Me and Dave are on a bit of a mission at the moment, to explore what adventures our home area has to offer. So on Sunday 10th July 2016, we planned to go to Little Moreton Hall, Dave’s parents even joined us on this adventure.
Sign Us Up!
We arrived at Little Moreton Hall early in the afternoon and didn’t really know what to expect from the place! As we got through the entrance we went to pay the entrance fee. However, the lady told us we could all get in for free if two of us signed up to the National Trust. (I don’t think that’s the general procedure, but it was very nice of her!) We did some quick maths and figured that, for us, signing up was well worth it as we plan to visit a few more properties in our local area. The lady also told us that she uses the National Trust properties as motor way services, great idea!
Little Moreton Hall is one of the cheapest National Trust Properties to visit and doesn’t even charge for car parking. So it would only take us about two to three other visits of different (and more expensive) properties to gain our money back. Not to mention helping a good cause!
So we signed up then started our adventure at Little Moreton Hall!
A Wonky House
We followed the path and approached Little Moreton Hall. The first thing I realised is just how wonky this house is. How is it standing? As the first information sign we passed stated, it is “testimony to the skill and ingenuity of the craftsmen of Tudor England.”
As we crossed the moat and reached the guy checking tickets he asked if we had been there before, to which we replied that we hadn’t. I think he was about to go through the usual what is where etc when he remembered that a free tour had just started so he recommended that we joined it.
We joined the tour, in the courtyard, just in time! I think the guide had just finished doing the introductions! I don’t want to go into too much detail of the tour, as it’ll ruin it if you go! So I’ll go over the main points of history, the areas covered and bits that stuck in my mind!
Outside The Manor
Firstly, he told us that the part we were facing had the Great Hall in it and was the first section to be built by William Moreton. His son (also William) completed most of of the building seen today.
There are quite a few Williams in the Moreton line, so the guide said that he would number them to make it easier! He went through quite a bit of the building and pointed out the greyhounds all over, as the greyhound is on the family crest (which it is unsure if the crest was actually ever registered). He also pointed out carvings above the bay windows that state who ‘made’ the windows (it says William Moreton, but it’s doubtful he made them. Paid for, yes, made, no).
And below the name of the carpenter – possibly an early form of advertisement!
He also told us how the Long Gallery was possibly an afterthought. As it is the only third storey area and at the time that it was being completed, these ‘long galleries’ were in fashion. It seemed logical to add the third floor Long Gallery!
There is also a bell tower, with a working bell. However, during our visit it could not be used. The bell itself was in working order, but the pipe that the rope used to ring the bell falls through was damaged.
The tour guide also pointed out the facilities, not just for our comfort, but also for an interesting bit of information. The ladies is in what used to be the bake house, and even has an old oven in there. The gents’ is where the brew house used to be, but there are no remains in there.
A Hall And A Table
Moving indoors we entered the Great Hall. There is a very large table in this room and is where Tudor life was focused. The Moretons would do business at this table and family and household staff would eat here. The table is known as the ‘board’ which is where terms like ‘boardroom’ and ‘board games’ come from (among many more).
The top of the table is actually made from just one tree trunk. And so is massive and extremely heavy. It is so heavy that it is not attached and still doesn’t move!
We were also told how those at the top of the table (Moreton and family) would get the best food and eat off earthenware or even pewter crockery. As you moved down the table to the servants the food got less meaty and the crockery cheaper. However, eating off pewter wasn’t as good as they thought in Tudor times. It contains a lot of lead…
This room also had a ceiling at one point – an extra room was added as the family was always getting bigger! Apparently rooms being added happened quite a few times throughout the Moreton family’s time at the hall!
Before moving on, the tour guide asked if there were any questions. I had noticed a cut out of a squirrel on the wall, so I asked what it was there for. It was part of the kids tour, I think we should’ve done that tour too…
Next we moved on to the Little Parlour. In this room the panelling over one wall and part of another one. This is because when doing some renovation work they found painted panelling behind the wooden panelling. In this room you really can’t use camera flash as it will damage the paint. The paint is quite faded already, as it would once have been garishly bright, in true Tudor fashion!
There is also Tudor wallpaper in this room! What’s more it tells a story. The wallpaper tells the biblical story of ‘Susanna and the Elders’. It is probably the only place where you can see this story on Tudor wallpaper.
Restoring this wall to its current state was no easy feat! Because it had been hidden under panelling for hundreds of years there were layers of dust, muck and cobwebs. The colour had been absorbed into all this muck etc, so the restoration team were faced with the challenge of removing all the muck whilst leaving all the colours behind!
Furniture, Puzzles And A War
Moving on to the Great Parlour, we all gathered round to listen to the tour guide. The Great Parlour would’ve been used by the Moreton family when they had guest. The family and guests would go into this room for dessert. There is a Tudor table in the bay window, it fits perfectly and was probably made for this purpose!
There are three pieces of original Tudor furniture in Little Moreton Hall, the table in the Great Hall, the table in the Great Parlour and what is known as the ‘Cabinet of Boxes’, also in the Great Parlour.
The ‘cabinet of boxes’ is a large piece of furniture with two doors. When the doors are opened there are lots of drawers behind. The use of this cabinet is unknown, it was possibly used for keeping deeds and money locked away.
