Nestled in the charming Lancashire town of Chorley, this historic house-turned-museum and its former grounds offer a journey through time and an opportunity to immerse yourself in the splendour of nature.
With its rich heritage, historic architecture, stunning parkland, and many recreational attractions, Astley Hall and Park beckons visitors to explore its treasures, unwind in its serene surroundings, and discover the stories that have shaped this remarkable place.
Astley Hall is the jewel in the crown of Astley Park. This Grade I listed historic house, now a museum, has roots stretching back over 400 years. The Charnock family acquired the site in the 15th century, and the original timber-framed house was built around 1575-1600. The hall is steeped in history, and its walls whisper stories of the illustrious families who lived there, including the Charnocks, Brookes, Townley Parkers, and Tattons.
The building is an architectural marvel, with its grand brick facade, stunning bay windows, and courtyard. The interiors are no less impressive, boasting remarkable mid-17th-century plasterwork, including intricate wreaths and cherubs adorning the ceilings.
The hall is also famous for its collection of English oak furniture. The Long Gallery on the second floor runs the entire width of the building. It is home to a magnificent oak shovel board measuring over 23 feet long. Shovel board was a game played by the English upper classes during the Tudor era. Players would push metal weights along long tables to get them as close as possible to the other end without falling off.
The Cromwell Bed is another notable item. It is believed that Oliver Cromwell stayed at the hall before the Battle of Preston in 1648 and slept on this bed. The bed was crafted in the early 1570s for the Charnock family. Their coat of arms is displayed on the footboard.
The hall reopened in 2022 following a £1.1 million renovation. The work took two years and included various improvements, such as restoring stained glass windows and repairing tapestries and paintings. The renovation also included the removal of the render on the exterior walls, revealing the original brickwork.
The museum is owned and managed by Chorley Council. It is open to the public with specific operating hours for different seasons. Admission fees apply, but locals are offered discounted rates. Details of the current opening times and entry fees can be found on the official website.
Coach House Gallery, Gift Shop, and Cafe Ambio
The Coach House was built in the late 18th century as the stables for the estate. Today is home to a cafe, an art gallery, and a gift shop.
Cafe Ambio offers a warm and inviting atmosphere with a menu catering to all tastes. The Coach House Gallery is a dedicated art space on the upper floor. The gallery showcases work from local and international artists and regularly hosts touring exhibitions.
The gift shop features a range of locally sourced, sustainable gifts. Many of the items on sale are inspired by the hall’s history.
Barrica in the Park
Barrica in the Park is a great destination for quality food and drink. Established as Barrica Wines in 2008, it moved to Astley Park in 2020.
The store is not just about wines, beers, and spirits; it’s also a showcase of small, local producers and artisans. The food offerings include freshly baked goods like bread, cakes, pastries, cheeses, jams and chutneys, desserts and patisserie, sauces, ice cream, chocolates, cordials, speciality teas and coffee. Beyond food and drinks, it also sells locally crafted gifts.
Barrica in the Park is located in the estate’s former farmhouse, at the rear of the Coach House and close to the park’s Hallgate entrance.
The park extends over 100 acres and offers many attractions for visitors of all ages. Recreational facilities include playgrounds, a petting zoo, historic woodland, sports pitches, tennis courts, and a bowling green.
Playground – Royalists Retreat
The Royalists Retreat Play Area is an adventurous and imaginative outdoor space that beautifully complements the historical context of the park. It’s not just a playground but a fantastic place for children to learn and engage with history while still having fun.
The playground’s design is unique and enchanting. It is inspired by the Royalists and Roundheads of the English Civil War due to Oliver Cromwell’s reputed stay at Astley Hall before the Battle of Preston in 1648. This historical theme provides an opportunity to immerse kids in a play environment that also subtly imparts knowledge of the past.
Play equipment is creatively built and includes a range of structures for children of all ages. The castle ruin is the perfect place for children to enact their own historical battles and adventures. A tower slide and a 30-metre zip wire allow a quick escape from the ‘siege’.
This petting zoo has a delightful collection of animals, such as chipmunks, guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, and more. It is an exciting attraction for children who can feed the animals and learn about different species.
Pets’ Corner is located at the centre of the park. It is a community facility managed by The Brothers of Charity Services. More details can be found on its official Facebook page.
The Walled Garden is thought to date back to the mid-18th century. Originally, the garden was designed to supply fresh produce to the residents of Astley Hall, serving as a vital resource for sustenance and survival.
