A Visit to Moreton Hall in Cheshire
A VISIT TO LITTLE MORETON HALL
This is an HDR photograph of the courtyard area, taken from a small window in the Long Gallery at the top of the hall.
According to Wikipedia, “Little Moreton Hall is a moated 15th and 16th-century half-timbered manor house 4 miles (6.4 km) southwest of Congleton, Cheshire. It is one of the finest examples of timber-framed domestic architecture in England. The house is today owned by the National Trust. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building and is protected as a ScheduledMonument. So picturesque is the house that it has been described as "a ginger bread house lifted straight from a fairy story".
I decided to visit this National trust property after one of our members posted a link to a free entry for the 21st & 22nd of April 2012 and although I live fairly local I have not been inside for 50 years or more. The day was quite dull, but I decided to risk it.
From the outside even on a dull wet day it can look impressive. The warped and twisted timbers seeming to defy gravity, the roof alone weighs in excess of 200 tons and is made from quarried Macclesfield stone.
The main entrance, as you pass over the moat that surrounds the hall via a small stone bridge, stop and look down into the water, on a sunny day you may see the large Carp that live in the moat.
Then passing through the entrance door and passage way you will find yourself in the cobbled courtyard.
The earliest part of the building is the Great Hall, built for Sir Richard de Moreton, which dates from around 1450. The adjacent kitchen wing was added in about 1480 by William Moreton and the East wing dates from about 1559 to 1570, At the junction of the east wing and the great hall (centre of the above picture) 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".
This would translate as "God is all in all things, this window were (was) made by William Moreton in the year of Our Lord 1559. Richard Dale Carpenter made these windows by the grace of God" I had to smile at the thought of a similar message by Everest Double Glazing posted above my own bay window!
It would seem that the Moreton familys fortune started to fade during the English Civil War and as they were staunch royalists they were punished by the the house being requisitioned by Parliamentarians and used to billet Cromwell's soldiers. It later fell into decline and at one time during the 18th century it was just a farmhouse with goods being stored in the main buildings. It was handed over to the National trust in 1938 and since that date it has been thorougly restored with supporting steelwork cleverly concealled to support the heavy roof and long Gallery.
Entering through this doorway takes you into the main parlour.
Inside the main parlour, the long table was probably for playing 'shove ha'penny'
Looking back out of the bay window.
In the main parlour
Looking at the opposite wall bay window.
Looking down the main parlour towards the cafe area
As anyone who has ever tried to take a picture through Plexiglas will testify, the reflected light is a real problem so this is the best angle I could get on this splendid model that shows the timber structure of the main building. The dark blue colour indicates modern supporting steelwork (all concealed) and the lighter blue represents replacement timbers.
Maybe the original parquet floor?
A panelled room with plaster fireplace, note the warping of the ceiling and the angle of the fireplace, this is not camera distortion.
Another well appointed room complete with wooden floors, wall panels and plaster work fireplace.
A more basic room, but with very intricate carving of the roof beam buttress.
Detail of the buttress.
An example of the outside detail that is visible on most of the building.
As can clearly be seen in the pictures the interior of the hall also uses lots of wood, most of it polished in some way and there are some fine ceilings and wall panelling work throughout the hall. This was especially noticeable in the later construction work, I am no expert on wood, but the panelling looked to be made from Walnut. I believe that some of the roof beams are of the 'hammer beam' construction method and lots if intricate carving can be seen on the inside ond outside woodwork.
Returning to the courtyard it is possible to access some of the upper rooms via a very narrow spiral staircase also made of wood.
Rooms may be accessed to the left, straight ahead, downwards to the courtyard and upwards to reach the Long Gallery.
Several rooms can be accessed in a very haphazard manner due to the way that rooms were added over a couple of hundred years. Some contain re-enactment actors who add a touch of reality to it all.
On the way up I visited the privy and purely in the interest of photography, I stuck my camera down the hole in the board, taking great care to hold it tightly and to keep it clear of the sides.
Looking into the abyss of a shaft formed by the outer and inner walls, the moat is visible below. I can imagine someone trying to be discreet with a drop like that, especially if someone else were standing on the bridge at the time.
Continuing upwards we reach the Long Gallery which was the last addition to the hall and contributed greatly to the sinking of the foundations and the twisting of the timbers due to the heavy roof stones and extra weight onto the floors below.
This gallery would have been used for games and exercise during bad weather and features an intricate hammer beam roof and two wall murals one at each gable end, both with a lesson in morality.
The extent of the warping can clearly be seen by looking at the centre spar running through the wondows. This is also visible in the floor timbers and roof beams, in addition both sides have different amounts of distortion.
The outside presnts some excellent opportunities for any photographer, the surrounding moat adds to the drama and the jutting bays and roofs in black and white with red brick infills or a daube and wattle rendering make for some great shots, I only wish I were up to the task.
Finally it is worth trying out some Black & White shots as I think the building lends itself to this.
Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did taking the pictures. If you are ever in the area I can highly recommend the venue, but try to choose a nice day. There is much more to see and I can only offer you a few of the hundreds of pictures that I took on my visit. Please note that photography is permitted, but no flash photography inside.
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