House of Inscriptions
Little Moreton Hall, near Congleton, is considered to be the most
picturesque and interesting black and white, half-timbered Tudor
house in existence in England. Indeed, its spectacular structure
covered with trefoils, quatrefoils and lines, inspired John Betjeman
to liken the building to a "giant's game of noughts and crosses".
The whole is offset by a series of delightful gardens with an encircling
moat spanned by a stone bridge leading to the main entrance of the
house. While in keeping with this outer beauty the entire inside
is decorated with fine Elizabethan wood work and plaster work.
Moreover, the house also came to be known by the somewhat intriguing
name of the 'House of Inscriptions' since the Moreton family, whose
home it was for many generations, were fond of leaving their mark
in writings, carvings and the like.
It was popular custom at one time - a carved inscription there,
a name or initials here, on windows, beams, chimney pieces and door
linters. But it was the exceptional amount, and diversity, of decoration
of this sort which set apart Little Moreton Hall.
As far back as 1559, William Moreton left an inscription over an
upper-storey window of the magnificent bays in the courtyard which
he added when extending the house. It
reads: "God is Al in Al things, This windous Whire made by
William Moreton in the years of the Lord AD, LIK."
Below, carved with equal pride, a carpenter tells: "Richard
Dale made thies windous by the Grace of God."
Inside members of the Moreton family often left their initials,
sometime accompanied by the Moreton family often left their initials,
often accompanied by the family crest ... a wolf's head!
Most noted are those of 16th century date belonging to William Moreton
descendant John Moreton who died in 1589. The walls of the chapel
are also bordered with texts taken from an early version of the
Bible and make a striking form of decoration, as does a Biblical
frieze recently uncovered in the parlour which is situated in the
oldest part of the house.
Window glass proved a source of inspiration to the occupants with
the skills to read. For one wondered what whim of impulse led Margaret
Moreton as daughter of the house - to inscribe her name and date,
Aug, 3rd, 1649, on the stained glass window of her chamber?
Did she perhaps scratch this out with her diamond ring in an idle
moment on that August day long ago? Or did it hold some significance,
such as marking the moment when she listened to the echoing of horses
hooves as her lover rode away to the wars then raging between Royalist
and Roundhead in the country?
Unfortunately this particular piece of glass vanished early this
century. Gone also is a piece from the East window of the chapel
upon which some unknown hand, probably that of a woman, once inscribed
these cryptic lines . . . "Man can noe more know, womens mynds
by tears, than by her shadow judge what clothes shee weares."
Old mysteries like these will never be solved, yet such writings
linked to feminine aspects hold out a romantic appeal to the imagination.
Traces of all manner of writings from texts to symbolic themes remain
in many parts of the house. These include the noted 70-feet Long
Gallery which runs along the upper floor of the gatehouse buildings
and helps give the house something of its aesthetic appeal. The
gallery itself is an exceptionally beautiful room with oak floor,
lofty timber-braced ceiling and richly ornamented windows.
Fragments of writings and initials can be seen here and there on
these panes - some are so marked and old as to be almost illegible,
thus creating further puzzles as to who may have stood here with
diamond ring in hand in the past and scratched out what came to
Tradition has it that Queen Elizabeth I led the dancing here in
the Long Gallery when being entertained by the Moreton family during
one of her many Progresses around the country.
Elizabeth herself was particularly fond of writing on windows. As
a girl, when confined at Woodstock by the order of Mary Tudor, she
summed up her situation by writing on the window of her room.
"Much is suspected of me? Nothing Proved can be. Quoth Elizabeth,
Even Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have written on the window of
the Royal Audience Chamber at Greenwich . . . "Fain would I
climb but feat I to fall." To which the Queen somewhat tartly
scratched back . . ."If thy heart fail thee, climb not at all."
If she added her signature or anything else at Little Moreton Hall
is must long have faded from view as no sign of such matter has
ever been recorded.
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