Halewood Local History Pages

The Manor of Halewood
Moated Houses (I): The Old Hutt

Old Hutt Moated Site

The Old Hutt

Context: The Manor of Halewood old hutt 1820

By the mid 19th century, Halewood was still an almost exclusively agricultural township within the Parish of Childwall. Lying between the old course of the Ditton Brook in the north and the Ramsbrook in the South, settlement was predominantly scattered, there being no recognisable nucleus. Nevertheless, three hamlets were evident; North End, around Halewood Green, Lane Ends (later known as 'The Village' and Halebank End in the south east near the Mersey shore.

The name Hale is the modern spelling of the Saxon word halh, an area of low land washed up beside a river. Such a description certainly applies to the small Hale peninsular. As Hale was named by the Saxons it is probable that it was once a Saxon settlement. Recent chance finds of pottery and other artifacts certainly point that way. There have also been small chance finds of Romano-British pottery sherds, and in recent years there has been evidence revealed by excavation of Iron Age and Romano-British occupation in Halewood, notably at Brookhouse Farm and Court Farm.

In Domesday Book, Hale and Halewood were not mentioned by name but it is thought they were one of the six unlisted 'outliers', or Berewicks, of West Derby. Hale, with its wood, had been given to a Norman knight, Johannes de Hibernia (or Ireland), by William I. In 1081 Johannes ordered a small chapel of ease to be built in Hale and was buried there when he died seven years later.

The Manorial history of Halewood is entangled with that of Hale and cannot be cleanly divided. Even the manor house of the Irelands of Hale, the Hutte, lay within the boundary of Halewood until Hale Hall became the manorial seat in the late 17th century. The manorial history becomes even more complicated when it is learned that two other families held manorial land in Halewood; the Hollands and the Lovels.

Halewood, as its name suggests, was once the Wood of Hale. Up to late medieval times the Wood continued to be part of Hale and was not a manor in its own right. Once land ownership was divided between the descendants of these manorial families, coupled with the disafforestation of Halewood, then the Wood of Hale finally began to assume manorial boundaries of its own. However, large tracts of land in the Ramsbrook-Halebank area still belonged to the Lord of the Manor of Hale.

By the 13th Century, the land in Halewood was roughly divided between two owners, although this is a simplification of a complex pattern of ownership. Generally, much of the southern part was owned by the Irelands, Lords of Hale, while the remainder and a greater part of the Township was owned by the Holland family, their superior Lords. Both families now resided in moated houses, a measure of their social status. During the late 13th century, Robert de Holland was the manorial lord of Hale and Halewood. In 1285, Roberts' daughter, Avena, married Adam de Ireland, an act which effectively brought two feuding families together. The Hutte was to stay in the Ireland family for the next 300 years.

Moated Sites

There are around 5,500 moated sites in Britain which have been traced from aerial photographs or field work. The word 'moat' no doubt evokes thoughts of a majestic castle surrounded by a large expanse of water. However, the vast majority of moats are much smaller and surround various types of buildings, ranging from manor houses, farmsteads and windmills, to chapels and monasteries. Other sites are known to have a complete absence of structures of any kind.

Today, moated sites are usually dry or marshy, rather than still full of water. They tend to be square or rectangular, although a few are round. The bottom of the moats are often either U shaped or flat and the centre on which the building stands is known as a 'platform'.

These sites can be found almost anywhere in England, but usually in lowland areas with clay subsoil. Sites have been found to exist both within medieval village settlement patterns and also in isolation. They appear to have been constructed for a variety of reasons. They may have been used for defence and security or even to house animals safely. Other reasons include protection from the spread of fire, to supply fresh water, to store fish, or very likely, as a status symbol. They were probably also very fashionable!

Several moats have been sited in Halewood, some of which can still be seen today, although sadly not in their complete form. Two are certainly manorial, The Old Hutt(e) and Lovel(l)'s Hall, while a further four appear to be non-manorial.

