Houses of Interest: Lancashire

And so we turn to Lancashire...

One such house is Hoghton (pronounced Horton) Tower 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, a witch's mark 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 left 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 exists 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 silver 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 New Modelled Army 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

* 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

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  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


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