Gawthorpe Hall was built between 1600 and 1605, and has original architecture, fabulous plasterwork and oak panelling from that period; Robert Smythson is thought to have designed it; it has a fabulous minstrel’s gallery where an extraordinary number of travelling players and performers came to perform in the 1600s; it has the largest aisled threshing barn in Europe; Sir Charles Barry architect of the Houses of Parliament was responsible for redesigning the interior and grounds in the 1850s; Pugin designed furniture and wallpaper specifically for the Hall; it has the largest loan of portraits from the National Portrait Gallery in the North West; Charlotte Brontë came and stayed at the Hall twice at the invitation of the family; it has the most important textile collection outside of London and the list goes on and on!
Why is it not more well-known? Well it is hidden away on the edge of industrial Lancashire, a place more well-known for its mills and factories than historic houses.
The Hall was built on the site of a pele tower by the Shuttleworth family who have lived on this spot since the 1400s. When it was built it was a definite sign that the Shuttleworth’s had arrived in the world, as it contained the most modern luxuries and tastes of the time – lots of windows showing that they could afford to buy glass which was extremely expensive and elaborately decorated plaster ceilings, including the one that still survives today in the Drawing Room. The frieze is made up of fantastical creatures, mermaids and animals, along with images of the family members from the 1400s who started the family’s fortunes.
Colonel Richard Shuttleworth fought in the English Civil War and rallied troops at Gawthorpe Hall in 1642 for the parliamentary cause. In 1643 the Earl of Derby attempted to capture Gawthorpe but his troops were waylaid at the Battle of Read Bridge. Colonel Richard was also involved in sending some of the Lancashire witches to trail at Lancaster in the same era.
From the 1700s to early 1800s the family lived away from Gawthorpe; due to the deaths of various family members the Hall was thought to be a bad omen. However the Hall took on a new lease of life when James Kay married Janet Shuttleworth the heiress to Gawthorpe in 1842.
James Kay was from a manufacturing family from Rochdale, he trained to be a medical man but his real passion was education and this was what brought him to Janet’s attention, she too had a passion for helping those around her and saw education as the means for doing this. James Kay founded the first teacher training college in Battersea London and as well as being involved in many other areas is known as one of the founders of the modern education system that we have today.
After marrying Janet he changed his surname to James Kay-Shuttleworth and they set about on a programme of improvements at Janet’s beloved Gawthorpe, which included commissioning Sir Charles Barry (whom James Kay had known for several years) to redesign the interior and grounds. Some of the many alterations that Barry made include heightening the tower on the roof of Gawthorpe, putting in the grand oak staircase we see today, refurbishing the Dining Room and replacing the original plasterwork ceiling with a design featuring the entwined KS initials and installing the parterres in the grounds.
The Kay-Shuttleworths also came to hear about Charlotte Brontë who was becoming a well known author by this time and lived only 12 miles away in Haworth. They invited her to come and stay, which she eventually did in 1850 and then again in 1855. She also stayed with the Kay-Shuttleworths at their home in Windermere where she met Mrs Gaskell who became her great friend and wrote the first biography of Charlotte after her death. During Charlotte’s second visit to Gawthorpe in January 1855 it is said that she insisted walking out in the grounds and caught a chill from which she never managed to recover, she died two months later on 31st March the same year.
There has almost always been someone from the family living in the Hall right up until the 1960s. Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth the last family resident died in 1967. The hall was given the National trust in the 1970’s.
Article from Lancashire Telegraph
GAWTHORPE Hall became a centre of paranormal activity as hit TV show Most Haunted Live attempted to contact spirits haunting the building.
Chandeliers swung and crayons flew at crew members as the team, including TV favourite Yvette Fielding, held a seance at the Padiham building for a live show aired on the Living channel.
Manus Wynne, producer of Most Haunted Live, said that the hall was chosen as it was known as a paranormal hotspot.
The Elizabethan hall, which once belonged to the Shuttleworth family, is believed to be haunted by the ghost of Rachel K Shuttleworth, the last family member to live in the hall.
Colonel Richard Shuttleworth, who lived at the hall and was involved in the Pendle Witch trial of 1612, may also haunt the building.
It is also believed that a young woman was once murdered at Gawthorpe with some visitors describing being gripped by a sudden chest pain.
Manus said: “Our researchers spotted Gawthorpe Hall in their searches and saw it had an interesting history with links to the Pendle witches and that it was regarded as being haunted.
“During the day crew members said they felt like they were being followed and heard bangs and knocks that they couldn’t explain.
“When we were filming the chandelier in the grand staircase started swinging furiously as Yvette and the team tried to make contact with the spirits.
“We also spotted what seemed to be a group of people on our thermal imaging camera stood looking down on the crew from the landing but only our crew were in the body of the hall.”
According to Mr Wynne even more scary things then began to happen.
“In the former nursery we left crayons out and when we came back later the paper had been drawn on,” he said. “The crew also said they felt crayons flying past them.
“Yvette also said she heard her name being called at her and when she was in the female servants quarters she heard someone moan in her right ear.
“Gawthorpe Hall definitely has a lot of activity and we would like to carry out further investigations there.”
Rachel Pollitt, manager at the National Tust hall, said: “It was a fantastic experience having Most Haunted Live here.
“Staff here have seen people in the hall when no one else should have been here and also felt like they were being followed.
“It has never scared us though as we don’t think they are evil.”
First broadcast : 13th February 2010
A self confessed super fan of Most Haunted and editor of GhostMag.com. Matt’s passion for ghost hunting began when he moved into a haunted house in his second year of university in Leicester! His favourite location is the Niddry Street Vaults in Edinburgh.