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Fate of Historic Old Hall at Houghton

January 1939

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Saturday 14 January 1939

Fate of Historic Old Hall at Houghton

One of the most interesting old houses in South Yorkshire containing, among other quaint relics, a bed in which Queen Anne is said to have slept, is scheduled for demolition.

This is the building known as Houghton Old Hall, on the Rotherham to Pontefract main road at Great Houghton.

The brewery company who own the building propose to pull it down for the purpose of erecting a new hotel or road house on the site immediately in front, at a cost of £20,000. It is stated that if the scheme is approved by the Brewster Sessions, building will start early this year, with a view to completion by next Christmas.

The history of Houghton Old Hall can be traced to the fourteenth century, and it is stated that in the courtyard the first blow of the Civil War was struck.

Attacked by Royalists

Houghton Old Hall was attacked by a party of Royalists under Captain Grey, the outhouses being burned and plundered to the extent of £600. The occupant, Sir Edward Rodes, stood out conspicuously as a Parliamentarian, notwithstanding that the great Royalist, Strafford, was his brother-in-law.

Sir Edward, it is recorded, was subject to further indignity, and his lady was “uncivilly treated Some of his servants were wounded and one was slain, “the horrors whereof,” wrote a chronicler, “stirred up divers good subjects, his neighbours, to the advance of the quenching of the said fire.”

The list of gentlemen of South Yorkshire “called traitors” included the name of Sir Edward Rodes of Great Houghton, who served under Cromwell at the battle of Preston, and after the restoration became High Sheriff of Yorkshire.

The Rodes family were great patrons of nonconformity, and the hall was noted throughout the country as haven for persecuted clergy of that period. Great Houghton had a succession of nonconforming clergy who existed under Rodes’ protection.

Quaint Dispensation

The following curious licence connects Sir Godfrey Rodes with the Hall, “that upon the certificate of Mr. Joseph Micklethwaite, practitioner in physique, Sir Godfrey Rodes of Great Houghton, in the parish of Darfield, knight, and Mrs. Ann Rodes, are subject to and greatly afflicted with such diseases as that the eating of fish would be prejudicial to their health. We, the Parson and vicar of the several medieties of the said church of Darfield, have given them our licence (so fas as in us lyeth) to eat flesh in the time of lent and other fast days.”

Early in the 19th century, Mr. Richard Slater Milnes, of Walkefield, M.P. for York, spent £1,000 on the restoration of the hall, but later decided that “however striking as picturesque objects, the houses of the Elizabethan period might be, and however curious as illustrative of an age long past, they are little adapted to afford those conveniences and comforts which, in the improved state of society, are become requisite.” After that it was “degraded,” as a writer of the time stated, “to the use of a village ale-house,” and has continued as licensed premises. To that fact, however, Houghton Old Hall probably owes its preservation.

Threatened by Fire

In 1930, Houghton Old Hall narrowly escaped destruction by fire, and during the work of restoration a fine Tudor fireplace was revealed. Mr. E. J. Button, landlord of the Old Hall Inn, told the “Telegraph and Independent’’ that the bed mentioned above had not been used for years, but it was preserved as a show-piece. He said that having regard to the proximity of the proposed new site, it would be impossible to save the old hall. “In any case,” he said, “it is a race between pulling down and falling down.”