Houses of Interest: Lancashire

And so the #ECWtravelogue turns it's attention to Lancashire.

Hoghton (pronounced Horton) Tower is an Elizabethan fortified manor house. Strong connections to James I who stayed for three days, bankrupting the owners and knighting a loin of beef. (Yes, the story of how sirloin got its name is apparently true and took place at Hoghton Tower.)

The Hoghton family were Royalists (and Papists to boot) as was much of the County. The Tower had a small garrison of about 30 musketeers. Sir Gilbert de Hoghton had a larger force, with which he was causing a bit of a nuisance in the Blackburn Hundred.  So much so that in February 1643, Captain Nicholas Starky of Huntroyd led a 'small expedition of 300 men' from Blackburn to besiege Sir Gilbert's base. Sir Gilbert and his troops weren't at home, so the garrison capitulated after a very brief siege

Starky's soldiers moved into the Tower, and in particular the peel tower which was home to the garrison's powder store.

What happened next varies depending upon which source one reads - the Parliamentarian pamphlet "Punctuall Relation" claims that the Tower's defenders lit a "a traine of powder laid" which blew up the peel tower and Starky and about three score of his men: "afterwards (we) found, some without armes and some without legges, and others fearefull spectacles to looke upon".

Another Parliamentarian pamphlet "Lancashire's Valley of Anchor"  claimed that Starky's troops caused the explosion by their "own sin and laxity". In other words they were drunk and smoking pipes.

The Tower is still occupied by the de Hoghton family, guided tours are available from April to October. Gardens, tea rooms and gift shop are a given. Sadly no real Civil War artefacts, but a beautiful bit of architecture, lots of James I anecdotes, witches' marks and priest holes.

The approach to Hoghton Tower

Next on our itinerary is Turton Tower, originally a medieval peel tower, two cruck framed buildings were attached to the tower in Tudor times. During the Civil Wars the Tower was owned by Sir Humphrey Chetham,  Parliament's Treasurer of Lancashire. Sadly no discounted entry was available for descendants. 

Whilst the Tower wasn't besieged it was entered three times by rampaging armies who seemed to have had a habit of knocking down fences and requisitioning cattle.

What's there today? Turton Tower feels very authentic. Lots of dark oak Tudor/Jacobean/Carolian furniture on loan from the V&A including some wonderfully carved four posters. There are three suits of cuirassier armour on display as well as a number of swords, muskets and blunderbusses. A café, play park and gift shop? Goes without saying.

Well worth a visit.

St Leonard's Church in Middleton is surprisingly a gem of a fifteenth century church on the edge of Manchester. The church is famous for having a wooden belfry, an original part of the church not an addition done 'on the cheap'.

Inside make your way to the altar, to the right is the 'Flodden window' which commemorates the Middleton archers who took part in the battle of Flodden. The window is claimed to be the world's oldest war memorial.

Just in front of the altar are the Assheton brasses - a  number of monumental brasses commemorating the Assheton family, including Colonel-General Ralph Assheton, commander-in-chief of Parliamentarian forces in Lancashire. Interestingly Ralph's memorial brass is the only brass in the UK of a Civil War officer in full armour.

After the self-denying ordinance was passed in April 1645, Assheton took command of his father's regiment of foot, commanding them at the Siege of Chester.

Please note: the church has very limited opening hours - check their website for details.

Bank House, Blackburn is a grade II listed private house with an interesting history. It was the Jacobean  home of a farmer who had the nickname 'duke of the banke', it was quite a grand house for a farmer (and gives the name Dukes Brow to the road adjacent to the house). The house still stands, and was more recently home to the creator of Vimto*.

The house was plundered by Sir Gilbert de Hoghton's  Royalists, who decided to celebrate Christmas Day by bombarding the town with cannon fire from this spot.

Haggate, Burnley was the location of a skirmish on the 24th June 1644, during which five Parliamentarian soldiers were killed by Royalists under the command of Sir Charles Lucas.  This event is commemorated by a blue plaque located on the nearby Hare and Hounds pub.

Rufford Old Hall, near Ormskirk, was originally built in the 1530s and is now cared for by the National Trust (so expect the obligatory café and gift shop). Only the Great Hall of this original building still exists, most of the building that still stands today is a Jacobean brick structure.


Probably most famous for the carved oak sixteenth century screen that dominates the Great Hall, it was described by Pevsner as being "of an exuberance of decoration matched nowhere else in England". The screen has purposeful imperfections, as only God could create perfection.

What is of possibly more interest to the Civil War aficionado is Lord Hesketh's arms and armour collection, some of which is displayed alongside the screen in the Great Hall. Sadly everything has been buffed to a nice shiny mirror finish, removing original finishes.

