Friday, 8 May 2009

In black and white.......

When you first visit Little Moreton Hall in south Cheshire you could be forgiven for thinking you had walked onto the set of a Disney epic. It is arguably the finest half-timbered manor in England - certainly it is one of the most heavily photographed!
The house is set around three sides of a cobbled courtyard and ringed around by a moat. The half-timbering is fanciful, delightfully ornate. The upper stories of the house project out over the base, and the small windows boast an enjoyable variety of Tudor glass.

At the junction of the east wing and the great hall there is a large pair of gabled bay windows, over which the carpenter who designed them carved his name with the following inscription:

"God is Al in Al Thing: This windous whire made by William Moreton in the yeare of Oure Lorde MDLIX. Richard Dale Carpeder made thies windous by the grac of God."

Click on the photo for a better view.

Little Moreton was built between 1450 and 1580 by the Moreton family, but little remains to preserve their memory. The fortunes of the Moreton family declined with the outbreak of the English Civil War. Strong supporters of the Royalist cause, they found themselves isolated in Cheshire, a county of the Parliamentarian persuasion.
The house was requisitioned by Parliamentarians and used to billet Cromwell's soldiers. The Moretons survived the Civil War with their ownership of Little Moreton intact, but financially they were crippled. Their fortunes were never to fully recover.
By the beginning of the 18th century, the mansion was let to tenants as a farmhouse. Much of it was unoccupied and used for storage, the deconsecrated chapel being used for the storage of coal. By the 19th century, the house was in a ruinous condition, its windows boarded up and its roof caving in.

The building was never again occupied by the Moreton family. In 1912, Elizabeth Moreton bequeathed the house to a cousin, Charles Abraham, Bishop of Derby, with the stipulation that the house must never be sold. Abraham continued the preservation effort until 1938, when he and his son transferred ownership to the National Trust.

Other authentic features of the grounds include a yew tunnel and an orchard growing fruits which would have been familiar to the house's Tudor occupants – apples, pears, quinces and medlars. There are no corridors within the house; each room leads directly into the next, and the floors are connected by compact spiral staircases.

During the 20th century, the long-abandoned gardens were returned to their Tudor condition. The knot garden was replanted in the early 1980s, to a design taken from Meager's Complete English Gardener, published in 1672. The intricate design of the knot can be viewed from one of the two original viewing mounds, a feature common in 16th-century formal gardening.

The lack of interior furnishings allow visitors to see the wonderful plasterwork and wall paintings, including those in the long gallery. Sadly, interior photography is verboten, but I always was a rebel!

The distinctive black and white colour scheme so typical of houses dating from the Tudor period is not authentic but a product of 19th century Victorian romanticism. Originally the oak beams were allowed to fade naturally to silver-grey, and the wattle-and-daub was painted or stained a light shade of ochre.

Another practice of Tudor property owners was to remove and store the glass windows if the house was to be left unoccupied for any length of time. It was also not unusual for a property to be willed to one party whilst the glass was willed to another. I cant help but smile at the problems this would have caused the family lawyers of the time.

Have a blameless Friday nice people.


  1. Wonderful place, Michael, of which I have seen a photograph before but with none of the history. I'll have to think who I might bequeath my windows to!

  2. Glad it is not my job to paint. Too bad about the inside photography. I wanted to see the light streaming through those windows in the bays.

    But a great tour of this estate. In the first picture does the house on the left side have a curved facade?

  3. Completely charming! Bequeathing windows to a separate party?? How tedious and Can you imagine the control issues the window benefactor could impart? Yes, yes, nice house...but just remember...I can take those windows away at anytime....

    Very interesting history and pictures M...thank you so much for sharing this.

  4. Most things curve at this place Lady J...none of it intentional but it is quite

  5. Thank you for that answer. And are you sure you did not in fact fill out the application in the following blog?

  6. It took me awhile to work my way through this. I needed to look at each of the enlarged photos to see the fine detail you captured. Wonderful history and photos.