Little Moreton Hall is a black and white half-timbered moated building, built c 1450-1580. Its name comes from the family, well-to-do local landlords, who built and owned it for several centuries. They lived in the hall until the early 1700s when they rented it out.
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The exterior of the house is true ‘eye candy’ with its timbers setting off square panels with many different decorations within. Entry is through a 16th century gatehouse in the south wing. The decoration on the gatehouse includes vines, cable mouldings, trefoils, friezes of masks and much more. The porch is also heavily decorated with quatrefoils carved from solid wood and other late gothic designs and chamfered pilasters with capitals. From the exterior two massive brick chimney-stacks are visible in the west wing.
On the ground floor of the house around the courtyard is a great hall, screens passage, hall porch, parlour, withdrawing room, rooms used now as exhibition space, a chapel, and chancel, former corn store and further rooms now used as a kitchen, tea-room, and shop.
The first floor space contains the upper part of the great hall, the prayer room, guest hall, guest parlour, secret room, porch room, and other rooms used as bedrooms. The upper floor of the gatehouse held the long gallery and upper porch room.
Over the years extensions grew around a central courtyard. The great hall, in the east wing, is the earliest surviving part of the building dating to c1450. In 1480 the hall’s service end was redesigned as a new wing was added to the building perpendicular to the main entrance passage. A porch, screens passage, and gallery were added at the same time. It is through this porch and passage that the great hall is accessed. A small door and staircase led to the gallery, now closed off, but originally open to the great hall below.
In 1559 owner William Moreton II made further changes, creating a new first floor room by putting in a floor at the level of the great hall’s gallery (it was removed in later times). Two bay windows were added to the rooms. The stained glass in the window is a heraldic panel. Original to the building in the room are a refectory table and large cupboard. Shelves hold a collection of pewter dating from the 1700s.
The parlour and withdrawing room next to it are part of the earliest building. The ceiling in the parlour was added at a later date. The withdrawing room was altered around 1560 when panelling was added to the walls along with moulded ceiling beams. On the walls are painted Biblical scenes dating from c1580. The room was also used as a kitchen in the mid 1600s. Stained glass, dating from the late 1500s, in the window has a Moreton wolf’s head crest and the shield of the family. Over the fireplace are the royal arms of Elizabeth I. The colouring on this plasterwork no longer exists. In the room is an octagonal table dating from c1559.
The chapel first dates from the 1530s and was added when the east wing of the house was enlarged to the south. The mullioned window dates from this same time. On the north and west walls are Biblical texts.
The long gallery was probably added when the three storey south range of the building was built 1560-70. The roof construction is of particular interest and has been altered as the weight of the heavy slate roof has affected the structure. At both ends of the gallery decorative plasterwork is situated above the wood panelling. An upper porch room was known as the gallery chamber and was later used as a bedroom. There is a carved wood coat of arms on the chimneypiece. It is in celebration of the 1329 marriage of John de Moreton and Margaret de Macclesfield.
A guest parlour has a panelled overmantel. A secret room is accessed from the guest parlour by a sliding door fitted into the panelling. The range, last to be added to the house, held a bakehouse and brewhouse at one time, then a room for servants, and even later a cheese store. A panelled guest hall and porch room are opposite the staircase landing and below the long gallery.
At the south end of the extension (c1559-70) was a prayer room first used by the family when chapel services below were being held. Later it was used as a bedroom. The ceiling is not original to the room but was added in the late 1500s.
In the grounds is a garden in the same location as the 1600s one. It would have held herbs and nursery trees for the orchard. The orchard continues producing today a mixture of traditional fruits such as quinces, medlars, pears, and apples. A knot garden, true to an original design of the times, now enhances the area. Vegetables and herbs, types true to Elizabethan times, grow on two sides of the knot garden. A yew tunnel dates from 1975. A farmyard, with a 16th century barn and cow house is still in existence but is in private ownership.
Little Moreton Hall
Four miles south-west of Congleton
Cheshire, North-west Counties
Tel. 0 1260 272 018
Open: varies depending on month and year; to check go to Open times calendar for Little Moreton Hall
National Trust property; shop; restaurant; special events include living history, musical events, regional arts and crafts, open-air theatre, family activities and Yuletide celebrations; parking
Note: This house is worth a long journey.
Photos © by Barbara Ballard and as follows:
Great hall, inner courtyard, painted panelling in parlour, and long gallery courtesy National Trust Photo Library