Local historians, or anyone reading the historical background of a National Trust property, will no doubt have come across the phrase "according to local legend": well if "local legend" is to believed, the Lord Protector visited practically every village, town and hamlet in the British Isles.

One place we know he did visit, in fact he marched the Army Newly Modelled over it on route to meeting the Scots at the Battle of Preston, is Cromwell Bridge near Hurst Green. The remains of this stunning medieval pack horse bridge are also believed to have been the inspiration for Tolkien's Brandywine Bridge.

Local legend would have it that Cromwell slept in full armour on a table, at nearby Stonyhurst College.

Not too far away from Cromwell Bridge is the site of the Battle of Read Bridge. Also known as the Battle of Whalley, saw 400 Parliamentarians scare away a 4000 Royalist force (admittedly numbering a high proportion of clubmen). New Read Bridge replaces the original bridge that saw the very brief action (contemporary reports suggest that the shouting of the Parliament's men was enough to rout the clubmen, who in turn caused the 'regular' soldiers to panic.)

A little to the north of Whalley is the town of Clitheroe. Clitheroe boasts the remains of a twelfth century motte and bailey castle. 

The derelict castle was reinforced by a garrison of Prince Rupert's army on their way to relieve York, but was abandoned after Marston Moor.

Ordered to be slighted in 1649, it is unsure what slighting damage was caused. Local legend (that phrase again) tells a tale of Beelzebub himself, touching the castle and creating a large hole in the keep. The devil's hole is more likely a consequence of the slighting.

The castle is also home to a museum, which houses an armorial hatchment that belonged to General Monck. Monck was gifted the castle by Charles II in 1660, for his support in helping Charles regain the throne. An armorial hatchment, in case you are wondering was a panel that effectively announced the death of an individual, hung on the external wall; they bore the recently deceased's coat of arms. 

As Pendle Hill dominates the skyline to the east, there is, naturally, a gallery devoted to witchcraft in the early seventeenth century. (Mostly interpretation panels.)

Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham, is a compact and rather delightful Tudor hall. Cared for by Lancashire County Council and the National Trust, Gawthorpe was the home of the Shuttleworth family. 

Colonel Richard Shuttleworth was High Sheriff of Lancashire and commander of Parliament's men in north east Lancashire. Five of his sons also fought for Parliament; one of them, William, was to die in an assault upon Lancaster Castle. 

There are a large number of portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery hanging in the house.

Colonel Hulme of Davyhulme

William Waller

William Lewis

Major General Worsley

Spencer Compton, 2nd Earl of Northampton

Sir William Compton, 3rd Earl of Northampton

Lord Strange, Earl of Derby

Abraham Cowley, by William Lely

Charles II's mistress the Duchess of Cleveland, by William Lely

Somewhat incongruously placed amongst high rise developments, industrial units and modern housing is Ordsall Hall. This beautiful, former moated manor house is cared for by Salford City Council who debated whether to knock it down in the 1950s. 

The house has recently been refurbished and looks absolutely stunning. During the Civil War the house's owner Sir Alexander Radclyffe was a Royalist and would be imprisoned for his support of the King. The resulting financial hardship would eventually force his heir, John Radclyffe, into selling the hall to Colonel Samuel Birch in 1662. Samuel had served in his cousin, Thomas Birch's Regiment of Foot.

There is some reproduction armour in the star bedroom, and two fabulous portraits (on loan from the Radclyffe family). Believed to be haunted by a number of ghosts, the Hall has a number of ghost webcams running.

Sir John Radclyffe, (Sir Alexander's father)

Close up detail of Sir John's scarf

Close by is Salford Museum and Art Gallery, located on the Crescent at Salford University. Chock full of Victoriana there is an interesting painting of the 'Execution of the Marquis of Montrose' by E. M. Ward. The painting was clearly painted for the audience who had been inspired by Walter Scott's "A Legend of Montrose".

Astley Hall, is owned and run by Chorley Council. Not going to be too exciting, I imagine you are thinking: prepare to have your ghast flabbered. A small but beautifully formed Restoration period hall, on a much older site originally utilised by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. Astley boasts some jaw droppingly good (massive understatement) C17th plaster ceilings. It was the home of the Catholic, Thomas Charnock, who despite being an MP, sided with the King. His brother, however, sided with Parliament .  

I wonder why the frontage isn't symmetrical?

Local legend has it that Cromwell slept there prior to the Battle of Preston. 

The 'Cromwell boots'

A highly dubious claim, but nevertheless it hasn't stopped the Hall having a Cromwell Room, a Cromwell bed, and a pair of Cromwell boots.

