Rufford Old Hall
Grid Ref: - SD462161
Timber framed Rufford Old Hall at Rufford near Ormskirk dates back to the sixteenth century and is one of Lancashire's finest Tudor buildings.
The characterful Great Hall, previously used as a banqueting hall for the Hesketh family, was built around 1530 for Sir Robert Hesketh and is the only part of the original buildings to survive to the present day.
The influential Hesketh family were lords of the manor of Rufford from the thirteenth century, they originated from the nearby village of Hesketh, only a few miles from Rufford. The Hesketh's obtained Rufford through the marriage of Sir Thomas Hesketh, of Holmeswood to Maud Fitton in 1275. There followed a series of descendants who married over the generations into wealthy families through which they increased their estates. The hall remained in the ownership of the Hesketh family until 1936 when it was given to the National Trust by Thomas Fermor-Hesketh, 1st Baron Hesketh.
The Great Hall, which once formed the south wing, still appears today very much as it did in Tudor times, measuring 46.5 feet (14.2 m) long and 22 feet (6.7 m) wide, the hall has a stone flagged floor and an elaborate hammerbeam roof, the five hammerbeams each have a carved wooden angel at both ends. A free-standing, carved wooden screen made of bog oak stands at the at the north end of the room, it probably dates from between 1530 and 1540.
A Jacobean style rustic brick wing was added in 1661. In the 1820's a third wing was built, formed out of the medieval domestic offices, and a castellated tower was added to join the great hall to the Charles II wing.
In 1949 a secret chamber was discovered above the Great Hall, which would have been used as a priest hole in the sixteenth century. On the staircase is a Godfrey Kneller painting of Thomas Hesketh, who rebuilt the east wing in the 1720s, with his wife Martha and son. Rufford Old Hall also boasts a superb collection of arms and armour and seventeenth century oak furniture, costume and tapestries.The hall is reputed to be haunted by a grey lady and a man in Elizabethan clothing.
A new neo-classical mansion, known as Rufford New Hall, was built about half a mile from the existing hall, by Thomas Hesketh, 1st Baron Hesketh, in the middle of the eighteenth century. In 1867 the family decided to use Easton Neston in Northamptonshire as their main residence, and have lived there ever since.
It is rumoured that a young William Shakespeare performed at Rufford Old Hall in about 1580, for the then owner Sir Thomas Hesketh, who set up a company of actors, of which Shakespeare was part . He is known to have been absent from Stratford-on-Avon at this time, after he took part in the theft of deer neighbouring parks.
There are 5 acres of Victorian and Edwardian gardens, containing topiary, azaleas, rhododendrons and sculpture to the rear and side of the hall, while the area at the front of the building is wooded. The Rufford Branch of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, completed in 1781, passes very close to the site on the east side.