RECORDS of an aristocratic family who lived in Bolton for almost a millennium have been saved – thanks to The Bolton News and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.

And Mr Fellowes has confirmed that his connection to the Hulton family was the inspiration for the hit drama.

Historians launched a desperate bid to raise £95,000 needed by the end of this month prevent the Hulton archives from going into private ownership.

When Sir Geoffrey Hulton died in the 1990s, he was the last in a line of Hultons that goes back to1167.

The records, currently housed in the Lancashire County Council Archive, were put up for sale by a family member who is not a direct descendant earlier this year.

But until we publicised the possible break-up of the Hulton Archive two months ago, the group campaigning to keep it together had nowhere near their target.

County archive service manager Jacqui Crosby said: “A relative of Julian Fellowes living in France saw The Bolton News story online and got in touch with him about it.

"Julian Fellowes is a direct descendant of the Hultons. His great grandmother was Maria Isabella Hulton who married Professor John Wrightson, the founder of Downton Agricultural College near Salisbury in Wiltshire.

“Julian got in touch with us and made a donation and has raised the profile of our campaign by voicing his concern over the potential loss to the public of the family archive.

“He has been in touch with us and made it clear that Downton Abbey was inspired by his historic connections to the Hulton family.”

Ms Crosby said the Friends of Lancashire Archives campaign fund had now gone well over £90,000 and she was confident it would reach the required £95,000.

“After The Bolton News story went live we started receiving donations from all sorts of places like Norfolk, Dorset and all over the world,” said Ms Crosby.

“We are absolutely delighted and it shows there is still enormous interest and affection in our nation’s heritage.”

One contributor to the fund was Chorley businessman Tim Booth who lived with his father for 20 years in the Hulton family dowager house.

“In 1939, my dad George did a deal with Sir Geoffrey’s dad for us to rent the house,” said Mr Booth. “We lived there until Sir Geoffrey decided he wanted to live there himself.

“I’ve given the campaign a few quid because it would be awful to see the archive lost.”

George Booth was the owner of Bolton firm Booth Steelworks.

The Hultons were among the leading gentry families in the north west of England from the 12th century and many of them held public office in Lancashire as justices of the peace, deputy lieutenants, high sheriff (in 1789 and 18010) and constables of Lancaster Castle.

William Hulton (1787-1864) achieved fame and notoriety for ordering the cavalry to charge at the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester on August 16, 1819.

The archive collection consists of more than 1,000 separate items drawn from all parts of the ancient county of Lancashire.

It contains sections concerning turnpike roads, canals, railways, collieries, commons, churches, heraldry and genealogy, charting the emergence of the county from a rural mediaeval society to one of the world leaders of the industrial revolution.

The Hultons occupied a 1,000 acre estate which had been in the hands of the Hulton family since 1167, though it is believed their links with the site stretch back to 989.

The sprawling estate, between Chequerbent, Over Hulton and Atherton, was bought for an undisclosed sum by The Peel Group, an infrastructure and property investment company.

Donations to the campaign can be made by visiting