History of the site

Phase I: 12th century

The site’s history begins around 1136, when John Scot is recorded Lord of the Manor of Calverley. The family prospered, and gained a reputation both for generosity towards the Church and for conviviality. All that remains from this period are vestigial traces of the earliest hall buried in later fabric.

Phase II: 12th-14th centuries

The Scot family, increasingly taking Calverley as their family name, became significantly wealthy, although very little has so far been discovered about their role in the world.  Their wealth and importance is reflected by the building work they carried out in this phase, when they built the surviving spectacular, two-storey new Solar Block with fireplaces on each floor, at right angles to the earliest hall. The survival of the shell of this early-14th-century Solar Block (now a gutted if weathertight shell) is of great rarity and significance.

Phase III: c.1330

Soon after its construction, this Solar Block was altered and enlarged, including the insertion of two fine arch-braced central trusses to the roof. The solar was extended to the south, on both floors, by about a half bay-length. Various new features were introduced, implying a now partitioned solar wing, for increased convenience, greater privacy, more warmth and greater overall domestic comfort. The character of the new trusses and their rich ornamentation, confirms that this first-floor great chamber, remained the principal domestic room in the house.

Phase IV: 1485-95, confirmed by dendrochronology

In the first half of the 15th century, the estate was managed by Joan, widow of Sir Walter Calverley, for the benefit of her young son. She did so conscientiously and effectively, so that the family continued to enjoy great wealth throughout the 15th century, although they leave scant traces in the wider historical record. Her son, Walter, lived until 1466; it seems probable that the Great Hall and Chapel were constructed by his son, William. Sir William Calverley was devout: he left instructions for a chalice to be made for use in both the parish church and his own chapel, where daily prayers were directed to be said for him until a year after his death.

The addition of the Great Hall and the Chapel, in a single campaign of work c1485, was the most public and extensive change to the grouping. The new five bay Hall was probably half as large again as the earlier hall it replaced. It is a spectacular space and the most impressive glory of the surviving fabric, spanned by a king-post roof structure with hammer beam trusses and carved ornament of the highest quality.

The space was later adapted for later residential and agricultural use and its original two- light windows were all replaced. However, the basic volume and sense of grandeur of a late-medieval hall are still entirely present.

The little Chapel at the corner of the Solar Block also belongs to Phase IV (1485-95). Internally the most striking features are the roof structure and the screened loft - a family pew that led off the first floor of the Solar Block and a survival of great rarity. The hammer-beam roof is the hall roof in miniature complete with moulded arch braces, moulded side purlins, with brattishing and other ornament to the hammer-beams and wall-plates. The loft - heavily restored in the 1980s - retains a fine open oak screen in the Perpendicular style.

Phase V: early-mid C16

The family status continued to rise throughout the 16th century although by the end of this period financial problems do seem to have arisen. The relatively small and cosy Parlour Block was added, probably by Sir William Calverley, High Sheriff of Yorkshire (d. 1599).This is a much altered but still atmospheric timber-framed domestic suite.

A massive stone stack served fireplaces on both levels of the Parlour Block, with a deep ingle-nook fireplace on the ground floor and nicely moulded beams in the same room, once accessed from the Solar Block. 

Phase VI: 17th century

The Calverley family finally enter upon the national scene, but in an appalling fashion. Overwhelmed by debt and alcohol and in deep depression, Sir William's son, Walter murdered his two sons at the Hall in 1605. Calverley gained instant notoriety in this episode worthy of any Jacobean tragedy, and indeed playwright Thomas Middleton dramatized it in A Yorkshire Tragedy. Walter was taken to York where he refused to plead (apparently in order to prevent forfeiture of his estate) and so was pressed to death.

Unsurprisingly, the family began to prefer their other houses to this one. Nevertheless they added the Lodging Block (the current Landmark) sometime before 1651. This is effectively a small self-contained 17th-century house although extensive reconstruction and refurbishment in every succeeding century has robbed it of much of its C17 character except for its general layout.

Phase VII: 18th century and later work

The family backed the King in the Civil War which led to inevitable tribulations. After the Restoration, the latest Sir Walter Calverley married Frances, heiress of nearby Esholt Hall and in c.1665 the family left Calverley Old Hall. In 1754 the Calverley estate was sold to a Mr Thomas Thornhill of Fixby near Huddersfield. This marked the point at which subdivision of the hall, for occupation by tenants, began. Cottages were built against the west wall and south gable. In 1816 the Old Hall was described as being 'mutilated and defiled by manufacturing cottages' and its multiple occupation by tenants is confirmed by census data. After long ownership by members of the Thornhill family Calverley Old Hall was bought by the Landmark Trust in 1981.

The  work  on  the  Old  Hall  carried  out  between  the  18th century  and  c.1981  reflects  its headlong slide down the social scale as it was subdivided and extended, often in the cheapest and meanest possible way, to house large numbers of tenants. Even the chapel was so converted and two or three new, tiny, cottages were added as extensions to the chapel although only one now survives. The solar was also subdivided to form the small rooms of a separate farm-house, with a single-flight central stair and inserted fireplaces and flues.

These were humble structures of little distinction, mostly removed when Landmark began a decade-long programme of clearance and partial refurbishment in 1981, an era when grant aid was scarce and scrutiny of post-medieval fabric less rigorous. The late-medieval portions, by contrast, were recorded in great detail c.1989-90, and have remained virtually unchanged since.

Through the 1980s, Landmark carried out structural repairs the Great Hall and its roof structure partially repaired and refurbished. The Chapel was wholly refurbished, with a fair amount of replacement oak detailing. The Lodging Block was also carefully refitted as a Landmark. At that point, work on the rest of the building virtually ceased apart from regular repairs and maintenance, despite successive attempts to find suitable uses and funding to bring the site back into fuller use. In 2016, Calverley Old Hall was once again placed on the Building at Risk Register.

The current competition (2017) is a final and determined attempt to bring about a definitive solution for the whole site