Samlesbury Hall is a historic house in Samlesbury, Lancashire, near Preston.
The earliest settlement of the Samlesbury family dates back to 1185 where the manor was located on the Ribble’s flood plains and owned by Cospatric de Samlesbury.
In 1256, the house was passed onto Cospatric’s three granddaughters; Margaret, Cecily and Elizabeth de Samlesbury.
In 1267 Margaret died childless, her husband died ten years later in 1277 and the manor was then divided into two. Elizabeth and her husband Robert de Holand received the Lower Hall, whilst Cecily and her husband John d’Ewyas inherited the already established building on the eastern side which they turned into the Higher Hall Manor in 1286.
In 1322, the Earl of Lancashire who was the overlord of the Holands’ estate, was defeated in a rebellion against Edward II. In the aftermath, Lancashire descended into civil unrest. The Banasters who supported the king and the Holand family, who supported the rebellion against the king, turned to attacking each other.
The Lower Hall was raided and goods were stolen. A few months later, Robert the Bruce took advantage of the civil unrest by raiding the Lower Hall where he stole all the property and arms, as well as raiding Samlesbury Chapel. These events devastated the village.
In 1325, it was the granddaughter of Cecily, the daughter of her eldest son, Nicholas, who inherited the estate. Alicia’s brothers and uncles were believed to have been killed in the rebellion and when Alicia married Gilbert de Southworth, land was transferred to them both to consolidate the ownership.
Alicia and Gilbert resided at the Higher Hall where she fully inherited it in 1336. Gilbert was credited with building the great hall.
Their descendant Thomas Southworth, restored the south-west wing and built the long gallery, he died in 1546 and the hall was inherited to his son, John Southworth.
Sir John took a leading role in treasonous plots to replace Elizabeth with the Roman Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots which unfortunately lead to trouble with the authorities. He died in 1595.
John Southworth, grandson of Sir John, who was a priest, declared it his mission to persuade the heretics back into the Roman Catholic church. He spent his time in London and was imprisoned on several occasions. After Cromwell issued the arrest of all priests and nuns, John was apprehended but denied he was a traitor.
John was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, on 28th June 1654. His remains were stitched back together, embalmed and taken to Douay. His coffin was hidden in the chapel until it was discovered in 1927 and now rests in Westminster R.C. Cathedral.
In 1678, after a twenty-six year legal battle with two nieces, the sixth John Southworth was on the brink of bankruptcy. His son, Edward, inherited the hall and sold it to Thomas Braddyll. In 1710 the house turned into a fustian factory before the rooms were let to handloom weavers and their families later in the century.
In 1834 Col. T.R.G. Braddyll converted Samlesbury Hall into The Braddyll Arms. Thomas Southworth’s gallery was stripped of his elaborate panelling and it was taken to enhance Col. Braddyll’s rebuilt house at Conishead Priory.
Mrs Blundell was the first landlady, she farmed 130 acres of the manor and won the Preston Agricultural Society’s Prize in 1838.
Col. Braddyll bankrupted himself through unsuccessful mining ventures and the hall was forfeited into chancery.
in 1851 the hall was bought by Thomas Cooper and in 1852 he let the old hall out to Mrs Harrison who turned it into a school.
Joseph Harrison purchased the hall, he was an iron founder, mill owner and philanthropist. In 1862 his wife died and after that he devoted his time to restoring the hall. Later on his widowed sister, Agnes, would live with him and his son William.
William had a bad accident in January of 1879, where he fell on ice and sustained a head injury. In May, after his dog was bit by a rabid dog, he knew that his dog would have to be shot. William was later found to have shot himself, suspected that the gun accidentally went off when he was loading it. Agnes and William’s brother Henry gave evidence that William would never do such a thing but since his accident, he hadn’t been the same and that he could no longer make rational decisions.
The same year, their father Joseph died. Mary, another sister, who had nursed Joseph, moved to Samlesbury and when Agnes remarried shortly after, both Mary and Agnes relocated. Henry, who was the only sibling left at the hall, bought his sister’s shares of the estate.
After Henry’s death, his nephew, Agnes’ son Montague Charles Somerset Johnstone inherited the house but declined to live there. His brother FitzRoy Lewis Montague Johnstone would live there instead. Unfortunately, FitzRoy was killed at the Battle of the Marne in September 1914 and the gardener assumed the role of caretaker.
By 1925 the hall had become derelict and was bought by a firm who intended to demolish it to build a housing estate instead. The local community got together and purchased the house, where it has been managed by the Samlesbury Hall Trust ever since.
One of Sir John’s Southworth’s daughters began to keep company with a man from an Anglican aristocratic family. After being forbidden to marry him, she planned to elope to get married but her brothers discovered the plan and killed the man. She died of a broken heart in a foreign convent.
It’s believed that Dorothy is the White Lady ghost of Samlesbury’s hall.
In 1612 Jane Southworth, Jennet Bierley and her daughter-in-law, Ellen Bierley, were accused of witchcraft by Grace Sowerbutts, the teenage granddaughter of Jennet. It was acclaimed that they had killed Grace’s twelve-month-old baby. Once the child had been buried, the three women exhumed the body from the graveyard, cooked it, ate it and saved the fat to rub into their bodies in order to change their appearance. The three accused women were incarcerated at Lancaster castle.
Jane was married to the grandson of Sir John Southworth, who was the heir to the estate but had recently died. During the trial, a witness claimed that Sir John was so frightened of his granddaughter-in-law that he would avoid her, dispite the fact that Sir John had died seventeen years earlier when Jane was only a young girl.
The uncle of Jane’s husband was a priest and when Grace was sent to Christopher to learn her prayers, it’s believed that Christopher talked Grace into accusing the women of witchcraft as he disapproved of Jane marrying his nephew. Once Jennet and Ellen gave their similar testimonies about Christopher at the trial, the other witnesses began to accuse each other and in the end, the Samlesbury witches were acquitted.
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