Howley Hall; a 16th century country house and gardens


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Leeds (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 25504 25206

Reasons for Designation

Country houses of the late Tudor and early Jacobean period comprise a distinctive group of buildings which differ in form, function, design and architectural style from country houses of both earlier and later date. Built after the dissolution of the monasteries they are the product of a particular historical period in which a newly-emerged Protestant elite of lawyers, courtiers, diplomats and other officials, mostly with close contacts at court, competed with each other to demonstrate wealth, taste and loyalty to the sovereign, often overstretching themselves financially. Their houses are a development of the medieval hall with flanking wings and a gatehouse, often looking inwards onto a courtyard; later examples tend to be built outwards, typically on a U- or H-plan. The hall was transformed from a reception area to an entrance vestibule and the long gallery and loggia were introduced. Many houses were provided with state apartments and extensive lodgings for the accommodation of royal visitors and their retinues. Country houses of this period were normally constructed under the supervision of one master-mason or a succession of masons, often combining a number of designs drawn up by the master-mason, surveyor or by the employer himself. Many designs and stylistic details were copied from Continental pattern-books, particularly those published in the 1560s on French, Italian and Flemish models; further architectural ideas were later spread by the use of foreign craftsmen. Symmetry in both plan and elevation was an overriding principle, often carried to extremes in the Elizabethan architectural `devices' in which geometric forms were employed to express religious and philosophical ideas. Elements of Classical architecture were drawn on individually rather than applied strictly in unified orders. This complex network of influences resulted in liberal and idiosyncratic combinations of architectural styles which contrasted with the adoption of the architecture of the Italian Renaissance, and with it the role of the architect, later in the 17th century. About 5000 country houses are known to have been standing in 1675; of these about 1000 are thought to survive, although most have been extensively altered or rebuilt in subsequent centuries to meet new demands and tastes. Houses which are uninhabited, and have thus been altered to a lesser degree, are much rarer. Surviving country houses of the late Tudor and early Jacobean period stand as an irreplaceable record of an architectural development which was unique both to England and to a particular period in English history characterised by a flourishing of artistic invention; they provide an insight into politics, patronage and economics in the early post-medieval period. All examples with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.

Howley Hall and its gardens, despite its part destruction in the early 19th century is a fine example of an Elizabethan country house. The upstanding remains and surviving earthworks clearly show the layout and many structural details of the building itself. The surviving documentary sources record its historical importance, architectural detail and its titled and prestigious families. The rare survival of the garden earthworks are equally important providing evidence of formal gardens, orchards and kitchen gardens, as much symbols of status and fashion as the house itself. Many early houses had gardens associated with them. The creation of gardens has an early history in England, the earliest examples known being associated with Roman Villas. During the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods herb gardens were planted; particularly in monasteries where the herbs were used for medicinal purposes. However, the major development in gardening took place in the late medieval and post-medieval periods when the idea of the garden as a 'pleasure ground' developed. Early gardens take a variety of forms. Some involved significant water-management works to create elaborate water-gardens which could include a series of ponds and even ornamental canal systems. At other sites flower gardens were favoured, with planting in elaborately shaped and often geometrically laid out beds. Planting arrangements were often complemented by urns, statues and other garden furniture. Such sites were often provided with raised walkways or prospect mounds which provided vantage points from which the garden design and layout could be seen and fully appreciated. Whilst gardens were probably a common accompaniment to high-status houses of 16th century and later date, continued occupation of houses and related use and re-modelling of gardens in response to changing fashions means that early remains rarely survive undisturbed. Gardens provide a valuable insight into contemporary aesthetics and views about how the landscape could be modified to enhance the surroundings. Their design often mirrors elements of the design of the associated house; particularly following the symmetry of the buildings. In view of their rarity, great variety of form, and importance for understanding high-status houses and their occupants, all surviving examples of early date will be identified to be nationally important.


