Grid Ref: SD 622 263
Date: 14 June 2011


Hoghton Tower
Hoghton Tower


Hoghton Tower lies between Preston and Blackburn in Lancashire. Having known about it for most of my life as the place where James I is reputed to have a knighted a piece of meat as "Sirloin of Beef", it was not until 2011 that I visited, when I was fortunate to join a study party from Alston Hall College near Longridge, led by Roger Mitchell. Below I give the notes that I took that day. This is a interesting house with a good tale of Lancashire history.


Gatehouse spacer Hoghton Tower
Gatehouse   View to the left
Hoghton Tower   Hoghton Tower
Gables with balls   The main entrance


Key Dates in the History of the de Hoghton Family and of Hoghton Tower

1060s              Family claim direct descent from Harvey de Walter, one of William the Conqueror's companions in 1066 who was granted land in the area.
1150               de Hoghton name first used by third generation
1280s              Sir Adam de Hoghton - first de Hoghton Knight
1300s              A succession of de Hoghtons who were knighted and served as MPs and Sheriffs.
c1320              Sir Richard de Hoghton marries Sybilla de Lea, direct descendant of Lady Godiva.  Lea Hall (between Preston and Kirkham) becomes major family seat.
1386               Park at Hoghton enlarged
1501-59           Sir Richard de Hoghton, head of family and larger than life
1559-1580       Thomas Hoghton built Hoghton Tower in early 1560s.  A catholic, he died in exile
1589-1630       Sir Richard Hoghton brought up as an Anglican, created Baronet in 1611

15th -18th August 1617 - James I entertained at Hoghton

1630-1648       Sir Gilbert Hoghton, 2nd Baronet - Anglican and Royalist

14th February 1643 - Royalists surrender Hoghton Tower to Parliamentarians, many of whom were killed in a massive explosion shortly after the surrender. 

1648-1678       Sir Richard Hoghton, 3rd Baronet - Parliamentarian and Presbyterian
1678-1710       Sir Charles Hoghton, 4th Baronet restored Hoghton Tower
1710-1768       Sir Henry Hoghton, 5th Baronet
1768-1862       6th, 7th and 8th Baronets did not live at Hoghton Tower
1862-1876       Sir Henry de Hoghton (sic) commenced restoration of Hoghton Tower using Paley and Austin as architects.
1978                Sir Bernard de Hoghton (14th Baronet and current head of family) inherited - Catholic

Hoghton Tower is mid-way between Preston and Blackburn at 560 feet above sea level with a ¾ mile drive.  Many of the documents and portraits belonging to the family were lost when a removal van, returning them from safe-keeping during the war, set of fire.  The Hall is famous for two incidents, the visit of James I from 15th to 18th August 1617 on his only visit to Scotland after becoming King, and the Civil War, when shortly after it had been captured by Parliament there was a huge explosion.

Our knowledge of Hoghton Tower is sketchy because of the loss of documents.  There is a picture by George Cattermole (1800-1868) entitled The Palmy Days of Hoghton Tower but he did not see it before the explosion and so it is largely fanciful.  The earliest contemporary image is by the Preston artist, Arthur Devis, in 1736.

The de Hoghton family claim descent from Harvey de Walter but the family tree is very vague in the 11th and 12th centuries.  The name first appears in documents in the 1280s.  Sir Adam de Hoghton was the first who was a knight.  There followed a succession of de Hoghtons who were sheriffs of Lancashire or MPs for Preston.  In 1320, Sir Richard de Hoghton married Sybilla de Lea, a descendant of Lady Godiva.  Lea Hall became their main seat.

Sir Richard de Hoghton succeeded to the property in 1501 and lived until 1559.  He did well out of the Dissolution.  He had four wives; all had children and he had many illegitimate children too.  He was succeeded by Thomas who lived until 1580.  It was Thomas who built Hoghton Tower.  He was a Catholic, went into exile and died there.  Another Thomas succeeded him but held the estate for only 9 years before being killed in a fight between bands of armed men in a dispute. 

He was succeeded by Sir Richard, (1570-1630) who became the 1st Baronet. He was brought up as an Anglican. Note that King James I sold baronetcies to pay for the Protestant settlement of Ulster. Many baronetcies date from the early 1600s and the problems consequent upon this social engineering remain to this day.  

Sir Gilbert (1591-1648) succeeded; he was a friend of Charles I and went with him to Spain to court the Infanta.

Sir Gilbert was followed by Sir Richard the 3rd Baronet(1616-1678).  He was an active Parliamentarian and a Nonconformist and later became a gentleman of the bedchamber to Charles II. 

