See also St James the Great
Gawsworth Hall, a long, low, black and white half-timbered house set in 30 acres garden and grounds, has a long history. The old hall was first referred to in written records in December 1365 when John Caton was given the right to have a chapel in the house. In 1480 the house was rebuilt. It was originally built in a quadrangle plan, but in the later part of the 17th century the house was partly demolished by the second earl of Macclesfield, Charles Gerard. The house was restored in the 1920s. The Fitton family were owners for many years, then the Stanhopes, earls of Harrington, occupied the hall. Since 1962 the Richards family have been owners. In 2006 Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Richards are in residence. The hall has seen many well known and important visitors over the centuries.
A famous British duel was fought over the estate in 1712 between the duke of Hamilton and lord Mohun. Both were killed. The last professional jester in England, Samuel Johnson, is buried in the nearby ‘Maggoty Johnson's ‘wood’. Another famous resident was Mary Fitton, reputed to be the dark lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. She was maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I in 1596. Her portrait hangs in the hall. Ghosts are supposed to inhabit the hall, most notably one of a priest and one in the old rectory.
One of the great things about this home is almost all of the rooms are on view and it is still a family home.
Rooms of note in the interior are:
Entrance hall: retains its medieval shape and character with timber-framed with wattle filling; carved coat of arms of Richards family; weaponry includes 17th century armour.
Library: a double cube room measuring 16 by 32 feet; carved Tudor chimney piece dated c1580 with fine English marquetry panels;19th century oak library bookcases are a copy of a Pugin design; 18th century sash windows with late 18th century embroidered-in-gold-thread velvet curtains; many books with a Cheshire theme.
Long Hall: original fireplace and lowTudor ceiling; 17th century carved oak chests; 15th century credence table; 1650 carved coffer; 13th century French carving; medieval candle prickets; portraits pictures including works by Constable; family portraits
Principal staircase: although remodelled in 1920, it retains much original oak; 1780 Waterford glass chandelier hangs above it;
Dining room: most original Tudor features remain; 16th century refectory table; collection of Wedgwood green-glazed majolica ware dated c1830 near the fireplace; c1650 oak escritoire; east wall window gives a view of the chapel
Guard room: next to dining room; two 17th century chairs; naval 18th century blunderbuss.
Chapel and ambulatory: thought to be 3rd or 4th chapel serving the hall and partly dates from 1701 remodelling; first chapel was built in 1365; for domestic use only; panelled roof, pine wainscoting, holy table, and altar rails dated 1803; four lights of stained glass by William Morris to the design of Burne-Jones in baptistry; copy of a Rubens painting on display; chapel is still in use for services.
Drawing room: mostly original mid-16th century features including glass and timbering; still used as the principal living room.
Gold room: south of the drawing room; a former steward’s office also used for the manorial court; early 16th century plaster frieze detailed with Tudor roses, birds, and flowers; 1666 alabaster bust.
Green room: site of original great hall; no longer retains original size.
Gallery: oak framing is shown off in interesting detail; two hiding places with escape hatch concealing a narrow winding passage leading to the cellars and hence to a tunnel to the church in the grounds; at one time there was a priest's ladder in the back of a closet that led up to attic rooms with a secret way back down into a bedroom.
Solar: on south side of gallery; reduced in size from original at same time as green room (dangerous decay made this necessary); 16th century four poster bed with marquetry tester and carved bedhead
Hall room: now main bedroom dating from early 16th century; rich windows; ancient stone fireplace; 16th century oak framing, wainscoting, plasterwork and glass; portrait of Lady Fitton.
Mary Fitton’s bedroom: plaster decoration in the frieze and old timber framing.
Griffin room: a small bedroom with squared plaster Tudor ceiling; carved linenfold oak door leading into the billiard room
Billiard room: exposed roof timbers; room is mostly 15th century.
French bedroom: carved 18th century French bed--was once a passage
Outside, stone steps lead to an ancient rookery and tilting ground. The 30 acres of the former 600-acre park once formed a late 16th century Elizabethan pleasure garden. The owner, Sir Edward Fitton, had hoped Queen Elizabeth I would pay him a visit. Parts of the Tudor wall and earthworks are still on view. A lake and the Grade I listed medieval parish church, St James the Great, built in the Perpendicular style add to the attractions in the grounds. The church nave dates from 1430 There is also a modern rose garden. Open-air theatre performances are put on in the spring and summer.
Gawsworth Hall, Park and Gardens
Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 9RN
Three miles south of the town on the A536
Tel. 0 1260 223456
Open: Easter, then May–mid Sep, Sun, 2-5pm; July-end Aug, daily, 2-5pm
Web: Gawsworth Hall
Insider Tip: This is a delightful family home and well worth spending time on a visit. It is one of our favourites. Be sure to include the grounds and church in your visit. See our Cheshire Tour for other nearby homes and gardens to visit.
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