The garden’s design and purpose were typical of the era, reflecting the self-sufficiency of large estates. The hall’s residents would have had access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, all grown within the confines of their property.
Today, the garden is a serene space that serves as a testament to the power of community and the beauty of nature. This garden is maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers who work tirelessly to create a lush and productive environment.
The garden is designed to demonstrate how easy it is to grow fresh fruit and vegetables. It features an orchard filled with heritage variety fruit trees, providing a diverse range of produce. The garden also includes a herb garden. Cafe Ambio buy supplies from the garden, adding a fresh and local touch to their dishes.
In addition to its practical uses, the garden is an inspirational space that provides hours of pleasure to the public, staff, and volunteers. It’s not just a garden but a community hub where people can learn, grow, and enjoy the beauty of nature.
The Walled Garden is at the rear of the hall, close to the Hallgate entrance and car park. Admission to the garden is free.
Chorley Cenotaph is a war memorial within the park, near the Park Road entrance. The monument is dedicated to the local soldiers who died in World War I and subsequent conflicts.
The monument consists of a stone column with a Celtic cross on top. The inscription reads, “In remembrance of the men of this borough who fell in the Great War 1914 – 1918”.
Astley Hall and Park’s existence as a public space is deeply intertwined with the cenotaph. Following World War I, Chorley Corporation was seeking a suitable location for the town’s war memorial and also hoped to establish a public park. Their search led them to consider an area adjacent to the Astley Hall estate. After learning of this, Reginald Tatton, the owner of the estate, made a generous offer. He proposed to donate Astley Hall to the corporation free of charge if they acquired the surrounding parkland.
The corporation agreed to Tatton’s proposal. In 1922 the estate was sold at a significantly reduced price, with the hall included as a gift. Tatton suggested that the hall could serve as a museum. To support this idea, he left much of the furniture in the house.
Public subscriptions were raised to finance the cenotaph, designed to replicate the town’s market cross. Additionally, a grand archway, purchased from Gillibrand Hall, was installed to serve as the primary entrance to the Park.
On May 31, 1924, a grand ceremony marked the official opening of the park and the unveiling of the cenotaph. The hall opened as a museum of ‘period furniture’. The estate began a new life as a public space and community hub.
Ackhurst Lodge is a charming, historic building in Astley Park. The lodge was built in 1842 and served as the entrance to the estate. It lies at the southwestern corner of the park. The lodge is a Grade II listed building, meaning it’s recognised for its architectural and historical significance.
With its black timber and white panels, the lodge is a visual delight. A two-story gabled porch with a Tudor-arched lintel is at the entrance. A notable feature is the large external chimney stack at the left gable, with zigzag brickwork, similar to the chimney on the west side of Astley Hall.
Location and Getting There
Astley Hall and Park is located next to Chorley town centre.
There a several entrances to the park:
- Park Road – This entrance is at the eastern end of the park. It is best for those coming to the park on foot from the town centre.
- Hallgate – This entrance is at the northwestern end of the park. It is close to Astley Hall and the Coach House.
- Ackhurst Lodge, Southport Road – This entrance is at the park’s southwestern corner.
The main car park is at the Hallgate entrance. Its postcode is PR7 1QS.
There’s another car park at the Ackhurst Lodge entrance on Southport Road. Its postcode is PR7 1ED.
Parking at both of these car parks is free.
The closest railway station is Chorley Train Station. It is around 1/3 mile from the Park Road entrance to the park. Euxton Balshaw Lane Train Station and Buckshaw Parkway Train Station are also nearby.
Chorley Bus Station is next to Chorley Train Station.
Other Parks in the Area
Chorley’s scenic outdoors extends beyond Astley Hall and Park. The area is also home to other beautiful parks that offer unique experiences to its visitors.
Yarrow Valley Country Park is a picturesque green space encompassing around 700 acres of woodlands, meadows, and water bodies. The park offers countless opportunities for nature lovers, including scenic walking trails, birdwatching, and fishing. The park also features an excellent adventure play area.
Worden Park is another splendid destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The park boasts play areas, a miniature railway, and a hedge maze. The park also houses the Worden Arts & Crafts Centre, home to several local businesses selling unique, handmade products.
Situated towards the western edge of the West Pennine Moors, the village of Rivington and its surrounding areas offer an exceptional variety of natural beauty. Rivington Pike, one of the hill summits, provides breathtaking panoramic views of the area.
Rivington Terraced Gardens, a remarkable hillside garden, offers a network of footpaths and steps, enabling visitors to explore various interesting features.