1. Old Hutt banqueting window 1804

Old Hutt was a substantial isolated moated house situated just inside the south western boundary of Halewood. On the eastern part of the platform, which was around an acre in size, were medieval residential buildings grouped around a great hall. Across a courtyard to the west was a gatehouse, medieval in origin but modernised in the 17th century. The gatehouse was approached across the moat by a stone bridge and causeway, which may have replaced a drawbridge. Due to the close proximity of the Ram's Brook, the moat was probably fed by leats from the stream.

Outside the boundary of the moat on the west side was a farm precinct. Until final destruction in 1960, there were three ranges, mostly of 19th century brick structure. At least three of the buildings were of earlier origin, the best preserved of which was a 17th century two storeyed building to the north of the ranges, which contained brick mullioned windows. The doorway of a stable block on the west side bore the inscription 'John Irelande 1603'.(1) To the north of the farm buildings lay a series of three medieval fishponds which survived until the mid 19th century.

It is thought that the moat and the known original manorial buildings contained within, were built in the early 14th century by the Irelands, Lords of Hale. It has been suggested that Adam de Ireland, living in 1308, who married Avena, daughter of Sir Robert Holland (thus bringing the two manorial families of Hale and Halewood together), was responsible for this medieval foundation.(2) Yet it is not inconceivable that this construction replaced an earlier manorial dwelling.

Edward W. Cox, a local antiquarian, surveyed the site in the late 19th century and concluded that the late 13th/early 14th manor consisted of;

'...a great hall, which would be a one storey building, and two wings, running out from the great hall in an easterly direction, each wing being two storeys high. The wing to the north would contain the solar, or withdrawing room, the knight's chamber, and the family apartments; and the southern wing the kitchen's, offices, and servants' rooms. The Gothic archway formed the entrance to the great hall on its westerly side at the south end, next to the kitchen wing; and there would be a large wooden screen, partially shutting off the hall from the passage which led through the south end of the great hall into the open space or court-yard at the easterly side, and also communicated with the kitchen. The great hall is traditionally said to have measured 100 feet long by 30 wide; the width is no doubt correct, but the length, there can be little doubt, included the solar and the middle chamber'.(3)

All that remained of this original manor in 1960 was the gothic archway (below right) which once led into the great hall. A fine east facing bay window (above right), thought to be part of the banqueting room constructed in the 17th century, fell into the moat in the early 19th century.(4) From this first phase of rebuilding in the 17th century, a brick wall on a sandstone plinth incorporating a fireplace also remained. (below left)

gothic arch

The most substantial building to survive until 1960 was the Gatehouse. Originally, it was a three storeyed timber frame structure, thought to date from the 14th century, although it was it was subjected to two extensive stages of modernisation in the 17th century.(5)

Once the old hall was falling into disrepair, it is likely that the gatehouse was converted into residential accommodation. This may have been carried out by William Ireland (b.1347). Two armorial shields incorporated into a central panel above the first floor window were those of the Ireland and Handford families. William Ireland of Hale and the Hutt married Ellen Handford in the early 15th century. The original manorial buildings predate their lifetime, but the original timber frame gatehouse construction could have been erected by William in the late 14th century or converted into residential use by him, before it went through its later 17th century modernisation. Above these carvings to the right and left, were a secobanqueting hallnd set of carved stone shields; one of Molyneux and Haddock (Haydock), and the other comprising a chevron between three fleur-de-lys. The Molyneux arms were no doubt those of Eleanor, daughter of Sir William Molyneux and Joan Haddock. She married William Ireland's grandson, also William, in the late 15th century, to whom the second coat of arms probably belong.

The first stage of 17th century alterations consisted of the re- fronting of the gatehouse in brick, and eight-light mullioned and transomed windows added to each of the upper storeys. A chimney stack was erected which served a fireplace in a room above the western half of the gate passage. 'John Irelande 1608' was carved upon the mantelpiece.

