Hoghton Tower

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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Hoghton Tower
    A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6 (1911)

    Hoghton Tower is strikingly situated near the summit of a bold eminence about half-way between Blackburn and Preston. The position is a commanding one, and the prospect from the top of the entrance tower is very extensive, ranging from the mountains of the Lake District to those of North Wales, with the great plain of south-west Lancashire stretching to the Irish Sea below. On its north and east sides the hill, which is the highest ground in the neighbourhood and a conspicuous object in the landscape for miles around, is precipitous, and at its base on the east side the River Darwen passes through a deep wooded ravine. On the west it slopes gradually, and on the higher part of the sloping side, but some little distance from the summit, the building is situated. The site of the house is about 560 ft. above the sea level and some 360 ft. above the general level of the surrounding country, but the building follows very largely the slope of the hillside, the gardens at the east end being at a considerably higher level than the outer, or west, courtyard.

    The house is an admirable specimen of the large stone-built mansion of the middle 16th century, erected round two courtyards, with the great hall and living rooms generally grouped round the upper court. The offices and servants’ quarters are built westward north and south of the lower courtyard, the west end of which is inclosed by an embattled gateway, with low flanking towers joined to it by curtain walls.

    The buildings appear to be of two main dates, the greater part of the house, including probably most of the buildings round the upper court as well as the western entrance gateway and towers, belonging to the early years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, while at a later time, towards the middle or end of the 17th century, the buildings were extended westward north and south of the lower courtyard, which had before been apparently inclosed only by walls. Only two definite dates, however, can be assigned to the building, the older parts of which have been erected at different times, as is evidenced by the absence of any bond at nearly all the inside angles of the courtyards, and by other internal evidence in the walls. The assigning of dates to many parts of the house is therefore rendered extremely difficult, and the more so by reason of the general uniformity of style which prevails throughout the building. Over the archway in the upper courtyard is the date 1565, with the arms and initials of Thomas Hoghton, which probably gives the year of the completion of the middle range of buildings between the two courts, and probably those on the north of the upper court, as well as other parts of the house since altered or destroyed. The west gateway, together with the flanking towers, would seem also to belong to this first building, as it bears the same arms and initials. The only other date on the house proper is the year 1700, which together with the initials of Sir Charles Hoghton is on the western range of buildings on the south side of the lower court. The great barn to the northwest of the house is dated 1692.

    Dr. Kuerden, writing in the middle of the 17th century, is responsible for the statement, often since repeated, that Hoghton Tower was ‘built in Queen Elizabeth’s reign by one Thomas Hoghton, who translated this manor-house, formerly placed below the hill near unto the water side.’ It has been questioned, however, whether the house built by Thomas Hoghton was a new building ‘translated’ to the top of the hill from a former site near the river, the theory being put forward that the manor-house of the Hoghtons always stood on its present site and was merely rebuilt by Thomas Hoghton in 1565. There seems, however, to be no substantial reason for doubting Dr. Kuerden’s statement, though no records or remains of an older building at the bottom of the hill are known to exist. The evidence of the present building, however, though showing it to have been erected at different times, does not support the view that an older house was rebuilt in Elizabeth’s reign, the detail in no part of the structure suggesting an earlier date than the middle or end of the 16th century. Dr. Kuerden’s statement seems, too, to warrant acceptance from the fact that in a petition of Thomas Hoghton to the Chancellor of the Duchy as plaintiff in a suit against Barnard Townley, a waller and hewer of stone, and Ralph Holden in 1562–3 (5 Eliz.), it is maintained that ‘he hath enterprised and begun’ to build a house in his demesne of Hoghton.

    The extreme length of the buildings from west to east is about 270 ft. and the width 160 ft. The house is of two stories throughout except in the south-east wing and on the south side of the lower courtyard, where it is three stories in height, a difference little marked in the latter instance, however, the drop of the ground making the first floor of the later buildings level with the ground floor of the older parts further east. The walls are of local gritstone, and the roofs, which are covered with stone slates, are picturesquely broken up with gables and chimneys, the gables being ornamented with balls.

