Bramall Hall (often misspelt as Bramhall Hall) is a Tudor mansion located in Bramhall, within the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. It is a timber framed manor house located in the middle of of landscaped parkland featuring lakes, woodland walks and gardens. Dating back to Saxon times, the hall has passed through the hands of the families Massey, Davenport, Nevill and Davies. Today it is run by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, and the hall and grounds are open to the public.
The oldest parts of the hall date from the 14th century, and it is constructed of oak timber framing, which was originally infilled by wattle and daub. The building also has motifs from the Victorian era.
Today the hall functions as a museum, and guided tours are available. Bramall also provides an extensive education service in conjunction with local schools, and there are regular special events that give visitors the chance to experience what Tudor life may have been like.
The manor of Bramall dates from the Saxon period, when it was held as two separate estates owned by two Saxon freemen, Brun and Hacun. In 1070, William the Conqueror subdued the north-west of England, and divided the land among his followers. The manor of "Bramale" was given to Hamon de Massey, who eventually became the first Baron of Dunham Massey. The earliest reference to Bramall was recorded in the Domesday Book as "Bramale", a name derived from the Old English words brom meaning broom, both indigenous to the area, and halh meaning nook or secret place, probably by water. De Masci received the manor as wasteland, since it had been devastated by William the Conqueror's subdual. By the time of the Domesday survey, the land was recovering and cultivated again.
The founder of this family was probably a follower or relative of the first Hamon de Massey. About the time of Henry II the land passed from the second Baron of Dunham Massey to Matthew de Bromale, one of his kinsmen who took his name from the land he had received. Matthew's father is said to have been the kinsman of the first Hamon de Massey and may have held the land at some point. Matthew was succeeded by his grandson Richard, and then two subsequent Richards, the second dying without issue. The latter was succeeded by his younger brother Geoffrey, who had two daughters Alice and Ellen. Alice eventually inherited the land, and married John de Davenport of Wheltrough circa 1370–1380, thus changing the family name to Davenport.
I will that myne executo[rs] cause an honest priest to celebrate masse and other devine services for the soulles of me my father my mother my aunceto[rs] and all Christen soulles in the church of Stopford and chappell of Bromall by the space of one wholle yeare next after my deathe ffor convenienr wage to do so...
An inventory of William's belongings was made in 1541, and shows that he was a wealthy man. There is mention of a "yate house chamber", showing that at this date there was a fourth side to the hall, with an entrance by a gatehouse. There is also mention of a "chapell chamber", the room above the chapel, which may have been the priest's room. The third William Davenport succeeded his father, and it was he who was the originator of the Bramhall heraldic tapestry. Shields representing various Davenport marriages are depicted on it, and its arrangement makes it appear as though it was intended to be a cover of some sort, possibly for the high table. His son, another William, succeeded in 1576, and was lord for nine years. It would have been during his time that a priest's hide might have been built at Bramall, and it would have been done on this William Davenport's orders. He and his wife Margaret were both Roman Catholic, so it seems at least possible that that may have happened. The fifth William Davenport inherited Bramall in 1585, and lived there with his wife Dorothy for nearly 55 years. The first marriage at Bramall was recorded at that time, and it was of William, the eldest son of William and Dorothy, and Frances Wilbraham. William was 15 and Frances was 11, and the entry of the marriage was made in the register of Stockport Parish Church. On 22 April 1603 the fifth William Davenport was knighted by James I at Newark, where the king was staying on his six-week journey from Edinburgh to London.
From 1869 to 1876, the hall was leased to Wakefield Christy, a member of the well-known Stockport hatting firm. John William Handley Davenport became the legal owner in 1876, but on 24 January 1877 it was announced that the estate was to be sold. Much of the furniture was auctioned, and some of those pieces can be seen at Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire , most notably the "Paradise Bed" and its embroidered hangings described below. The hall itself, and rest of the Bramall estate totalling was sold to the Freeholders Company Limited, a Manchester property development firm, on 3 August 1877 for £200,000. It remained empty until 1882 when it was purchased by Thomas Nevill, a local industrialist whose wealth came from calico printing, for his son, Charles. While living in the hall, Charles Nevill carried out substantial restoration and remodelling of the building as well as redesigning the landscaping of its grounds. Most notably, the interior was made more comfortable while retaining most of the building's external features, with the assistance of the architect George Faulkener Armitage.
The Hall remained in the Nevill family until 1925, when with changing fortunes after the First World War the family was forced to sell the estate to John Henry Davies. He lived in the hall until his death in 1927, but his widow Amy remained in the property until 1935 when she sold it to Hazel Grove and Bramhall Urban District Council with the intention that the hall and Park should be open to the public.
