Welcome Lords and Ladies to my tour of Samlesbury Hall, you will become Historical detectives
after this short course of factual and interesting insights into the life of a still-working household.
Firstly let me tell you where the name Samlesbury comes from. The Romans walked into
England, not exactly an invasion and about 80 AD they arrived here in Lancashire, then known as
Leyland and Amounderness. After a brief encounter with the population of only 600 “Lancastrians”
from the Brigantes tribe an agreement was made with their Queen Cartimandua to live side by
side in relative peace. To seal this peace the Romans married off their Goddess Belisama to the
tribal God Belanos. Belisama was the Goddess of Fire, Water and Metal working and the Romans
named the river Belisama, now the Ribble. Where the river Darwen meets the Ribble at Walton le
dale, the Romans built a supply fortress called Belisama, manned by the Sarmatian cavalry
regiment , it was a workshop where armour, weapons and supplies were made and stored. There is
a park-and-ride car park there now. When the Romans left England, the Saxons took the name and
changed it to Samlesbury, or Sama the Borough. Darwen means White Oak and the river ran
through peat which discoloured it to become Blackburn.
The original house was built by the D’ewyres, (The Eaves) family, descendents from a Scottish
family who were related to King Malcolm of Scotland, after fleeing the tyranny of Macbeth they
made their way eventually to Wales where they settled down. Movement in the family ended up in
Lancashire where they built a 38 foot square Scottish castle on the banks of the Ribble, 2 miles
from this house at Lower Hall. Tyranny was still following them because Robert the Bruce on his
ransacking visit to Lancashire in 1322 burnt the castle down. The next stage in this family saga was
the marriage of D’ewyres Daughter Alice to Gilbert De Southworth from Warrington. The first
building, a medieval house was then constructed with a thatched roof. His land eventually
amounting to13,000 acres at its peak!
Look at the staircase in the entrance lobby, it is the wrong way round, clues can be seen at the
window position and the blocked up doorway into the chapel. Thomas de Southworth wanted to
upgrade his position from “Master of the House” to “Lord of the Manor”, where he needed to have
the house renamed a manor. The qualifications are a farm, a large house, a store of fresh fish for
Fridays, a granary and mill and lastly a Chapel complete with Priest. He built his Chapel facing east
in a detached building with two entrances, the lower one for the workers, the upper one for the lord
and lady, see where the commoners door has been sealed off. Facing east has made the buildings
out of square in position to each other, precession of the equinox has given a 5 degree error over
the 150 year gap between building phases. There was a wooden barrier between the congregation
and the priest, this was looted later on in the house history by Braddyll for his own house at
Connishead. Braddyll had been a creditor to the Southworths and took over the Hall to repay a
debt, he decided to change it into the Braddyll Arms Inn.
Feel the subsidence of the Chapel, look at the bow in the ceiling beams. When the chapel was a
political liability to the safety of the Southworth's during the reformation, it was joined up with the
main house and became the living quarters of the Lord and Lady, being divided into a corridor, and
a bedroom. The chapel end became the Solar room or Library. At this time Whalley Abbey was
raised to the ground and the windows ended up in this upgraded extension.
Now let us walk back into the entrance lobby, see the bow in the floor, if you stand at the bottom of
the bow it will be exactly at the centre of the fireplace. Notice the hearth-stone, how thick it is, much
too strong for a mere hearth-stone because it is also a lintel for the roof of a tunnel. Now here’s
some speculation, in the later half of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17 century the
search for priests was the biggest hunt in history. A man called Nicholas Owen, deformed and small
in stature, became a folklore hero for his construction of Priest holes and escape tunnels. He built
over 60 escape routes in Catholic houses around the country, his motto was “One way in two ways
out”. He was caught hiding gunpowder plotters at Hindlip Hall and was tortured to death in the
Tower of London. He was one of the martyrs to become St.Nicholas Owen. Not one of his escape
routes and locations were ever written down, but we have one here which meets the description in
the search for the tunnels in the 17th century. The Fireplace has a false back wall, entrance is from
the left of the fire and under the floor. There is sufficient space in the back enclosure for “11
desperate souls” a vent is clearly seen at the front of the house about 20 feet up the wall. The
tunnel goes two ways, 20 yards South and 40 yards North, both ends meeting the moat for the final
escape. Remember one way in two ways out. The tunnel is 2 feet wide by 4 feet high with an
arched brick roof. Some of it has collapsed under the floor hence the bowing of the beams which
sat on it. See how rough the Tudor cast iron is in the fireplace, open cast on brown sand.
This house is termed a “half timbered house”, not because it was half wood/stone or even
Wood/wattle, but because it was made from halved trees, each opposing main strut being from the
same tree to equalise warpage movement. Trees were selected from the same area to be of similar
character. This technique came from the ship building skills and so the house is termed “of ships
timber” because of the way it was built and the quality of the wood used, non of the wood has
actually been in a ship. Permiter footing of stone. Black and white a Victorian mistake of applying
tar to protect the wood, should be grey and cream for true colours.
Let us now go outside into the “yard”. Merchants would come here over the bridge to sell their
wares, cloth was sold by the “yard”, centre of body to finger tips. There was three schools of Tudor
building styles, Lower land from the midlands southwards the houses had vertical striped timber
about 1.5 feet apart filled in with Wattle and Daub. The midlands houses had squares about 5ft
square with diagonals for strength. Here in the upper north we had small squares strengthened by
inserts in the corners, the inserts are patterned in a design called “quatrefoil” based upon heraldic
emblems of lucky 4 leaf clovers. You can pick out the original quatrefoils by the direction of the
wood grain which should be around the square not across it. The cross over points of the main
beams are covered with decorated wooden plaques to stop water ingress into the joints. The house
was built in frames on the floor then each frame was hoisted into position before being fixed to
each other with dovetail joints and dowels. The wood mainly used is Wych Elm, a common tree
here in Tudor times which was very straight, strong and water resistant due to the wetness of the
Leyland moors. Oak is used for smaller lengths due to the twisting shape of the tree. The Horse
chestnut trees in the grounds were not introduced to England until about 1700, so were not used in
the construction.
With so much intrigue and treachery going on in the country, houses had listening places usually in
an overhanging roof or window, these were called “the eavesdrops” for spying on visitors.
This house has two eavesdrops, one goes into the old kitchen from an upper bedroom, even the
staff were spied upon! And the other is more discreetly positioned to listen to visitors outside the
house. Look at the upper oriel window with the Roman Emperor's head carved in the eave. See
where the flower overlaps itself, an eavesdropping hole. So watch what you say.
This window depicts the Bishop of Lancaster, Gilbert De Southworth and an Emperor of Rome
whom Southworth claimed to descend from. Now walk over to the large Oriel bay window. This is
technically the wrong name for this window, because oriels must return to the wall before reaching
the ground. The term Bay also comes from nautical building and is usually the width of 4 oxen in a
barn, about 16 feet. The Bay was originally a withdrawing room on the ground floor for the
women, a Solar for the Lord on the upper floor in the jetty. When the original chapel was redefined
this solar became the chapel. Behind this chapel is the second Priest hole, you can see into it later
from upstairs access. The second emergency exit is where the unmortared wall meets the roof and
is covered with just Daub. This “kick-out wall” leads to the roof for escape again the second way
out. Look in the chapel for the white stains on the floor, There was originally blood stains there from
the murder of a priest found hiding in the hole, his ghost is present. When later owners wanted to
convert the hall into an Inn, nobody would stay in this room, so about 1750 the floor was taken up
and a new one built, but the stains came back in white!!! Spooky eh?
Look for window glass with circular ripples in them, these are called Quarries and they were made
by spinning molten glass into a disc before cutting up into the panes. These are original Tudor
glass. Glass was so expensive in Tudor times, that the cost of a house for sale did not include the
windows, the previous owner would take them with them for their new house. See the roof tiles.
The ones that go smaller as they go up the roof are original Tudor, made of Dittonian stone they
were graded into stone sizes before cutting and then fitted in this fashion for strength and roof
loading. Slates did not appear until about 1700 in the Northwest.
Let us now go back into the house and into the Parlour, from the word to parley, to talk. A sitting
room where conversations went on, there was a corridor, tapestries hanging at each end as a sign
of wealth. See the stone fireplace with Roman numerals. Smoother Victorian cast iron inset.
M means Millennium or 1000, a Mille was a Roman 1000 paces and we get our Mile from this.
C = 100, X = 10 and V = 5. Can you work it out? The answer is 1545. The inner fireplace is a
Victorian modification, when the 7 families of weavers left the house , leaving the fireplace
damaged to hold a cooking eye in the centre. The coats of arms are Hoghton, Southworth and
Langton. A ghost was recorded here by the workers who were removing the chapel barrier, warning
them not to remove the Great Hall screen, which they refused to do when asked.
Furniture was made of Oak but could discolour with the rays of the sun, so they were stained dark
for effect and for protection. Stains were expensive, the cheapest being Pigs blood and Urine ,up to
the most expensive being the powdered shells of Lac Beetles mixed with spirit. It took 10,000
beetles to make 1 litre of stain. The terms Shellac and Lacquer come from this stain.
See King Henry VIII’s carving over the old corridor, good looking man eh! The other carving
opposite him is of Queen Katherine of Aragon, his wife for 20 years. A lot of hoo-ha has been said
about Henry and Katherine, they were in fact deeply in love for 10 years of marriage until her
Father, King Ferdinand of Spain betrayed Henry against the French by not turning up for battle and
letting Henry’s army be beaten. Henry never trusted Katherine after that. Let us not digress.
On to the Great hall. The word Hall means All, a place where all eat and meet. The original
medieval hall had a thatched roof, no chimney and a central fireplace. The Lord and lady would sit
at the Solar end at their Board (The word table was not in use as it is French in origin). The Board
was a large single piece of Oak on Trestles, The Lord sitting at the middle, a priest on his right side
and his wife on the left. All negotiations and business was done at this board. Words such as as
Chairman of the Board, Boardroom, Sideboard, Cupboard, across the board, above board
and room and board came from this. Look for the Roses in the ceiling beams, “Sub-rosa” means
under the rose, a medieval meaning that anything told under the rose was to be a secret. The Rose
emblem came from Greek mythology, Aphrodite was having many lovers, her son Eros gave the
rose to his best friend to keep quiet about her indiscretions. The Rose is for love, trust and honour.
Imagine the central fire, a wooden cowling over it guiding the smoke up to the centre of the roof.
Not piercing the roof but stopping short allowing the smoke to exit slowly through the thatch. On the
other side of the beam a block and tackle carrying 3 chains which hung a large cast pot onto the
side of the fire, the cook’s assistant would raise the pot from the floor to turn it 120 degrees for
thorough heating. This conserva lidded pot, “eternal kettle" became known as the Hotpot.
Now let’s study the Medieval day. You fasted over night and awoke at 5 AM where you ate Break
the fast (breakfast) of water and bread. Then you worked for 4 hours until 9 AM when you have
dinner, meats, fruit etc. You ate off bread trenchers, the “upper-crust” being for the Lord and Lady.
Leftover food was put into the Hotpot and boiled all afternoon. You worked a further 8 hours until 5
PM when you had the Pot soup (Supper), you then went to bed at 9PM and fasted again. Your life
expectancy was 40 years, 1 in 2 children died before 5 years old, you married at 12!
Remember the ghost story about the Great hall barrier, well it was located across the end doors so
the Lord would not see the workers, it was not taken out of the room. It was dismantled and made
into the minstrels gallery as an effect for the Inn. But alas, the scallywag, Braddyll, who did this act
of vandalism put it at the wrong end, the gallery should be seen by the Lord, not over his head!
Look for the original tree which formed the Cruck beams and see how they are mirror imaged (half
The main portrait at the other end is of Queen Anne, the Oriel stained glass added in the early
1900’s are of Catholic Monarch’s. King Henry VII, was the first Tudor King, Tudor a Welsh family
from Penmynydd, Anglesey took the throne from Richard III in Battle. Tudor means “House of Iron”.
The Greyhound in the Crest is the Tudor symbol, King Henry VII and VIII favourite pet was a
Mary Tudor was Bloody Mary who married
The Great hall screen
King Philip of Spain, the eagle crest. James
before being dismantled
I son of Mary Queen of Scots inherited the
to make the “Minstrels
throne of England after Queen Elizabeth I
A Carving Screen to
hide the cook with a
Knife, no knife to be in
the presence of the
Lord of the Manor.
Tudor Welsh origins website
St. John Southworth.
English martyr, b. in Lancashire, 1592, martyred at Tyburn,
28 June, 1654. A member of a junior branch of the
Southworths of Samlesbury Hall, Blackburn, he was ordained
priest at the English College, Douai, and was sent on a holy
mission, 13 October, 1619. He was arrested and condemned
to death in Lancashire in 1627, and imprisoned first in
Lancaster Castle, and afterwards in the Clink, London, whence
he and fifteen other priests were, on 11 April, 1630, delivered
to the French Ambassador for transportation abroad. In 1636
he had been released from the Gatehouse, Westminster, and
was living at Clerkenwell, but frequently visited the plague-stricken dwellings of Westminster to
convert the dying. In 1637 he seems to have taken up his abode in Westminster, where he was
arrested, 28 November, and again sent to the Gatehouse. Thence he was again transferred to the
Clink and in 1640 was brought before the Commissioners for Causes Ecclesiastical, who sent him
back there 24 June. On 16 July he was again liberated, but by 2 December he was again in the
Gatehouse. After his final apprehension he was tried at the Old Bailey, and as he insisted on
pleading "guilty" to being a priest, he was reluctantly condemned by the Recorder of London, Sgt.
Steel. He was allowed to make a long speech at the gallows, and his remains were permitted to
pass into the possession of the Duke of Norfolk's family, who had them sent to the English College
at Douai. The relics of the Saint's body, hidden during the French Revolution, were rediscovered in
1927, and brought back to England, where they are enshrined in Westminster Cathedral.]
The windows from Whalley Abbey
Well that’s the tour folks, I hope you enjoyed it and that it gives you the interest to follow
your own course of study into an intriguing part of our Country’s history that shaped our
destiny more than at any other time before. Please do not believe all the malicious gossip
that the media puts out about Henry’s Kingship, he was a strong, but well loved King and
very misunderstood. His English Bible brought together the many local languages to
become the English Language as we know it today.
St. Nicholas Owen
Roman Belisama
Robert the Bruce
Southworth geneology
Curious Fact: The term “nicked” for stolen is medieval! A Lord of a manor with metals in his land
would let miners dig it out for a 50:50 share. With only 5 days allowed off work per year there was a
rule that any days over the 5 were against the partnership. Anybody could take over the working of
the mine if they could prove that 5 extra days were taken off. They would watch the mine daily, if
the miner missed an extra day, a mark was made on the wooden lintel at the entrance to the mine,
this nick would be evidence, if there were 5 nicks the mine changed hands! It’s been nicked.
Victorian use of the Great hall
Dittonian Stone and Quatrefoils
The White Lady.
I have already mentioned two spooky happenings but
Samlesbury Hall is most famous for the White Lady Ghost.
Dorothy Southworth loved the Son of the Protestant
Hoghtons, forbidden to see each other by her father, the
couple planned to run away together. Dorothy’s brother
found out about the plan and ambushed the lover and his
two friends, killing them all. Dorothy was sent to a nunnery
in France to keep the murder secret where she died broken
hearted. Her spirit returned to Samlesbury and she has
been seen meeting her lover near to where the draw bridge
was situated. Many years later three skeletons were found
at this same spot.
The upstairs corridor
The White Lady Story