This first phase of rebuilding appears to have been carried out by John Ireland who succeeded his father George in 1595. In 1603 he became High Sheriff of Lancashire and met King James I on his entrance into England. It is said that John Ireland then presented His Majesty with a loyal address, congratulating him on becoming King of England.(6)

On John's death in 1614, the manor and Hutt passed to his brother Gilbert, who was then living at Crowton, part of the estates formerly held by his father George. Despite the recent improvements, Gilbert was unimpressed at the prospect of using the Hutt as his manorial seat and laid foundations for Hale Hall.(7) The Hutt, meanwhile, appears to have undergone a second phase of improvements carried out either by Gilbert or his son John, most likely during the construction of Hale Hall.

This second stage of 17th century improvements included an extension to the south side of the gatehouse; rooms on two floors, incorporating a chimney stack and brick-mullioned windows.

troughton c1810

Gilbert, who was knighted by James I in 1617 at Lathom, also became High Sheriff of Lancashire three years before his death in 1626. He was succeeded by his son John, who died in 1633. John's widow later married Hugh Rigby, a barrister, and they lived at the Hutt while their son, named Gilbert after his grandfather, resided at Hale Hall. When Gilbert senior died in 1626, an inventory of his goods was taken, which mentioned that Old Hutt had over 30 rooms. A further 12 rooms were mentioned in an inventory made on Hugh Rigby's death in 1642. The second phase of rebuilding, therefore, is likely to have taken place between these years.

Gilbert junior was to be the last of the Irelands. A colourful character, he was appointed Governor of Liverpool by Cromwell in 1655 and knighted by Charles II on the Restoration of 1660.(8) He rebuilt Hale Hall (below) for his own use and died there in 1675, while ownership of the Hutt remained with the heirs of Ireland and Blackburne of Hale. The Hutt continued to be leased as a farm until its final destruction.

Hale Hall

A new brick farmhouse was added to the Hutt during the 18th century, which was attached and incorporated into the north side of the Gatehouse.

The landscape surrounding the Hutt was flat with areas of dense woodland. Gregson described the scene in his Fragments of the History of Lancashire,

'The building, like Speke Hall, lies low; but, if it be possible, is more secluded; in a flat country, adorned with a vast quantity of wood, and no public road passing near it, its situation is suited to the hostile times in which it was built...'(9)

The Wood of Hale was still a major source for timber well into the 19th century, as the following comment, made in 1924, bears witness,

'The building of the wooden ships had a most extraordinary effect on the district. There could be no doubt that the district was very much better wooded than anyone would have an idea of today. They stripped the trees to get the material for the wooden ships. In the old farmers' journal of Laverock, there was an interesting account of the way the Old Hutte and all that district was stripped of its fine oaks; There were two left, the finest and the biggest of the oaks, and they called them the King and Queen trees. There came a day when it was decreed that they should go, and they made a regular fair day of it. People drove out from Liverpool and the surrounding district in gigs, and they indulged in refreshments in the manner that was followed even to this day. There was great jubilation and the two giant trees were cut down and taken to Liverpool to make ships of. Halewood was distinguished now for having hardly any trees, but at one time it was a great place for oaks'(10)

A drawing of 1822(11) (see gallery below) shows the Hutt surrounded by numerous trees; together with a giant oak known to have stood to the right of the gatehouse. All had disappeared by the end of the century.(12)

From 1935 the Hutt was tenanted by the Lyon family, who continued to maintain the farm until the final destruction of the site in 1960.

Yet, the Hutt was fortunate to see the end of the War. On the night of the 29th August 1940, the second floor of the Gatehouse received extensive damage when it was the victim of a firebomb attack resulting from enemy action. Whitefield's Farm nearby was also damaged and 300 tons of hay went up in flames.

