A FAMILY link stretching back more than 1,000 years has been broken with the sale of the Hulton estate to a land and property company.

The 1,000 acre estate has 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, has been bought for an undisclosed sum by The Peel Group, an infrastructure, transport and real estate investment company.

The estate, which generates an annual income of around £150,000, had been on the market since April with a price tag of around £8.5 million.

Agents Smiths Gore advertised the site as suitable for housing development or leisure facilities, subject to planning permission.

But several applications by the Hulton family to develop the estate were refused by planners over the years.

The land, close to junction 5 of the M61, comprises 713 acres of park and agricultural land, 211 acres of woodland and lakes and has six farms and seven residential properties.

The estate was owned by Jersey-based Hugh Butterfield, who inherited it from the last of the Hulton family, Sir Geoffrey Hulton, in 1993.

The estate also includes the site of the former Hulton Hall which was demolished in 1958 and it used to accommodate Scout camps until vandalismforced them to move. Farmers Mark and Maria Partington, who have four years left on their lease at Home Farm, said: “We’ve not a clue what they want to do with it, we haven’t even been officially told yet. But it’s a state, there’s been no money spent on it for years. It can’t stay like this. It could be a positive thing for the community, if they build a hotel or something.

It’ll bring in jobs. We don’t think they’ll build houses.”

The Hulton estate is reputed to be the lengthiest uninterrupted occupation of any UK estate and has never previously been sold.

It is also the site of the Pretoria Pit disaster of 1910 and, while the Hulton family declined to donate to a memorial, the new owners have promised to help commemorate the disaster.

Louise Morrissey, The Peel Group director of land and planning said: “Hulton Park is a fantastic property with a lot of history which we believe strengthens and compliments our existing agricultural portfolio. We are aware that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Pretoria Pit disaster. As the new custodians of the estate we fully intend to support the memorial events and we are currently in discussion with the organisers to establish how we can help.”

Despite other areas of the industry seeing a decline, the agricultural property market has remained buoyant throughout the recession.

The company is behind several high profile developments, including The Trafford Centre, MediaCityUK, Gloucester Quays and the Liverpool and Wirral Waters £10 billion regeneration schemes.