Medieval 1066-1485

There is considerable overlap between this section and the archaeology summaries for this period; the main themes were also covered in the previous archaeological research framework assessment.

A national interest in medieval buildings and topography during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century was reflected in the North West by studies published by local antiquarians and architects which remain valuable sources for the study of medieval architecture, including for damaged, altered or lost buildings. Key studies include Henry Taylor on medieval halls (Taylor 1884), Curwen on castles and fortified towers in Cumbria (Curwen 1913), Stephen Glynne on Lancashire and Cumbrian churches (Glynne 1893; Butler 2011), James Croston on ancient Manchester buildings drawn by James Ralston in the 1820s (Croston 1875)  and the architect J S Crowther’s study of Manchester Cathedral (Crowther 1893). The reliable Victoria County History series and early topographical county studies such as those by Ormerod (Ormerod 1882) and Earwaker (Earwaker 1880) of Cheshire remain a useful resource for the study of buildings, particularly of medieval houses and Anglican parish churches.  The transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological and Antiquarian Society (TCWAAS) and the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society (TLCAS) contain numerous published studies on medieval buildings, from their establishment in 1866 and 1883 respectively.

Compared to other regions, the evidence for early medieval churches is scant (Heysham (L) is a notable example (Hartwell and Pevsner 2009, 9)), although early Christian worship is attested by the presence of pre-Norman carved crosses and grave covers, the latter studied in Cumbria by Peter Ryder (Ryder 2005).  Parish churches are by the far most significant building type for this period, built and used for Catholic worship until the English Reformation. The principal readily accessible source is the Pevsner series of county architectural guides recently revised by Hartwell, Hyde and Pollard, which provides summaries of all parish churches; however, most have not been subject to measured survey or analytical study. Where recent assessments of churches have taken place,  these suggest that the extent to which medieval fabric survived Victorian restoration is not fully understood. The presence of Romanesque features such as church doorways are recorded and discussed in the online Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland  ([RR1] ) which is regularly updated. Medieval stained glass in Lancashire and Cheshire has been researched by Hebgin-Barnes as part of the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi project (Hegbin-Barnes 2009; 2010). Other sources for churches include inventories by Nadfas, updated church guidebooks funded by the HLF as part of restoration projects (e.g. Bowdon Church (GM), written by Judith Miller and Sue Nichols in 2016 and St Michael’s Croston (L), by Clare Hartwell and Marion Barter, 2017), and statements of significance written to support Faculty applications for alterations, required by Dioceses of the Church of England. The latter unpublished reports are written either by local historians and parish volunteers or by professional archaeologists, architects or historians; few are publicly accessible.

In Cumbria and parts of north Lancashire, the building of castles, pele towers and other defensible buildings was prompted by proximity to the Scottish border and political instability. At the upper end of the social and political scale, some major castles such as Brougham Castle (C) have been the subject of monographs (Summerson et al 1998) which informed updated guidebooks and web pages.  John Goodall’s typological study of English castles provides the national context (Goodall 2011). Over fifty houses with towers survive in Cumbria where the tower generally formed one wing of a hall house; pele towers were the subject of a county-wide survey by Peter Ryder (for English Heritage) (Ryder 2002), also the author of a report on bastle houses in the North Pennines (Ryder 1996). Pele towers are often embedded in houses that were later extended and remodelled, as at Levens Hall (C), Hutton-in-the-Forest (C) and Sizergh Castle (LDNP) (Goodall 2000b) and Rose Castle (C) (Weston, 2013).  Shielings and bastles in the north of the region (and also in the North East) were a form of defensible farm or domestic building, the subject of study by the RCHME in the 1960s (Ramm, McDowall and Mercer, 1970).

In Cheshire, Lancashire (south of the Ribble), Greater Manchester and Merseyside, the timber-framed domestic tradition reached its zenith towards the end of the medieval period at high status houses such as Little Moreton Hall (Ch), Bramall Hall (GM), Speke Hall (M) and in an urban context on the Chester Rows (Ch). The latter is understood from intensive study in the 1990s (Brown et al 1999) and some individual hall houses such as Little Moreton Hall have been investigated and reinterpreted more recently for unpublished reports (Barter and Hartwell 2012).  In Greater Manchester hall houses may be timber-framed or stone; Chetham’s School and Library (GM) incorporates a rare stone-built hall complex built for the collegiate church in the mid fifteenth century, studied by Hartwell (Hartwell 2004).  At Storeton Hall on the Wirral (M) a stone-built hall house was built by the Stanley family in the mid 14th century (Arrowsmith et al 2016), its importance reinforced by the discovery of in situ window tracery in two previously blocked hall windows in 2016, in advance of restoration and alteration (uncovered during a watching brief by Orion Heritage).

Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire
Storeton Hall, Wirral, Merseyside

In Kendal, the town’s most significant medieval domestic building, the so-called Castle Dairy (C), is a single-storey hall house with cross wings, generally thought to date from the fourteenth century and altered and extended in the sixteenth century, although the documentary evidence is not clear. Building recording by Greenlane Archaeology (Elsworth, 2010) was supplemented by tree-ring dating in 2015. This shows that the earliest roof timbers are in the north-east wing where the timbers were felled between 1466 and 1502.  The timbers in the hall roof and the south-west wing are of a slightly later date range (1485-1507 over the hall and 1486-1506 over the south-west wing) (Tyers, 2015).  This may be interpreted as a partial rebuilding and extension in the late fifteenth century of the earlier building, and demonstrates the value of using scientific dating in conjunction with measured survey, building analysis and documentary research.

Landscape features at high status late medieval houses often include moats in Cheshire, as at well-known houses such as Little Moreton Hall but also as lesser known privately-owned houses such as Chorley Old Hall, where excavations on the moat platform revealed traces of former ancillary structures adjacent to the surviving stone hall house (Fletcher 2016).  In former medieval deer parks, field survey can identify the extent of extant features, such as a boundary bank in the deer park at Stonyhurst (L), assessed by Oxford Archaeology North (Barter et al 2015).

Chorley Old Hall, Lancashire

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