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EUROPEAN GARDEN HERITAGE NETWORK – EGHN

Gawsworth Hall

It is said that to see Cheshire you must see Gawsworth. The village is extremely pretty and the hall itself is a black and white timber building dating back to the 15th Century.

In the Middle Ages Gawsworth was owned by the Fitton Family. Following the death of Edward Fitton V in 1643 a dispute over the succession arose which lasted until 1712.It was settled by one of the most famous duels in English History in Hyde Park.

The garden of Gawsworth Hall has well defined boundaries. A chain of 5 fishponds, which originally provided food for the hall, defines the northern edge. In the west is a raised walk with views across the garden, the park, further to the Cheshire Plain and North Wales to the west, and the Cloud and the Pennines to the east. The Wilderness Garden is a small plantation with mature lime trees. The principal pleasure garden was first developed in the 1960s with formal beds and a fountain set into the lawns.

Mary Fitton was Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth I. She is said to be the ‘Dark Lady’ of his Shakespeare’s Sonnets and her ghost is said to walk the hall, the churchyard, and the rectory. The ghost of ‘Old Maggoty’ is also said to haunt the wood.

Today the house has a fine collection of furniture and paintings and the gardens provide a superb backdrop to theatre and music, catering for all tastes, from Shakespeare to Conan Doyle, and from Jazz to Folk Music.

It is said that to see Cheshire you must see Gawsworth. The village is pretty: It is a peaceful and beautiful place and regarded as one of the loveliest areas of Cheshire. Scattered cottages and farms merge with the grandeur of the church, halls, pools and leafy lanes in this vast parish.

Gawsworth Hall is a black and white timber building dating back to the 15th Century when the original Norman house was rebuilt. The medieval chapel is said to date from as far back as 1365. Today, the spectacle of the hall, surrounded by lakes and gardens, is the backdrop to summer theatre with an auditorium for up to a thousand people catering for all tastes. With its wealth of history Gawsworth Hall has its fair share of myths and legends.


In the Middle Ages Gawsworth was owned by the Fitton Family. Edward Fitton III (1550-1606) was a friend of Sir Walter Raleigh. The original Norman House was rebuilt in 1480. Following the death of Edward Fitton V in 1643 a dispute over the succession arose which lasted until 1712 when it was settled by one of the most famous duels in English History in Hyde Park. Lord Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton fought, and died over the estate. In 1725 the site passed to the Harrington family and remained in the family until 1955.

The origins of the early modern gardens at Gawsworth are disputed. Some believe they were constructed as long ago as the early 17th century, when the Old Hall was enlarged. Others believe they were not constructed until later in the century after the Earl of Macclesfield took control.

The garden has well defined boundaries. A chain of 5 fishponds, which originally provided food for the hall, defines the northern edge. The chain runs from east to west. There are dams between the fishponds each carrying a road or path. The western most pool is now dry. To the east is a Pigeon House or Watch Tower: Now in residential use, the building is 3 storeys tall with a pyramidal roof. The remaining 3 sides of the garden are defined by brick wall dating back 400 years.

In the western half of the garden is a raised walk with views across the garden, the park, further to the Cheshire Plain and North Wales to the west, and the Cloud and the Pennines to the east. In the east of the garden are a number of terraces, one of which is the Wilderness Garden. The garden is a small plantation with mature lime trees that were initially arranged in a formal manner.

The principal pleasure garden is a more recent addition. First developed in the 1960s the garden has small formal beds and a fountain set into the lawns.

The gardens are amongst the finest in Cheshire. The water trickles from the fountain as the haunting sound of ravens echoes from the trees nearby as it has done for centuries. The gardens also provide a superb backdrop to theatre to music, from Shakespeare to Conan Doyle, and from Jazz to Folk Music.

The Fitton Family were most successful in the 16th Century. Edward III was a friend with Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1596 Mary Fitton was appointed Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth I. She was renowned for her beauty and she had outlived two husbands and had many lovers. However, she was dismissed in 1602 and imprisoned in the Tower of London for a time after an affair with the Earl of Pembroke which outraged the Virgin Queen and was a great scandal at the time. Legend has it that she became friendly with William Shakespeare and is the ‘Dark Lady’ of his Sonnets. The ghost of Mary is said to walk the hall, the churchyard, and the rectory. Smashing glass has been heard at the rectory. It is believed her remains may be under the floor of the church.

Samuel Johnson was a resident of Gawsworth and known as ‘Old Magotty’. ‘Magotty’ is old Cheshire dialect for someone whimsical and bad-tempered. He was a poet, musician, and actor in the 18th Century. He was also a jester at the Royal Court. His brief fame made him egotistical and he insisted on being known as ‘My Lord Flame’ after a character in one of his plays. He was presented with a house in Gawsworth by Lord Harrington. On his death he requested to be buried in the wood where he had walked in his final years, which now bears his name, and not in the churchyard. His grave is still visible and it is said his ghost haunts the wood. It is also said that if you walk around his grave long enough he will come back to life.

Today the owner still holds the title ‘Lord of the Manor and Patron of the Living of Gawsworth’. In the house the timber frame structure is open to view. Gawsworth Hall has a fine collection of furniture and paintings as well as William Morris stained glass windows designed by Burne-Jones.

 

Address: Gawsworth Hall, Church Lane, Macclesfield
Cheshire, SK11 9RN
Telephone: + 44 (0)1260 223456
Fax: + 44 (0)1260 223469
Email: enquiries@gawsworthhall.com
Website: www.gawsworthhall.com

Opening times:
Easter Weekend 2005: Good Friday to Easter Monday: 2pm – 5pm.
30 April to 18th June: Sunday to Wednesday 2pm – 5pm and
Bank Holiday Saturdays 19th June – 31st August Open Daily: 2pm – 5pm
1st September to 25th September: Sunday to Wednesday 2pm – 5pm

Admission Prices:
Adults: £5.00 Children (under 16): £2.50 Coach Parties:£4.00

Events/Exhibitions:
see www.gawsworthhall.com/events.html

Customer Services:

  • Snacks and refreshments are available in the Orchard Rooms, together with a fully licensed bar.
  • Between June and August, the garden presents a wide range of open air theatre events in their all seated, covered auditorium.
  • Free Car Park
  • Seats/Benches: There are Disabled facilities

How to get there by car: From M6 motorway, exit junction 18. Follow A54 towards Congleton. Go through Congleton and follow A536 towards Macclesfield (Congleton Road). Follow road until reach village of Warren. You will see a church on left, turn right opposite church into Church Lane. Follow signs for Gawsworth Hall.