Mrs LyonMrs.Lyon, who now lives in Hunts Cross, spoke of her memories of the Hutt and how she remembered the buildings,

'On the first floor were the two circular openings, where the chains for the drawbridge were operated,(13) and from the hallway you could look into the cobbled court yard, where there were mounting steps of red sandstone, (used to make it easy for mounting your horse) and the archway to the original manor. The manor once had a huge banqueting hall with reputedly the largest fireplace in Lancashire - this archway had to be preserved as it was the only remains of the original manor, together with part of the fire place.

We occupied the Gatehouse, which had had extra living accommodation added onto the lower building. We had, therefore, 7 bedrooms, a bathroom, a small kitchen, a large farmhouse kitchen, 2 square halls, an office, a dining room, and a drawing room in which there was a carved stone fireplace. Underneath the mantle was carved 'John Irelande 1608'.

The Hutt was surrounded on three sides with a moat (originally all around) so that when the drawbridge was raised there were complete safety measures.

Beyond the moat there was the long pasture field, at the head of which was a wood, covering acres of land; in this wood there were pheasant runs, there was the keeper who bred and reared the birds for the "upper tens'" pleasure of shooting!(14) Out of this was a little known path leading to the Duck Decoy at Hale.

We were tenants of Major Blackburne who sold the land to Liverpool Corporation, who then sold it to the Ford Motor Company in 1960. The sale included the land, the gatehouse and the six farm cottages in the lane'.
Mrs Lyon added proudly,
'Incidentally, of interest to the housewife of today, the first special variety of peas for experiment by Birds Eye were grown at Old Hutte by my brothers'

With the destruction of the site known to be imminent, to make way for the projected Fords Car Factory, a directive came from the Ministry of Works that an excavation of the site must be carried out before it was lost for good. Ernest Greenfield was given only five weeks to complete this task.

The excavations were largely confined to the eastern half of the moated enclosure in the area which, on the evidence of the surviving masonry, had contained the principal manorial buildings. The cuttings took the form of a series of trenches aligned close to, but not precisely upon, the axis of the well known walls. On the north south and east sides the longest trenches were carried down the slope of the moat ditch.

Once the excavations were complete, the site was completely destroyed to make way for Fords. The excavation report remained unwritten for twenty five years until on the initiative of English Heritage, funding was provided to enable its completion. This work was undertaken and completed by Dr. Stuart Wrathmell.(15) (see gallery for 1960 photographs and plans).

Overall, Dr. Wrathmell found that the archaeological evidence for the layout of the medieval manor house was very fragmentary. Two probate inventories, one taken after the death of Sir Gilbert Ireland in 1626 (referred to earlier), and the other of the last of the Irelands, Sir Gilbert, in 1675, provided much detailed documentary evidence as to the rooms then in existence.

Regarding Phase One of the manorial buildings, Dr. Wrathmell concluded that,

'The principal medieval structure, dating to the 14th century, was a hall with stone walls and a timber roof supported on corbels. The doorway, which survived until 1960, gave access to the screens passage with service rooms on the north. The kitchen was a detached square plan building beyond the services, with a pyramid roof. Presumably the private chambers of the lord and his immediate family lay at the south end of the hall.

The second phase of the buildings was determined from the point when modernisation took place during the 17th century, 'By the second quarter of the 17th century, the upper end of the hall had been remodelled. The most notable architectural units must have been the gallery, with various chambers off, and the great parlour. Much, if not all this work, may have been undertaken by John Ireland, whose rebuilding of the gatehouse and the outer-court stables has already been noted. It no doubt included the wing projecting eastwards from the south end of the hall, with its Jacobean fireplace and its mullioned and transomed windows. The first floor of this wing could well have contained the gallery.