The monument includes the ruins and below ground remains of Howley Hall and the earthwork remains of its associated gardens. Howley Hall is a 16th century country house situated approximately 3km south west of Morley and 2km north east of Batley. The house and gardens occupy a fairly level spur, on a severe south west facing sandstone escarpment edge. The house is located towards the east end of the spur, with the principal axis running parallel to the line of the escarpment. This position would have provided the occupants of the house with outstanding views across the Calder Valley, and the Hall would have been visible from the villages and towns in the valley below. Howley Hall and its gardens were designed with symmetry in both plan and elevation in mind. This architectural fashion was characteristic of Elizabethan country houses. The main house was square in plan, and based around an open courtyard with passages leading from the inner court to three entrances on the north, west and south sides. The earthworks which represent the site of the house today stand to a height of about 2.5m and indicate that the house was approximately 56m square based around a central courtyard 25m square. Projecting corners are also evident. Entrances in the west and north ranges (about 7m wide) would have provided access into the central courtyard. The principal entrance in the west range projects from the facade and aligns exactly on the remains of the gatehouse situated approximately 75m to the west. There is no evidence from the visible earthworks of any ground level access to the courtyard from the other ranges. The most immediately obvious remnant of the house is the standing fabric at the east of the south range, although numerous wall lines and cellars do survive elsewhere, particularly along the east range. Along the west range a cant in the wall line of the exterior facade, exaggerated by a bulge in the earthworks centrally between the passageway and the north west corner, marks the probable site of a projecting window bay. The remains of the gatehouse to the west are visible as a rectangular mound. The gatehouse was rectangular in plan, measuring approximately 9m north to south by 6.5m, with a central passageway. To the west of the gatehouse, a flat compartment measuring 55m north to south by 30m forms a forecourt. Centrally placed along the west side of the forecourt is a sloping break which marks the site of steps which lead up from the forecourt to a well defined, raised rectangular level area measuring 52m north to south by 64m. This is the site of a bowling green which is marked on a plan dated to 1735 and indicated on the Tithe Award of 1843. Massive scarps to the south side, which raise the bowling green above the surrounding land surface indicate that much landscaping was necessary to achieve the continuity of level and symmetry. Sections of a slightly raised terrace 5m in width are evident around the periphery. The bowling green is raised 1.5m above the level of the forecourt. At the north west corner of the forecourt a break about 3.5m wide with banks on either side curves away to the north at the same ground level as the forecourt. This is the remains of the original carriage approach to the forecourt and can be traced away to the west for some 100m on an alignment parallel to the main axis of the site. Between the gatehouse and the western facade of the hall are the remains of a farm buildings depicted on the 1894 Ordnance Survey. The farm buildings survive as an earthwork measuring 56m square. Despite these late features it is still possible to see earlier earthworks which indicate a north-south division of this area into two exact halves, with the east section displaying evidence of a central slightly raised drive 6m wide between the gatehouse and the main entrance to the hall. Fronting the west facade of the house are three stepped terraces each approximately 0.3m high, fronted at the south by a raised rectangular area. These have been degraded by turf cutting, but are possibly the remains of formal flowerbeds outside the main entrance to the hall. The order and symmetry of layout of these enclosed areas, which mirror the size and layout of the house itself at 56m square is clearly demonstrated in this area. Adjoined to the east range of the house are the well preserved remains of a walled privy garden exactly 40m square which is set well below the level of a flat terrace which fronts this side. To maintain a level for this garden the ground at the east appears to have been raised above the natural ground surface. Within the garden a few low earthworks survive to indicate the presence of a square slightly raised terrace or path around an area containing a well defined centrally placed depression, possibly the site of a small pond. To the south of the house further earthwork enclosures appear to have been originally walled, the largest directly south of the house repeats the 56m square layout. There are traces of terraces or pathways parallel to the main axis of the site within these enclosures. There is also evidence of some attempt at landscaping and levelling along the escarpment top on this south side. To the north of the house are three, large, raised parallel garden earthwork terraces defining two rectangular sunken compartments of equal size 40m wide by 86m long. Although laid out in relation to the house these terraces sit slightly skewed to the principal alignment of the site. Each of these terraces is different. The westernmost measures 9.5m wide by 0.7m high, is flat and terraced into a slight east facing slope. An embanked section, 0.6m high along its west edge at the north end, probably represents the remains of a walled feature. The central terrace, 9m wide and 1m high, has a more rounded profile and is directly aligned with a passageway through the north range of the house. The easternmost terrace is the most substantial of the three, being 15m wide and 1.3m high with a broad, flat top 11m in width. All three terraces