The dining room
The principal bedroom
Earlier Houses: The current 18th century house was built on the ruins of an earlier house, built in 1246 for Adam d'Avranches.
House & Family History: The earliest records of Leighton start in 1246, when it is known that Adam D'Avranches had a fortified manor here. In the basement of today's house can be found traces of the Tudor and Jacobean houses. Since then there have been 26 owners of the property and only twice has the ownership passed by sale. Every owner of Leighton, with one exception, has been Roman Catholic, and during Penal Times a priest was always hidden in the house. Sir George Middleton, the last of the Middletons of Leighton, was a distinguished Cavalier; a colonel of the Royalist army, he was both knighted and made baronet on the same day at Durham in 1642. He was twice high sheriff of Lancashire and paid fines totaling £2,646 for his loyalty to the crown in Cromwellian times. Sir George was the only owner of Leighton to conform to the Established Church (The Church of England), though his wife remained a staunch Recusant. He was succeeded by his grandson, George Middleton Oldfield, who died at Leighton in 1708. The next owner, Albert Hodgson, who had married Oldfield's daughter Dorothy, was taken at Preston in the 1715 Jacobite Rising. As a consequence of his involvement with the rising, Leighton was sacked and burned by government troops. Hodgson's life interest in the property was confiscated, and in 1722 it was sold at public auction, at which it was bought back for Hodgson by a friend, a Mr. Winkley from Preston. Hodgson was eventually released from prison and retired to his ruined home and heavily mortgaged property. His precarious situation was improved upon by Hodgson's daughter, Mary, marrying the wealthy George Towneley of Towneley Hall. Mr. Towneley rebuilt Leighton in the Adam style, replanted the woods and laid out the park in 1763. As the Towneleys had no children, upon Mr. Towneley's death in 1786, Leighton was immediately sold by his nephew, John, to Alexander Worswick of Ellel Grange, a Lancaster banker whose mother was Alice Gillow. His son failed in business after the Napoleonic Wars and he sold the property in 1822 to his cousin, Richard Gillow, the grandson of Robert Gillow, the founder of the famous furniture business Gillow & Co. of Lancaster. Richard refaced the house with a white limestone in the new Gothic style between 1822 and 1825 and retired from the business when he came to Leighton. His wife was a Stapleton from Carlton Towers in Yorkshire, and their son, Richard Thomas Gillow, who inherited the property in 1849, died in 1906 at the age of 99. Known throughout the county as the "Old Squire," he built the Roman Catholic church at Yealand in 1853 and the new wing at Leighton in 1870. His grandson, Charles Richard Gillow, inherited Leighton in 1906 and died in 1923. His daughter, Helen, married James Reynolds, son of Sir James Reynolds, Bt., of Woolton, near Liverpool. On Helen's death in 1977 the estate passed to their eldest son, Richard Gillow Reynolds.
Collections: With its Gillow & Co. history, Leighton is full of superb examples of Gillow furniture. The large, expanding table in the dining room is believed to be the prototype of all leafed tables. Leighton has always had strong Jacobite/Catholic connections and thus has, among other treasures, a case containing buttons with a lock of King James II's hair set in gold. The buttons were given by James Stuart, the Old Pretender, to Henry Fallowfield, during the Rising of 1715 (Henry Fallowfield's daughter married a Gillow).
Comments: Leighton is often described as one of the most beautifully situated houses in England.
Garden & Outbuildings: Behind the house the whole range of the Lakeland mountains is visible. The park contains the family burial ground. During Penal Times, Roman Catholics had difficulty obtaining burial in consecrated ground; thus, some Catholic landowners, like Leighton Hall's, had private cemeteries. After Catholic Emancipation, the bodies were removed from Leighton to Yealand, where Mr. Towneley established a Roman Catholic church. Leighton Hall is home to a small, but varied collection of birds of prey that are flown for visitors.
John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. I, p. 197, 1854.
Country Life: CIX, 1452, 1538, 1951.
Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
Author: Colvin, Howard
Year Published: 1995
Reference: pg. 834
Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
Book Type: Softback
Title: Leighton Hall Guidebook
Year Published: 1996
Publisher: Derby: English Life Publications Ltd.
Book Type: Light Softback
House Listed: Grade II*
Park Listed: Not Listed
Current Seat / Home of: Reynolds family
Past Seat / Home of: SEATED AT EARLIER HOUSE: Adam D'Avranches, 13th century. SEATED AT CURRENT HOUSE: Sir George Middleton, 17th century; George Middleton Oldfield, until 1708. Albert Hodgson, 18th century. George Towneley, until 1786. Alexander Worswick, until 1822. Richard Gillow, 1822-49; Richard Thomas Gillow, 1849-1906; Charles Richard Gillow, 1906-23.
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home