    In what year the house was finally abandoned as a residence is not certain, but the addition of a new wing in 1700 seems to imply that the family continued to live there till well into the 18th century. Walton Hall, however, became the chief residence of the Hoghtons before the century was very far advanced, and in 1807 Britton describes Hoghton Tower as falling fast to decay. At that time the later buildings south of the lower courtyard were inhabited by ‘a few families of the lower class,’ mostly weavers, and the house continued in this dismantled and dilapidated state throughout the first half of the 19th century. Harrison Ainsworth introduces Hoghton Tower into The Lancashire Witches, and Charles Dickens, who visited the building in 1854, made use of it as the background for one of his short tales. There was a scheme for its restoration about the year 1830 from designs by Webster of Kendal, a well-known architect of his day, who did a good deal of work in north Lancashire, but it was happily never carried out, and it was not till after the succession of Sir Henry de Hoghton to the estates in 1862 that the restoration was begun. The picture of the ruin and decay of the building seems, however, to have been overstated, as the writer of a description of the building as it was in 1857 states that, although the ground floor had been seriously dismantled, ‘the whole place might, however, be repaired at a small expense, the account of its dilapidation and rapid decay in Baines being almost wholly erroneous,’ the walls apparently being ‘still good’ throughout. The restoration begun by Sir Henry de Hoghton was continued by Sir Charles and completed in 1901 by Sir James de Hoghton, the architect of the later work being Mr. R. D. Oliver of London. The restoration as now completed is an extremely successful one, all the old features having been retained and the new work following most admirably the spirit of the original builders.

    The house is approached from the west by a long drive up the hillside leading from the high road, now open on each side, but formerly lined with trees, the woods extending to within 400 ft. of the front of the west gateway to a point marked by a low stone wall and tall gate piers, now standing isolated and apparently meaningless and inclosing a kind of grass forecourt. The west front, which is the outer wall of the lower courtyard, consists as before stated of a gatehouse and two low embattled towers connected by a curtain wall. The gatehouse, which is 42 ft. long by 18 ft. 6 in., has a lofty central embattled tower over the archway flanked by two lower wings of the same height as the detached corner towers, with a room on each side of the gateway, three rooms on the first floor, and another in the upper part of the tower. The western front now forms the only part of the building where the walls are finished with battlements, though originally no doubt the great tower over the inner archway between the two courtyards would be so built. It is questionable, however, whether the present castellated and even military appearance of the west front is the original design as first built, or intended to be built, as the roofs of the lower portions of the gatehouse are gabled behind the embattled parapet, and a straight joint on each side of the tower seems to show that the parapet was a later addition or afterthought. The north-west angle tower has a similar gabled roof behind the battlements, and there is also the weathering of a gable on all four sides, the building having apparently been originally finished with four stone gables. The south-east tower, which, like its companion, has a room on each floor, has been modernized inside and a lead flat substituted for the old roof. The angle towers measure 19 ft. by 18 ft. externally, and are now used in connexion with the stables and offices. The gateway tower has a lead flat, and the first floor rooms are approached by an internal stone staircase on the south side. The entrance to the courtyard is under a pointed archway 12 ft. wide, with middle gateway, the arch springing from moulded imposts. Above, facing west, is a panel with good Renaissance ornament, under a label, carved with the representation of a man struggling with a beast, a possible reference to Samson slaying the lion, together with the initials of Thomas Hoghton. Over this again is a threelight mullioned window and another to the tower room above. There are two-light windows also to the first floor rooms in the flanking lower parts, and the angle towers have each a two-light window facing west on each floor.

