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Scarisbrick Hall

Scarisbrick, Lancashire



Scarisbrick Hall    prior to 1833


In about 1238 the estate on which Scarisbrick Hall now stands was given to Gilbert de Scarisbrick by his brother Simon de Grubhead. There is no mention of the family’s original home, but in 1595 Edward Scarisbrick built a new home on higher ground, further away from the mists of Martin Mere; it was apparently of considerable size, having twenty rooms including a chapel. Later additions were made and by 1673 there were forty-six rooms.

In 1802-3 Thomas Eccleston, who had changed his name from Scarisbrick on inheriting the Eccleston estates, had designs for a new house, in gothic style and on a different site, supplied by H. and J.A. Repton. In the event he did not carry out their ambitious plans.

The old Hall, however, must have been in a poor state by this time, and after the death of Thomas Eccleston in 1809 his son Thomas Scarisbrick had extensive restoration work carried out. Between 1813 and 1816 the Hall was ‘improved’ by John Slater, a Liverpool carpenter and building contractor, working with Thomas Rickman, Professor of Architecture to the Liverpool Academy of Arts. It has sometimes been thought that the Liverpool architect John Foster was involved in this work, but Rickman’s diaries (RIBA MSS Collection), make it clear that this was not so.

The Hall was refaced in stone, new windows were made, the porch was re-designed and ‘gothic’ detailing in the form of battlements, pinnacles and crockets added. The west wing of the Hall is, except for an added bay window and the butress, of this date. The external treatment is in a very weak gothic style that contrasts markedly with Pugin’s later additions, such as the grotesque carvings below the parapet. Internally, some features are probably of the Slater/Rickman period. These include Tudor style fireplaces, doors with iron cusping, and probably the creation of a Great Hall with twin bay windows.

Once the Hall itself had been duly ‘gothicised’ Thomas Scarisbrick began on the furnishings. Between 1823 and 1826 a great deal of oak furniture was supplied by Gillows of Lancaster for Scarisbrick Hall. A cabinet writing desk from this suite can be seen at the Judges’ Lodgings Museum, Lancaster. The basic design comes from Ackermann’s “Repository” Vol. III 1810, plate 3, but this has been converted to the ‘gothic’ taste by the addition of applied tracery, and cluster column legs. There is some evidence to show that Thomas Rickman was involved in designing furniture at Scarisbrick Hall, and it is possible that the architectural details of the decoration owe something to him.



Charles Scarisbrick 1800-1860    The Patron


In 1833 Thomas Scarisbrick died. Under his father’s will, the most valuable of the family estates, Scarisbrick itself, had been settled on him and his sons, if any. William, his younger brother, was to have the less valuable Wrightington estate, and Charles, the youngest, got Eccleston, the smaller of the three.

William died before his father, and in 1809 Thomas had succeeded to both the Scarisbrick and Wrightington estates. When Charles came of age in 1821 he challenged his brother’s right to the second estate, but lost his case in 1823. He himself succeeded to the Wrightington estate on his 25th birthday, when he took the family name of Dicconson.

On Thomas’s death in 1833 further family quarrels arose. Charles claimed both the Scarisbrick and Eccleston estates for himself, but was opposed by two of his sisters, who claimed the smaller properties. Charles fought the case all the way to the House of Lords, where in early 1838 it was decided in his favour, giving him an estimated annual income of £40,000.

Throughout his life, Charles continued to acquire land, and exploited the resources of the estate. He owned coal mines at Wrightington and Shevington, and developed the resort town of Southport. In later life his income reached at least £60,000 per annum, and he was said to be the richest commoner in Lancashire.

Charles Scarisbrick seems to have been the kind of eccentric recluse around whom legends grow up. The american writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who lived at Southport in 1856-7, remembered Charles Scarisbrick being discussed by fellow passengers on a train to Liverpool:


“He was an eccentric man they said, and there seems to be an obscurity about the early part of his life; according to some reports he kept a gambling house in Paris, before succeeding to the estate. Neither is it a settled point whether or no he has ever been married … He is a very eccentric and nervous man, and spends all his time at his secluded hall, which stands in the midst of mosses and marshes; and sees nobody, not even his own steward.”


This passage was written when Charles was nearing the end of his life, and had become a bye-word for his secretive and unusual behaviour. It is as difficult today as it was in the 1850s to discover the details of his early life. As a boy he is said to have attended Wigan Grammar School before going on to Stonyhurst College. There he seems to have been a reserved and sensitive boy, if the recorded comments of his masters can be trusted.

The Scarisbricks were a Catholic family, and had entertained strong Jacobite sympathies in the past. Growing up in the period before the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 it is unlikely that Charles would stay in England to complete his education. This may account for the rumours of his wild youth in Paris.

