A Great Hall built to impress
When Rufford Old Hall was built around 1530, the owner Sir Robert Hesketh wanted to impress.
The Great Hall was originally the centre part of an H-shaped house with 2 wings. A timber framed west wing containing the family apartments has since disappeared, but in 1662 a new brick building was built to the north of the east wing which accommodated the family and servants.
The Screen although never moved is officially termed ‘moveable’, as it is free standing. It was carved as a whole piece probably in situ c. 1530-1540. Two angels bear shields with the family coats of arms of heiresses who enriched the Hesketh estates – the three wheatsheaves of Fitton and the cross of Banastre.
Guests would have entered the Great Hall from behind the screen, which had access to the outside door and internal door ways.
The Great Hall would have been the communal eating place for the Hesketh family and their guests for at least a century after it was built.
The family and important guests would have sat at the high table with the compass window to one side to let in light. Overhead, the canopy may have once been decorated with brightly painted coats of arms of Sir Roberts ancestors and their patrons, the powerful Earls of Derby. Other guests would have sat at long tables in front of the great stone fireplace.