Gawsworth Old Hall, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

Gawsworth Old Hall, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

After finding ourselves straddling the Cheshire-Staffordshire boundary, it is time to head north again and that brings us to another timber-framed mansion: Gawsworth Old Hall, two miles south of Macclesfield. It is a stout oak-framed stone structure supporting a hefty roof of Macclesfield Slab slates weighing 350 imperial tons in total. Though dating from medieval times, the building remained subject to additions and alterations until Elizabethan times. Even so, it looks frozen in time to modern eyes and feels a little higgledy piggledy inside in it with the levels of the floors going up and down as needed.

With its long history, it perhaps is unsurprising to learn that the place has been home to several families, the most notable of which being the Fittons, who were lords of the manor from 1316 until 1662. They were known as the fighting Fittons and one of their number, a certain Mary Fitton, managed to disgrace herself at Queen Elizabeth's court. Apparently, that wasn't so easy to manage in the prevailing culture of the time. Another of her claims to fame (or is it notoriety?) is that she was suspected of being the Black Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets though this is now discounted in favour of a Spanish alternative. Otherwise, the Fittons have not been lost to history with the nearby church of St. James playing host to monuments to past members of this family, hardly a surprise when you consider how much support they provided towards its upkeep.

The village of Gawsworth is divided by a line of fish ponds, one of which occupies the foreground of the photo above. Behind that is the hall's tilting ground where jousting tournaments were held, a throwback to medieval times if ever there was one. That has to be the sort of history that makes anywhere exceptional but there's more. The hall is not without its formal gardens either and they are where performances of works from Shakespeare or Gilbert and Sullivan are hosted during the longer evenings of summer. As if setting those near a medieval hall weren't enough, you await the bell for the performance by picnicking on the tilting ground, a perfect spot for such things when you get the right evening. Saying that, there is something strange about engaging in genteel activities on what once was a place of considerable exciting action. Personally, I get the feeling that there is a certain quintessential Englishness to the whole business.

See more photos from: Eastern Cheshire, England