Moresby Hall, Whitehaven
Grid Ref NX 983210
Moresby Hall is one of the oldest residences in the whole of Cumbria, and enjoys a grade one listing (one of only three grade one listed homes in Copeland), due to its historical and architectural importance. English Heritage recently credited Moresby Hall as one of the most important buildings in Cumbria, retaining many of its original features.
Moresby takes its name from the likelihood of a connection with a settler (probably called Morisceby, Mawriceby or Moricebi) as early as 1150. Indeed the oldest part of the house (in what is now called Rosmerta Cottage) has a spiral stone staircase believed to be from an original Pele Tower.
The Morsby family were notorious in the medieval times, and aquired large estates through conquest and marriage. One of the most famous, Christopher de Moresby, fought as Agincourt and was honoured on the field with other knights by King Henry. Another four generations of Christopher de Moresby’s swelled the family fortunes further, with vast estates and seigneural rights to twenty one manors. Anne, Sir Christopher’s great grand-daughter was sole heiress. She chose to marry Sir Francis Weston, who was famously executed by King Henry VIII, along with Queen Anne Boleyn and another of her alleged paramours. His crime ? To reply ‘Yourself’ when Anne Boleyn asked whom he loved better than her kinswoman, Mrs Shelton. Anne Weston lived to an old age and sold Moresby Hall, her family home, to a well-to-do merchant from Cockermouth, called William Fletcher.
The Fletchers were also a powerful family and they owned Moresby Hall for a 250 year period. William Fletcher was the son of Henry Fletcher, who entertained Mary, Queen of Scots during her short sojourn to Cockermouth, prior to her imprisonment at Carlisle. The Fletchers arranged for the remodelling of the front facade of the Hall in around 1620. in keeping with their refined and cultivated tastes, they chose eminent architects, over various building periods.
Primarily this is attributed to the prominent architect, Inigo Jones, from the original design around 1620. Inigo Jones was in the retinue of Anne, Consort of James I when she visited Brougham Castle in 1617. Further remodelling c 1670 – 1690 is reputedly to designs by either William Thackery or Edward Addison.
The Fletchers of this time also assisted Camden, the respected antiquarian when he investigated the remains of the local Roman camp, which was situated across from Moresby Hall. This is still a site of archaeological interest, as though the site has been excavated over the centuries, some remains are still in existence within the church grounds of St Bridget’s. During the eighteenth century, the house changed hands several times following the death of Thomas Fletcher who died childless. The Hall ceased to be a manorial residence, fell into disrepair, and was used as a farmhouse for some years. In about 1910, it was restored and re-emerged as a small manor house until 1955.
For over fourty years, one of the main employers in the district, High Duty Alloys, owned the Hall and used it for corporate hospitality, welcoming celebrities and guests from all over the world in connection with their business.
Since August 1999 the Hall has has been owned by Jane and David Saxon, who now offer accommodation to visitors at the Hall – both bed and breakfast and self catering, with dinner provided if required.
Aerial photo by Simon Ledingham.
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