The site of Lytham Hall has a long and varied history. In the late 1100’s, the Benedictine monks of Durham set up a Priory which lasted until the mid-1500’s. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the crown gave the land to the wealthy Molyneux family.
In 1606, Sir Cuthbert Clifton of Westby bought the land from the Molyneux family in order to build the first Lytham Hall. Sir Cuthbert built a Jacobean mansion of considerable size, much of which still exists today.
In 1752, Squire Thomas Clifton commissioned the renowned architect, John Carr of York, to build him a new mansion. The Georgian Hall spent 5 years on the drawing board and, in 1757, the foundations were laid. Carr completed the Hall in 1764 after what was a 12-year project. No expense was spared and Carr employed the Italian Giuseppe Cortese to produce fine plasterwork ceilings. Gillows of Lancaster were also commissioned to furnish the Hall with the finest quality fittings.
Some of the existing Jacobean buildings were used into the new design to create a Long Gallery, as well as servants’ quarters for key staff. This meant all 3 levels of the new Georgian Hall could be used exclusively for the family and guests.
The Clifton family lived at Lytham Hall from 1606 right through until 1963. The last Squire, Henry Talbot de Vere Clifton (known as Harry), inherited the Lytham Estate along with Kildalton Castle on the Isle of Islay in 1928. His father, John Talbot Clifton, was a great explorer and travelled the world twice over bringing back many souvenirs to decorate the Hall. He was an avid hunter and had a love for taxidermy which filled the North Entrance and the rear staircase which led to his Billiard room.
Harry was quite the opposite and loved to gamble and drink. He was a socialite, mixing in high society in London, Los Angeles, Monte Carlo and numerous other fashionable places across the globe. In the early 1930’s whilst in the US, he placed a $150,000 bet on a game of poker, losing it in minutes. This “English Aristocrat” made the press either side of the pond, for losing what equates to $3,000,000 in today’s money.
It is said Harry became acquainted with the author Evelyn Waugh whilst attending Oxford. Many claim that Waugh used his experience of Harry to influence the character of Sebastian Flyte in his novel Brideshead Revisited. Harry’s devout Catholic mother, Violet Clifton, entertained and hosted Waugh at Lytham Hall. It is also claimed that after reading the novel, she barred Waugh from ever visiting Lytham again, suspecting that the stern character of Lady Marchmain was based on her.
Harry spent most of his time absent from Lytham Hall, only coming to visit his mother from time to time. Violet spent much of her time writing and produced numerous books. Due to her devout Catholic faith, she spent many periods residing in convents after her husband’s death. Violet lived at the Hall until her death on the 20th November 1961, outliving her husband by almost 34 years.
After his mother’s death, Harry had amassed huge debts and substantially mortgaged the Lytham estate. Much of Harry’s debt was owed to the Guardian Assurance Company who were wanting to foreclose and retrieve their loans. Harry and Guardian came to an agreement and in 1963 the Lytham Estates came into their ownership. By 1965, all the remaining pockets of land and property were signed over. This brought an end to the Cliftons of Lytham family seat, which had spanned four centuries.
Guardian Assurance used the upper floors of the Hall as offices and the ground floor to entertain their clients. The West Wing was used for training and corporate events. By the mid 90’s, the question of why the company was running a stately home and estate was being brought into question by the new CEO in Guardian Headquarters in London. He ordered that the Hall was to be put up for sale as soon as possible. In 1997, Lytham Town Trust, with a huge donation from British Aerospace, managed to secure the purchase and thus saved the Hall for the benefit of the community. Later, after much deliberation, an agreement was drawn up between the Town trust and the Heritage Trust for the North West, to manage the Hall on a 99-year lease. The next few years were spent on surveying, preparing Conservation Management Plans, researching the significance, and raising funds for a series of restoration work.
In recent years, the Hall has become a huge Heritage tourist attraction. It is the only Grade 1 listed building in the Borough of Fylde, therefore of immense significance nationally as well as locally. Occasionally, members of the current Clifton family visit the Hall and reminisce about their times spent here as children.
Today, Lytham Hall is the hub of the community and hosts events such as Lytham Proms, Lytham Club Day, Open Air theatre, Steam Fairs, Classic Car shows, Vintage bus days, to name but a few.
The Hall is home to the Clifton collection of family portraits, fine Gillow furnishings, Waterford crystal chandeliers, and a host of historic archives. The parkland and catering facilities are open 364 days a year, and the Hall itself offers 18 tours a week between Easter and the end of October. Recently a Garden centre, Antiques and reclamation sales, and an Animal hub have added to the attractions.
Lytham Hall boasts one of the largest volunteer groups of any stately home in the country and has around 18 full and part time staff. The Estate receives in excess of 100,000 visitors per year and has recently enjoyed TV fame with the likes of the BBC Antiques Roadshow, George Clarke’s “ Old House , New Home”, and several other broadcasts.
Whether it be private functions, corporate events, concerts, themed nights, fairs, educational seminars, weddings, funerals, dinners, historical tours, training courses, TV and film location, music videos … you name it and Lytham Hall can more than likely host and cater for it!
The aims and objectives of the current management team are to provide a sustainable operation whilst always protecting the historic importance. Sheer commitment and passion by all involved for this fabulous asset will ensure it is enjoyed by as many people as possible.
Lytham Hall is a registered charity (Reg. Charity – 508300) but receives no regular grants or funds for its upkeep. Sustainability therefore is key to ensuring it survives for future generations.