Samlesbury Hall is a stunning example of a black and white Tudor Hall that was saved from being bulldozed in the 1920s. Samlesbury was the home of John Southworth, a recusant catholic who was arrested, inprisoned and released a number of times during the 1640s for his Catholic preaching. John would continue his ministries in secret which would eventually lead to him being arrested, for the final time, during the Interregnum. He pleaded guilty to exercising the priesthood and was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. John is one of the forty Catholic English and Welsh martyrs.

Lancaster Castle was secured for Parliament in early February 1643 by a small force consisting of an infantry company and a troop of cavalry under the command of Major Thomas Birch, quickly overcoming a token Royalist presence. The town’s people, who were sympathetic to the Parliamentarian cause, aided Birch’s men. The newly established garrison, under the command of Captain William Shuttleworth, would strengthen their position within the castle by installing 22 naval cannons recovered from the Santa Anna, a Spanish-Flemish ship that had beached itself on the River Wyre.

John O'Gaunt Gate

Lancaster Castle was now a very appealing prize. In March 1643 The Earl of Derby assembled a large force of 600 infantry and 400 cavalry to take the castle and town. He supplemented his forces on his march northwards; 300 volunteers from the Fylde, Colonel Thomas Tyldesley joining the column with 600 men at Garstang. Despite his overwhelming superiority of numbers, Derby, was unable to take the town. Lancaster’s garrison of 600 musketeers had fortified the town with earthworks, slowing Derby’s men, before retreating into the castle.

Cheated of their prize, the Royalists wreaked their vengeance on the defenceless town. 
Such was their cruelty that they set fyre upon the towne in several parts of it, having none to withstand them. In the hart of the Towne they burned divers of the most eminent houses. That long street called the Whit croft [the length of Penny Street, running down from White Croft] all was burned Dwelling houses barnes corne hay cattell in the stalls   
Discourse of the Warr

Derby’s men burnt 90 houses and 28 barns, looting and ransacking as they left. In response Parliament reinforced the garrison with a further 2000 foot under the command of Sir Ralph Assheton. 14 of the Santa Anna’s guns were transported to Manchester for its defence, and in late 1643, command of the garrison passed to Sir George Dodding. Lancaster Castle became a prison for Royalist prisoners. Dodding’s loyalty to the Parliamentarian cause was questioned and Assheton (now c-in-c of Parliament’s Lancashire forces) ordered Colonels John Moore and Alexander Rigby, with 100 men, to Lancaster in order to head off the possibility of Dodding’s surrendering of the Castle.

By 1645, the garrison’s size had dwindled, and what remained was utilising the castle as base for their brigandry, raiding and looting the local area. Parliament proposed that the Castle be de-militarised, and that the castle be sleighted so as
not [to] be tenable for a Garrison to shelter in though it might retaine the Prisoners for the County 
CSPD 1649-50
The planned sleighting never happened. 

With the outbreak of the Second Civil War Colonel Sir Thomas Tyldesley was put in charge of a large besieging force to take the Castle, an attempt called off only after the defeat at Preston.

What’s there today?
Lancaster Castle continued to be used as a prison until the early 2000s. 

George Fox, founder of the Quakers, was imprisoned in the Castel for blasphemy in 1660

Much of the present castle is a remodelled Victorian prison, with only a few towers remaining from the original medieval fortress. The John o’Gaunt gate being the most easily visible original part of the castle. 

The Keep

The Well Tower houses a small display about the Pendle Witch trials, and the Keep can be viewed from outside (it is not accessible on safety grounds). Condemned felons, including the witches, would be led from the castle up Moor Lane to the hill above Lancaster (where the Ashton Memorial now stands) to be executed by hanging. They would stop at the Golden Lion pub for a last drink.

The Well Tower

There is no recognition of the Castle’s role in the Civil Wars within, or without, the castle.

Hornby Castle

Hornby Castle is a private residence, occasionally opening its gardens to the public. Hornby was owned by the Earl of Derby, and was garrisoned for the King. In June 1643 Sir Ralph Assheton took the castle, in order to strengthen Lancaster’s outer defences, the garrison surrendering after a short fight.

Thurland Castle was home to Royalist Major-General  Sir John Girlington, it also fell to Assheton in 1643, however the Castle wasn’t garrisoned and the Royalists returned. Late 1643,  Major Joseph Rigbie retook the castle for Parliament with the aid of a heavy bombardment which left the castle in a ruinous state. The Castle is now private apartments, and is hidden from view by extensive tree cover.

Greenhalgh Castle, another property belonging to Lord Derby, it eventually falling to parliament in 1645 after a protracted siege led by Colonel Dodding and Major Rigbie. The castle would be sleighted on order of Parliament. The ruinous remains of Greenhalgh are visible from Castle Lane, they are not accessible to the general public.

