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The History of the Old Hall

Medieval Old Hall

The Great HallStanding within its own grounds in a quiet wooded area of the park, the Old Hall has a special atmosphere created by time, place and people.  Nearby is the disappeared Tatton village whose humps and hollows show where houses once stood and where centuries of tramping feet have hollowed out ancient roadways - an area of archaeological and historical importance in the northwest of England.

A guided tour around the Old Hall offers a unique opportunity to explore the fascinating history of Tatton Park, its owners and tenants.

Built as a manor house at the turn of the 15th century, the single storey great hall where you begin your tour, paints a hauntingly real image of early Tudor life. Dimly lit by tallow candles and a flickering fire, the dark corners of the hall harbour shadows of those distant times. Here you will discover its early owners, how they lived and the power they wielded.

It is not clear who originally built the Great Hall. Some say it was the powerful Stanley family who altered the course of history by putting Henry Tudor on the throne of England. Others say it was Sir Richard Brereton who allied himself to the Stanleys through marriage. Whoever built it has left an intriguing legacy to be experienced today.

By 1598 a more comfortable two-storey wing had been added and Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Chancellor of England, now owned the estate. In those days the Hall had ceased being a manor house but was still the centre of a large working estate. Upstairs, this cross-wing shows changes in the style and fortunes of the building and its occupants as you enter rooms of the early 1600’s complete with servants’ and master’s bedchambers.

Tudor bedroom - Mick RickettsAs the fortunes and status of the building changed it was eventually turned into cottages for estate workers.  In the downstairs rooms of the Old Hall you can see life as it would have been for a Victorian gamekeeper and his family before you move on to rooms set in 1958, the last year of Egerton ownership. 

This is no dry lecture of a tour but one full of stories that puts the flesh on the bones of the people who lived here. There are no barriers and visitors can walk through rooms just as if they were real visitors to the families who have lived there, creating an intimacy seldom found in other historic places. 

Reputedly haunted, the hall can cause a shiver down the backs of some people but it remains a friendly, peaceful place.

Cruck Barn

The Cruck Barn - Mick RickettsThe Cruck Barn at Tatton Old Hall started life at the beginning of the 17th century as a Cheshire farm near Frodsham. The barn is a fine example of a style once common in the Midlands and North, and is constructed from a series of paired timbers called crucks, each of which forms a shape like the letter A. In some parts of the country cruck trusses from the 14th century can still be found but those within Cheshire tend to date from the 15th and 16th centuries. The timbers are generally rougher and less finished than the higher standard of craftsmanship found in the earlier period but the Old Hall’s cruck barn still retains a rustic symmetry and grace.

Dilapidated and crumbling and expensive to restore, the barn at Frodsham was roofed with rusting corrugated iron. Several of its crucks had slipped off their plinths making total collapse imminent. In 1976 the plight of the barn was brought to the attention of Cheshire County Council’s Planning Department, who asked the farm owner if it could be taken down, brought to Tatton and restored. Since old maps showed that a barn had once existed at the Old Hall, the opportunity was taken to accept this generous offer of a valuable example of Cheshire’s vernacular architecture.

Undeterred by its condition, a team of one joiner and a small number of unskilled young people working under a job creation scheme carefully dismantled the barn. Much of the timber recovered was re-used and working from a prepared set of drawings it was reconstructed and restored on its current site. Its rebuilding provided many skills for young people who now, later in life, sometimes re-visit their handiwork and proudly say ‘I did that’.

The barn’s four sets of crucks are equally spaced along its 70 feet length and together with its timber- framed walls stand on a sandstone plinth. The plinth continues across doorways to form a 'thresh hold', literally to hold threshed corn within the building. Originally the in-fills of the frames would have been wattle and daub but at some point were replaced with brickwork, as bricks became cheaper and more readily available. This material would have made the building more weather and animal proof and easier to maintain. The roof is thatched with reed whose butt ends jut out and form the eaves drop, which casts rainwater away from the building.

The cruck barn plays an informative part in Old Hall tours and is used for school education days as an example of a timber-framed building with the chance to thresh, winnow and grind as people would have done in medieval and Tudor times. Children can also make wattle and daub, but perhaps to their disappointment we leave out the most important ingredient – cow manure!