Monday, 29 September 2008
Little Moreton Hall
I managed to get my 'history fix' this weekend and visited this gorgeous Tudor manor house near Congleton.
The name Moreton derives from Saxon and Norse words meaning 'marshland' and 'farmland'. The estate began as a humble Saxon farmstead and prospered under Edward the Confessor but suffered decline in the rule of William the Conqueror. By the time of the Domesday Book the worth of the holding had dropped to a tenth of its former value.
In 1216, Lettice de Moreton married Sir Gralam de Lostock, whose family held the lands at Little Moreton near Congleton. After a few generations, the family adopted the name de Moreton, and Sir Richard de Moreton, a local landlord and tax collector, began construction of a house at Little Moreton at around 1450, of which the east wing still survives.
Sir Richard appears to have been a fiery, unpredictable character and was bound over 'to keep the King's peace', surety being provided by a number of neighbours. Built from the traditional materials of oak and wattle, the original wood would have been unfinished and allowed to weather to a pale silver colour. Today, some restored timbers have been left in this condition to give visitors the chance to picture the house as it would have looked.
Work was carried on during the reigns of Henry VII and Elizabeth with the addition of Elizabethan fireplaces, but the building retains its medieval feel.
The building was extended and improved by William Moreton II (d. 1563). It was during his lifetime that the east wing of the building was rebuilt and extended by the addition of a Withdrawing Room and Chapel. Also, the five-sided bay windows were added by the carpenter, Richard Dale, who inscribed his name on the frieze.
"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."
The house was further extended by William's son John (d. 1598) who had the south wing built housing a gatehouse with accommodation for guests above and a 68 ft Long Gallery added on top. During the freezing winters, the family would use this long hall for exercise when they couldn’t go outside. The Kitchen and Servants' Quarters were added in the early seventeenth century.
The weight of the Long Gallery that has created the characteristic irregular shape of the building that makes the south wing tilt. The tiles are made from grit stone flags and weigh 200 tons in total.
There is an original 'guarderobe', a tny room contains a bench with a hole in which opens into the moat three stories down.
The decline of the Moreton family came during the Civil War (1649-1654) who were staunch Royalists. With the decline of the family came the decline of the building. The family could never face the cost of maintaining the building and in the 18th century they eventually decided to live elsewhere. Following the trend at that time the property was placed in the hands of tenant farmers.
Towards the end of the 19th century Miss Elizabeth Moreton financed the restoration of the building although it was never again occupied by the Moreton family.
During restoration work, the workers discovered an original oak dining table beneath rubble in the house. It has been put back in the bay window at the front, and is the only original piece of furniture from the house to survive.
The knot garden has been restored to the way it would have looked in the house’s heyday and Moreton hall was used as the background of Granada TV's adaptation of Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders in 1996.
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