CREWE HALL HISTORY & HERITAGE
The site of the mansion dates back as far as 1170 and came into
the Crewe Family in 1608; the mansion was in a very bad state of
decay that in 1615 Sir Randolph Crewe had it demolished and
re-built. It was complete some 21 years later in 1636 and the
general character of the mansion owes much to the employment of
Flemish, Italian and other foreign craftsmen. It was restored and
extended in 1837.
In 1866 the interior of Crewe Hall was very badly damaged by fire
and was caused by one of the wooden beams under the fireplace in
the long gallery catching alight. The rebuilding within the
existing walls which survived the fire, was entrusted by
Third Baron Crewe to Edward Barry; son of the architect to the
Houses of Parliament. Edward Barry was architect to many famous
buildings such as Covent Garden Theatre, Great Ormond Street
Childrens' Hospital, Charing Cross Station and was the architect in
charge from 1860 - 1870 for final work on the Houses of Parliament.
Hungerford Crewe could not resist temptation to add a wealth of
mid-Victorian ornamentation and stone was replaced by alabaster and
marble; leaded panes gave way to stain glass windows and elaborate
designs were executed in plasterwork.
Prior to 1922 when the Crewe family left, there would have been
around 100 servants in the hall - it had 190 rooms. There were 20
gardeners growing all the produce for the house in the 3 walled
garden and there was the Home Farm which had approximately 50 farms
and 200 cottages in the immediate locality.
In 1931 when this type of living was on the decline and mainly
because Lord Crewe had no heir to the title, only two daughters, he
offered the Hall and the surrounding estates to Cheshire County
Council, but they declined the offer. Lord Crewe eventually sold
the Hall and the bulk of the estate to the Duchy of Lancaster in
In 1955 Her Majesty The Queen, together with the Duke of Edinburgh
visited Crew Hall in her capacity as Duke of Lancaster, whilst
touring the Duchy Estates in Cheshire.
From 1939 - 1946 Crewe Hall was occupied by the War Department and
many Australian, Canadian and American troops were housed in the
Hall at various times throughout the last three years of military
occupation. It was used as a prisoner of war camp for over 2,000
high ranking German officers.
Until 1998 Crewe Hall remained the property of Duchy of Lancaster,
and, as such belonged to the Crown.
Just inside the main front door is the Reception Hall with its
monumental fireplace of veined marble with the word 'Welcome'
carved boldly above the Crewe Insignia, surrounded by heraldic
lions and Finials also in marble. This dates from 1870 - the year
that the Victorian rebuilding of Crewe Hall was completed. The
rebuilding resulted from a serious fire in 1866 which gutted almost
the whole of the inside of the house.
The original Crewe Hall was Jacobean, being built between 1615 -
1636 by Ranulph Crewe, son of a merchant who lived in Nantwich. In
its' early form, the Reception Hall had a low ceiling with bedrooms
above; but the 1870 rebuilding to the design of an eminent
architect of the day, Edward Barry, enabled his employer
Hungerford, the 3rd Lord Crewe to achieve this very finely
proportioned hall which we see today.
Notice too, the richly designed ceiling and the display of
virtues (with which the Victorians were very much pre-occupied)!
Nevertheless the six maidens, Humility, Charity, Temperance, Truth,
Chastity and Patience are indeed beautifully painted. The stained
glass in the windows here are the ecclesiastical arms of Chester,
York, Durham and Carlisle.
Above the front doors is a Minstrels Gallery. Having no
staircase, the only access is by ladder through a hinged portion of
the balcony. It has all the high standard of decoration as the rest
of the Reception Hall - with ornate carved wood, strapwork plaster
ceiling and stained glass window lights - even though it remains
largely unseen. The coat of arms above the fireplace is that of
Hungerford, 3rd Lord Crewe with the traditional "White Lion
Rampant" of the Crewe Family.
This room is particularly interesting because there is some of
the original panelling that survived the great fire of 1866. This
room is entirely wainscoted in oak and has a decorated ceiling.
It was from here that the Steward carried out his Master's
Well worthy of observation in this room is the chimney piece
being mainly of oak and ornamented with a profusion of interlaced
scroll work. The top has interwoven carvings of the lion, shamrock
and thistle, and it is interesting to note that it was during the
time when Crewe Hall was being built, in the reign of James I (1603
- 1625) that the symbols of the three kingdoms were first united.
The lower part of the chimney is marble and relatively new.
