Rufford Old Hall, a timber-framed manor house built around 1530 by Sir Robert Hesketh (d.1541), is not so-called because of its age but because around 1750 Sir Thomas Hesketh (1727–1778), 1st Bt, built a new neoclassical house half a mile away. Rather than letting their original house dwindle to a tenanted farmhouse and thus fall into decay, however, other members of the family continued to live there intermittently, into the 20th century, particularly Major Sir Thomas Fermor-Hesketh (1881–1944), 8th Bt, 1st Baron Hesketh of Hesketh, until he succeeded to the baronetcy and Hawkmoor’s great house, Easton Neston, Northamptonshire, in 1924. In 1936, with a few contents remaining, he gave Rufford Old Hall to the National Trust. It has only been since the sale of Easton Neston in 2004 that it has been possible to buy back or borrow pictures from the old family. The most interesting of the non-portraits is by the little known Gommaert van der Gracht (c.1590–1639) from Mechelen, who manages to combine still-lifes of fruit and vegetables, a goat, a tree trunk, a distant landscape, and the 'Noli me tangere' taking place in a garden, all in one picture!
National Trust, Rufford Old Hall
200 Liverpool Road, Rufford, near Ormskirk, Lancashire L40 1SG England
Please remember to double-check the opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit