Little Moreton Hall

Little Moreton Hall, timber-framed, Tudor house, CheshireLittle Moreton Hall is an extravagant puzzle of Tudor timber framing near Congleton in Cheshire.  Like a child’s drawing, it sits higgledy-piggledy, the horizontals and verticals not quite making the grade.  It really could be the crooked house that belonged to the crooked man in the nursery rhyme.  That black and white colour scheme that everyone finds so attractive, incidentally, was a Victorian fashion; originally, the timbers would have been left to age naturally and the infill would have had a warmer, ochre, shade.

Little Moreton Hall, timber-framed, house, CheshireLittle Moreton Hall, moated Tudor house, CheshireYou approach Little Moreton Hall in a semi-rural setting beside the A34.  On the day of our visit, the car park was packed, sheep grazed peacefully in the verdant field behind us and lambs gambolled about happily.  The first view of the house suggested it wasn’t quite real, as though it had been knocked together for a movie or a theme park.  Only the top-heavy appearance created by an astonishing long gallery, glazed like a lace workshop and seemingly dumped unceremoniously on top of the house, makes you realise that no set designer would have created something that clumsy.  Still, it’s hard to believe when you cross the sandstone bridge over the 30 foot wide moat that you are entering what was once somebody’s home; not that it feels in any way unreal – it’s simply so completely over the top.  And it was only then that I realised I’d forgotten to bring a spirit level.

Little Moreton Hall, withdrawing room, Tudor house, CheshireLittle Moreton Hall, Cheshire, courtyardThe Moreton family that lived at Little Moreton Hall were descended from Lettice de Moreton, who married Sir Gralam de Lostock in 1216.  There is a village of Lostock Gralam nearby, which is presumably where Sir Gralam once lived.  The de Lostocks took on the Moreton name and prospered, growing the estate through marriage and opportunism.  There is no trace of the building, or buildings, these earlier Moretons occupied.  The present Hall, though medieval in design, is a creation of the Tudor period and dates from around 1504 when Henry VII, the first Tudor king, ruled England.  It was extended later that century and the long gallery was added in the 1560s.  Unfortunately for the Moretons, they lost out by backing the Royalists against Parliament in the Civil War and the Hall was used to billet troops.  Despite having the property returned to them after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the Moretons’ fortunes never recovered.  By the 1670s, they could no longer afford to live in the Hall.  It was rented out, but fell into disrepair and by the mid 19th century was in a very poor state.  It was saved from oblivion by Elizabeth Moreton (a nun, in case you’re interested – and I know you are) who inherited the property in 1892, and by her cousin Charles Abraham (the Bishop of Derby), to whom Elizabeth bequeathed the estate in 1912.  Abraham gave it to the National Trust in 1938 and the Trust has carried out much renovation and preservation work.

Little Moreton Hall, great hall, refectory tableOnce over the bridge and through the gatehouse, you find yourself engulfed in an extraordinary black and white courtyard experience.  Admittedly, it is open to the garden on one side, but apart from that you are surrounded by Tudor timber framing.  I believe the only parts of the building made of brick or stone are the chimneys.  Houses of this period had no proper foundations as we know them either, so the fact that the place hasn’t collapsed ages ago is a tribute to the design of the frame – even if it has buckled a tad over the years and had a few pins inserted.  I feel that way myself, some mornings.  The timber is highly decorative too – keep an open eye for carved figures and other little surprises.  It almost seems ungrateful to single out any particular features, but the two bay windows facing into the courtyard from the great hall and withdrawing room are breathtaking.  Both of those rooms are beautiful – the welcoming withdrawing room has an impressive fireplace – and a round table designed to house a warming pan at floor level, so that guests could toast their toes whilst eating.  The refectory table in the hall is 16th century and the little parlour contains original Tudor painted wall decoration, including Biblical scenes, exposed when Georgian panelling was removed.

Little Moreton Hall, Tudor painted wall, decoration, parlour, CheshireThe timber experience continues upstairs, where a replica Tudor bed has been installed in one of the rooms.  Here, you can also try on some costumes; you’d like that, wouldn’t you, children?

Little Moreton Hall, Tudor, long galleryLittle Moreton Hall, Long Gallery, Tudor constructionThe long gallery, all 68 feet (21m) of it, runs the entire length of the front of the house.  This is the little tinker that’s caused most of the stress to the rest of the building, assisted by heavy stone roof tiles.  Long galleries were popular features of wealthy Tudor homes, used for exercise when the weather was bad, dances, general entertaining and games – including tennis.  The long gallery at Little Moreton Hall is glazed along both sides – which is gorgeous and would have been very expensive.  I just love the idea of ball games being played with all that glass about; and do you suppose Tudor tennis players grunted when they served? Perhaps they merely yelled something like “Gadzooks, here it comes!”

Little Moreton Hall, Tudor plasterwork, Long GalleryThere are some interesting decorations in the long gallery, including a hexagram over the doorway leading to an ante room, and plaster representations of destiny and fortune at either end of the hall with useful pieces of advice – “The speare of destiny, whose rule is knowledge,” and “The wheel of fortune, whose rule is ignorance.”  Of course, the long gallery is reputed to be haunted – in this instance by the ubiquitous grey lady; but I’m fairly sure we’ve already got one of those at home.

Little Moreton Hall, hexagramYou don’t visit Little Moreton Hall for the gardens, but it is worth mentioning that the National Trust has created a very pretty knot garden in Tudor style.  This must have taken some time and effort – so make sure you see it when you go.

The one drawback to Little Moreton Hall is that it really cannot cope with too many people.  Or perhaps I can’t cope with too many people; but bear in mind that it’s a relatively small place and quite popular.

Little Moreton Hall, knot garden, Tudor, Cheshire

 

15 thoughts on “Little Moreton Hall

  1. Amy at love made my home

    We visited there a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, but gosh yes, it was so busy!! Didn’t help that it was raining on the day we went. It was still amazing to see though and I enjoyed seeing it again here!

  2. lowcarbdiabeticJan

    I’ve not heard of or come across this place.
    It looks so cute and quaint, a place I would like to visit.

    Hope the New Year has started well for you – we’ve had a little snow this evening – although others have had worse!

    Take care, keep warm.

    All the best Jan

  3. hilarymb

    Hi Mike – what a great write up … it’s certainly a place I’d never come across .. but love the preservation they’ve done on it … I think going at Christmas time, or early December, would be best. Thanks for all the info with photos … amazing place – cheers Hilary

  4. Rosie

    I’m lucky to live close enough to visit regularly and each time we visit I always find something I hadn’t spotted before. We were last there the weekend before Christmas, the decorations and live music were wonderful, although it was very crowded:)

  5. mekslibrarian

    John (Scriptor Senex) posted about Little Moreton Hall on his blog, and I was fascinated by the quirky building then. It is nice to come across it again now, with pictures from slightly different angles.
    On a more practical note, I am glad it is not me who has to clean those windows.

  6. Shammy

    Little Moreton Hall….. the name suits it! What a charming place. Well done to the National Trust for keeping it (mostly) upright! You are so lucky to have visited this house. I’d love to have an indoor gallery so I could walk while the weather is bad.

  7. clarepooley33

    What a lot to see in such a small house! I love the wall paintings and decorations and not forgetting those beautiful windows! I feel a visit to Cheshire coming on! Thanks for another excellent tour Mike.

  8. Ellen

    I kept saying wow…not out loud, in my head as I scrolled through your photos. This really is an unusual looking place. Ha! I’m less and less fond of crowds or crowded areas. Great information as usual.

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