Gainsborough Old Hall

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Family including children under 16

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Gainsborough Old Hall is among the biggest and best-preserved small medieval manor houses in England. It was built in the latter part of the 15th century with Elizabethan additions, by a wealthy merchants family when Gainsborough used to be an important port on the River Trent. It has an illustrious history . RichardIII and Henry VIII visited here. Catherine Parr’s first husband was lord here. It has connections to the Pilgrim Fathers and John Wesley also preached here.

During the 18th and 19thC it was used as a theatre, Masonic Hall and later as a lodgings house. It was in a very bad state of repair by the middle of the 20thC and was only saved from demolition when the Friends of Gainsborough Old Hall was formed to save it.

It is surrounded by 19thC Victoria housing and sits in an expanse of grass with mature trees including mulberries. In the summer there are flowers beds between the two wings. There is some on street parking around the Old Hall but there are large car parks off Ropery Road, along the river.

It is timber frame and brick built. The Great Hall runs across centre of building with two wings off it. There is a brick built tower in NE corner. Standing looking at the front of the building, it is a beautiful building with black and white timber frame which is gently sagging with age and the walls of the west wing are beginning to bow outwards.

There is a splendid great hall with oak beam ceiling and a central fire place in the middle of the floor. This originally had a louvre above it to remove smoke. This has been removed and the remains can now be seen in one of the first floor rooms. A very stylish stone bay window was added later at one end of great hall. This is now furnished with trestle tables and benches with wooden plates and mugs and is popular with local schools as a hands on experience. Above at one end are the private apartments with a small window looking down on the hall. These are furnished with a four poster bed, cabinets and cupboards.

Off the other end is one of most complete medieval kitchens in England. A passage way with buttery off (with a short video) leads to a serving hatch with the huge brick built kitchen beyond. There is a large central louvre to remove smells. There is no insulation under the tiles, so it always stays cool. There are two large open fires; one used for boiling, the other with a spit for roasting. In a corner are two bread ovens heated by hot coals or wood. There is a pantry, larder and clerk’s room off the kitchen. A spiral staircase leads to the steward’s room above. This is unfurnished and feels very cold as it is under the eaves with the wind whistling through the tiles.

One of the wings is now used as an education centre. The other has the ticket office with a small shop and cafe. This sells hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, soup and cakes. At the far end of the wing are two rooms with Tudor furnishings.

Above is what used to be the ballroom which has portraits and a rather strange selection of furniture from the 18th and 19thC.

The shop, cafe, Great Hall and kitchens are accessible by wheelchair. There are three steps in the corridor leading to the Tudor rooms. First floor rooms are only reached by stairs.

Entry is free to Members of English Heritage, Historic Scotland and CADW.

There is little information in the rooms, so it does make sense to borrow the free audio guide.


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