Heritage West Lancashire: Lytham Hall and Rufford Old Hall

The seaside town of Lytham St Annes is just a few miles south of Blackpool on the Fylde coast in West Lancashire. It sees itself very much as the upmarket neighbour and Lytham Hall near the centre of Lytham St Annes fits well with that image.

Lytham Hall and Italianate Garden
Lytham Hall and Italianate Garden

This Palladian style house dating from 1764 is the only Grade 1 listed building in the borough of Fylde. It is included in Historic Houses free-to-visit category, see below.

Just twenty miles to the south in the Liverpool direction is Rufford Old Hall, a very different style of country house.

A timber-framed Great Hall survives from the original structure built around 1530, but a Jacobean brick wing was added in 1660 and a third wing in the 1820s.

Rufford Old Hall and grounds are managed by the National Trust.

We had plenty of time to visit both properties in an afternoon on a cold but sunny November day, after driving through Blackpool illuminations the evening before – a very different type of heritage.

Lytham Hall

Front View of Lytham Hall
Front View of Lytham Hall

A Benedictine Priory occupied the site from the 12th Century until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. The land was acquired in 1606 by local landowner Sir Cuthbert Clifton who built a Jacobean manor house on the site.

This was replaced by the present Georgian Palladian style house, although much of the original manor house survives at the rear.

The Clifton family continued to occupy Lytham Hall until 1963 when it had to be sold as a result of the squandering of much of the family’s wealth by Henry de Vere Clifton.

The Lytham Town Trust took up ownership of the site in 1997, with the Heritage Trust for the North West being responsible for management and restoration.

Lytham Hall Tour

Lytham: The Dining Room
Dining Room

Lytham Hall is unusual in having the main family rooms on the ground floor rather than the servants’ rooms as is found in most Palladian style houses of the time. The kitchens here were in the old Jacobean buildings to the rear, now in part a refreshment area around a small courtyard.

The tour started from the North Entrance Hall, where the family entered the Hall. This led on to a Morning Room, the Library, the Main Entrance Hall, used on formal occasions, the Gold Drawing Room and Dining Room.

A wide attractive staircase led up to the first floor rooms comprising the Main Bedroom with a dressing room, Violet Clifton’s Boudoir, Harry’s Sitting Room, the Clifton Nursery, Victoria Hetty’s Bedroom and the Georgian Bedroom.

Lytham: Chinese Bedroom
Chinese Bedroom

The second floor had further bedrooms including an impressive Jacobean Bedroom, with panelled side room, and the Chinese Bedroom. The latter was not yet open to the public, but we were given a sneak preview of this blue-walled room containing fine Chinese furnishings.

A small but informative exhibition about Lytham Priory is also located on the second floor.

Each room had information boards and in addition we were appreciative of the well informed guides who were on hand throughout the tour. They added extra interesting nuggets of information about the Hall and the Clifton family, who are well represented around the Hall with many portraits.

Lytham Hall Parkland and Gardens

Woodland Walk by Lily Pond
Woodland Walk by the Lily Pond

There are 78 acres of wooded parkland with well marked pathways.

The South Prospect walk from the Hall leads to The Mount, a 17th Century viewing point made from the soil excavated in producing the Curtains Pond, a source of water for the Hall. A zig-zag path leads to the top with views out to the sea.

The North Prospect walk from the Hall leads to the scenic Lily Pond, with the remnants of a boat house at the far end.

To the south of the Hall there is a small Italianate Garden overlooked by a statue of Diana the Huntress and to the rear a Kitchen Garden and Garden Centre behind Jacobean manor house.

There is a large car park between the Hall and the Lily Pond, which costs just £1 for two hours parking.

Rufford Old Hall

Rufford Old Hall
Rufford Old Hall

The most impressive room in the building is the Great Hall which dates back to 1530 and was built by Sir Robert Hesketh to impress his visitors.

We certainly found the timbered structure to be very impressive, particularly when viewed through a spy hole from a second floor room.

The Great Hall contains contains unusual pieces of furniture, tapestries, arms and armour and a large ornately carved wooden screen dating back to the 1500s.

Of the smaller rooms on two floors that are open to the public, we found the Dining Room to be the most interesting. It is set out with a cooling bottle of champagne and fruit as if ready for the Hesketh family and their guests to arrive.

Rufford: Great Hall
Great Hall

Also of note is the Drawing Room with its stained glass windows, producing colourful displays in sunlight, and the Dressing Room with its collection of botanical watercolours dating back to the late 1800s

The Hesketh family occupied the Hall until 1798 when they moved to Rufford New Hall half a mile away.

However they continued to own the Old Hall until it was donated to the National Trust in 1936 by Thomas Fermor-Hesketh.

Rufford Hall Grounds

Woodland Walk to the Canal
Woodland Walk to the Canal

There is a garden to the rear of the house, not looking that attractive in November when we visited, plus a small pasture. A feature at the side of the house are two topiary squirrels.

At the front of the house is a small woodland area with paths leading down to the Rufford branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, completed in 1781.

For a longer walk, there is a footpath to the Hesketh family church of St Mary the Virgin in Rufford, about a quarter of mile away.

On this occasion, since it was starting to get dark, we opted to miss out on this longer walk in favour of visiting the very pleasant Victorian tea-room.

Entry to the Lytham Hall is £6 for adults and £3 for children. However if you take up annual membership with Historic Houses, you will get free entry, plus free entry to 300 other heritage sites. Enter our unique code STEW05 at ‘Add discount code’ and new members will receive a £5 discount. This also applies if you wish to give annual membership as a gift.

Entry to the Rufford Old Hall is £5 for adults and £2-50 for children. If you intend to visit several National Trust properties in a year, then taking up annual membership could save you a lot of money and we have a Membership Offer, which also applies to membership given as a gift. To receive a £15 National Trust gift card with annual or gift membership paid by direct debit, click on National Trust.

We have reviewed several other properties under Historic Houses and National Trust, and see also: Historic Houses versus National Trust – Which to join?

Additional Photographs

Lytham: The Morning Room
Lytham: Morning Room
Lytham: Gold Drawing Room
Lytham: Gold Drawing Room
Lytham: Staircase
Georgian Bedroom
Lytham: Georgian Bedroom
Jacobean Bedroom
Lytham: Jacobean Bedroom
Garden Centre
Lytham: Garden Centre
Great Hall
Rufford: Great Hall with Wooden Screen
Rufford: Through the Spy Hole
Rufford: Great Hall through the Spy Hole
Rufford: Dining Room
Rufford: Dining Room
Rufford: Drawing Room
Rufford: Drawing Room

POSTED 4th DECEMBER 2021 by STEVEN HANSON. The photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.