I don't know why, but I fell in love with half-timbered houses the first time I saw a photograph of one when I was a child. Perhaps it's some vestige of ancestral memory because when I visited Bolling Hall in Yorkshire where some of my ancestors lived before they began their migration to the colonies, part of it was in that style. For whatever reason, I decided that I really wanted to see a few prime examples while Denis and I were over there. I'm happy to say that, while we were staying in the East Lancashire/West Yorkshire area, we were able to carry out my (almost) lifelong wish before blizzard conditions lowered and we were snowed in.
|Road construction in Preston|
Rufford Old Hall was built by the Heskith family in 1530, and they owned it until 1936. The Great Hall is the only part of the original building that remains, with later brick wings added in the 1660s and 1820s. When we pulled into the car park, we showed our National Trust membership cards (which gave us free admission and parking), and it was obvious that the man at the booth had never seen a membership card from the American branch of the Trust. (The Royal Oak Foundation, if you're curious.) As we walked down the path, I watched ducks swimming in the canal that runs along the side of the property, and then I took a look at the house. If I didn't know any better, from that first look I'd never believe that there was anything half-timbered on the property!
|My first look at Rufford Old Hall|
Our path led us into a courtyard surrounded by outbuildings, a few of which had been converted to a tea room and a gift shop. We were facing the 1820s wing of the Hall.
Two doorways in the wall led out into the garden. One doorway had two sassy geese above it. I loved them and couldn't wait to see the grounds.
|Geese above a doorway leading to the gardens|
My first look at the grounds of Rufford Old Hall fired my imagination. I could just see lawn parties and ladies in Edwardian gowns walking in the shade of the trees on a summer's day....
|One view of Rufford Old Hall's grounds|
But as I walked out into the garden, I was still wondering where "my" half timbers were!
|Shiver me, where's the timbers?|
Bidding a fond farewell to those geese, I went in search of those timbers! (Were those feathered garden guards laughing at me?)
A-ha! Did I just catch a glimpse of what I came to see?
I don't know about you, but I love old homes that have been added to over the centuries in varying architectural styles, and Rufford Old Hall is a prime example of that. And the pair of topiary squirrels on either side of the path made me laugh!
|Rufford Old Hall from the garden|
In case you're wondering, you're taking almost exactly the same tour Denis and I did as we walked around the house, and right at the moment, we're perambulating very slowly around the outside of the Great Hall.... By the way, the cupola on top of the Great Hall was added much later when a Victorian Heskith decided he wanted more light to shine down on his billiard table!
|From this angle, you can't see the newer parts of the house!|
|The Great Hall from the outside|
Once I'd inspected it throughly, wooden pegs, glittering windowpanes and all, I sat down to soak it all in. I didn't even care what the inside looked like; I was absolutely thrilled with the outside!
|The bench where I sat to soak it all in|
|Where old meets older!|
|Put together seamlessly, aren't they?|
|The insets in the wood are stained glass|
|What Denis was doing while I was bench warming|
Little did I know that the inside was so glorious that it made me want to cry. Master craftsmanship, soaring space-- and the young William Shakespeare once performed here!
|Inside the Great Hall.|
But of all the wonders in the Great Hall, it wasn't the fireplace that brought tears to my eyes....
|The Great Hall fireplace|
... and it wasn't the ancient carved lintels above the doorways...
|Carved lintel #1|
|Carved lintel #2|
It wasn't the suits of armor staring at me impassively...
|One of the suits of armor in the Great Hall|
It wasn't even the moveable screen that shielded the gentry at table from the sight of the servants carrying food in and out of the kitchens. The moveable screen at Rufford Old Hall is the only intact one of its kind in the UK-- and it weighs four tons! Moveable? I feel my back going out just thinking of moving that thing!
|From sunlight to shadows, the moveable screen|
|Detail of the moveable screen|
No... I wanted to cry when I looked up at that soaring ceiling high above me. I wanted to cry at the sight of the room glowing with light whenever the sun came out from the clouds. I wanted to cry at the sight of the beautiful patterns of wood and carvings....
|The ceiling of the Great Hall|
|Walls and ceiling of the Great Hall|
|Does Shakespeare's voice still linger up there somewhere?|
In the Heskiths' Great Hall, we are looked upon by two rows of angels. For a long time, I sat in that wonderful space. I looked all around me, and I looked up at those angels and smiled. Before Rufford Old Hall, I loved half-timbered architecture. Now that I've been to Rufford Old Hall, I'm passionate about it!
|Angels above me, part one|
|Angels above me, part two|
I hope you've all enjoyed your tour of Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire. If you'd like to see a more complete tour of the house (and you're one of my Facebook friends), I have a Rufford Old Hall album on my personal Facebook page.
Next weekend, I hope to show you the second stately home we visited that day. (There was a reason for our circular route!)