Beautiful house (in the Jacobetahn style; a hybrid Jacobean/Elizabethan), beautiful gardens. It makes you feel good just to stroll the grounds. The Arley estate has been part of the land held by the Warburton family since the end of the 12th century. In 1469 Piers Warburton moved his principal seat from Warburton to Arley, and built the first house on the site. It consisted of a 'U'-shaped building with the centre of the 'U' facing south. At the north was the great hall, 45 feet (14 m) long by 26 feet (7.9 m) wide. The high table was at the west end and the west wing contained the family apartments. The east wing was the servants' wing and included the buttery, pantry and kitchens. The original Arley Hall was constructed as a timber-framed building, and was surrounded by a square moat. A three-storey south front was added in about 1570, making the house a complete square with a large internal courtyard. In the 18th century the structure of the house was deteriorating, so in 1758 Sir Peter Warburton, 4th baronet, completely encased the building in new brick walls. These were finished with stucco to make Neoclassical façades. The massive old chimneys were removed and replaced with small flues within the new walls. Between 1760 and 1763 Elizabeth Raffald, author of one of the century's most successful cookery books, The Experienced English Housekeeper, worked as the housekeeper at Arley.
Structural problems continued. In 1813 the house and estate were inherited by Rowland Egerton-Warburton, who was only aged eight. In 1818 plans were drawn up by Lewis Wyatt to rebuild the west front in Neoclassical style, but these were not implemented. Egerton-Warburton came of age (21) in 1826 and decided to completely replace the house. His intention was that the house should reflect the antiquity of his inheritance, but that it should be constructed using techniques which were modern at the time. He chose George Latham as his architect. Latham, who was practising in Nantwich, was at that time in his twenties and was relatively unknown. He submitted four schemes for a symmetrical Gothic house, but these were not accepted. Then Latham prepared new plans which he called "Queen Elizabethan". He suggested that this could be built for about £5-6,000. Every feature in the house had to have an exact model in an existing Elizabethan building. Egerton-Warburton and Latham visited 16th century houses and studied illustrations to ensure that the features were dated correctly to Queen Elizabeth's reign. The first phase of the building took place between 1832 and 1835 when the east, north and west wings of the old building were demolished. The house was equipped with modern plumbing and it was raised on arches above the damp Cheshire clays. The second phase of building work, carried out between 1840–45, replaced the old south front. The final cost of the house was almost £30,000 (well over three million today).
The first gardens were created in the 18th century by Sir Peter Warburton, 4th baronet, who developed pleasure grounds, a walled kitchen garden and a landscape park. Sir Peter Warburton, 5th baronet, enlarged the park and engaged William Emes to develop a plan for the park and gardens. These gardens were mainly to the east of the house. In the 19th century Rowland and Mary Egerton-Warburton began to develop the area to the west of the house as pleasure gardens. The new features included a ha-ha designed by George Latham. The present gardens are much as the Egerton-Warburtons designed them. During the Second World War and for some years afterwards, the gardens were used to provide food for the house, and a skeleton staff prevented the pleasure gardens from total decay. In 1960 the gardens were opened to the public. They continue to be maintained in the style of a pre-war country house garden. Arley Hall is used as a location for filming and for photo shots. It appeared in the series Cluedo and has doubled as Soames' house in The Forsyte Saga. It was also used as a backdrop for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and has been the scene of two Coronation Street weddings. The Gardens include the Grove & Woodland Walk, Chapel Picnic Area, Adventure Play Zone, Sculpture Trail, Gift Shop & Tudor Barn Restaurant. The majority of the gardens are accessible to wheelchair users but assistance may be needed in some areas such as the victorian rootree which has a short steep incline when leaving. The pathway between the famous herbaceous borders is grassed as is the rose garden and access to the tea cottage is limited to smaller wheelchairs. Access to the ground floor of the Hall is via a steep ramp for non ambulant wheelchair users and will require assistance. Wheelchair users can also access the chapel in the grounds via a ramp.
Location : Arley Hall and Gardens, Northwich, Cheshire CW9 6NA
Transport: Northwich (National Rail) A long way away. No buses.
Opening Times - Gardens: Daily 11:00 to 17:00
Opening Times - The Hall: Tuesday, Sunday, Bank Holidays 12:00 to 17:00
Tickets - Gardens: Adults £8.50. Concessions £8.00. Children £3.50
Tickets - + Hall: Adults £11.00. Concessions £10.00. Children £4.50
Tel: 01565 777353