It is true, however, that in the strict terms of mid-Victorian morality Charles’ private life was “irregular”. At some time in the 1830s Charles began a liaison with Mary Anne Braithwaite of Biskey How near Bowness, Westmorland. Mary Anne went to live at Charles’ London house, and took his name, but they were never legally married. The relationship lasted until Charles’ death, and Mary Anne bore him two sons and a daughter. She received an annuity in Charles’ will and retired to Littlehampton, where she died in 1870.

Charles took an active interest in his family, as is shown by surviving letters from the boys’ Headmaster when they were at prep. school in Bournemouth. They spent their holidays with their mother and sister in London, but pocket money and presents of food were liberally provided by their father. One reason for Charles’ heavy investment in land and works of art was to provide for the three children, who would be debarred from inheriting the entailed family property. Under his will, all his vast collections were to be sold at auction, and the money put into a Trust for the children. In the event £45,000 was realised this way.

Relations between Charles and his own sisters must have been strained by the law-suits over family property, and further aggravated by his liaison with Mary Anne Braithwaite. Although he was High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1839, it would have been difficult for Charles to play the role expected of a prominent landowner in society if his private life was the subject of scandal. This helps to explain his eventual reputation as a recluse. There were, however, others who saw Charles in a different light. He was said to have been a popular landlord. A Southport man recalled in 1923 that:


“In my younger days I heard tales of his noble generosity and kindness to his tenants - in fact his memory was worshipped by them, their sons, their daughters, and their grand-children.”


Charles appears to have been a hoarder by temperament. He preserved every scrap of paper listing his bids at auctions, his household inventories, and much correspondence. He was also interested in curiosities; he kept a list of Lancashire dialect terms, and for several years made a daily record of the weather at Scarisbrick.

Charles died in 1860 after a long and debilitating illness. The directions he left for his own funeral reflect his isolation and his individualism:


“Respecting my own funeral it is my wish to be buried privately in the burial ground I have inclosed round my Scarisbrick Chapel: no undertaker to be employed: but mourning to be made for men servants by the tailors that now work for them: the women’s mourning to be made by the country milliners. No invitations to relatives or others to attend. A plain oak coffin home-made - no hearse: but the coffin to be borne by six or eight of my keepers … to go through the East gate by as direct a route as practicable thro’ the Cliffs to the South West angle of the Wall inclosing the Cemetary where an opening may be made in the hedge to pass through into the ground.”


It is characteristic of this extremely complicated man that having devoted his life and fortune to acquiring the most suptuous surroundings, he chose to leave them in the humblest possible way. His plain coffin was carried to the chapel through a meadow, a wheatfield, a potato field and a garden.



A.N.W. Pugin 1812-1852    The Architect


Augustus Northmore Welby Pugin was the son of an emigré French architect who came to England to escape the Revolution. His father, Augustin Pugin, worked in the fashionable “gothick” taste of the late 18th century. In England he got work as designer and illustrator of books on gothic architecture and decoration compiled by the architect John Nash. He also kept a number of pupils whom he trained , together with his son, in architectural drawing. Every summer this little school went on trips to sketch gothic remains here and in France. In this way the younger Pugin accumulated a wealth of detailed knowledge about the gothic style from an early age. At his father’s death in 1832 Pugin was able to carry on the illustrated series that his father had begun.

Pugin had shown a precocious talent for design, and at the age of 15 went to work for the London furniture-makers Morel & Seddon, designing furniture in “gothick” style for Windsor Castle. At the same time he was involved, as a freelance designer, in making drawings of furniture and metalwork for other London firms. At 17 Pugin set up his own small business, supplying furniture and ornamental carved work for houses throughout the United Kingdom. After an initial success the business failed in 1831. During this period Pugin was also designing for Covent Garden Theatre, notably the staging for Sir Walter Scott’s “Kenilworth” adapted as a ballet.

In 1833 he was working with Sir Charles Barry on designs for King Edward’s School, Birmingham. This collaboration was followed in 1835-6 by detail designs for Barry’s entries in the competition to build the new Houses of Parliament. 1835 was a major turning point in Pugin’s career. His book “Gothic Furniture in the Style of the 15th Century” was published, showing a new understanding of medieval techniques of construction. In the same year he built his first house, St. Marie’s Grange, Salisbury, and most importantly, converted to Catholicism.

By 1836 Pugin had formulated his ideas on architecture, and in that year he published “Contrasts”, which was virtually his manifesto as a Catholic, gothic, architect. In it he set out to prove that “the degraded state of the arts in this country is purely owing to the absence of Catholic feeling”, and that the gothic style of architecture was the only one appropriate for a christian country to adopt. Classical architecture, he argued, was irredeemably pagan and unsuited to express christian social values.

