Hoghton Tower is fortified manor house in the Borough of Chorley to the east of Preston in Lancashire. It has been the ancestral home of the De Hoghton family since the time of William the Conqueror. It features a mile long driveway to the main gates. The original driveway extended far further and the cost of lining it with red carpet for the arrival of King James I of England nearly bankrupted the family. Hoghton Tower is approximately 5 miles from Walton le Dale.
The Hoghton family has been at Hoghton since the 12th century, but the dramatic manor house that you can see today is primarily a product of the mid-Tudor period. The house is built in an elongated figure-8, encompassing two inner courtyards entered through a fiercely castellated gatehouse.
The house was completed by Thomas Hoghton in 1565, but Thomas, a Catholic, stayed in it only 4 years before fleeing to the Low Countries, where he died. Thomas’ nephew Richard enjoyed rather more politically correct views, and earned the favour of James I, who visited Hoghton in 1617.
Sir Richard, who was hoping to convince the king to relieve him of money-losing alum mines, laid out the red carpet for James’ visit – literally. Red carpeting was laid for the entire length of the half mile avenue leading to the house.
The king must have been impressed by the lavish welcome, and the feasting which followed, for he did buy the mines. An amusing but unsubstantiated tale has it that at the feast in the banqueting hall given in James’ honour the king was so moved by the excellent loin of beef he was served that he took his sword and knighted it “Sir Loin”, giving us the term ‘sirloin’ (now the name of a local pub). Richard’s good fortune did not last long; only a few years later he was imprisoned in Fleet Prison for debt.
Richard’s son, Gilbert, fought for Charles I in the Civil War, though Gilbert’s own son (named Richard, like his grandfather), chose the Roundhead cause, and Hoghton Tower was besieged by Parliamentary troops in 1643. Eventually the defenders capitulated, but when the Roundheads entered the house the powder magazine in the tower between the two courtyards exploded with terrifying force, killing over 100 Parliamentary men. The tower was never rebuilt.
Following in Richard Hoghton’s footsteps, succeeding generations of Hoghtons were fervent Presbyterian Dissenters, and the banqueting hall was often used as a Dissenting chapel (quite a change from the gaiety of entertaining the royal court).
Later generations of Hoghtons took a strong interest in parish affairs, and moved away from Hoghton Tower to be closer to the political action. Without them the house fell into disuse, and when Charles Dickens visited it in 1854 he found it in a depressing state of disrepair. The mood of the place did prompt Dickens to write a story “George Silverman’s Explanation”, in which the house features prominently.
Hoghton Tower was not restored until 1870, after a century of neglect. Despite the loss of many family portraits and collectibles in a fire, the work was finished in 1901, and visitors today can see several attractive rooms in a guided tour that lasts about 40 minutes. Highlights include excellent Queen Anne panelling, the galleried banqueting hall, good period furniture, and a doll house collection. You may also delve into a Tudor well house.
Hoghton Tower Trivia
- It is said that Sirloin steak was originally named in the banqueting hall.
- Hoghton Tower is the regimental base of Sir Gilbert Hoghton’s Company Of Foote, a regiment of The Sealed Knot battle reenactment society.
- On August 4, 1581, Alexander Hoghton, a scion of the family residing at Lea, wrote a will, containing the names of 11 annuitants whose care he was entrusting to one Thomas Hesketh, one of whom is named William Shakeshafte. This has led to speculation that William Shakespeare could have a connection with Hoghton Tower.