HALL OF PILLARS
In the Marble Hall can be seen again the work of the Victorian
architect Barry superimposing the elaborate intricacies of carving
and plaster decoration with a grand ornamented fireplace. In the
Jacobean building this was an inner courtyard area - open to the
sky - and in a modification to the Hall by the architect Blore in
1837 a single storeyed roof was created. However, the re-design
after the 1866 fire gave Barry the opportunity to open up the
Marble Hall and create this splendid galleried area with its hammer
The fireplace here in the Marble Hall is not only finely
sculpured and decorated with the Crewe arms but is also unique in
that the chimney shaft at the rear also forms the arch for the
passageway. The fireplace is also decorated with the two Crewe
mottoes of "Quid Retribuam Domino" (what shall I render unto the
Lord) and "Sequor nec Inferior" (I follow but not inferior).
Here in the Chapel there is such wealth of decoration, it is
difficult to decide where to begin. The twelve stained glass lights
in the oriel window behind the altar depict the apostles. Below
them, lining the circular wall of the reredos are heads of saints
and prophets exquisitely carved in alabaster.
On the altar floor is the Crewe motto in the original gold leaf.
The sacrarium arch setting off the whole is of alabaster and marble
with incised patterning.
When services were conducted, the Crewe family sat in their own
pew in the gallery above which they entered through their own
private door upstairs. The duties of the resident parson included
the education of the Crewe's children in addition to ministering to
the spiritual needs of the family and their servants. Along each
wall of the Chapel are ten bronze heads of Biblical figures - each
one an individual work of art. The moulds have doubtless long since
been broken. The name of the sculptor, a Mr J Philips is carved in
the alabaster heads behind the altar.
The roof is termed a "wagon roof" because the wooden segments
create the panelled appearance of an old farm wagon. In each
segment are the Symbols of the Passion including - the 30 pieces of
silver, gambling dice, hammer, nails, the cock that crowed and the
The Chapel was consecrated in 1635 by the Bishop of Chester, Dr
John Bridgman and still remains consecrated to this day.
Another five generations later in 1894, Hungerford, 3rd Lord
Crewe died a bachelor and the title of Crewe went to his nephew
Lord Houghton. That Lord Crewe was created Marquess of Crewe in
1911 and when he died in 1945 the line was extinguished. He had
daughters who had children.
From the landing we look over the East Hall. Here we have more
of the fine stained glass from 1870, which shows up well in the
daylight. It depicts certain of the marriages of the Crewe family,
starting with Sir Ranulph Crewe on the left and following with the
four subsequent ones. In the medieval battlefield, the coat of arms
was doubtless important for recognition purposes, but the crest
would have possibly given more significance. So it was paramount to
a noble family to display their crest.
As mentioned earlier, the arms of the Crewes showed a White Lion
Rampant - this was a symbol much used by the hostelries.
Traditionally, it was supposed to indicate that it had been given a
"seal of approval", by the noble lord - rather like a mediaeval AA
Whilst there is no written record of it, we think it possible
that in the Jacobean building, this East door may have been used as
the main entrance to the Hall.
The pedigree board over the fireplace here, which was restored
after the fire, shows the record of Crewe marriages up to 1663.
This was constructed in an open well, the style originates from
Spain. The solid oak balustrades are highly enriched with carvings
and the heraldic beasts are mounted on pillars all the way up the
SHERIDAN (DINING ROOM)
This was the Dining Room for the Main Hall. The most remarkable
feature of this room is the profusely carved oak screen in mixed
styles, which gives the room an appearance of a college hall. In
olden days, there would be a dais below the screen in which the
principal table was situated. It is thought that this magnificent
screen is the most perfect of its kind still in existence. The room
is spacious, lofty, and well proportioned in all respects, having a
magnificently decorated ceiling enriched with pendants.
The bottom part of the fireplace is fairly new, while the upper
section contains a remarkable plaster figure signifying
Possibly before the restoration of the hall, the minstrels
gallery was situated over the oak screen and thus provided the
diners with a view of the musicians. The room also had
communications with the kitchen through a serving hatch at the end
of the dining room.
Here, in the Carved Parlour is more evidence of Victorian
decoration superimposed on the original Jacobean model. It was
called the Carved Parlour because of this carved wood wainscot
above which is a highly decorated frieze. The 1870 refurbishing
transformed the cruder figures, in similar medallion mounts, into
the sophisticated high-relief statuary seen here and titled as
Victorian virtues. On the end wall we have the Elements, Earth,
Air, Fire and Water.