“Contrasts” brought Pugin’s ideas to a wide audience, and as the new champion of Catholic architecture he was rapidly taken up by Catholic patrons including Charles Scarisbrick. In 1836 he designed the roofed stone garden seat at the north side of Scarisbrick Hall, and also the fireplace in the Great Hall. On the 24th April, 1837 he noted in his diary “Began Mr. Scarisbrick’s house.”

Pugin began work on Thomas Rickman’s existing West Wing, to which he added the Library bay window, the garden porch and north west turret, as well as external and internal decoration. Also in 1837 he designed the south front of the Hall; although this was further embellished when built.

The problems of planning the building were considerable, as it was the client’s wish to preserve the old part of the Hall, and any new work had to take this into account. Pugin’s solution was to provide a north-south and east-west corridor connecting the old and new parts of the Hall on both ground and first floors. The problem of lighting these corridors was solved with masterly ingenuity; Pugin put skylights over the east-west corridor and a glazed turret over the point where the corridors crossed. He then made the upper corridor floor half the width of the one beneath and introduced superbly carved bracket supports between which light could fall into the lower corridor. True to his own code, he had made an awkward problem into a feature of the building.

In 1838 Pugin proceeded to design the north elevation and this was followed by the Clock Tower in 1839. This has since been replaced with a more spectacular tower by E.W. Pugin (his son), but the original appears in the carved view of the Hall on the main staircase at Scarisbrick. It apparently had a steeply pitched roof over the clock stage, and was the proto-type for the clock-tower of the Houses of Parliament.

Drawings of 1840 show Pugin working on the windows of the Great Hall, and designing the series of attractive and humorous carvings that ornament the bosses on its exterior. This vast room was planned as a Banqueting Hall, and so the bosses all show scenes concerned with eating and drinking. In the same year Pugin made designs for the main staircase and staircase roof. The previous lack of this apparently vital feature would not have disturbed Charles Scarisbrick’s comfort, as there are two spiral staircases leading from the Oak Room and the north Library in the West Wing to his bedroom suite above.

In 1841 Pugin was engaged in designing the leaded windows of the Library. There are a range of very attractive geometric patterns in the leading of casements at Scarisbrick. The original effect must have been rich, as they were finished with gilding.

After this there comes a gap in the dated drawings. Pugin’s work was in demand from other clients, and although he continued to work at Scarisbrick until at least 1845, the first impetus was gone and Charles Scarisbrick’s generosity seems to have been wearing thin.

From 1844 onwards Pugin was involved in the tremendous task of designing the interior decoration and furniture for the new Hoses of Parliament. He was also keeping up his own busy architectural practice and finding time to write more books. Once asked why he kept no clerk to help him, Pugin replied: “Clerk, my dear sir, clerk, I never employ one. I should kill him in a week.” Instead, Pugin wore himself out, and died in 1852.

In such a short life it is remarkable that Pugin had managed to influence the course of architecture and design so strongly. Through his writings he could justly claim that he had “revolutionised the taste of England.” At Scarisbrick Hall he had been given his first real opportunity to put his ideas into practice, and the result must have justified Charles Scarisbrick’s expectations completely.



Lady Ann Scarisbrick


At the death of Charles Scarisbrick in 1860, the entire estate was inherited by his sister, Dame Ann Hunloke, the widow of Sir Thomas Hunloke of Wingerworth Hall, Derbyshire, who altered her name to Lady Ann Scarisbrick soon after.

Lady Ann, considered a great beauty in her youth, was a woman of considerable determination and character. Since the death of her husband she had lived in Paris with her daughter Eliza, the wife of the Marquis de Casteja. She made a triumphal return to her family home in June 1861. The whole of Ormskirk turned out, flags were flown, the church bells rang, and a band preceded her carriage through the town. When she arrived in Scarisbrick itself, over 1,000 tenants were there to greet her, and to consume the three roast oxen, two roast sheep, bread and beer laid on for the occasion.

Under the terms of her brother’s will, Lady Ann inherited only the Hall itself, most of the furnishings having been sold to raise money for his children’s Trust Fund. Nothing daunted, she set out to redecorate and extend the house on an even more lavish scale than her little-lamented brother. To carry out her designs she chose Edward Welby Pugin, son of the original architect and inheritor of his architectural practice. It is clear from furniture which survives, bearing the C.S. monogram of Charles Scarisbrick, but obviously to E.W. Pugin’s designs, that he was already involved in work at the Hall by this time. Unfortunately, no written evidence of his work for Charles seems to survive among the Scarisbrick papers.

After 1861, E.W. Pugin found a patron in Lady Scarisbrick who would give him much greater scope. The interior of the existing Hall was largely re-decorated to his designs, incorporating wherever possible the monogram ‘A.S.’. The clock-tower built by A.N.W. Pugin was taken down and replaced with a taller, more flamboyant one in french gothic style. An East Wing was added, with a pious inscription by Lady Ann, dedicating the work to her father’s memory, and this was joined to the original building by an octagonal tower with eight huge and rather sinister heraldic doves of Scarisbrick. The present stable block, with its turretted entrance was also work of this period.

