At the end of Tolsey Drive, a suburban part of Hutton, stands the gatehouse to the mansion known as Penwortham Priory. The gatehouse was moved some two miles form its original site and its fate was bound up with two of Lancashire’s historic halls, both of which have now long vanished from the landscape.
The original Penwortham Priory was a Medieval monastery, situated close to St Mary’s Church in Penwortham. When it was dissolved on the orders of King Henry VIII, the buildings and grounds were bought by John Fleetwood. He served twice as Sheriff of Lancashire and was also a Clerk of the Crown Chancery, a high office that would have involved him in the preparation of royal warrants under the direction of the Lord Chancellor. The Fleetwoods kept the property for 300 years. At first, the monastery buildings would have been co-opted into the new buildings the family constructed, but by the late 1600s they would have been long gone. The house retained the name of Penwortham Priory though, and would continue to be called this throughout all its remaining years.
The Fleetwoods left in 1749 and ownership passed first to the Aspinall family, and then to the Rawsthornes. Major alterations occurred in the first part of the 1800s, which culminated in the house being hugely expanded through the work of architect George Webster, who also worked on Samlesbury Hall. Penwortham Priory became a massive gothic mansion, complete with mock battlements and corner turrets.
It is in this time period that the Penwortham Priory gatehouse was constructed. Serving as an entrance lodge to the estate, it was never meant to be lived in full time, but would have provided access and security to the grounds of the mansion. Its original position was by the side of the A59 road at Penwortham. To the left of it was a carriageway that led up to the house (see photograph below). The original carriageway can still be walked up, as it forms what is now known as Church Avenue. Tracing the route today leads the walker to a ginnel between houses on the left hand side that was the entrance to the priory house, or straight on to St Mary’s Church.
In the early 1900s, plans were drawn up to widen the A59 in preparation for a new road bridge to be constructed over the River Ribble as the old one could no longer cope with the traffic. The gatehouse was in the way of the widening scheme and so was slated for demolition. However, the Rawsthornes clearly valued it greatly, and came up with a plan for its preservation – in 1912, it was taken down carefully, stone by stone, and these were transported by horse and cart to its present location where it was rebuilt. Here it would fulfil the same function as before, this time serving as a lodge house outside Hutton Hall, another of the Rawsthorne family residences.
In 1925, Penwortham Priory was demolished to make way for the large housing development that now covers the entire area of the mansion and its grounds. Nothing now remains of the once sprawling gothic construction, nor the earlier house or monastic buildings that once occupied the site.
Today. Penwortham Priory gatehouse can still be found on Tolsey Drive, close to the entrance of Hutton Hall. Hutton Hall itself was sold in the 1930s to Lancashire County Council. It became Lancashire Constabulary Headquarters in 1961 and was demolished later on in that same decade. All that remains are the two large gateposts on the opposite side of the road to the gatehouse.
The gatehouse is now a private residence. Perhaps because of its compact design it has been expanded by the addition of two modern conservatories. On one side of the original building is a lion wielding a banner that has inscribed on it the Rawsthorne family motto: Fortiter et Fideliter, in English ‘Bravery and Loyalty’. This along with its crenulations topping the building hark back to the Gothic design of George Webster’s work for Penwortham Priory house.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2022
The gatehouse is a private house, but there are good views of it from Tolsey Drive and Moor Lane. Just across the busy A59 Longton bypass are the gateposts of Hutton Hall, all that remains from the Rawsthorne family’s time there. The A59 is a busy road, but there is a crossing point between the gatehouse and the two gateposts. On street parking is available on Tolsey Drive and Moor Lane.
Penwortham in the Past, Alan Crosby (1988) Carnegie Press
Penwotham Heritage Trail: Howick and Hutton circular walk, South Ribble Borough Council. This excellent leaflet is available online from South Ribble Council, along with many others. See here