    The lower courtyard measures 145 ft. from west to east and about 120 ft. in width, and is divided into two portions, a kind of lower and upper ward, the lower being paved with stone setts. The ground here falls so steeply that at the east or upper end a wall has been built inclosing a grass plot with a flight of steps at either end, raising this portion of the quadrangle nearly to the level of the upper court. The effect of the inclosing low stone wall with its tall gate piers and flight of semicircular stone steps is very picturesque, and gives architectural distinction to what might otherwise, since the destruction of the great tower, have been a rather featureless open space. On the south side is the three-storied block of buildings erected in 1700 by Sir Charles Hoghton, 74 ft. in length, originally detached from the main structure and separated from it by a space of 14 ft. On the front is a panel with the inscription ‘C.H., M.H. 1700. 2 Pet. Ch. iii, 11, Seein then, etc.,’ the initials being those of Sir Charles and Mary Hoghton his wife. The elevation preserves all the characteristics of the older part of the house, and, now that it is joined up to it by the erection of modern buildings over the intervening space, there is little or nothing to indicate that it is not part of the original design. Internally a corridor on the south side of the ground floor of the older buildings is now continued at the same level along the first floor of the later structure. The north side of the courtyard has been largely rebuilt, but original work remains in the outer walls of the servants’ hall, though the windows and internal arrangements are modern. All the old buildings on the north side of the house between the servants’ hall and the kitchen have now given place to new work, though the old well-house still remains in the northeast corner of the courtyard. This is a small onestory structure 15 ft. by 13 ft. inside attached to the main building on its east side, inclosing a draw well of great depth. The buildings on the north of the courtyard are of two stories, but the upper rooms being really attics lit from stone gables in the roof, the height to the caves is only about 16 ft. The buildings stop short some 50 ft. of the west side of the courtyard, which is inclosed at that point by a high fence wall and gateway to the stable yard. The stable, which is 51 ft. long by 20 ft. wide and of 17th-century date, is 13 ft. to the north of the north-west tower, standing well in advance of the main west front of the building. The east side of the courtyard now suffers architecturally by the loss of the gateway tower. The wall has been raised about 2 ft. by the addition of two courses of stone above the windows, and the roof is now carried through from end to end, the original appearance of the middle wing being thus completely lost. The windows are small, without transoms, and, with the exception of the central archway, the corbelled chimney stacks at each end alone give any distinction to the elevation. The archway is very similar in detail to that in the west entrance, springing from moulded imposts, and over it, facing west, is a panel with the initials of Thomas Hoghton and a shield of arms, Hoghton quartering Assheton, with supporters, helm, crest, and mantling. Over the arch facing east to the upper court the arms are repeated, without crest, mantling or supporters, but with the date 1565 below.

    The upper courtyard is about 70 ft. square, and has the great hall and kitchen on its north side, with the state rooms on the east and the living rooms on the south and west. Originally the chapel occupied a position at the north-east corner leading from the east end of the great hall, but it had fallen into complete ruin before the time of the restoration, and all that was left of it was then removed and a new entrance to the house constructed on part of its site. The chapel was slightly swung round from the line of the house so as to orientate correctly, the line of the entrance hall still indicating its position.

    The west and north sides of the upper courtyard appear to have been erected first, and were probably followed by the buildings on the south side, the east wing, containing the state rooms, being most likely the last to be completed. No definite conclusions, however, can be arrived at concerning the order of erection of the different parts of the earlier structure, but absence of any bonding in the south-west, southeast and north-east corners of the quadrangle indicates that the buildings were not originally erected on any premeditated plan. As originally built the extreme south-west corner was open on the west, the south wing of the lower court being afterwards built against it, probably in the middle of the 17th century. This is proved by the discovery during the restoration of a large window in the upper floor facing west, and by the existing straight joint in the walling on the south front to the garden marking the former external south-west angle of the building at that point. The east wing again appears to be of two periods, there being a straight joint in the walling towards the court about half-way in its length, and the north end of the King’s Hall shows an older wall on the west side for some portion of its length, making the total width of the outside wall at this point 4 ft. 6 in. This would seem to indicate the existence of an older and slightly narrower wing whose west side has at a later date been brought forward to the line of the newer buildings to the south of it. There was probably a good deal of reconstruction carried out immediately prior to King James’s visit in 1617, and most likely the east wing would assume more or less of its present aspect at that time.

    There has also been a great deal of change at the south-east end of the house, where a long narrow wing 52 ft. in length by 13 ft. wide externally runs southward at right angles to the main building. This wing, locally known as Hanging End, forms a very picturesque feature from the garden, but its original purpose is hard to determine. Additions have been made to it at its north end on both sides, reducing its apparent length externally by about onethird, and an external flight of stone steps leading to an entrance on the first floor has been erected on the east side. The first floor forms a kind of long gallery 50 ft. by 9 ft. 6 in., lit on the west by three windows, and by a single one in the end wall. The east wall has a single window of four lights, but during the restoration a continuation of this window northward was discovered showing it to have been originally a long window of twelve lights occupying the whole of the middle part of that side of the room.

