Ordsall Hall is a bit of a gem. Right in the middle of a housing estate, it is an unlikely location for a Grade 1 listed Tudor manor house that dates back to 1177. However it harks back to a time when there was nothing but countryside in this urban sprawl and is a lovely place to visit. A long time since our last trip we ended up coming here three times in the space of almost as many weeks for a mix of poetry, opera and music.
Our first visit was a dull, damp and wintery Sunday – plenty of those recently. It was towards the end of January and I read they were having special readings and poetry for Burns Night, not just targeted at children apparently but also suitable for adults and free – we were up for that.
The house is beautiful, it has been home to all sorts of interesting characters down the years including Tudor nobility, Catholics loyal to the crown, mill workers and (rumour has it) several ghosts. It had been in a bad state of disrepair until major restoration and redevelopment work which finished in 2011 – now it looks completely splendid again.
A local legend states that Ordsall Hall was where Guy Fawkes hatched his plot to overthrow King James. No idea if there is any truth in this but the street right beside the hall is named after that famous traitor.
We didn’t spend too long in the gardens but they are gorgeous, particularly the Tudor style knot garden. There is no longer a moat but its original location is outlined and some wooden swans set it off to perfection.
We headed first to the poetry and story session, although supposedly aimed at adults and children it seemed very much for the little ones but we stayed a while and Son did enjoy it – any story of any type and he is hooked.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the building. The Great Hall is very impressive and the Medieval Star Bedroom, the oldest part of the hall has the Radclyffe bed, made in the 1570’s with ornate carvings and decoration, this is the only piece of furniture on display that is original to the hall.
The kitchens are Son’s favourite area, everything is “hands-on” and great for children. They can “cook” over the open fire and handle various Tudor cooking implements and ingredients.
Husband and I managed to sneak back again one lunchtime for a rather fun half hour condensed performance of Hansel and Gretel by Opera North. It took place in the Great Hall, four wonderful singers gave it their all and we agreed it was a great opera taster.
A week later and another lunch break and we were back, this time for a most wonderful hour with fourteen members of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – a delight indeed we both thoroughly enjoyed this. Thumbs up all round to Ordsall Hall for not only being a great place to visit and explore but for staging these superb lunchtime events, a great way to break up the working day.