Samlesbury Hall is a historic house in the village of Samlesbury, Lancashire. Constructed in 1325, it was the home of the Southworth family for over 300 years. Today it is a historic house and wedding venue run by a preservation trust.
Samlesbury Hall has a fascinating history dating back to the 14th century. The hall has been the site of significant events, religious conflicts, and several ownership changes.
Constructed in 1325 by Gilbert de Southworth, the building replaced a previous structure that had been destroyed by Robert the Bruce during the Scottish invasions. The hall served as the home of the influential Southworth family until 1678. Sir Thomas Southworth, a prominent figure in the family, played significant roles in the wars against Scotland and served as High Sheriff of Lancashire. Under his watch, the hall was expanded and improved, adding to its grandeur.
The hall has borne witness to religious turmoil during the Protestant Reformation. Sir John Southworth, a staunch Catholic, practised his faith secretly during the reign of Elizabeth I when Catholicism was forbidden. His clandestine activities led to fines and imprisonment, and it is alleged that hidden priest holes were found in the house, attesting to the difficult times the family faced.
In 1678, the Southworth family, having no direct male heirs, sold the hall to Thomas Braddyll. Over the subsequent years, the hall fell into disrepair, eventually being used for various purposes, including periods as a public house and school. The grandeur and historical importance of the hall were all but forgotten.
In the early 20th century, the hall was at risk of being lost to history when a building company purchased the property intending to demolish it to make way for a housing estate. This plan was halted when a group of local businessmen raised the necessary funds to buy the hall. In 1925, ownership was transferred to the Samlesbury Hall Trust. The private trust was established to maintain the hall and keep it open for the public to enjoy, learn about, and appreciate its importance. Today, the registered charity continues its stewardship, ensuring the hall is a testament to the region’s rich and diverse history.
Tour of Samlesbury Hall
Samlesbury Hall opens many of its rooms to the public. These provide a vivid glimpse into various periods of the building’s history, from its religious roots to its Victorian past.
The Chapel, also known as the Whittaker Room, is located to the immediate left of the Entrance Hall. It was initially a separate building but was joined to the main hall in 1530. Today, the room is used for civil weddings. The gallery would have seated the lord and his family while the servants worshipped below.
The first floor Long Gallery showcases exhibits that narrate the history of the hall and its inhabitants over the centuries. Among the displayed items is a 17th-century pedlar’s trunk, discovered at the hall in the late 19th century.
The Priest Room underscores the historical animosity towards Catholicism. It served as a hiding hole for Catholic priests during times of persecution. A legendary tale recounts how a priest, who was followed to the hall, was found hiding there and was subsequently beheaded. It is said that his bloodstains couldn’t be scrubbed from the floor and remained for centuries until the floorboards were replaced.
In 1852, the building was rented out as a school, and the School Room recreates the ambience of a Victorian-era classroom.
The Victorian Kitchen gives visitors a glimpse into late 19th-century food preparation methods. Various displays illustrate the culinary practices of that era.
The Great Hall, constructed in the 14th century, is the building’s oldest and most impressive space. The original room would have been more spartan, featuring a thatched roof, an earth floor, and a central fireplace. The magnificent fireplace seen today is a 16th-century addition. The Great Hall saw improvements under Thomas Southworth, who added the large bay window in the 1500s.
The Bridge Gallery, which overlooks the courtyard, is a delightful space that hosts art exhibitions.
The free guided tours offer visitors a unique way to learn about the fascinating and rich history of the house. They are available most Sundays, although visitors are encouraged to check the website for specific details and any changes to the schedule.
The tours cover a range of subjects that cater to diverse interests. They not only delve into the estate’s intriguing past but also highlight its architectural features and the lives of people who once resided here. Whether you’re a history buff or a casual visitor, they provide engaging narratives that make history come alive.
The guides often wear costumes to make the experience more engaging and memorable. Your guide for the day could be Henry VIII or Jane Southworth (one of the Samlesbury Witches). These characters help visitors better visualise the period and add a touch of theatre and excitement.