By this time also, the lower end of the hall had gone out of use as a reception room, though various chambers attached to it still provided service and residential facilities. Archaeological evidence attests the erection of a chamber block east of the screens passage, and the construction of the kitchens, to bring them within the building complex. Further rooms were added to the east side of the kitchens'.(16)

Among the finds were six clay pipes, a jetton dated c.1600-25, and a groat of Mary II, although cleaning had rendered the latter totally illegible.(17)

It is always sad to see buildings of historical interest demolished to make way for modern development. In the case of Old Hutt it was a tragedy. The investment by Fords was, of course, essential to Merseyside and continues to be so. However, one cannot help feeling that with a little more effort and compromise, both could have existed side by side. The site, after all, lies below the forecourt near 'Route Seven' (A561) rather than below the centre of the Main Plant. This was a site of significant historical importance and one would presume that such an act would not happen today, surrounded as we are with planning legislation, listed building categories and the general public awareness towards the preservation of our heritage.

Yet as we go to print we hear of the ludicrous suggestion that less than a mile away an idea has been mooted to move Speke Hall, lock, stock and barrel, to a site where it won't be an inconvenient thorn in the side of the developers of the Airport. Will the leaders of this City, who no doubt enjoy the occasional day out with their families to heritage sites across the country, ever learn? Do we have such a wealth of sites on Merseyside that we can afford to be so indifferent? There will come a time when there will be precious little to enjoy.

old hutt 1895

Old Hutt and Wrights Moat 1895 (click to enlarge)

2. Wright's Moat

Wright's Moat was situated near Old Hutt and now also lies beneath Fords Factory. In 1960 the rescue archaeologists described its appearance,

"The moat is water filled and contains a heavy growth of reeds; it is partly tree covered and is surrounded by a thick hedge. The enclosed area has been wooded, but the trees have been cut down; there is no sign of any building material in this area."(1)

Even maps drawn 150 years ago(2) show no sign of buildings,just a few trees. It is quite a mystery - was there once a small farmhouse on it? It is unlikely that we shall ever know.

We do know that in 1843 it was still owned by the Lord of Hale, John Ireland-Blackburne. It had once belonged to the Irelands of the Hutt and may have been moated in a period contemporary with the construction of the manor house.

It would appear that Wright's Moat received its name in the 19th century when Thomas Wright of New Hutt Farm rented the surrounding farmland from John Ireland-Blackburne. It's name prior to that date has not been recorded.

During the 1960 excavation of the Hutt, one trench was also opened across the platform of Wright's Moat, north east to south west. The first layer revealed a scatter of burnt stones with coal intermixed. The stones lay on a layer of red-brown soil which had been taken from the moat to form the platform. Medieval pottery sherds were also found contemporary with the stones. Of these, four jugs and two bowls were identified as a type of Gritty Ware common across the north of England in the 13th-15th centuries. Wrathmell suggests that the evidence indicates occupation during, but not beyond the Middle Ages. He adds, however that it may be that this site was one of the 14th century freehold farmsteads, and that it was abandoned when the Irelands bought up the holding.(3)

Mike Royden (1992)