were probably walled and constituted a system of level walking terraces overlooking gardens below. They were connected by a common terrace which abuts the north side of the house. Both the westernmost and easternmost terraces appear to have extended further north than the central one, where they appear to be truncated by the planting of trees. There is a close correlation between the layout of the earthworks and a plan of the garden dating to 1735, suggesting the compartments directly north of the house represent the parlour garden named on the plan. The enclosure to the east can be identified as the orchard. The north edge of these terraces was marked by a wall which ran parallel to the main alignment of the house and forecourt. This is now evident as a shallow trench like depression 1m wide resulting from the later robbing out of the stone. It is suggested that Howley Hall was built in the latter part of the 16th century probably between 1585 and 1590 and became one of the finest country houses of the Elizabethan period in Yorkshire. It was commissioned by and became the residence of Sir John Savile, subsequently first alderman of Leeds and an influential courtier and politician. Later additions to Howley Hall are also suggested between 1646 and 1661. The architectural style employed on Howley Hall has been likened to that exhibited on houses designed by the great Elizabethan architect, Robert Smythson although it is suggested that a local architect Abraham Ackroyd, may have been the designer. It is reputed that Inigo Jones had an involvement here although this has little foundation. Sir Thomas Savile, Sir John's son, inherited the estate in 1630. At the outbreak of civil war in 1641 Sir Thomas displayed conflicting allegiance sometimes supporting Charles I and at other times refusing support. Nevertheless Charles made him Earl of Sussex in 1642. Sir John Savile of Lupset, a relative of the Earl took possession of the hall on behalf of the Parliamentary army. In May 1643 a meeting took place at Howley between the leaders of the Parliamentary forces, the result of which was a successful attack on Wakefield on 16th May 1643. In response the Earl of Newcastle, leader of the Royalist troops in the north, set out from Wakefield the following month with 10,000 or so men intent upon laying siege at Bradford. To ensure the Howley garrison did not spring an attack from the rear, the Royalist army laid siege to Howley. The hall was battered for several days and Sir John Savile was forced to surrender. Little damage was done to the fabric of the building during the siege. It was from Howley that Royalists set out to meet the parliamentary army under Lord Fairfax at Adwalton. This major battle of the Civil War, 30th June 1643, resulted in the defeat of the Parliamentary army and ensured the supremacy of the Royalists in this region. Thomas Savile eventually defected to the Parliamentary side and following prison sentences in Newark, Oxford and the Tower of London retired from political life. After 1646 he spent sometime at Howley dying in about 1661. He was succeed by his son James who himself died in 1671, leaving his sister Frances as heiress. In 1668 Frances married Lord Brudenell, the heir to the Earl of Cardigan. Howley remained in the possession of the Brudenell family for 250 years. Lord and Lady Brudenell may have lived at the house but by 1711 the hall was deteriorating rapidly and local people began taking stonework and furnishings. Houses at Batley, Birstall, Wakefield and Bradford are known to have been built with stone from Howley. It is known that substantial dismantling had been occurring since 1719 as accounts relating to the building of the Old Presbyterian Chapel in Bradford list numerous payments for removal of items of standing fabric from Howley for reuse in this building. Some of the oak panelling was transferred to the Chief Bailiffs house (now the Golf Club House) whilst other pieces were taken to Thorpe Hall, Thorpe-on-the-hill, Near Middleton Leeds. It would appear that the house was unoccupied by this time and its decline as a grand residence may have been underway from a much earlier date possibly after the death of James Savile in 1671 when the house was occupied by three tenant families. Sometime between 1717 and 1730 Christopher Hodgson, an agent for the Earl of Cardigan, suggested the destruction of the house to eliminate the high costs of maintenance. The hall was blown up with gunpowder leaving only a few corner fragments. During the 18th and 19th centuries the gatehouse became a refreshment room and survived into the 1920s. The few drawings of the hall which exist indicate a symmetrical exterior comprising two storeys with a projecting three storey tower at each corner, canted bays and a central pavilion which appears to possess orders of coupled pilasters (rectangular columns) on each storey. The exterior had many windows and was crowned with crenellations and a number of domes on the roof. It was an impressive building set within an outstanding landscape. In the 1672 Hearth Tax returns Howley Hall possessed 44 hearths which gives some idea of its status. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling, these are modern trackway and footpath surfaces, golf bunkers, flags and tees; although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
RCHME, , West Yorkshire Metropolitan County, , Rural Houses of West Yorkshire 1400-1830, (1986)
Whittam, J, A Brief History of Howley Hall Yorkshire, (1994), 197-209
Ainsworth, S, 'From Cornwall to Caithness, Some aspects of British Field Archae' in Howley Hall, West Yorkshire: Field Survey, (1989), 197-209
Ainsworth, S, 'From Cornwall to Caithness, Some aspects of British Field Archae' in Howley Hall, West Yorkshire: Field Survey, (1989), 197-209
Yarwood, B Marriott,J, Sites and Monuments Record, (1993)
Yarwood, R Marriott, J, Sites and Monuments Record, (1993)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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