On a wet and cold February half term day, we explored a number of attractions in Salford. The morning we spent at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, (see my post here) and in the afternoon we visited Ordsall Hall. I have many pleasant memories of my visit to this beautiful historic site. But the friendly and warm welcome we received from the staff at Ordsall Hall will always be remembered just as much as the time I spent in awe of this amazing building.
Ordsall Hall – The Hidden Gem
Caroline welcomed us to the attraction with a friendly smile. She was 100% correct in her assessment of Ordsall Hall as a hidden gem! I had heard mention of Ordsall Hall in North West guide books and the like. However, I had never imagined this grand hall would be located in the middle of a bustling city like Salford. The Hall lies on the main road, yet the building looks as though it belongs in the far-out countryside. It certainly is a hidden gem, hiding amongst the extremely modern and revamped city of Salford.
A Potted History
I couldn’t write a post about this beautiful historic site without giving a little bit of background information regarding its history.
Ordsall Hall is an enormous former manor house and proudly boasts its status as the oldest building in Salford. A house has laid on the site since before 1177. The oldest parts of the building we can explore today date back to the 13th century. To give you a bit of historical context – this was around 100 years before the Black Death wiped out a huge portion of the population of Europe. It was a time of crusading to the Holy Land. When Feudalism was the social order of the day and King Henry III was on the throne for much of this period. Little did these early builders and ancestors of ours know that their craftsmanship would still be admired over 750 years later.
Ordsall Hall entered into the possession of the Radclyffe family in the mid 14th century. An ancient family synonymous with the area. Under the Radclyffe family, many additions were made to the manor house, such as the Great Hall we can still roam today.
In the mid-1600s, the Civil War broke out in England and bankrupted many a family. The Radclyffe family suffered the consequences of choosing the (initially) losing side. Sir Alexander Radclyffe was forced to sell the Hall to Colonel Samuel Birch in 1662. And thus ended 300 years of the Radclyffe’s occupation of their family home.
The Hall then passed into a number of different families who all left their mark on the property. The Hall is very much part of the local history in Salford and in the late 19th century it became a working men’s club. A retreat for the local cotton workers in the area. During the Second World War, the premises supported the war effort and was used as a radio station, amongst other things.
The Hall was later bought by Salford Council and opened its doors to visitors for the first time in 1972.
There were so many different rooms to explore in this building. Here are some of our favourites.
The Great Hall
We had so much fun recreating a Radclyffe family feast in the Great Hall. This room would have been and still is, the centrepiece of the property.
We put Aurelia in the stocks!
But then allowed her to resume her position as (very much) head of the family!
The way the kitchen is set up really makes the place come to life! You can sense the hustle and bustle that once occurred in this space.
The room is set up as it would have looked in the 16th century. There are lots of interactive things for children (and adults) to explore. Aurelia began to prepare a feast fit for a king!
The Star Chamber
I was particularly fascinated by this particular room. It is set up as a Gentleman’s bedroom, his retreat. It’s a replica of the rooms which would have been inhabited by the Radclyffe men. The Star Chamber contains an exquisite bed, it is in fact the only piece of furniture original to the house.
Dating back to 1572, it cost £20 in Tudor money or a whopping £4,800 in current money! I wonder just how many people slept in this bed over the centuries!
The Great Chamber
Whereas the Star Chamber offers a glimpse into the layout of a gentleman’s space, the Great Chamber recreates a lady’s personal space. The room is intended to represent the chamber of Alice Radclyffe as it would have looked in 1510.
The room is complete with bed, bathtub, fireplace and of course, a wardrobe full of clothes for children to try on! Aurelia spent about half an hour in this room modelling a wonderful Tudor dress!
And as you can tell, she is quite the poser! This little activity really helped Aurelia to immerse herself into history and feel like a proper Tudor lady!
Frederick Shields Gallery
Undoubtedly we spent the most time in the Frederick Shields Gallery. This well laid out, education room is incredibly interactive. We learnt so much about the history of the building here and it’s various uses throughout the centuries. And whilst I read, Aurelia played with the numerous activities.
After exploring all of these wonderful rooms, you will feel refreshed after a delicious cup of coffee and a slice of cake in the cafe. The lemon slice was utterly delicious!
Activities for Children
In fact, Ordsall Hall is filled with lots of fun and exciting activities for children of all ages.
Dressing up is huge here. The children can really imagine life through the centuries as they feel what it was like to move around in these old clothes.
In the Star Chamber, children can even try on some armour and pretend to be a knight! (Although I’m not sure the medieval knight did much sweeping!)
There are lots of other activities such as brass and coin rubbing so children can create their very own masterpieces.
Games and toys are scattered throughout the attraction. Aurelia challenged me to a game of giant connect 4!
Aurelia loves a good quiz! A ‘Let’s Explore’ activity for kids is available in the gift shop. This guide was full of questions which encouraged children to fully explore the hall and gain a better understanding of its history.
Why I Recommend Ordsall Hall
Ordsall Hall really does bring history to life. A hidden North West gem, located in the middle of the city of Salford, Ordsall Hall oozes history. The staff here are incredibly friendly and helpful and have a thorough knowledge of the building. A place they all clearly love.
There is a pay and display carpark on the grounds with disabled parking close to the entry. As with Salford Museum and Art Gallery, the city centre location means the Hall benefits from excellent transport links too.
The grounds of the Hall are exceptionally beautiful and are undoubtedly even more stunning in the summer months. The perfect spot for a summer picnic.
Activities and events run throughout the year. Check the events page for further information.
The Hall is also free to enter! However, donations are most gratefully received as these go towards the maintenance cost of this wonderful place.
What a wonderful day we had in Salford – a delightful morning spent at Salford Museum and Art Gallery followed by a wonderful stroll around Ordsall Hall. A fabulous way to spend a day with the children during the school holidays!
*This is a collaborative post, however, as always, all opinions are my own.