1. Old Hutt

1. Rylands, J.P. 'The Hutt in Halewood' in Phillips, N.G. The Old Halls of Lancashire and Cheshire, London (1893) p.24. However, Charles Hand who visited the site, specifically recorded the date as 1608 - drawing attention to the fact that the V.C.H. had noted that the date was illegible. Hand, C.R. The Old Hutte at Halewood, Liverpool (1914) p.8 and V.C.H. p.150. (both available as downloads on this page)
2. Phillips, p.24
3. ibid. p.26
4. ibid.
5. Wrathmell, S. 'Excavation and Survey at the Old Hutt, Halewood, in 1960', J.M.A.S. vol 8 1987 p.3-4. (pub. 1991)
6. Poole, C. 'Old Hutt in Halewood' in Old Widnes and her Neighbourhood (1906) p.135 (available as a download on this page)
7. The actual date of the erection of Hale Hall is unknown but, "its occupation by the Ireland family is distinctly traceable as far back as 1190". (Hale Hall (1881) p.3). The Hall constructed in the early 17th century may have been on an older manorial site.
8. For detailed accounts of Gilbert's life see Poole, p.140-2, and Beamont Hale and Orford (1886).
9. Gregson, M. Portfolio of Fragments of Lancashire (ed. Harland,J. 1869) p.213
10. Saunders-Jones, R. Ancient Liverpool (Old Liverpool Industries), (1924) p.29. This comment was attributed to the local historian Robert Gladstone, great grandson of the famous statesman and son of the former chairman of the M.D. & H.B.
11. Phillips, N.J. op.cit. p.22.
12. ibid. p.24
13. Rylands (ibid. p.24) suggests that these holes were set too far apart for chain holes and were probably used as port holes for firearms in case of attack. Other writers, such as Charles Hand, who also visited the site, agree with Mrs Lyon's assertion.
14. The 'Upper Tens' was a term used to describe the aristocracy or the cream of society. It is short for upper ten thousand, and was first used by N.P. Willis (1806-1867), a spirited American journalist, in speaking of the fashionables of New York.
15. I am indebted to Dr. Wrathmell for generously allowing me a copy of the draft some months before its publication and for permission to refer to its contents. This report can now be consulted in; Wrathmell, S. (op.cit.)
16. ibid. p.16 The two phases of the manorial buildings should not be confused with the two stages of modernisation to the gatehouse.
17. After the closure of the Liverpool Stock Exchange in March 1991, some of its artefacts were donated to the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside. Among them was the bell from the 6th H.M.S. Liverpool. The bell was supported by an oak frame which had come from timber taken from the Gatehouse. The bell and frame are now on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. (photograph in the Old Hutt Gallery on this page)

2. Wright's Moat

1. M.C.M. records file: Moated Sites in Lancashire no.83 Wright's Moat
2. Halewood Tithe Map 1843 L.C.R.O. ref. DRL 1/32, for example.
3. Wrathmell op.cit p.16-17

Old Hutt Archive

Banqueting House Window 1804

Original Hutt Hall c1804

Original Hutt Hall c1804

Old Hutt Gatehouse 1820

Troughton Print of Gatehouse c1810

N G Phillips print of Gatehouse 1822

N G Phillips print of Gatehouse 1822

Later sketch based
on Troughton 1810

Lathom Sketch 1822

Lathom Sketch 1822

Lathom Sketch 1822

Gatehouse Sketch 1885

Rimmers sketch of courtyard 1852

Hale Hall - replaced Old Hutt
as the Manor House

Gatehouse 1906

Barn - 16/17thc outhouse

original Hall window 1905
J. Waite 1905

original Hall window 1905
J. Waite 1905

original Gothic Arch 1905
J. Waite 1905

original Gothic Arch 1905
J. Waite 1905

Gatehouse view from the south
J. Waite 1905

J. Waite 1905

J. Waite 1905

Gatehouse c1910

Gatehouse 1910

H Mary Milner 1917

Gatehouse 1949

Gatehouse 1949

Gatehouse courtyard c1930s

Gatehouse courtyard
Mrs Lyon

Gatehouse demolition 1960

Gatehouse demolition 1960

Gothic door demolition 1960

Fireplace demolition 1960

Fireplace demolition 1960

Old Hutt Oak Frame

Old Hutt Map 1895 - 25" to 1m

19thc plan based on tithe and other sources drawn for 1960 archaeological report

Plan drawn for 1960 archaeological report

Plan drawn for 1960 archaeological report

The Old Hutt - sources for download

The Old Hutte at Halewood

by Charles Hand

A short study made in 1914, typical of other penny pamphlets published by Charles Hand and others on local topics largely before the Great War. Limited in research, but an interesting observation. Not a definitive account however as much work has been carried out to the present. Copies now extremely rare.

The Hutte in Halewood

by J. Paul Rylands

A short study br J.P. Rylands contained in Phillips, N.G. The Old Halls of Lancashire and Cheshire, London published in (1893).

Old Hutt In Halewood

by C. Poole

A section reprinted from 'Old Widnes and its Neighbourhood' by Charles Poole published in 1906.

The Origins of the Irelands of Hale

by William Fergusson Irvine

A paper reprinted from the Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, vol 16, 1900, pp.139-146.


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