E.W. Pugin’s style was more lavish than his father’s, as can be seen from the best of his surviving decorative schemes in the Blue Drawing Room on the ground floor, and Lady Ann’s bedroom immediately above. Most of the work here was done in co-operation with Hardman’s of Birmingham, a firm which had worked closely with Pugin’s father. The profusion of colour and gilding in stained glass, painted ceilings, ornate marble fire surrounds, inlaid woodwork, parquetry floors and brass fittings, when combined with the original furniture designed by E.W. Pugin, must have been overwhelming. The exterior treatment of the new East Wing was also exotic, Hardman’s supplied large quantities of iron vanes, finials, flags and crestings to ornament the roof; all richly finished.

In 1867, Mr. Gladstone came to stay at Scarisbrick for a night. In honour of this great occasion Lady Ann had the Hall illuminated by Bengal lights, and: “the splendid tower, with its elaborate tracery, gilded spire and ornaments and quaint gargoyles looming in the fog, was lit up with artificially coloured lights, moved to and fro by the employees who seemed to swarm about the roof.” This was exactly the sort of glorious victorian fantasy to which E.W. Pugin’s work lent itself.

In her own way, Lady Ann seems to have been as fascinated by the gothic style as her brother had been. It has been suggested that her relationship to E.W. Pugin was more than that of client to architect. This is patently absurd, and ignores the importance of Lady Scarisbrick’s role as the patron of an artist. For her Pugin designed a whole living environment, down to such details as her headed notepaper, inkstand and dessert service. Hardman’s provided the bindings for her books of devotion. No aspect of her material surroundings clashed with the fairy-tale gothic of the Hall itself.

Lady Ann, unlike her brother, however, had no taste for combining medieval pageantry with medieval discomforts. During her occupation the Hall appears to have been gas-lit for the first time; Hardman’s supplying large quantities of gothic brass gasoliers. They also supplied many brass and iron grilles, which suggests that the under-floor central heating system dates from this period. All the magnificent brass door-furniture, and bell-pushes in the Hall were supplied by Hardman’s in the 1860s, together with a large number of fire grates and dogs. One can only speculate on the truly medieval cold, gloom, and inconvenience that must have gone before.

Lady Ann had waited a long time for her eventual triumph in returning as owner of Scarisbrick. She was 72 when she inherited the estate. In 1872 she died and was succeeded by her only surviving child Eliza Margaret, Marquise de Casteja. This brought to a close the greatest era of Scarisbrick Hall. It became a part of the extensive Casteja estates, and little more was added to the Hall itself. The stained-glass windows in the south porch depicting the arms of Scarisbrick (dove) and Casteja (lion), with a Latin legend translating “Doves in peace, lions in war” were supplied by Hardman’s to designs by Pugin & Pugin, architects, in 1889. The following year this firm was commissioned by the Marquis to build St. Elizabeth’s Church, Bescar, on the site of the old Catholic chapel. This was done in memory of his wife who died in 1878. Items of furniture originally from the Hall, possibly including the magnificent baroque pulpit, can still be seen in the church.

Scarisbrick Hall remained in the Casteja family until 1923 when it was sold back to Sir Thomas Talbot Leyland Scarisbrick, a grandson of Charles Scarisbrick. It passed to his son Sir Edward Talbot Scarisbrick, who sold the hall in 1946 for use as a teacher training college. In 1963 the college closed and the property was bought by a development company which intended to demolish the Hall and build houses in the grounds. Planning permission was refused, and the Hall was again sold, this time for use as an independent school.





This text has been extracted from “Scarisbrick Hall – A Guide” written by Rachel Hasted, who was Assistant Keeper of Social History at Lancashire County Museum Service, in 1984. Ms. Hasted carried out her study over several years, the greater part of which was based on the papers deposited by the Scarisbrick family at the Lancashire County Record Office.




Photographs of Scarisbrick Hall  -  July, 2003

(Taken by Rob Scarisbrick)



.                                                                                                                                                                                                               © Rob Scarisbrick

Front View of the Hall




.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 © Rob Scarisbrick

South West View of the Hall




.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 © Rob Scarisbrick

Front Entrance of the Hall






Scarisbricks (by First Name):     A     B - D     E     F - I     J     K - M     N - S     T - Z     Unknown


Scarisbricks (by Residence):     English Counties/Unitary Authorities     Rest of the World


Scarisbrick Hall     Scarisbrick Locations, Businesses & Websites     Scarisbrick Family Tree


Scarisbricks in 1881 Census (England & Wales)     Descendants of Gilbert de Scarisbrick (1170-1238)





© Rob Scarisbrick.     Last updated: 16-Jun-07