Astley Hall


Astley Hall

Astley Hall is a country house in Chorley, Lancashire, England. Oliver Cromwell is said to have stayed here for a time. The extensive landscaped grounds are now Chorley's Astley Park.

History

The site was acquired in the 15th century by the Charnock family from the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and they built the original timber-framed house around a small courtyard c.1575-1600. In 1665, Margaret Charnocke married Richard Brooke of Mere in Cheshire, and they built the present grand but asymmetrical front range of brick with a pair of vast mullion and transomed bay windows. This front has a doorway with distinctly rustic Ionic columns, remarkable at such a late date.

The interior is notable for the staggering mid 17th century plasterwork in the ceilings of the Great Hall and drawing room, which have heavy wreaths and disporting cherubs. The ceilings are barbaric in their excesses, and the figures are relatively poorly modelled, although the undercutting is breathtaking. Not all the moulding is of stucco: there are elements of lead and leather too. The staircase is of the same period with a coarse but vigorously carved acanthus scroll balustrade and square newels with vases of flowers on top. The lower parts of the hall are panelled with inset paintings of a curious selection of modern worthies, including Protestants such as Elizabeth I and William the Silent; Catholics such as Philip II and Ambrogio Spinola; the explorers Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan, and Muhammadans such as Bajazet and Mohammed II; it is thought this scheme might be rather earlier than the other work and date from the time of Thomas Charnock MP, who died in 1648. The whole width of the house on the top floor is occupied by a long gallery which contains the finest shovelboard table in existence, 23½ feet long.

The house contains a bird's-eye view by an unknown artist showing the house c.1710, which depicts small tower-gazebos at the angles of its forecourt. In due course, the Brookes failed in the male line and the house descended to Robert Townley-Parker of Cuerden, who added the south wing in 1825 and stuccoed the exterior, probably to the design of Lewis Wyatt, who worked for him at Cuerden Hall. The dining room in the early 19th century wing has inlaid 16th century panelling brought in from elsewhere.

In 1922 the house and its contents were given to Chorley Corporation by Reginald Tatton, as a memorial to the local men killed in World War I. It has since been maintained as a museum. The house contains fine oak furniture, Flemish tapestries and wooden panelling. It is rumoured that Oliver Cromwell stayed at the Hall during the Battle of Preston in the 1600s and reportedly left his boots behind. However, recent research shows that these may not be his own boots, although this does not rule out him visiting the Hall. A wide range of temporary exhibitions are displayed in the art gallery throughout the season and events are organised throughout the year.

The plain Classical brick stable block with pedimented centre is of c.1800.

The grounds with a small lake were landscaped by John Webb and feature a picturesque meandering stream running through a wooded ravine.

Previous owners

Robert Charnock (d. 1616), ?-1616; Richard Charnock MP (d.1648/1653), 1616-48/53; Margaret Charnock, wife of Richard Brooke (1640-1715), 1648/53-1715; Peter Brooke, son (1673-1721), 1715-21; Thomas Brooke, brother (1684-1734), 1721-34; Richard Brooke, son (1717-48), 1734-48; Peter Brooke, brother (d.1786), 1748-86; Peter Brooke, son (1764-87), 1786-87; Susannah Brooke, sister (1762-1852), wife of Thomas Townley-Parker (1760-94), 1787-?; Robert Townley-Parker, son (1793-1879), ?-1879; Thomas Townley-Parker, son (1822-1906), 1879-1906; Reginald Arthur Tatton, nephew (1857-1926), 1906-22; Chorley Borough Council, 1922-date

Access

House and gardens are owned by the Borough of Chorley. Admission is currently free of charge.

References

Sir H. Colvin, "A biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840", p. 1043

"Country Life", 1922, vol. 51, p. 284; vol. 52, pp. 14, 50, 127; "Country Life", 1924, vol. 56, pp. 339, 491; "Country Life", 1955, vol. 118, p. 1214

N. Cooper, "Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680", 1999, p. 321

J. Harris, "The artist and the country house", 1985, pp. 97, 143

T. Mowl & B. Earnshaw "Architecture without kings", 1995, p. 174

J.M. Robinson, "The country houses of the north-west", 1991, pp. 154-155

External links

* http://www.chorley.gov.uk/astleyhall for further information.
* [http://www.mcrh.mmu.ac.uk/pubs/pdf/mrhr_12_museums_wright.pdf Manchester Region History Review, Volume 12 1998, "Astley Hall Museum and Art Gallery", Nigel Wright]


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