Astley Hall

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Astley Hall is a country house in Chorley, Lancashire, England. Oliver Cromwell is said to have stayed here for a time. The hall is now owned by the town and is known as Astley Hall Museum and Art Gallery. The extensive landscaped grounds are now Chorley's Astley Park.



The site was acquired in the 15th century by the Charnock family from the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and they built the original timber-framed house around a small courtyard c.1575-1600. In 1665, Margaret Charnocke married Richard Brooke of Mere in Cheshire, and they built the present grand but asymmetrical front range of brick with a pair of vast mullion and transomed bay windows. This front has a doorway with distinctly rustic Ionic columns, remarkable at such a late date.

The interior is notable for the staggering mid 17th century plasterwork in the ceilings of the Great Hall and drawing room, which have heavy wreaths and disporting cherubs. The ceilings are barbaric in their excesses, and the figures are relatively poorly modelled, although the undercutting is breathtaking. Not all the moulding is of stucco: there are elements of lead and leather too. The staircase is of the same period with a coarse but vigorously carved acanthus scroll balustrade and square newels with vases of flowers on top. The lower parts of the hall are panelled with inset paintings of a curious selection of modern worthies, including Protestants such as Elizabeth I and William the Silent; Catholics such as Philip II and Ambrogio Spinola; the explorers Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan, and Muhammadans such as Bajazet[disambiguation needed] and Mohammed II[disambiguation needed]; it is thought this scheme might be rather earlier than the other work and date from the time of Thomas Charnock MP, who died in 1648. The whole width of the house on the top floor is occupied by a long gallery which contains the finest shovelboard table in existence, 23½ feet long.

The house contains a bird's-eye view by an unknown artist showing the house c.1710, which depicts small tower-gazebos at the angles of its forecourt. In due course, the Brookes failed in the male line and the house descended to Robert Townley-Parker of Cuerden, who added the south wing in 1825 and stuccoed the exterior, probably to the design of Lewis Wyatt, who worked for him at Cuerden Hall. The dining room in the early 19th century wing has inlaid 16th century panelling brought in from elsewhere.

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