East Riddlesden Hall in Yorkshire is a soot-darkened 17th century manor house part-standing (to the right), part tumble-down (to the left – a later addition built on earlier foundations that couldn’t hold the new construction’s weight), which was cut and divided into various tenanted properties after its original incarnation as the centre of an extensive farming estate.
Reason to visit: because it is close to Cliffe Castle?
- There’s a rather super early lantern clock in one of the bedrooms, dating from 1685 and which needs winding daily.
- There’s also plenty of slipware, if that tickles your fancy.
- We had fun playing in the children’s play room, making pipe cleaner butterflies and bugs.
- There’s also a bird watch, a decent cafe and a very medieval tithe barn (but limited parking, so perhaps avoid weekends and school holidays).
The hall was built in 1642 (and then extended and re-built in 1648) by Halifax clothier, James Murgatroyd. It sits high above a bend in the River Aire, which is why apparently the Romans had a settlement here.
Murgatroyd included elaborate Yorkshire Rose windows in two of the smallest rooms in the hall, perhaps to show how wealthy he was (that he could afford to build them).
The tour takes in the great hall, a number of bedrooms, a kitchen (the NT don’t know where the actual kitchen would have been – perhaps in the collapsed part?), dining room and a drawing room.
In the great hall there is a small fireplace above the main fireplace, where a floor for the first floor accommodation was intended but never built. No one in the property could explain to me why various floating oak beams are incorporated in the stone work. I was wondering if there was an original oak-framed structure to which stone was later added, but the guides did not know.
This walls of this room also show where various doorways were inserted when the room was divided into two different dwellings. The current stairs are an imported design from the period, the original design being too steep to be safe for visitors (perhaps they should tell this to Smallhythe Place).
The National Trust have refurbished the house with 17th century furniture and decoration, save for one bedroom which is styled in early 18th century drab greens. Note the bricked-up window, which would have originally let a lot more light into this room.
James Murgatroyd was a Royalist so look out for royalist symbols and graffiti on and in the building, for example, carvings of heads of Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France in the now tearoom. We didn’t spot the priest hole that there apparently is.
The front of the property overlooks a pond (with a very friendly cat), has a small fruit garden to the rear and is only 15 minutes’ drive from Cliffe Castle, where we had visited in the morning. It’s also free for us to get into, so we decided to visit.
What more can I say? I learned nothing other than how small the homes of some tenants would have been (the great hall would have been two houses at one time, with the occupants living on one floor), and that is it. D has been here 30 years ago and hadn’t been keen to go back, but I was persuasive. Perhaps in another 30 years I’ll be willing to go back again, especially if there are more children’s activities to do like you can see we partook in below.
When visited: February 2012
House * out of 5: **
Garden * out of 5: *
Theme tune: Ba Ba Black Sheep