revised and updated with new photos February 11, 2018
Lancashire is mostly farmland, covered by great land masses such as meadows, cornfields, vales and barren moorlands. In the northernmost regions, however, the county shows off mountains and lake scenery. In north Lancashire castles are a rarity. Lancaster’s Castle is the exception and the remains of a small castle at Clitheroe. Many pele towers were later gentrified but many still exist behind the facade such as at Gawthorpe Hall. Piel and Hornby Castle had magnificent pele towers of which the northwest side of England abounds. A number of fifteenth-century towers such as Turton Tower, Wraysholme Tower and Greenhalgh Castle in Gardstang, examples of which were kept in repair until comparatively modern times. (Wraysholme Tower now resides within Cumberland’s borders and Piel Castle is on an island which sits away from the northwestern coast between Lancashire and Cumberland.) By looking at them, it shows evidence that parts of Lancashire were not secure until well into the seventeenth century.
The Forest of Bowland and beautiful Ribble Valley offer fantastic views worthy for artists. John Constable (1776-1837) was one who hailed its treasured landscapes. This English impressionist was most famous for his painting Salisbury Cathedral. Considering the area he is best known for, Constable Walk (an area of East Bergholt, a village on the River Stour), of which he is the consummate landscape artist, this was high praise.
The town of Lancaster and Blackpool are popular with tourists. Lancaster offers a lot of history, starting with the Romans who named it for the River Lune and built defenses there. The university and cultural life bustles around the Norman Lancaster Castle which was originally a massive stone keep started by Roger of Poitou circa 1100 and rebuilt in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It has been a royal castle and prison since the eighteenth century. The Shire Hall is not to be missed as it contains 600 heraldic shields. Fragments from Adrian’s Tower (which has a collection of torture instruments) are 2,000 years old. Up until 2011 the castle was still being used as a courthouse and prison. All are intact but now unused except for being an awesome castle-loving tourist attraction.
Nine miles north of Lancaster, Leighton Hall is in the northernmost part of Lancashire near the border between it and Cumbria, along with Warton Old Rectory. It dates back to the thirteenth century when it was built by Adam d’Avranches in 1246. The present owner, Richard Gillow Reynolds, Esq. is a descendant of Adam.
The Gillow family are the Gillows of the Lancastrian furniture company “Gillow and Co.” and some of their most excellent pieces are at the estate, along with portraits, clocks, silver and objets d’art.
The castle itself is located ideally in a vale of parkland, with Lakeland Fells dramatically rising behind. It has a neo-gothic facade which was superimposed over the 18th century house. Some parts still include the ruins of the original medieval house. (You can view it in the album slide show.)
Even though it is a home it has many features normally associated with castle museums. Conferences, small concerts and leisure sports are conducted on the grounds. It also has a walled garden, with wonderful walks and a Bird Garden including birds of prey, and are flown each mid-afternoon, weather permitting.
Two miles south, Warton Old Rectory is worth a look with its medieval stone walls, admission is free and is open perpetually during regular business hours.
Much further south between Preston and Blackburn, Hoghton Tower, stunning by area size and dramatic architecture, occupies lush green hillside. Three houses have occupied the hill since 1100 and the most recent structures were rebuilt by Thomas Hoghton circa 1560-1565. Sir Baronet Bernard de Hoghton, the current heir, can lay claim to the Knighting of the Loin by James I in 1617 on the premises- knighting Sir Loin.
Browsholme, Clitheroe Castle and Gawthorpe Hall are all situated a short distance northeast of Hoghton and are so close that on a particularly energetic day you could visit all three for a day tour. Five miles northwest of Clitheroe, Browsholme was built in 1507 in the center of beautifully landscaped parkland. It is the ancestral home of the Parker Family. The published description is well documented by two family members on the site www.browsholme.co.uk . Here I will be brief- it has an Elizabethan facade and Regency West Wing recast by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville. It contains unusual museum artifacts and art.
The scant remains of Clitheroe Castle situated high on a hill are surrounded by a small market town and is a good starting point to explore the Ribble Valley’s old villages. A Roman fort remains in Ribchester and the ruins of a Cisterian abbey can be found in Whalley. If you visit www.oldclitheroe.co.uk/page172.html you can see wonderful photos available and the rich heritage and sights of southern Lancashire, which include Stonyhurst (a regular haunt of J.R.R. Tolkien) and Whalley Abbey. Samlesbury Abbey and Blackburn Cathedral (which is a brand-new renovation of an old historic Saxon site) will be worthwhile stops as well.
Gawthorpe Hall, somewhat south of Clitheroe and Towneley Hall easterly of Gawthorpe lie closest to the North Yorkshire border in and around Burnley and Bronteé country. They are crenallated and castellated manor homes and are both renowned for their art collections both permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Towneley Hall dates from the 1300s while Gawthorpe is more Elizabethan and was constructed during 1600-1605. Sir Charles Barry restored the latter in the 1850s for the Shuttleworth family and their portraits and textile collection are on display. Towneley Hall, currently under the protection of the Burnley Borough Council, is the former home of a family by the same name and is only 1/2 mile SE of Burnley. It became the Art Gallery and Museum in 1903 and even contains an aquarium. Photos are to be found in the album I’ve created for Lancashire.
In the extreme southwest corner of the county Rufford Old Hall and Astley Hall, while differing in architecture quite drastically, were contemporaries. Rufford Old Hall is considered the finest sixteenth century building in Lancashire and Astley Hall dates back to 1580. There is a legend that Shakespeare performed here for Sir Thomas Hesketh in the Great Hall and I have included a photo of the Hall. This was the Hesketh family seat for two hundred and fifty years. In the Carolean Wing there are fine collections of sixteenth and seventeenth century oak furniture, arms, armour and tapestries. Astley Hall had many additions made in the 1660s and 1820s so that its exterior looks quite modern in comparison to the seventeenth century interior, which is quite charming and visitor friendly. Situated 2 miles west of Chorley, it is owned and operated by the Chorley Borough Council.
The Castle Lady in humble service to her loyal subjects
Proverbe du Jour: La Sage monte dans la ville des héros, et il abut la force qui lui donnait de l’assurance.
| Leighton Hall Hoghton Tower aeriel Gawthorpe interior
| The Castle Lady