The fictional romantic tale of The Rufford Rose

Margaret Lambert with her book, The Rufford Rose
Margaret Lambert with her book, The Rufford Rose

Rufford Old Hall is steeped in wondrous history.

Built in about 1530 for Sir Robert Hesketh, it had remained in the family who were lords of the manor of Rufford until 1936, when it was donated to the National Trust by Thomas Fermor-Hesketh, 1st Baron Hesketh.

The Tudor rose at Old Rufford Hall

The Tudor rose at Old Rufford Hall

Volunteer conservationist Margaret Lambert has devoted years to researching the Hesketh family and Rufford Old Hall.

Whilst uncovering the beautiful intricacies of the hall, she constructed her own fictional novel, The Rufford Rose, about how the stately home came into fruition.

The real Great Hall has a beautiful carved Tudor rose as one of its ceiling bosses and Margaret wondered who might have carved it.

She soon began to develop a story, incorporating many architectural features at the hall from the sixteenth century which remain.

As we strip away the layers through ongoing research we are constantly discovering new facts about them, their house and the surrounding area which we are able to use as we tell the story to our visitors.

Margaret Lambert

The story follows Hesketh’s desire to build a lavish country home as he employs master craftsman Abel Carter, a widower, and apprentice Will Topping - a bitter, jealous and work-shy young man - to oversee its construction.

But as the arrival of a gifted young wood carver Cuthbert Watts from neighbouring Whalley Abbey angers both men, they denying him access to the Great Hall - the centrepiece of the house - and sabotage his work.

So he applies himself to Rufford Old Hall, creeping into the Great Hall to work on his intricate wood carvings in secret.

When he falls in love with Jennet, he carves an exquisite miniature of the Tudor Rose which he gives to her as a love token, vowing to marry her.

The screen at the great hall at Rufford Old Hall

The screen at the great hall at Rufford Old Hall

But Will’s spiralling hatred, the revelation of a dark secret and his determination to destroy Cuthbert and the hall they are building, threatens to scupper the Hesketh legacy.

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Margaret, a mother-of-two from Preston, says: “For the past 13 years I have been a volunteer at the hall, as a room steward and as part of the conservation team caring for the building and its contents.

“I have learnt about the family and the buildings and wanted to create a story set during the construction in the sixteenth century, but concentrating on the builders and their lives rather than the family.

The great hall at Rufford Old Hall

The great hall at Rufford Old Hall

“The Great Hall includes parts from an older building, including a massive wooden arch. Its reconstruction gave me a pivotal scene in the story.

“Recent renovations also showed how the wattle and daub walls were made so I was able to incorporate that as well.

“Wooden carvings were an integral part of the house so my main character was one of the men who created them, his tools, different woods and his ideas were all used.”

Margaret, a former geography, history and religious studies teacher, has been a member of the National Trust for nearly 50 years.

She has been volunteering as a guide and conservationist at Rufford Old Hall for the past 13 years,

She adds: “I find Rufford Old Hall so fascinating, as it was home for the Hesketh family for more than 400 years. It has changed and evolved with succeeding generations but at heart is still a family home.

Rufford Old Hall

Rufford Old Hall

“As we strip away the layers through ongoing research we are constantly discovering new facts about them, their house and the surrounding area which we are able to use as we tell the story to our visitors.”

Margaret will be holding a book signing event at Rufford Old Hall, in Liverpool Road, near Ormskirk, on Thursday, November 29, from 1pm. For more information call 01704 823818.

The Rufford Rose by Margaret Lambert (published by Clink Street Publishing) is available in major bookstores and online from retailers including Amazon.co.uk.

History

The hall is said to be haunted by a grey lady, Queen Elizabeth I and a man in Elizabethan clothing.

It has been claimed William Shakespeare may have performed in the Great Hall around 1585, as a youthful member of the Hesketh Company of Players.

The west wing, which housed the family apartments was possibly destroyed in a fire. In the 1820s a third wing was constructed, formed out of the medieval domestic offices, and a castellated tower was built to join the Great Hall to the Charles II wing.