Little Moreton Hall
Little Moreton Hall
Little Moreton Hall is arguably the finest half-timbered manor in England - certainly it is one of the most heavily photographed! The house is set around three sides of a cobbled courtyard and ringed around by a moat. The half-timbering is fanciful, delightfully ornate. The upper stories of the house project out over the base, and the small windows boast an enjoyable variety of Tudor glass.

History
This deliciously overwhelming symphony of timber-framing rises like a fairy-tale manor, protected by a narrow moat. The house is built around an inner courtyard, reached through a projecting gatehouse. At the far side of the courtyard is the great hall, built by Sir Richard de Moreton around 1450. To the left are service wings, and to the right a chapel and solar, or private quarters for the lord and his family.

In 1559 the Moretons added large bay windows to the great hall and a few decades later built an impressive long gallery over the gatehouse. There are no corridors within the house; each room leads directly into the next, and the floors are connected by compact spiral staircases.

The lack of interior furnishings allow visitors to see the wonderful plasterwork and wall paintings, including those in the long gallery. A knot garden stands outside the house.

The moat and gatehouse
The moat and gatehouse
The Moretons supported the Royalist cause in the Civil War, and when Parliament triumphed the family left Little Moreton Hall, letting it to tenant farmers. The house gradually decayed, becoming little more than a picturesque farmhouse. Finally the house was granted to the National Trust in 1949 and gradually restored to something approaching its Elizabethan glory.

And what a glory it is! The exterior woodwork is astounding, as if the carpenters set out to use every decorative trick at their disposal. Every surface seems embellished with delicate carvings, most in medieval style. Yet the Hall is decidedly not medieval, for it makes almost extravagant use of glass, at a time when glass was used sparingly outside major churches.

The Moretons did not put all their efforts into the exterior black-and-white timbering for which the house is famous; the interiors are every bit as impressive. There is painted leather panelling, ornately carved fireplaces, and a very impressive octagonal wooden table in the withdrawing room. The chapel is a delight, with a galleried prayer room facing the tiny chancel. But by far the most fascinating room is the Long Gallery, inserted over the gatehouse in the 1580s. This features a beautiful range of mullioned windows shedding light on an interior embellished with fabulous decorative woodwork. At opposite ends of the hall are plaster friezes, with a figure of Destiny and a Wheel of Fortune. A comment, perhaps, on the family's finances?

To the rear of the house is a small formal garden, with clipped hedges in geometric designs. Though very pretty, the garden is really just an exclamation point on the extraordinary architecture of the house.

Visiting
We opted for a guided tour, though we could have chosen to wander around the house on our own. The guide was excellent, telling us about the history of the house and the Moreton family, then showing us around the entire house and chapel, upstairs and down. After that we were free to do as we chose, so I went around the house again on my own to revisit some of the features I found most interesting.

Though the exquisite ornamental tiber-framed exterior will gather 'oohs' and 'ahs' from visitors, I found the interiors just as interesting, the fact the rooms were sparsely furnished actually helped me to really see the house, and the wonderful fittings like the leather wallcovering and ornamental fireplaces. Some of the decorative woodwork inside the house was simply stunning, and every bit as overwhelming as the exteriors! In sum, Little Moreton Hall is an amazing place to visit.

The inner courtyard
The inner courtyard
16th century bay window
16th century bay window
The house entrance
The house entrance