Start the Virtual Tour: Great Hall
Begin the Tour
Look around this wonderfully authentic 16th Century Manor House. Go straight to your favourite room, or take the whole tour, starting in the Great Hall and moving around the house from room to room.
You can enjoy the images as they appear on the page, or click on them and scroll through the full-sized versions.
Some images are used by kind permission of Fairfax Battalia
The Great Hall
The focal point of the house and used as a reception area for entertaining and dining. Manorial courts presided over by the steward and dealing with estate grievances and discipline, would take place here.
Things to look out for in the Great Hall
- Dog Gates: A decorative and practical feature. These gates were used to prevent household dogs (kept for hunting and hawking - not as pets) from going upstairs. These are a rare survival.
- Birstall Chairs: Pair of 17th-century oak armchairs probably dating from 1650 - 1700. The carved lozenge on the back suggests they were made in Yorkshire and this design is associated with a workshop group from the Bradford-Leeds-Halifax area.
- Table: Made of oak and dates from 1600 - 1650. Carved frieze along one side only, suggests that when in use it was positioned against a wall. Purchased with the assistance of a grant from V & A Museum.
- Settle: A 17th-century piece. Note lozenge carving on back panel - probably made locally. Settle cover embroidered by the Oakwell Broiderers.
- Chandelier: A gift from the Bronte Society in 1977. Reproduction.
This would have been the most important room in the house and furnished with the best pieces. By the late 17th century, parlours and dining rooms were the preferred rooms for entertaining guests and dining in private.
Things to look out for in the Great Parlour
- Day bed: a 17th-century version of the settee. Could be used to seat several people or one person lounging. Could also serve as a bed if needed. This is a 19th-century reproduction
- Dining Chairs: The set of four late 17th-century chairs have been re-caned and re-upholstered.
- Gateleg Table: A sophisticated piece of furniture. Gate-leg tables began to replace long tables from the Civil War onwards. This is a late 17th-century piece and is made from oak, elm and walnut.
- Panelling: Oak panelling decorated with painting technique (known as scumbling) to resemble walnut. Probably dates from 1690s and uses a linseed oil-based paint to achieve three-dimensional effect. The panelling is an unusual feature and shows the family had some wealth and status in the local area. Certain panels have been restored.
- Chest of Drawers: Late 17th century piece with walnut veneer on loan from V & A Museum.
- Glass Case: Late 17th century glass cupboard made of oak. Carved silhouette baluster panels on the front to show off expensive glass kept inside.
- Ceiling: Once a magnificent plaster ceiling, thought to have been made by local plasterer, Francis Lee, and destroyed when a chimney collapsed during a storm in 1883. Fragments remain and some are on display in the Buttery. The design incorporated the Batt Coat of Arms.
Great Parlour Chamber
This room is displayed as the master's bedchamber.
Bedchambers served dual functions and were often used as day rooms or to entertain guests. The bed dates from 1590 and was known as a tester bed. A very grand piece made of oak with marquetry headboard and elaborate carvings and probably a prized heirloom as beds like this were handed down from one generation to the next. On loan from V & A Museum.
The hangings are reproductions made by Christopher Pratts of Bradford.
Things to look out for in the Great Parlour Chamber
- Bible Box: On the table at the side of the bed this oak box is dated 1666. It was used to store family papers, writing materials and important items such as the family bible. Could be locked.
- Chest: A marriage chest made of elm and inscribed "Elizabeth Lovell 1640". Chests were brought into the household by a new bride and used to store linen and other domestic textiles. On loan from V & A Museum.
Little Parlour Chamber
This room is displayed as a bedchamber. Original timber studding can be seen. Tree-ring dating indicates some timbers date largely from 1586. The bed is known as the Westmoreland bed, from where it originated, this is a fine example and dates from around 1525.
The initials HF still survive on the headboard, together with three curious J's on the footrail. The low bed on wheels underneath is known as a truckle bed and could be wheeled out at night for servants or children. On loan from V & A Museum.
Things to look out for in the Little Parlour Chamber
- Bedcover and Hangings: Both produced by the Oakwell Broiderers. Design by Barry Lockwood and based on Jacobean Tree of Life, using animal and floral motifs typical of the period. Worked in crewelwork - an early form of embroidery.
- Tapestries: Hung on walls for decoration and warmth. Both reproductions but based on original designs.
- Chest: Probably one of the oldest chests at Oakwell dating from the mid 16th century. The front and sides are decorated with linen-fold panels similar to those on the bed in the Painted Chamber. On loan from V & A Museum.
Displayed as a lady's bedchamber - the mistress might use the room for entertaining or spend time here herself during the day. Most of the furniture in this room is reproduction and shows what oak looked like when new. The original items are the panelling and portrait.
The bed is made by Stuart Reproductions, Somerset and based on a 16th-century original. The hangings are made of cotton/linen with crewelwork embroidery in wool.
