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North West Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire

Samlesbury Hall dates from 1325 and was the the home of the Southworth family for over 300 years.

It is now open to the public and is a popular wedding venue with accommodation in the gatehouse and shepherd’s huts in the extensive grounds.


It has Tudor priest holes, ghosts and witches. It has been described as one of the most haunted houses in the North West of England.

The first recorded lord of Samlesbury manor was Cospatric de Samlesbury, who held it from the Norman over-lord, Ilbert de Lacy. In the absence of a male heir, the manor passed to Cospatric’s great-granddaughters – Margaret, Cecily and Elizabeth de Samlesbury. Margaret died childless. The manor was split into two halves. Elizabeth received the Lower Hall division, whilst Cecily who married John d’Ewyas inherited the other half.

Gilbert de Southworth acquired half of the manor by his marriage to Alice d'Ewyas and was responsible for building the present hall in 1325, probably on the site of an earlier building destroyed during a raids by Robert The Bruce in 1322.

Sir Thomas Southworth who played a prominent role in the wars against Scotland and was High Sheriff of Lancashire, built the south-west wing in 1530, transforming the Hall into a comfortable family home rather than a fortress. This was one of the first buildings in Lancashire to be built from brick. He added the entrance hall parlour and long gallery, linking the chapel to the rest of the building.

Sir John Southworth was a staunch Catholic and practiced his faith secretly during the reign of Elizabeth I. There are three known priest holes in the house and his activities led to fines and imprisonment.

In 1612, Jane Southworth, wife of Sir John’s grandson, along with Jennet Bierley and her daughter-in-law, Ellen Bierley, were accused of witchcraft by Grace Sowerbutts, the teenage granddaughter of Jennet. They were incarcerated at Lancaster Castle and tried at the Summer Assizes, but acquitted after Grace’s evidence

Edward Southworth who was bankrupt and had no direct heirs, sold the hall and estate in 1677/8 to Thomas Bradyll. Bradyll never lived at the hall but stripped much of its interior features to use at his main house at Ulverston. In the early C18th he rented the hall out to handloom weavers and their families. In 1834 it was converted into the Bradyll Arms Inn. Stables and a coach house were added as this was a convenient place to exchange horses between Preston and Blackburn.

The next owner was John Cooper, who bought the building in 1850 and leased it to Mrs Mary Ann Harrison as a co-educational boarding school. She established a Pestolozzian Institution at the hall, based on the ideas of the 18th-century Swiss educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. The school was well ahead of its time and in some ways anticipated the better-known Montessori system by about fifty years.

Joseph Harrison, a prominent Blackburn industrialist who owned a foundry and cotton mills and made his fortune by inventing a power loom, bought the hall in 1862 making it his main home He spent vast amounts of money on restoring the house to its former glory.

Charles Dickens visited in 1867 and Samlesbury Hall is thought to be the inspiration for many of his novels.

William Harrison, Joseph's eldest son, lived at the hall until his death in 1879. He had fallen on ice at the start of the year, causing a serious head injury and fractured knee cap, which caused him a lot of pain. He shot himself, although there is some disagreement whether it was suicide or whether an accident when loading his revolver to shoot his dog who had been bitten by a rabid dog and was beginning to exhibit hydrophobic symptoms.

His father, Joseph Harrison, died the next year "after a prolonged illness". Ownership of the hall then passed to Joseph's youngest son, Henry, who lived in Blackburn.

The hall was tenanted for a number of years by Frederick Baynes and his family. When Henry Harrison died in 1914, the estate passed to his nephew.

The hall had been left empty since 1909 and was in a very poor state when it was bought in 1924 by a building firm who intended to demolish it and build a housing estate. Money was raised by public subscription to save the hall and in 1925 ownership was placed in the hands of the hands of the Samlesbury Hall Trust, who have managed it since then. All the furniture and furnishings have been acquired since then.

Samelsbury Hall is a wonderful black and white timber frame building built round a courtyard.




The construction of the individual panels can be seen in the corner between the great hall and parlour where the timber has rotted and the framework can be seen.



The back of the building is constructed of brick with later timber frame panels added over the brick in places.



Samlesbury Hall cont... Inside the Hall

A porch on the south west wing leads into the ENTRANCE HALL. This was the main entrance for guests to the Hall. It is now a large open space with stairs to the upper floor, wood beam ceiling and metal chandelier.



The very plain fireplace has an alcove in the left wall which was used as a priest’s hole. There is reputed to be another beneath the floor.



The CHAPEL is to the immediate left of entrance hall. It is now deconsecrated, used for civil weddings and known as the Whittaker Room. It was built in the early C15th as a private chapel to upgrade the house to the status of a manor house. It was originally a separate building with its own entrance and stairway to the family gallery and was joined to the main hall in 1530 when the south wing was added.


The large window came from Whalley Abbey after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.


The panel above doorway is early C14th. Above it is the family gallery with a small fireplace, reached off the Long Gallery. The family sat here with the servants below.




On the right of the Entrance Hall is the PARLOUR which was part of the 1530 extension and would have served as the Southworth’s private sitting room or dining room. The splendid stone carved fireplace had another Priest’s hole behind. This extended behind the fireplace forming the stone extension from the back of the house. The Southworth arms are on above on the left and the Harrison arms on right.



The “Tudor’ carvings above doors of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon are Victorian, as are the stained glass windows.



Beyond is the GREAT HALL which is the oldest part of building. As well as being used to entertain guests, the household lived, ate and slept here. It would originally have had thatched roof, beaten earth floor covered with rushes and sweet smelling plants and a central open fire.

The bay window was added by added by Thomas Southworth in 1500 although the glass is Victorian and added by Joseph Harrison family.


The fireplace was added when the hall was extended in 1530. To the side of the fireplace is a set of wind up bellows.



The Minstrel’s Gallery reached from the first floor is very narrow and incorporates bits of old furniture including bedheads and is thought to have been added when the hall became the Braddyll Arms.


The LONG GALLERY on the first floor extends over the Entrance Hall and parlour. This is now is a ‘whispering gallery’ with the stories of Lady Dorothea Southworth, Sir John Southworth and Joseph Harrison.


Beyond and up a few steps is the PRIEST ROOM.


Near it is the entrance to another priest hole. 


There is a legendary story of how priest was found in the priest hole, dragged out and beheaded and was beheaded. It is reported that his bloodstains couldn’t be scrubbed from the floor and remained for centuries until the floorboards were replaced...

There are several small rooms beyond. One contains a time line of Samelsbury Hall and another is set up as for a meal in the pub.

There are two newly opened rooms up in the attics. The GHOST ROOM covers the story of Lady Dorothea and is a representation of what her chamber may have been like.


Next to it is the WITCH’S GARRETT which is what a witch’s room might have looked like with charcoal signs scrawled on the walls.


In 1612, fourteen year old Grace Sowerbutts accused her grandmother Jennet Bierley, her Aunt Ellen Bierley and Jane Southworth of Samlesbury Hall of witchcraft including child murder and cannibalism. She was the chief prosecution witness. After a notorious trial at Lancaster Assizes, they were acquitted after it was found that Grace made false allegations against them.

The Hall is surrounded by extensive grounds and is open Sundays and Tuesdays to Fridays, unless closed for a special event. Entry is free It is possible to book a guided tour.


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