Ordsall Hall is a Tudor era manor house in Salford near the redeveloped Salford Quays. While there has been a house on this spot for 750 years, the current one dates back to the late 15th century and it also has connections to the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Guy Fawkes is the most noted member of the conspiracy that attempted to blow up Parliament and Ordsall Hall was allegedly one of the locations where the group met to form their plans, the Radclyff family who owned it for several centuries, being Catholic.
The Radclyffe family sold it in 1662 and it’s been used as quite a few things over the years. It’s been a museum since 1972 and was recently refurbished and is free to enter, open Sunday through Thursday as a rule. The hall can be hired for events and weddings which would be really cool.
The first time I visited here was in 2001 and I was eager to see it again since the renovations. There wasn’t as much of it open to the public as there is now. We only had a half hour to see it before closing and that is nearly enough time as it’s not very big. There is also an upstairs space used for exhibitions and a little gallery but we didn’t have to time to have a look. There’s a small gift shop area and café on the ground floor as well.
You enter into the Great Hall with its superb beamed ceiling and lovely leaded glass windows. The hall is set up for a banquet with the antique oak table from the 1500s, and several wonderful old cabinets around the edges, near the big wooden studded doors. The hall itself is dated to 1512. The ceilings and the windows are really beautiful, especially the bay oriel window overlooking the knot garden at the back of the house (which is where the entrance is).
The next room is the oldest part of the house, the Star Chamber, so called due to the metallic stars installed in the ceiling. There are some wattle and daub wall fillers still viewable and the old fireplace here still shows gouges in the stone where people used to hone their swords. This Star Chamber is the location of the supposed meeting between Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby as they came up with their infamous plot. There’s no real evidence to support it but the lane following one side of the property is named after Fawkes.
There is even an alleged ghost and they have a “ghost cam” set up in the house. Also in the Star Chamber is a suit of armour and a box of armoured helmets. There was a table with an old writing desk on it and feather “pen” and another with some old musical instruments on display. There’s an Elizabethan globe in one of the other rooms. They also have six pieces of medieval stained glass hangings, mainly “heraldic” symbols like one of a bull’s head in the kitchen and two hanging on the oriel window off the Great Hall.
On the top floor, there is also a room with an Italianate plaster ceiling which was rare in the northwest. This is newly opened to the public after the recent restorations. This is normally closed to the public but you can look into it through a glass panel.
You can then go upstairs to see another solar chamber, the Great chamber, with a canopied bed and an old fashioned bath (reproduction). There’s also a gorgeous off-white Elizabethan dress on display with really beautiful detail on the bodice, sleeves and around the ruff. There are a few pieces of costume in the wardrobe like hats and ruffs that you can try on if you want. The hall is often used for school outings and they have costumed guides to explain the history of the house to schoolkids.
Back on the ground floor there’s a kitchen set up as it would have looked in Elizabethan times and which has interesting items to look at as well and it’s got a recorded voice over of “life in the kitchen”. Some of the items are of later eras such as a bread oven from Victorian times.
Sir John Radclyffe campaigned with Edward III and was allowed to bring back some weavers to his manor where he set up a sort of factory and made his money in cloth production. The exterior of the oldest part is half-timber beamed and there is brick addition on the house as well. It used to be built around a courtyard but only two wings are left now, an L-shape. After the Radclyffes sold the house, it went through a number of owners. The last time it was occupied as a residence was in 1871.
More about the hall here.