The experiences are designed to be suitable for all ages, including children. The guides are adept at making the complex history understandable and appealing to younger audiences, ensuring an educational and enjoyable visit for families.
With beautiful gardens and over 700 years of history, Samlesbury Hall is a unique wedding venue. Numerous spaces provide options for ceremonies and receptions. Accommodation is also available.
From the Whittaker Room for your ceremony to the medieval Great Hall for your reception, the hall offers versatile indoor spaces that exude charm and romance. The Italian courtyard, ideal for evening receptions, provides a unique outdoor setting where guests can enjoy wood-fired pizzas and other street food options.
The hall is set within beautiful grounds featuring sweeping lawns, ancient woodland, a fountain, and a rosarium. These beautiful surroundings provide the perfect backdrop for wedding photographs and outdoor celebrations.
Samlesbury Hall prides itself on its experienced and flexible wedding team. Managed by a charitable trust, they take a personal and flexible approach to each wedding, ensuring that every detail is handled carefully to create a memorable day.
In terms of accommodation, a variety of options are available. Guests can stay in the woodland in ensuite Shepherd’s Huts, with modern amenities and memory foam mattresses. The Gatehouse, a luxurious and spacious lodging, is the perfect place for the wedding party to prepare for the big day.
Samlesbury Hall offers bespoke wedding packages, ensuring a unique and personal experience. There are no restrictions on food and drink choices and minimum guest numbers, providing flexibility to create the wedding day of your dreams.
Prospective couples can attend open evenings to experience the venue’s setup and ambience for weddings. Personal tours and discussions about wedding ideas and requirements can be arranged.
The venue has hosted weddings for more than fifty years. It has received multiple accolades as one of the best wedding venues in Lancashire and is known for its exceptional dining and services.
Nestled within the walls of Samlesbury Hall are two delightful dining spots; the Heritage Cafe and Dottie’s Wafflery.
The Heritage Cafe is a dog-friendly restaurant on the grounds of the estate. It serves breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea. A special menu for children ensures everyone’s tastes are catered to. Designed with an eco-friendly ethos, the light and airy ambience of the Heritage Cafe provides a charming backdrop for a relaxing meal.
Dottie’s Wafflery serves up delicious Belgian waffles, milkshakes, sundaes, and locally-made ice cream for those with a sweet tooth. England’s first wafflery offers a fun experience for the whole family.
Samlesbury Hall is open all year round, including bank holidays. Opening times are:
- Tuesday to Friday: 10 am – 4 pm (see note below)
- Sundays: 10 am – 4 pm
The hall is closed on Mondays for maintenance and cleaning.
It is also closed on Saturdays and some Fridays for weddings and private events. These private functions help fund the preservation and running of this manor house.
As these timings can be subject to change, visitors should check opening dates on the venue’s website before making the trip.
Admission & Ticket Prices
One of the most appealing aspects of the attraction is its open-door policy. Entry to the hall and grounds is free. There is no need to book tickets in advance.
While there is no charge to enter, the hall is maintained through the kind generosity of its visitors and supporters. Donations are warmly welcomed and go directly towards the conservation and upkeep of the hall, ensuring this fantastic piece of history can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.
Special events like ghost tours, festivals, and school holiday activities may have paid ticketing. See the official website’s ‘What’s On’ section for details of all events.
For those intrigued by the supernatural, Samlesbury Hall is a must-visit destination, renowned as one of the most haunted locations in Britain. Its rich history is intertwined with tales of spectral occurrences and ghostly sightings that add an extra layer of intrigue to this historic location.
The most famous ghost is the White Lady, believed to be Dorothy Southworth, a former resident of the hall. Sightings of the White Lady are frequent, with reports of her apparition seen both within the building and across the grounds.
Samlesbury Hall offers two excellent onsite accommodation choices for tourists and wedding guests; Shepherd’s Huts and the Gatehouse.
