Elizabethan devices

Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire

Little Moreton Hall_530x443

Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire
Engraving: from 'Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain, Vol II', J. Britton (1809)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library

The construction of Little Moreton Hall began around 1450, but it is best known for its picturesque Elizabethan additions, especially its gatehouse, built from the 1560s onwards. Unlike Hardwick, Burghley and Longleat, Little Moreton Hall is not grand, appearing old fashioned with its asymmetrical half-timbering.

Rather than quoting Renaissance details, it relies on pattern to engage the viewer. Diagonal stud work is mostly used, creating chevron patterns that zigzag across the façades, interrupted occasionally by windows. On the top floor, a long gallery with its grid of windows stretches across, somehow supported by the groaning storeys below. Through this love of pattern, and its glazing scheme, the house struggles to be up-to-date.

Being black and white, Little Moreton it often called a ‘magpie house.’ Like a magpie’s nest, the hall seems like a motley collection of remnants, and it is this haphazard nature that Britton captures in this topographical engraving. At this date, Little Moreton really was tumbledown, the roof rotten, the windows boarded up, a world away from the hall’s current restored state, with its gardens clipped into neat patterns, echoing the façades.


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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