Gainsborough Old Hall
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Gainsborough Old Hall is a Tudor manor located in the centre of the town of Gainsborough. The location itself makes the Old Hall remarkable; most of the surviving contemporary manors in Britain are located in more remote countryside locations, but the Old Hall is smack dab in the middle of Gainsborough itself.
The Old Hall was built by Sir Thomas Burgh between 1460-80, on the site of an existing moated manor house once owned by the powerful Percy family. Burgh's new design consisted of a great hall and kitchen block, with the later addition of wings, all ranged about an open courtyard.
The manor was damaged in 1469 during the Wars of the Roses, and a west range with a brick tower was added to the original design. The manor has remained substantially unaltered ever since. Among the many famous visitors to Gainsborough Old Hall are two kings of England; Richard III and Henry VIII, and religious reformer John Wesley.
The pride of the Old Hall is the Great Hall, a huge chamber with a lovely timber roof. There are no tie beams in the roof; it was constructed using naturally curved oak timbers. Off the Great Hall are a small buttery, pantry, and servery, with a very large original kitchen beyond.
A peephole in the wall of a bedchamber on the first floor allowed family members to peer out over the scene in the great hall below. Visitors can also ascend the tower for excellent views over Gainsborough and the surrounding countryside.
The Burgh family eventually sold Gainsborough to William Hick. Hick was a strongly religious man, and he supported the unconventional views of the Gainsborough Separatist congregation, who would have worshipped at the Old Hall.
Many of these Separatists later were involved in the voyage of the Mayflower to the New World, and there is a very interesting exhibition on the ground floor covering the history of the Pilgrim Fathers and the founding of America.
The Old Hall is furnished throughout with Tudor and Jacobean furniture, and there are informative and interesting displays on the history of the house and its owners. There is also a regular program of special events, including theatrical performances.
The site is managed by Lincolnshire County Council in cooperation with English Heritage, and EH members are admitted free of charge.
We visited with our two young children, and they had a great time. Our daughter loved dressing up in the period costumes, and the Hall was large enough - and had enough dim passages to explore - that they had a wonderful experience. As for the adults, well, I learned so much about the story of events leading up to the Pilgrims and the voyage of the Mayflower. It was truly fascinating to get a glimpse into the lives of these peole who took the chance to sail halfway around the known world in search of a new life.
About Gainsborough Old Hall
Address: Parnell Street, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England, DN21 2NB
Attraction Type: Historic House
Website: Gainsborough Old Hall
OS: SK815 895
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
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