Sir Charles, the 4th Baronet (1643-1710) restored Hoghton Tower after the damage sustained by the explosion in 1643 and is responsible for much that we see today.  The frontage is not Elizabethan and may be the 4th Baronet looking back to the medieval.  Pevsner reports that Sir Charles' 1700 restoration is an "antiquarian style". 

The house was not much occupied by the family for about 100 years and the 6th, 7th and 8th baronets never lived there.

Between 1862 and 1876, Paley and Austin, well known for their Victorian Churches, were employed as architects.

Roger Mitchell doubts if there ever was a medieval castle at Hoghton as the first mention of the structure is in an Elizabethan poem.  It may have been a Peel tower like at Turton, Ratcliffe and Hornby Castle.  There is neither documentary nor archaeological evidence for a medieval castle.  Thomas Hoghton wrote in 1561 that he had begun to build a house.  There is no earlier evidence for the family living at the top of this hill but there may have been an old house at the bottom of the hill by the River Darwen.

The Civil War

In February 1643 the house was besieged by Nicholas Starkie, of Huntroyde near Padiham.  The Royalists surrendered but shortly after the Parliamentarians entered the area a powder magazine exploded killing about 100 Parliamentarians.  Within the Sealed Knot Society there is Sir Gilbert Hoghton's Royal Regiment of Foot. 

King James I

King James had a successful reign in Scotland before succeeding to the English throne in 1603.  He was brought up a Protestant.  His father, Henry Stuart, commonly referred to as Lord Darnley, was dead and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots was in exile.

Lord Darnley became 1st Duke of Albany but until 1565 he was styled as Lord Darnley which was his title as heir apparent to the Earldom of Lennox.  He was Mary Queen of Scots' second husband.  She was the only surviving child of James V of Scotland who died when she was six days old.  She married first Francis, Dauphin of France, in 1558.  He succeeded to the French throne the following year, but died in 1560.  The marriage to Darnley took place in 1565 but in 1567 there was an explosion at their house and Darnley was found dead in the garden, apparently strangled.  Mary soon married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was generally believed to be Darnley's murderer.  Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle on 15 June and forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son, James VI.

James I was an effective politician; he managed to balance the factions in the country and avoid civil war.  He was almost 40 when he married Ann of Denmark.  Their eldest son, Henry, died in 1612 leaving the second son Charles as heir apparent.  James was scholarly but above all enjoyed hunting.  Like his son Charles I, he was only about 5 feet high. 

Henry VII's step-father was the Earl of Derby and he had visited Lathom.  Elizabeth never came north of Stafford or Derby.  So it was a hundred years since Lancashire had seen a monarch when James came in 1617.  He made a round trip to Scotland and on this leg took in Carlisle, Penrith, Appleby, Kendal, Hornby Castle, Myerscough, Hoghton, Lathom and Bewsey near Warrington.  The event at Hoghton was so expensive that Sir Richard de Hoghton faced imprisonment for debt.

Our knowledge of the event is based partly on the diary of Nicholas Assheton of Downham who attended the festivities along with many other Lancashire gentry.  Documents from central government sources show that the trip was planned well in advance.  About 700-800 people travelled with the king, mainly young men of the court.  Wherever the royal court was, there was the seat of government so there had to be administrators, clerics and noblemen as well as courtiers.  They carried a great deal of luggage including beds and bedding.  This meant many horses had to be accommodated and the ancillary staff.  The Lord Chamberlain dealt with the King's possessions and bedding.  The Lord Steward, the Duke of Lennox, was responsible for affairs below stairs including the food.  The Master of the Horse was the Duke of Buckingham, a favourite of James and probably his lover, who was accommodated in a room adjoining that of the king at Hoghton Tower.

Civil servants seem to have planned the route so it is unlikely that the visit arose from an invitation from Sir Richard.  Indeed, because of the known expense of such events it was best to try to avoid them.  The King's Purveyors were empowered to obtain perishable foods at special rates to the disadvantage of suppliers.


Some useful books

J. Roby, Traditions of Lancashire, 1829
J. Lofthouse, Lancashire's Old Families, 1972
J. Nichols, Progresses of King James I, 1828
&N.Pevsner, Buildings of England - Lancashire: North, 2009
J. J. Bagley, Lancashire Diarists, 1975
R. T. Spence, A Royal Progress in the North (Northern History), 1991
S.Porter, Destruction in the English Civil Wars, 1994

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