The Towneley estate consisting of over 40,000 acres of land in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Durham was divided between the daughters of Charles and John Towneley in 1885. Alice Towneley, Lady O'Hagan, was allotted Towneley Hall and its contents and surrounding land, see the Towneley Estate Act. Lady O’Hagan found it difficult to maintain the Hall on the income from her part of the estate and offered to sell the Hall and 62 acres of park land to Burnley Corporation in 1896.
The sale was finally completed in November 1901 for a price of £17,500 including the mineral rights for the land beneath Towneley Hall at a cost of £4,500. Lady O’Hagan moved out in March 1902. The main delay in completing the purchase was in agreeing the sale of the mineral rights, which she held jointly with the families of her two sisters. This was essential to avoid the mining of coal from beneath the Hall and the probable subsidence of the building. (For more on the coal beneath Towneley see Towneley Pit .)
When Lady O’Hagan departed she took the family heirlooms to Pyrgo Park in Essex. On 7th April 1902 the General Purpose Committee of Burnley County Borough Council inspected the interior of Towneley Hall. The Council minutes only record the acquisition of two oak tables and the settle left in the Servants' Hall but it is likely that furniture was also left in the Kitchen, and a total of 14 pieces of furniture are now recorded in the accession register as being acquired in 1902.
Also left behind were 8 religious paintings in the chapel. These were recorded in the first inventory book but another two still life paintings, remaining as fittings above fireplaces, were only recorded in the 1930s under fixtures and fittings. Finally, there were a number of plaster casts left behind that were never adequately recorded, two can be seen in a photograph of the Great Hall from around the time of the purchase.