Things to look out for in the Painted Chamber
- Panelling: Oak and painted with the 3D effect seen in the Great Parlour downstairs. Five layers of emulsion have been removed from the panelling.
- Bed: Beside the bed is an earthenware chamber-pot (known in the 16 and 17th centuries as a piss-pot) decorated with a liquid clay called slip.
- Chest: Made by Jacobus, North Yorkshire and based on 17th-century design.
Minstrel's Gallery, Study & Staircase
The Minstrel Gallery overlooks the Great Hall and gives you a wonderful view of the large window which is such a feature of the Hall.
The window probably dates from mid 17th century and still contains the original glass which was hand made and has scratched signatures. The colour is due to the varying mineral content of raw materials, e.g. yellow and green indicate arsenic content. A large window was an indication of wealth.
The small study, sited off the Gallery, is probably where John Batt contemplated the estate's accounts and family affairs. The 1611 inventory of Robert Batt of Oakwell Hall shows him to have over 60 books at a time when books were very expensive and few people could read.
Peeping down the Grand Staircase (sadly no longer in use) gives you a sense of the opulence of life here at Oakwell in its heyday.
This was probably the servant's bedroom and main storeroom for food. It's un-panelled and open to the roof.
Things to look out for in the Kitchen Chamber
- Meal Ark: Massive chest used for storing grain. Found in many 17th century homes and could be locked to stop servants stealing the grain. In 1611 this room had five arks.
- Half-headed bed: Known as ‘half-headed' because it does not have a canopy. Could have slept three or four servants at a time.
- Chests: Used for food storage. The aumbry with two carved ‘windows' for ventilation is the 17th century and may be of German origin.
- Spinning wheels: Typical of spinning wheel used in this area.
- Skillet: In the 17th century most saucepans, skillets, cauldrons and cooking pots had three short legs. This enabled them to be balanced directly on the fire.
New Parlour Chamber
Displayed as a second-best chamber. May have been occupied by the nursemaid and could have been used as a guestroom. The rooms retain some early features.
There is an oak and marquetry tester bed with lavish carving on the headboard, tester and posts. Each post is supported by massive square plinths featuring the lozenge-shaped carving typical of Yorkshire craftsmanship. Thought to date from the early 17th century and was the original property of the Fairfax family from Gilling Castle in North Yorkshire. Notice the rams head, the horned devil and the serpent decoration on the headboard.
Things to look out for in the New Parlour Chamber
- Cradle: This oak cradle is reputed to have come from Howley Hall and dates from 1650. Carving may be a late addition.
- Candle-stand: Dates from the late 17th/18th century.
- Dummy board: Flat wooden figures painted and shaped in silhouette. Life-size, they date from the 17th century and were used as decorations, fire-screens or even in practical jokes.
- Table: Oak gate-leg table dating from 1650 - 1700.
- Settle: Oak two-setter settle, probably dating from 18th century.
Would have been one of the busiest rooms. Furnished throughout with reproduction items. The fire and stove can be lit and the room is regularly used by visiting school children.
Things to look out for in the Kitchen
- Stove: Reproduction of a 17th-century charcoal-burning stove based on one in Skipton Castle.
- Fireplace: Probably 19th century as it is too small for a 16/17th-century fireplace.
- Ironware: All made to 17th-century design.
- Table: Both tables are reproduction.
- Treen: Wooden items typical of pieces found in the 16/17th centuries.
- Oakcake rack: Suspended from the ceiling and also known as a creel. Used to hang oat-cakes to dry once they had been baked on a griddle.
- Ceramics: Large selection of pottery, mostly brown earthenware.
- Lighting: Rush-light holder on the table. Rushes dipped in lard provided a cheap form of lighting.
- Candles were expensive and servants were expected to use rushlights.
- Buckets: Reproduction buckets used to bring water from a nearby well, the location of which is not known.
Displayed as a private dining room for the family in the 1690s. Inventories of this period show that parlours often contained bedsteads and bedding - it was not unusual to find rooms downstairs being used as bedchambers.
Things to look out for in the New Parlour
- Spice cupboard: Late 17th century oak. Spices were used extensively but were expensive and were kept under lock and key.
- Table: Oak refectory table with a variety of reproduction pottery and pewter for a family meal.
- Armed chair at the head of the table: Dates from 1670. Date and initials IP are carved into the backrest. Made entirely of oak and on loan from V & A Museum.
- Table carpet: Of Persian origin and placed on the table for protection.
- Side table: Late 17th century oak table with a selection of dishes and cutlery.
- Chairs: 17th-century oak
- Portraits: It was fashionable in the late 17th century to hang portraits of important people in the dining room, probably to impress visitors. The three portraits in this room are: Charles II, Sir Thomas Fairfax and William Cavendish.