Castle Lane is a very narrow single track lane with limited turning, if visiting it would be advisable to park at the turning onto Castle Lane and continue on foot.

There is quite an impressive monument which is supposedly the site of Sir Thomas Tyldesley's death at the battle of Wigan Lane. Wigan Lane was fought on the 25th August 1651. A Royalist army under the command of Jame Stanley, Earl of Derby was soundly beaten by a significantly larger Parliamentarian force commanded by Colonel Robert Lilburne. This defeat was a significant blow to Charles II as this was the only significant sized mobilisation of English Royalist support.

The monument originally bore this inscription: An act of gratitude erected this monument, and conveighs the memory of Sir Thomas Tyldesley to posterity, who served K. C. 1st as left. Col. at Edgehill Battell, after raised regiments of horse, foot and dragoons, and for the desparate storming Burton-on-Trent, over a bridge of 36 arches, received the honour of knighthood. He afterwards served in all the warrs in great command, was Governour of Litchfield,/ and followed the fortune of the Crown through the 3 Kingdoms. Would never compound with the rebels, though strongly/ invested, and on the 25th aug., 1651, was here slain, commanding as major general under the E. of Derby, to whom the grateful erector, Alex. Rigby, Esq., was cornet, and when he was high sheriff of the County of Lancaster, anno 1679, placed this high obligation on the whole family of the Tyldesleys.

The recently restored monument also bears this, slightly more modern inscription (which is very difficult to read due to weathering): An act of gratitude which conveys the memory of Sir Thomas Tyldesley to posterity. Who served King Charles the First, as Lieutenant Colonel at Edgehill Battle, after raising regiments of horse, foot and dragoons, and of the desperate storming of Burton-on-Trent over a bridge of 36 arches, received the honour of knighthood. He afterwards served in all the wars in great command, was Governor of Lichfield and followed the fortune of the crown through the Three Kingdoms and never compounded with the rebels, though strongly invested. And on the 25th August, A.D. 1651 was here slain, commanding as major general under the earl of derby. To whom the grateful erector alexander rigby esq. Was cornet when he was high sheriff of this county A.D. 1679. Placed this high obligation on the whole of the family of the Tyldesleys, to follow the noble example of their loyal ancestor.

The Pack Horse in Affetside, is well worth a visit for its food and drink, and whilst you stand at the bar contemplating your order take a moment to read the etched glass cabinet containing a skull. The skull is purported to have belonged to George Whowell, who was the executioner of James Stanley, Earl of Derby in nearby Bolton. 

As for the legend of the strange things happening if the skull is removed from the pub? Who knows...

* Vimto, for those wondering, is Manchester's, much nicer, riposte to Coca-Cola. To pronounce it like a local say "Vimpto"

Postcodes for SatNavs
Hoghton Tower PR5 0SH
Turton Tower BL7 0HG
St Leonard's Church, Middleton M24 6DJ
Bank House, Adelaide Terrace, Blackburn BB2 6ET
Hare and Hounds, Halifax Rd, Briercliffe, Burnley BB10 3QH
Rufford Old Hall, Ormskirk L40 1SG
Cromwell Bridge, Hurst Green BB7 9PN
New Read Bridge, Whalley BB7 9DS
Clitheroe Castle, Clitheroe BB7 1BA
Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA
Ordsall Hall, Salford M5 3AN
Salford Museum and Art Gallery, University of Salford M5 4WU
Astley Hall, Chorley PR7 1XA
Samlesbury Hall, Preston New Rd, Samlesbury PR5 0UP
Lancaster Castle, Castle Grove LA1 1YN
Hornby Castle, Hornby LA2 8LA
Thurland Castle, Tunstall, Carnforth LA6 2QR
Greenhalgh Castle, Castle Lane, Garstang PR3 1RB
Tyldesley Memorial, Wigan Lane WN1 2LR
The Pack Horse, Affetside BL8 3QW
52 Watling Street, Affe

If you enjoyed reading this, or any of the other posts, please consider supporting the blog. 


  1. Awesome information and hopefully Shropshire brings similar detail

    1. Thanks Stuart, HoI: Shropshire already exists

  2. Lovely collection of interesting buildings, gift shops and coffee shops!
    Best Iain

    1. Agreed, some really good stuff tucked away in Lancashire


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Farndon Massacre

Naseby - a Visitor's Guide

Coat Colours Part 1: Parliamentarian Regiments of Foot


Radio 4 Real Dictators

Pike and Shot: Campaigns 1494-1698

Which Figures? Part 2b: True 15mm/Epic Compatibility - Foot

Warlord Pike and Shotte Epic Battles: the infantry sprue

Coat Colours Part 2: Royalist Regiments of Foot

Scottish Baggage