The Hamlet offers an exceptional glamping experience with a collection of Shepherd’s Huts. These huts provide an alternative to traditional hotel accommodation.
Each hut has two double beds with memory foam mattresses, ensuring a restful sleep for up to four people. The accommodation also includes an ensuite bathroom with a shower, hot water, and luxury toiletries. Heating is provided, ensuring a cosy and warm stay, no matter the season.
For visitors seeking a more traditional stay, the Gatehouse provides luxurious accommodation. This beautiful Victorian lodge, located at the entrance to the estate, combines historical elegance with modern amenities.
The Gatehouse features a sumptuous King bedroom and an additional dressing room that can be converted into a second bedroom. The bathroom boasts a double shower and a slipper bath, providing a touch of indulgence to your stay. Additionally, the lounge includes a double sofa bed, allowing the accommodation to house up to six people comfortably.
The Mayflower Playground features miniature wooden versions of Samlesbury Hall and the Mayflower ship, linked by a rope bridge.
The Mayflower ship pays homage to the history of the estate and the Southworth family who lived there. Family members were among the Pilgrims who sailed to America on the famous ship in the 17th century.
The playground’s location in the woods adds to the charm, immersing children in nature as they play and imagine.
The hall welcomes dogs and responsible owners. The outdoor spaces and trails provide ample areas to walk dogs. The Heritage Cafe and Dottie’s Wafflery are both dog-friendly eateries.
However, dogs are not permitted inside the hall.
There are two large car parks onsite. Parking is free of charge for visitors.
Public transportation options include the 59 bus service from Preston Bus Station to Blackburn. The stop is on Preston New Road near the hall’s driveway.
After visiting, guests may wish to explore other local attractions. They include:
- Brockholes – unique nature reserve located on the River Ribble
- Hoghton Tower – manor house with a rich history and panoramic views
- Ribchester Roman Museum – provides a fascinating insight into the region’s Roman history
- Mrs Dowsons Farm Park – Family farm park in the Ribble Valley
Other Historic Houses in Lancashire
Lancashire is a county steeped in history, with many historic houses that tell fascinating tales of a time gone by. For visitors who enjoyed exploring Samlesbury Hall, there are several other remarkable houses in the region worth a visit:
- Leighton Hall, located in Yealand Conyers, Carnforth, is the ancestral home of the Gillow family. Famous for their furniture-making business, the family’s influence is evident in the fine furniture collection of this stately home. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful grounds, a woodland walk, a cafe, and fascinating birds of prey demonstration.
- Browsholme Hall, near Clitheroe, is recognised as the oldest surviving family home in Lancashire. Since its construction in 1507, it has been the ancestral home of the Parker family. The Tudor house showcases a fine collection of antiques and paintings. The beautifully landscaped gardens are a delight for visitors.
- Gawthorpe Hall, in Padiham, is a National Trust property famous for its remarkable textiles and art collections. The architecture of the house, guided by Sir Charles Barry, designer of the Houses of Parliament, is a sight to behold.
- Astley Hall, near Chorley town centre, is now a municipal museum. It is known for its stunning plaster ceilings and collection of English oak furniture. Astley Park is home to a multitude of attractions. Pets Corner is a children’s petting zoo with rabbits, chickens, and guinea pigs.
- Situated in Burnley, Towneley Hall was the home of the Towneley family for nearly 700 years. Today, it is a museum and art gallery offering a glimpse into the family’s rich past and showcasing a range of fascinating exhibitions.
- Wycoller Hall, located in the village of Wycoller, is a ruined 16th-century manor house. Known for its associations with the Bronte sisters, particularly Charlotte Bronte and her novel Jane Eyre, it’s an intriguing spot for literature and history enthusiasts alike.
- Hoghton Tower, a fortified manor house between Preston and Blackburn, is one of the county’s gems. Dating back to the 1560s, this Grade I listed building offers a rich history and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.