Outdoor Tour of Lytham Hall, 1st August 2021

August 1st 2021 the Lancashire Archaeological Society had a guided tour of the exterior and gardens at Lytham Hall. We were divided into 2 groups one going at 10.30 and the other at 11.30am.  The house is a neo-Palladian mansion but stands on the site of a Tudor manor house which was followed by a Jacobean mansion. It is the ancestral home of the Clifton family.

The second tour

The site was first occupied in 1198 by Richard FitzRoger when a priory was founded. He had been very ill and the priory was built as an expression of his thanks to God. It was only ever a small priory and was dissolved at the reformation. There is a strong tradition in Lytham that the body of St. Cuthbert was hidden there in 882 A.D. There are local foundations to the saint and one of the ancestral names of the Clifton family was Cuthbert.

 This priory was of course on the Fylde coast ,a barren and windswept area covered in sandhills and backed by mosslands. The monks improved the land by digging clay and incorporating it in the soil. They were so successful in converting it to arable land that it became very valuable. During the reign of Elizabeth 1 the land was sold to the Molyneux family a wealthy Lancashire family and in 1606 the land was sold to Cuthbert Clifton a friend of the Molyneux family for £4.300, a fortune in those days.

  In 1610 Cuthbert commissioned the Jacobean hall which stood until  1752 when Thomas Clifton known as The Builder engaged the famous York architect John Carr to build the Neo-Palladian mansion that stands proudly today. John Carr was also responsible for the Assizes buildings at York and the lovely Buxton crescent in Derbyshire. The Jacobean mansion was only partially demolished however as a large part of it was retained for service buildings and servants’ quarters. It was usual at the time for the servants to inhabit the top floor in the house but not so here. Indeed part of the old Tudor manor house survives in the Jacobean range. The most salient characteristic of Neo-Palladian houses, which were Graeco-Roman inspired, is the exact symmetry which has been wondrously achieved here in Lytham Hall. To achieve this and to make the house more liveable in some windows are actually blocked up. The stone for the building of the house came from a quarry near Wakefield in Yorkshire which John Carr particularly liked to use. All stonework needed to be painted though to stop its deterioration.  White was the most expensive paint to use at the time and therefore a biscuit colour was often used as it is here.

  There are three formal gardens one of which was concreted over to become a car park when The “Guardian Royal Exchange” took possession of the property in payment for debts accrued by Henry Talbot de Vere Clifton, known as Harry ,the last squire of Lytham.  Once when Harry was deep in debt he is said to have remarked to his agent “Sell Blackpool”! The concreted garden was used as a car park and the house became the headquarters of the insurance company. In 1996 the Lytham Town Trust came into ownership and they have been gradually bringing it back to its former glory. The car park was reinstated as a garden. When the Cliftons were in residence there was a dedicated orchard and an orchid house which no longer exist. However there are now beautiful flowering borders and vegetable and fruit gardens that supply the very popular cafe. The parkland also contains three small lakes and a mount. One of the lakes or ponds called the Curtains pond used to supply ice for the kitchen which was stored in an ice tunnel.  The Mount is an artificial hill which gave the family views of the estuary and sea and perhaps most importantly a view of the Gallop where their racehorses were trained. There is also a large and imposing dovecote which house 850 pigeons nests. The meat from these birds was consumed by the Clifton family and their guests.

  The Cliftons owned other properties throughout the U.K.: Kildalton castle on the Isle of Islay; a hunting lodge in Rutland and a townhouse in London.

  The guide also gave us information on the interior of the house; especially about the lovely Gold room which is in original condition and is now used for weddings. There is also a large dining room with a spectacular servery set in an apse. This a Gillow piece of which there are quite a few in the house.

  This was a wonderful tour led by a very knowledgeable guide, Stuart: a volunteer for Lytham Hall, which whetted the appetite for more. Indeed a place to visit again.

Words by Jeanette Dobson

Photos by Bill Shannon

Posted by Wendy Ferneyhough

2 comments

    • Hi, we didn’t know the name of the guide, I have rung the Hall to ask for his name today and he is a volunteer for Lytham Hall. I will update the blog.
      I trust this answers your query

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