Was there an earlier house on the site of the hall?

The Great Hall

Little Moreton Hall is a remarkable survivor, dominating its surrounding land for over 500 years. But was there a medieval building on the site prior to the existence of this beautiful building? Glyn, a retired building surveyor and member of the room guide team, has been finding out.

The earliest record that we have of the Moreton family takes us back to 1216 when Lettice de Moreton married Sir Gralam de Lostock. The marriage produced three children. Later in the 12th century the eldest son, Richard de Lostock, settled the Moreton part of his inheritance from his father on his younger brother, Geoffrey de Lostock, who later took the name de Moreton. From then the land on which Little Moreton Hall stands was in the possession of the Moreton family until 1938 when the hall was passed to the National Trust. 

Was there a house on the site before the existing hall was built?

An archaeological excavation done in the orchard in 2009 found ceramic building materials dating from the 14th to the 19th century. It also found filled post holes that are presumed to be the base of the vertical wooden posts forming the frame of a house. These finds lend weight to the likelihood of the existence of a house on the site from around the 14th century and the archaeological report [1] suggests that in all probability there was a house occupying the land within the moat. This suggestion is also supported by the AHP report. [2]

No record has been found giving details of the house, but in the 14th and 15th centuries one of the layouts used for manor houses was a “H” shape on plan. This meant the house had two wings with a central cross connection.

If such a house as this still existed at Little Moreton in the 15th century, it is possible that the Moreton family lived in it and continued to do so until 1504 when the new hall was commenced as an extension to it. For a period after that the combined houses may have been lived in as a complete house. However, at some point thereafter the old house must have been demolished, possibly in 1546 or even later in 1563 after the south range was constructed.

Close inspection of the frame of the existing north west range shows that it is constructed differently from the rest of the hall. A possible reason for this is that the right-hand wing of the old house was not demolished but incorporated into the new hall.

Further credence is given to this scenario when the footprint of the present hall on the site is examined. The hall is situated entirely in the south east corner of the island within the moat. It would seem more logical for it to have taken up a central position on the island. However, the existence of the old hall in the central position would have precluded it.

The moat would have been excavated in advance of the old house. In the 14th century there was still the need for protection from roaming bands of robbers and thieves; the moat would have provided some protection from these dangers. The water in the moat is piped from a spring on the hillside to the south of the hall and the inlet is just to the east of the entrance bridge. The outflow is on the west side of the moat. This arrangement provides a constant flow of fresh water.

The foregoing is based partly on opinions, expressed in the reports referred to, and partly on supposition. It would need to be re-examined if more authoritative information came to light about the old house. In the meantime, it represents the best interpretation we can make from the information available.

[1] Archaeological Test Pit Evaluation Report prepared by Allen Archaeology - Report No 2009052 October 2009

[2] Little Moreton Hall Architectural History and Development Report by the Architectural History Practice in 2012