For sale in three separate lots
The Landmark Trust has owned Calverley Old Hall since 1981, when it was for sale in three separate lots. It had long been divided into cottages, but under a single landlord, the Thornhill Estate. Then funded by Sir John Smith’s Manifold Trust, Landmark bought this important medieval house so that it could remain in single ownership.
As Calverley Old Hall is such a large grouping in several units, its restoration was always planned to be carried out in several phases. In 1982-3, as a first step, a Landmark let was formed from two empty cottages at the north end. This has been available for parties of up to 5 people and since 1983 thousands have enjoyed the experience of living in it as if it were their own. The Chapel has also been repaired, as has the fine hammerbeam roof of the Great Hall. The Solar and the Great Hall, which contains the remains of eighteenth-century dwellings within it, have been kept wind- and weathertight by Landmark while their future use was decided, not a simple decision for such a large and important group of buildings.
THE NORTH HOUSE
The last major addition, this is now the Landmark. It dates from the first half of the 17th century, the work of Henry Calverley, the survivor of the Calverley murders. It contained a fine dining room, now the living room, with a kitchen beyond it as now. This was a fashionable arrangement in Stuart Yorkshire. On the first floor there were probably bedchambers, again as now.
The western wall and window of the fine main room had to be rebuilt. A later fireplace in one corner was removed, and the adjacent timbers extended by scarfing new oak timbers into position. The original fireplace was opened up and a new stone floor laid. The walls were lime plastered and lime washed. The stone staircase was re-used but turned round and fully modern facilities provided in the kitchen, cloakroom and bathroom.
Other interesting features during this part of the work included the building in of various old stones, including the two carved heads now in the hall; and providing new windows of a traditional local kind. Old stone slates were reused on the roof and the new porch. Around the outside, the ground level was lowered appreciably, and as part of the same landscaping work, the site was enhanced with a new stone boundary wall where appropriate. A new gravel drive was formed and new stone paths and grass areas laid.
THE SOLAR WING
Leaving the North House, turn to your right, clockwise round the back of the house. The first door you see leads into the Solar wing, the earliest part of the present building. This is now a shell, having been stripped out, for archaeological analysis and to be ready for repair at a future date.
The wing began as a two-storeyed timber-framed structure, dating from around 1300. The lower part of the outside walls was probably cased in stone but the south gable, which lay a few feet back from the present one, may have had ornamental timber braces. There was a wide fireplace in the west wall of the main first floor room, which would have been a private sitting and living room for the Calverley family of the day. Beneath this were probably store-rooms.
This wing was built against the end of a stone hall which was narrower than the present one, although in the same position. The stump of its north wall can be seen below one of the posts in the east wall of the Solar wing, beside which there is also evidence for a door into the hall. About 1400 the Solar wing was remodelled and extended to the south, this time entirely in stone. New tie beams were inserted in the roof, with ornamental braces. The roof was later altered again, but many of the medieval timbers were reused. Doors and windows and floor levels have changed again since then, the most notable introduction being the long mullioned south window on the first floor which was inserted in the 17th century.
THE GREAT HALL
Leaving the Solar wing, continue clockwise to your right until you reach the east end of the building and the door into the Great Hall. Here again, the inserted walls of later cottages were stripped out prior to restoration, leaving just one cottage which was then still lived in at the west end. Meanwhile you can get a good idea of what a very fine room this was. The roof itself was repaired in 1985. The south wall of the hall, which was bulging dangerously, was rebuilt at the same time. Proposals for rebuilding the great north chimney were also considered, but no decision on this has yet been reached.
This great hall that replaced an earlier, narrower one, dates from the 1480s or '90s, built either by a William Calverley who died in 1488 or by his son, another William, who was knighted by Henry VII and married into a wealthy family, the Saviles. It is unusually large, having a span of 30 feet, made possible by the use of projecting hammerbeams, richly carved in the latest fashion. The great fireplace in the north wall was later converted into two small rooms. Fragments of the medieval windows can be seen in both north and south walls. The original entrance was at the west end, where there was a cross passage between two doors, behind a screen. This screen may have been topped by a decorative canopy.
Leaving the hall, turn right and go through the opening in the low wall, to continue clockwise round the front of the house, passing along the south side of the hall and solar. Follow the paved path to the door of the Chapel.
The chapel is a very rare survival, with its private gallery for the family, entered from the solar, its fine altar window (in fact south rather than east facing) and its hammerbeam roof, a smaller version of that in the hall which it resembles in many of its details. An oak panelled ceiling is fitted over the two bays at the altar end; and the finely carved 'brattishing’ covers the top of the walls. The main timbers were dated by dendrochronology to 1485-95, which gives a likely date for both roofs. The William Calverley who died in 1488 is the most likely builder, since we know from his will that he was a more than usually pious man.
None of this could be appreciated in 1981. Before the Chapel could be restored an existing bathroom and kitchen within it had to be removed. Then the whole of the fine oak arch-braced roof was taken to pieces, repaired timber by timber and pegged together again. The one surviving light of the tracery window had to be unblocked and the other two lights remade, where a door had been inserted. Inside, the walls were lime plastered and lime washed; outside the stonework of the walls, the stone tiled roof, the doors and windows were repaired as conservatively as possible. This work was carried out 1982-4.
Bringing the entire grouping back into uses of some kind has been an aspiration for Landmark since the 1980s, but finding uses appropriate to the building’s scale and antiquity has not proved easy. Discussions with various bodies over the years have so far come to nothing, but Landmark continues to seek a partner or partners to bring Calverley Old Hall fully back to life.