Who were the Moretons?

Stained glass window showing the Moreton family crests

You would be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t a lot to shout about. The Moretons have disappeared into history, leaving very little behind apart from the iconic building they created and a few pieces of furniture. However, as more evidence comes to light, we’re finding that this family has a fascinating story to tell.

It is clear they were wealthy and keen to assert themselves locally. They were a powerful family who bought up significant amounts of land following the Black Death and later the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The resulting wealth allowed them to build the ostentatious Little Moreton Hall. Building started in 1504 under the first William Moreton, and the house was built in stages, completed around 100 years later. 

A Tudor Pun - the Maw (wolf's head) and Tun (barrel) used to pictorially represent the family name of Moreton
A Tudor Pun
A Tudor Pun - the Maw (wolf's head) and Tun (barrel) used to pictorially represent the family name of Moreton

The Civil War saw a dramatic change in the family’s fortunes. They were associated with the Royalist cause in a region that was dominated by Parliamentarians. As a result, William Moreton III was imprisoned in the early stages of the war and not allowed to return to his estate upon his release. The running of the household was left to his two daughters Anne and Jane. The Hall was confiscated by the government and the two women rented it back at an extortionate rate. They even had to tolerate their home being used by Parliamentarian soldiers and their horses. By the time William returned to the Hall, he had no hope of paying back his debts before his death. No longer the showpiece of a rich and prospering family, the hall fell into decline over the next 250 years.

After the death of the William Moreton III, the care of the Hall fell to his children. Their generation of the family was the last to live permanently at the Hall. The house was then rented for over 200 years, first to relatives and then to a succession of tenant farmers. In many respects, we owe the survival of the hall to its neglect during these years. With little interest from the owners, the Tudor building survived in its original state rather than being modified to suit more ‘modern’ tastes.

You can see the items in the collection that the Moretons left behind by following the link below.

The board in the Great Hall at Little Moreton Hall

Little Moreton Hall's collection