    The great hall occupies the whole of the north side of the upper courtyard, from which, with its long range of windows, great gabled bay, and flight of semicircular steps, it forms a very charming feature. It goes up the full height of both stories, and breaks the monotony of the otherwise almost too uniformly regular design of the house. On the three other sides of the courtyard the eaves run round at the same level, giving little distinction to the roof. A lead statue of King William III on a stone pedestal, brought from Walton Hall when that house was abandoned early in the 19th century, greatly adds to the picturesqueness of the upper courtyard, being placed immediately opposite the entrance archway slightly to the north of the centre of the quadrangle.

    Owing, no doubt, to the irregularity of the site the usual disposition of the kitchen in relation to the great hall and screens does not strictly obtain in Hoghton Tower. The fall of the ground has been taken advantage of architecturally to raise the floor of the hall some 5 ft. above that of the lowest point of the courtyard, while the floor of the kitchen, which is immediately to the west of the hall, is some 2 ft. below. The usual doors to the kitchen and offices from the screens are therefore not possible, the way to the kitchen from the hall being from the south end of the screens by a descent of seven steps to a lobby opening from the courtyard from which the kitchen is entered. There is another descent of three steps within the kitchen itself. There is nothing to indicate that this arrangement is not part of the original plan, though it is possible that the hall was rebuilt in its present form in the beginning of the 17th century in anticipation of the king’s visit. Architecturally, however, as viewed from the courtyard, the effect of the hall floor being thus raised above the level of the rest of the house is extremely good, being responsible for the emphasis of the great sweep of the stone steps in the north-west corner.

    The great hall is 52 ft. 6 in. in length, including the passage behind the screen at the west end, and 26 ft. in width. It has a flat panelled wood ceiling 18 ft. high, and at the east end, north and south of the high table, are two fine semi-octagonal bay windows 12 ft. wide and 10 ft. 6 in. deep, the full height of the room, divided by three transoms, the sills 3 ft. 6 in. from the floor. The hall is further lit on the south side by a range of mullioned and double transomed windows, consisting of fourteen lights placed high in the wall, the sills being 7 ft. from the floor, and there is a similar window of eight lights at the east end. The floor is flagged and the walls are of stone, but panelled in oak to the height of 7 ft. All the panelling, however, and the woodwork to the ceiling belong to the modern restoration, but otherwise the hall has been very little altered and retains all its essential features. The screen and gallery at the west end are good examples of late 17th-century woodwork with turned Jacobean balusters, the lower part having open panels closed by shutters to the passage. Over the fireplace is a lofty stone arch, now filled in, but probably marking the opening of an original ingle, the fireplace itself being a later insertion of stone with square moulded opening and carved spandrels. There is a good cast-iron grate and fire-back, the grate bearing the initials of Sir Charles Hoghton and the date 1702. There is a good 18th-century brass chandelier, and the original high table remains, though now on the south side of the room. There is no raised dais.

    The doorway at the north end of the screens, which has moulded stone jambs and a four-centred stone arched head with carved spandrels, was originally an outer opening, but at some later date a large porch with room above, 16 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft., appears to have been added, having two semicircular-headed openings in the north side and a doorway of similar design in the south-east corner. Externally this north porch, now made into a private dining-room, exhibits some of the rare architectural ornament to be found at Hoghton Tower, the elevations on the ground floor having a series of pilasters on corbelled pedestals carrying a small entablature and cornice. The pilasters are carved with good Renaissance ornament. In the restoration the original exterior appearance of the porch has of course been lost, the openings being filled in with modern wooden windows and the doorway built up. The room above is gained from the minstrels’ gallery and has an opening in the wall overlooking the great hall. Externally its gable and chimney form a rather picturesque feature taken in conjunction with the bay and chimney of the hall.

