fire of Bury.

The fire started on April 11 1608 in Eastgate Street and lasted for three days, spreading up Northgate Street, into Looms Lane, and across the town centre as far as Woolhall Street, destroying the market hall and market toll house in its path.

Years later, Macro bought two properties and converted them into one home.

However, most of the grand architecture is credited to Macro’s son, Thomas Macro Junior, who was also an apothecary and town councillor.

The weathervane that was on top of Cupola House bore his initials and that of his wife’s along with 1693, the year that he is thought to have completed the remodelling of the family home.

As part of her research, Dr Murrell uncovered letters written by Thomas Macro Junior, which she has been trying to get published, without success.

“They are a fascinating insight into life at the time.

“They talk of the Jacobite rebellion and vagrants coming through the town, and the launch of the first town newspaper.”

Her research also found that workmen had taken part in traditions to ward off evil spirits.

The 17th century shoe of a young girl was found under one of the floors in the 1940s, while during the 2003 restorations a mummified cat was discovered – the owners left it in place, not wishing to tempt fate.

The building passed hands from the Macro family in the mid 18th century.

Soon after it began to be used to store and sell alcohol.

The building eventually came to Greene King in 1917 who used its large cellars for storage, until it eventually sold Cupola House to Paul Romaine in 2002.

Mr Romaine invited Dr Murrell to research some of the history and write about it.

“It was a great privilege to work on the building,” she said.

“It was an architectural gem.

“It had an almost intact domestic interior of that late Stuart period.

“It was unique and it has been totally gutted and I feel totally gutted too.”

“I found out about it on Sunday morning.

“I couldn’t stand to look at it, and on Sunday afternoon I couldn’t stand to look at it and even now I can’t stand to look at it.

“It just guts me. I feel that something has been lost forever.

“To think of all that it has survived all the years, and then a small kitchen fire gets out of hand – how quickly things can change.”

She said she hoped that most of the baroque features from the front of the building could be saved and that the building would ultimately be restored once again.

She said the floods of people flocking to see Cupola House showed how high it was held in public affection.

“It was part of the landscape and it shouldn’t just go forever.

“Perhaps some people had only been there on the odd occasion – but it certainly left its mark on people.”