Towneley Hall

Has been described as a Possible Fortified Manor House, and also as a Possible Pele Tower

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameTowneley Hall
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLancashire
Modern AuthorityLancashire
1974 AuthorityLancashire
Civil ParishBurnley

C14 pele forms eastern wing of Hall. (Gibson)

Country house, formerly the seat of the Towneley family, now museum and art gallery. Begun c1400, completed in quadrangular form c1500; north-west wing rebuilt c1626, and widened by additions to the outer side c1737; north-east gatehouse range demolished in early C18 (Listed Building Report)

TOWNELEY HALL stands in a low situation about a quarter of a mile from the west bank of the Calder and about 1¼ miles south-east of Burnley. It is a large three-story stone mansion built on three sides of an open court and facing north-east, dating originally in all probability from the 14th or early 15th century, but altered so considerably from time to time since that little or nothing of the early building is now visible. Dr. Whitaker, (Whittaker) writing about 1788, states that the house was, 'until about a century ago,' a complete quadrangle with four turrets in the angles, and that on the north-east side, which was then as now open, there were 'two turrets in the angles, a gateway, a chapel, and a sacristy, with a library over. These,' he goes on to state, 'were removed by Charles Towneley about a century ago and placed in their present position, having been preserved entire.' This statement of Whitaker's as to the existence of a north-east wing seems to be the only evidence as to the former plan and appearance of the building, the structure itself showing no signs of any such violent alteration, which it seems reasonable to suppose if carried out at so comparatively recent a date as the end of the 17th century would have left some trace

It has been suggested, however, that the gate-house and chapel may have existed in a detached building whose removal would not cause mutilation to the adjoining wings, (Taylor) but so much work has been done externally in the 18th century that it is extremely difficult to come to any definite conclusion as to what the building was like at the time when the destruction of the north-east side of the quadrangle is said to have taken place. The plan of the house now consists of a south-west or middle wing containing the great hall measuring externally 86 ft. in length by 34 ft. in width, with long north-west and southeast wings at right angles forming the three sides of a courtyard measuring 80 ft. by 76 ft. This probably forms more or less the plan of the mediaeval house, or part of it if it were entirely quadrangular, and the south-east wing apparently retains its original walls, 6 ft. thick, all round. This wing is 95 ft. long by 40 ft. wide, and like the wing opposite stands in front of the centre block some 75 ft., the internal angles being emphasized by square staircase towers 15 ft. on the face, but with a projection of only 4 ft. in front of the main wall. The north-west wing is of the same length and may have been originally of equal width, the outer wall on the west side, which is 6 ft. thick, being apparently of equal date with those of the south-east wing. The north-east wing was, however, rebuilt by Richard Towneley shortly before his death in 1628, and the wall facing the courtyard is of that date. At a later period William Towneley, who died in 1742, added a new building on the west side against the old outer wall which had been retained in the rebuilding, increasing the wing to its present width of 53 ft. The junction of the old and new work is not observable on the front elevation, the end wall having been presumably entirely re-erected at that time, but at the back it stands slightly in front of the older wall. The back portion of the outer building, however, which in the upper floor contains the chapel, is said to have been part of the old north-east wing removed at the time of its destruction to its present position by Charles Towneley, the stones having been marked and numbered. However that may be, (The evidence of the masonry hardly supports the traditionthe north-west wing has now as completely lost all traces of its mediaeval appearance as that opposite, the ancient work there visible belonging to the 17th century. In the rebuilding of 1628 the wall facing the courtyard may have been erected within the line of the older wall, supposing the wings to have been originally of equal width, and the courtyard space consequently increased, but this is not certain, the wings possibly having been of unequal width from the first. (VCH)

Gatehouse Comments

Gibson's account of a pele tower is not really substantiated by other authorities although it is not impossible there was an dwelling here before the courtyard house of c. 1400 was built and the tenurial history would not be inconsistent with that dwelling being a pele tower. The C15 courtyard house was a major building (with a deer park) and when it had its gatehouse and corner turrets would have been quite castle-like, and probably deserving of the fortified manor house label.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSD854308
Latitude53.773868560791
Longitude-2.2225399017334
Eastings385430
Northings430860
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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Copyright Chas. Townley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
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Books

  • Cooper, Nicholas, 1999, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) p. 299, 321
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 250
  • Gibson, Leslie Irving, 1977, Lancashire Castles and Towers (Dalesman Books)
  • Farrer, William and Brownbill, J. (eds), 1911, VCH Lancashire Vol. 6 p. 461 online transcription
  • Taylor, H., 1884, Old Halls of Lancashire and Cheshire p. 96-99 (plan) online copy
  • Whittaker, T.D., 1876 (4edn revised and enlarged by J. G. Nichols and Ponsonby Lyons), An History of the Original Parish of Whalley, and Honor of Clitheroe Vol. 2 p. 186 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 217 online copy

Journals

  • Harrison, Wm, 1901, 'Ancient Forests, Chases, and Deer Parks in Lancashire' Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 19 p. 34 (about Deer Park) online copy