In this room you can see the family crest on the window. There is also another picture, which is actually a puzzle. The top is a wolf’s head and the bottom is a barrel. The pictures stand for a word each, which combined make a word. I won’t tell you the answer, but I was very pleased that I got the top picture right!
The tour guide now went on to tell us about the fall of the Moretons. During the English Civil war the Moreton’s were Royalists. However, they were in an area where most supported Parliament. After the war ended they managed to keep the estate, but were virtually bankrupted. The Moreton’s no longer lived in the hall, but rented it out to farmers.
The Final Stage
The tour was coming to an end, but there was one room left! We headed to the Chapel with the guide. As we entered he told us that we could sit on the pews, but we must fill them from the centre, or they will overturn!
We sat on the pews and listened to the last part of the tour. The guide told us how the property came into the hands of Elizabeth Moreton, who was a Nun. When she received the property, she set about restoring it. Starting with the chapel.
When Elizabeth died she left the house to her cousin Charles Abraham, who was the Bishop of Derby. He carried on with the restoration work that Elizabeth began. He later gave the house to the National Trust.
A couple of researchers went to the nunnery where Elizabeth lived to discover more about her. After they arrived back with their findings the nunnery rang them as they’d forgot that they still had Elizabeth’s’ bible. This is now on display in the chapel.
Time For Cream Tea
Finishing the tour, we decided to have a little break. As we walked out of the Chapel I noticed a sign in a hole in the wall. Turns out they’re some bees in the house!
We headed to the little Tea Room, but this was full. So we went to Mrs Dale’s Pantry. Here we shared a couple of cream teas (or scones and coffee). I’m glad we shared, there were plenty of scones to go around! Although we had to order two coffees on top as the cream teas only came with one drink. The woman wasn’t surprised when we were sharing, when we ordered two cream teas and two extra drinks she automatically asked if we’d like four plates! I don’t see why they don’t put the price up slightly and make it a ‘sharer’ with two drinks.
The cream tea was really nice. Plenty of jam and cream to go around! It was good coffee too!
We then went of to explore the rest of the hall. There were loads of information boards around the house, so plenty to learn! And we started seeing the animal pictures that were part of the kids tour everywhere!
We made our way up the stairs and soon came across the ‘Full Grown’ exhibition. The artwork was unusual, very interesting. In this room is also an old Tudor floor, it is horrible! Most people think it it new concrete, but it isn’t. The floor was made so that it would not catch fire.
In other chambers we came across a Tudor game (I think it was ‘fox and geese’), but unfortunately another couple were playing it, so we were unable to have a go! There were also costumes that you could try.
We all had a look at the garderobe (old toilet). And I learnt that people would store their clothes outside the garderobe, as the smell of urine kept clothes moths away! It turns out the Tudors used urine for a lot! Talk about recycling!
There is also a bed display, which you can try. It is not an original Tudor bed, but a copy. Unfortunately the room with the bed had some holes in the floor, so we could not look around this room properly.
We climbed more stairs and entered the Long Gallery. The floor was extremely wonky! The views from this room were amazing. Both of the courtyard and the surrounding area.
The Gallery itself is beautifully decorated! Seriously, the ceiling is amazing!
There is also a Chamber off the Long Gallery. The chamber had a great fireplace, it was made from animal hair and something else that I can’t remember!
A Bit Of Fresh Air
Leaving the building we decided to have a walk around the gardens. Walking past the Little Tea Room was no easy feat – we were surrounded by ducks! I think they’re used to people giving them food… We had none for them though, so they weren’t impressed!
Around the gardens you can find herbs and vegetables being grown. They are all labelled. We walked around the inside of the moat to begin with, then headed into the Knot Garden.
In the Knot Garden there are benches with quotes about farming, I think. I liked them anyway! You can not cross the Knot Garden, so can only see it via two entrances on opposite sides of the garden. We sat down here for a few minutes, enjoying the garden!
We carried on our explorations and found a bench around the side of the house. It was also a dead end. So we turned around and heading back to the courtyard.
Not Quite The End
As we were leaving Little Moreton Hall we noticed a path to the right. We headed up here and found a viewpoint. From here you could see the Castle of Mow Cop in the distance. Dave’s Dad did not believe that it was a castle. It was still early enough in the day so we decided to head over there to prove him wrong!
So it was back to the car and off we went! We weren’t entirely sure how to reach the castle from here so we ended up going a weird way! But we reached the bottom of Mow Cop hill and drove up. It is a very steep hill and I’m glad we weren’t in my car, I doubt it would’ve made it!
We found the carpark and parked up. When I say Mow Cop castle, it is actually a ruin and there’s not a lot of information about on the site, although I did discover that it was owned by the National Trust!
I love this ruin. It has some great views and is just fun to clamber around!
So we had a good explore and appreciated the views! We climbed over some rocks for an even better view!
At this point the weather was beginning to take a turn for the worse – and we could see a big dark cloud in the distance! We had thought of taking a walking to the Old Man O’Mow, but although it is only a short walk, we were very ill prepared for the weather! So we decided to call it a day.
Time For Home
That is the end of my National Trust adventure. I’m really glad we joined the Trust as there is actually quite a lot to do in my area (not to mention Nationwide). I loved Little Moreton Hall and all the Tudor history and Mow Cop castle is one of my favourite local places. Just a shame we didn’t get to see the Old Man. But overall a great day! Can’t wait to explore more National Trust places!