    From the east end of the great hall a door leads by way of what is now the entrance hall to the east wing, which contains the state apartments, and originally to the chapel. The state rooms, sometimes called the King’s Rooms, from the fact that they were occupied by King James I in 1617, consist on the ground floor of the King’s Hall, a large apartment 38 ft. long by 20 ft. wide, with a staircase at its south end, and beyond it again to the south another room of the same width and 41 ft. in length, now used as a billiard room and library. The staircase is the original 17th-century one restored, but otherwise, like most of the other rooms in the house, these two pieces contain little that is ancient except their walls and windows. They extend, as is the case with most of the rooms in Hoghton Tower, across the full width of the wing, and are lit on both sides by windows to the courtyard and to the garden. On the upper floor the staircase, which is centrally placed, gives access to the King’s Room on the north and the drawing-room on the south. From the King’s Room a door leads to another large room, now Lady de Hoghton’s private room, over the entrance hall and new porch. The fittings of the drawing-room, which is the same size as the billiard room and library below, belong to the latest period of the restoration, and are a fine piece of modern Renaissance work, but the panelling of the King’s Room and the room beyond is apparently the original late 17th-century wainscot restored.

    Round both courtyards the walls are faced with wide courses of squared masonry, irrespective of the different periods of building, the only exception being the well-house, where the walls are of rough stone. Round the upper courtyard all the first floor windows and those to the great hall have moulded jambs and mullions, and the ground floor windows hollow chamfers. Other parts of the building show great difference in detail in this respect, some of the windows having hollow and some rounded chamfers, while others are moulded. Most of the ground floor rooms are entered direct from the courtyards, the upper court having at present seven doorways in use, while two have been built up. There was originally a doorway on the south side of the entrance archway to what was probably a porter’s room, but this also has been built up and a staircase erected in the room probably in the latter half of the 17th century after the destruction of the tower. To the south of this in the middle wing is an interesting room with panelled wainscot called the Oak Room, 18 ft. by 20 ft., lit by two windows on each side to either courtyard.

    The modern overhanging eaves gutter now hides the original moulded stone eaves course, which, however, is seen running across the bottom of the hall gable on the north side of the upper court as a string course, and similarly in the gable of the southeast three-story wing. The gables throughout have plain copings with ball terminations, and with one or two exceptions are curiously ornamented in the apex by a very small carved human face.

    The other rooms on the ground floor are for the most part unimportant, very little original detail having been preserved, though some of the furniture is made from timber belonging to the old house. Much the same may be said of the first floor, where, however, more structural alterations have perhaps been found necessary, many of the bedrooms having originally opened one from another, though the number of staircases in the house rendered this feature of 16th-century planning less objectionable than is usually the case. The bedrooms in the middle wing between the courts, however, have been curtailed in size by the introduction of a corridor the full length of the east side facing the upper court, and the curious room, south of these, known as the Guinea Room, by reason of the character of its panel decoration, has been mutilated and cut in two.

    The gardens lie on the south and east sides of the house, that to the east, which extends to the highest point of the hill, having formerly been known as the Wilderness. It is about 200 ft. long by 160 ft. wide, and is inclosed by embattled stone walls. These walls have been rebuilt, but in conformity with those which previously existed. On the north side, parallel with the wall, is a raised terrace walk. On the south side of the house are two flower gardens at different levels inclosed by stone walls, from the upper one of which the picturesquely broken up south front of the house is best seen. In this garden is a well-designed 18thcentury lead vase, now in decay, and the lead figure of a boy on a new pedestal in the centre of one of the flower beds. There is also an old stone sundial shaft, but the plate is missing.

    On the grass opposite the west front to the south of the entrance is a sundial shaft mounted on a high circular stone base, the plate of which is also missing; it bore the inscription ‘Mea Gloria Fides.’

    The great barn, built by Sir Charles Hoghton in 1692, stands about 120 ft. to the north-west of the lower courtyard, partly inclosing the north side of the grass forecourt. It is 139 ft. in length, with a central projecting gable 34 ft. wide on the south side. The east end remains much the same as when erected, with its narrow slit openings; but at the west it has been converted into stables, and modern windows have been inserted on both sides. Later buildings have been added at the east end on the north side.

    Manor courts were held till about thirty years ago. There are court rolls from 1672 to 1689 at Walton, and later records.

    The Hoghton family having long been practically sole landowners, few other names occur as holding land in the township. Sir Henry Hoghton in 1786 paid about a fourth part of the land tax.

    Brimmicroft, now in Hoghton, is the ‘Broomicroft in Withnell’ which was in 1293 given by Richard son of Sir Adam de Hoghton to his son Richard.