Following local government reorganisation, the estate became the property of Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council in 1974 as it still is.
There has been a settlement at Bramall since Saxon times. The hall was not always in the current location, the current one having been built around the fourteenth century. According to local legend, the original home of the Bromales is said to be Crow Holt Wood, where artificial ditches which remain today are thought to have come from a moat. The current Hall is a grade I listed building, and the oldest surviving parts date from the late 14th century, with extensive additions and alterations from the 16th and 19th centuries. It is built with foundations of stone, but the main part is made of oak timbers, joined together using mortice and tenon joints, and held in place with oak pegs. Wattle and daub or lath and plaster are used to fill the spaces between the timbers. The Hall was originally approached on the east side; the drive followed the route of the Ladybrook stream, crossed the Carrbrook and went uphill towards the chapel on the south side, reaching the courtyard on the other side. Today the main entrance is on west, on the side of the courtyard. The gables date from the 19th century, and are reminiscent of nearby Little Moreton Hall. The current layout can clearly be seen from the west side of the building: the service wing is on the left, the Great Hall is in the centre, and the solar wing is on the right. The service, or north wing contains the servants' hall and working quarters, with bedroom accommodation upstairs. The rooms are small, badly lit, and poorly arranged. They have been remodelled so much over the years, little of antiquity remains in this part of the building. However, the roof timbers are still intact, and indicate that this wing is as old as the rest of the Hall. There was, in the past, a gatehouse on the west side, and it formed a courtyard in the centre. It was built for defensive purposes, but by the late 18th century it was no longer necessary or fashionable, and so was removed.
The Great Hall is the central part of Bramall. In the Middle Ages, this would have been the place where the business of the house was conducted as well as a communal eating room for the household. Some of the servants would probably have slept there, too. It was originally an open-roofed, single-storey building with two cross wings but towards the end of the 16th century., the Great Hall was substantially rebuilt and divided into two storeys with the Withdrawing Room being created above it. A long gallery was also added as a third storey. The history of the gallery is uncertain; it was in existence in 1790 but was taken down before 1819 because it was considered unsafe.
There was once a belief that a right of way existed through the Hall, popularised by Harrison Ainsworth in the mid-19th century. He wrote that the road took the traveller through the Great Hall, where he was entertained, and sometimes refreshed. Tradition also claims that food from the buttery hatch was handed out to the poor who had gathered in the front porch. There is, however, no evidence for any such right of way through the Hall. The Banqueting Room, which leads off the Lesser Hall was built in the early 15th century, and in the 19th century it was used as a billiards room. Its northern wall is possibly the oldest part of the present hall, having not been renovated like the rest of the courtyard walls. The Chapel, opposite the Banqueting Room was the only place of public worship in Bramhall for many centuries. It was closed some time between 1869 and 1890, and later fell into disrepair. In 1938 it was restored, and religious services were resumed. On the north wall are unglazed windows which face the wall of the Library. The origin of these is obscure, but they do provide evidence that the south wing was once separate from the Great Hall. On the west wall are written the Ten Commandments. Much of the text has faded away now, but, as it did so, an older painting was revealed. It is a pre-Reformation passion painting. Such depictions were banned during the Reformation, and whitewashed over. It was only in the 20th century that an effort was made to restore Passion paintings, but very little of this particular painting survives.
...a dark passage which is said to lead to some region unknown...This is the most likely place in Bramall a priest's hide might have been found, in the thick wall of the chimney breast, close to the Chapel and Chapel Room. This room had earnt the alternative name "the ghost room" in the 19th century, due to the frequent stories of sightings associated with it. There have also been stories of a secret passage from the Paradise Room to the drive outside, or down to the Chapel, but no such passages exist. The largest room on the first floor is the Withdrawing Room, situated above the Great Hall. It was built for William Davenport, and dates from 1592. It contains Davenport family portraits and an elaborate plaster ceiling. Above the fireplace, the overmantel bears the arms of Queen Elizabeth I, and tradition has it that the Queen herself presented it as in thanks for hospitality received. However, as the Queen proabably never came any further north than Chester, the tradition is unlikely.
The Hall is set in 66 acres of parkland, originally only a part of the estate attached to the Hall. The Park would have stocked with deer and used as a hunting ground. From the seventeenth century, however, the Park was gradually converted into agricultural land and then, in the 1880s, Charles Nevill remodelled the Park into what exists today, a Romantic Victorian setting of lakes, created by altering the course of the Ladybrook., open grassland and mature woods.
During the spring and summer of 1888, a new drive was made through the Park, taken well away from the Hall, with the east entrance to the Hall itself becoming a private doorway leading into the garden, where Charles Nevill laid out terraces.