Given the slippery nature of time I shouldn’t be surprised to realise that it’s already more than two weeks since we arrived up here in the North-West Highlands after a most enjoyable 90th birthday celebration weekend for DH’s mother, which I haven’t even mentioned yet.
We assembled on the Friday afternoon at the home of DH’s youngest brother in Southport for an evening of family chatter before the big day itself. At 90 one doesn’t want to spend the day too strenuously before one’s birthday dinner in a local hotel, so it was decided we would go out in the afternoon for a gentle stroll around a local historic property, Rufford Old Hall, near Ormskirk.
Rufford Old Hall was owned by the Hesketh family for some 500 years until it was handed over to the tender care of the National Trust in 1936. The original building, which dates from around 1530, was a late mediaeval hall-house, though now only the Great Hall survives. Its elaborate and highly decorative half-timbering is both beautiful and impressive, though I couldn't help thinking how many oak trees it must have taken to build it.
|Wonderfully carved screen|
|Hammerbeam roof with angels - highly unusual outside a church|
In 1661/2 a new wing was built at right angles to the original hall which, being brick-built in Jacobean style, contrasts very clearly with the hall’s black and white timbering. The house was further extended in the 1820s to give the building we see today.
A touch of extra glamour is given to the house by the possibility that the young William Shakespeare himself may have acted in the Great Hall in the early 1580s when he was working as an assistant teacher in the household of a local landowner.
|Detail of the screen|
|And this is meant to be movable?|
The house is surrounded on three sides by formal gardens and on the fourth by a branch of the Leeds to Liverpool canal, giving it an air of great tranquillity and timelessness and a feeling of being very far from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour through four centuries of English domestic architecture and came home very ready to relax with tea and birthday cake before sprucing ourselves up for our evening out.
|The doors would have given access to the lost wing|
|The photographer photographed - DH and his beloved camera|
|The birthday girl herself|
Sadly, the sunshine we enjoyed that afternoon didn’t last and our journey up through Scotland on Mothering Sunday was notable for the mist and murk which conspired to hide even the grandest of the mountains we drove through. That’s Scottish weather for you!