Over the alabaster chimneypiece, Father Time chastises Sloth for
his laziness and rewards Industry. In his left hand he holds a whip
and rod which he presents to an indolent fellow in rags and lies
stretched on the ground. Various symptoms of idleness are around
him, gallows and gibbettree wait for him in the background, his
fields are full of thistles and weeds, his trees are dead, and his
house is sadly in need of repair. In his right hand, Time holds
forth a crown to an industrious man who is seen hard at work
digging. He has in the background a house like a castle, fields
that produce an abundance of fruit and corn, trees rich in foliage,
and a number of doves representing love and peace.
Surmounting all is a bust of Sir Ranulph Crewe, the builder of
old Crewe Hall who is seen here in his robes of the office he held
under James the First; that of Lord Chief Justice. His ermine robe
and ruff collar, are overlaid with the great Gold Seal.
Regrettably, he was to lose his high office in 1626 when King
Charles dismissed him, due to his inability to agree with his
monarch over the raising of revenue through forced loans.
The type of ceiling decoration is known as strapwork and it is
made of plaster. It was used extensively in Jacobean times but was
not coloured. At the Victorian restoration it was renewed in a more
sophisticated fashion and was decorated as you see here.
This one has as its centrepiece an elliptical decorative plaster
feature signifying Night.
Two glass panels in the wainscot on the wall farthest away from
the window enabled the butler to observe from the passageway of the
floor below whether his lordship was still in occupation.
FIRST FLOOR GALLERY TO MARBLE HALL
In the centre of each carved section between the pillars round
the balcony here, are seen the inter-twined "C's" of the Crewe
crest along with the peer's coronet. The pillars contain cast iron
down pipes necessary to drain water from the roof gulleys. Above
the balcony is a strapwork ceiling in Wedgwood Blue. The Victorian
refurbishing of Crewe Hall has resulted in a collection of
strapwork ceilings which are among the best in the country.
The feature of particular interest here, are again the very fine
strapwork ceiling and the chimneypiece of marble, jasper and onyx.
The decoration in the carved stone around the concave oval is
worthy of close inspection when you will see all manner of
intricately carved butterflies, lizards, flowers and fruit. The
tastefully carved oak wainscot and decorated plaster frieze set off
this beautifully proportioned room which was furnished with
exquisite taste in Victorian days. A succession of eminent
literary, social and political personages would have been
entertained here by the Crewes in year gone by, such as Richard
Brinsley Sheridan, who was a regular visitor to Crewe and dedicated
his play "School for Scandal" to Frances Crewe wife of the 1st Lord
Crewe and celebrated beauty of the day.
WITHDRAWING ROOM (ANTE ROOM)
The small Drawing Room is sometimes called the Withdrawing room.
In Victorian times this provided perhaps a more comfortable setting
for smaller gatherings. A beautifully furnished family sitting room
with a lofty gilded ceiling - it is well proportioned with its low
wainscoting and marble fireplace.
This is one of the loveliest rooms in the Hall. This room has
perhaps the finest of our strapwork ceilings with a centre piece in
a Wedgwood motif representing Aurora, Goddess of Dawn in a chariot
with a winged cherub above and a robed figure scattering flowers in
her path. The Crewe motif appears yet again on either side of the
centrepiece. The peers coronet with the two intertwined "C's" is
the same design as we see elsewhere in the Hall.
Decorated Mabey medallions in the frieze line the north and
south walls. On the North wall (the one with the fireplace) are the
English poets; and on the South wall, other great classical poets.
In the coving between the Ceiling and the frieze is the named bust
of the authors.
Stained glass panels of Charles I, Elizabeth I and James I
complete the frieze at the western end of the room.
The Marquess of Crewe was said to have had a collection of
32,000 books and the shelves were certainly full in 1880 as
evidenced by photographs of that date.
During World War 2 the Hall was leased to the War Department,
and was used as an Army Camp by both British and American troops
and latterly as a prisoner-of-war camp for German Officers.
This is the largest room in the house. The traditional use for
the Long Gallery in Jacobean times was for games, dancing and
winter times exercises. In 1880 it was used for a more dignified
use, at that time it was most tastefully furnished and functioned
also as the Crewe family portrait gallery.
The room is very formal in design having a central bay window
alcove, a central fireplace and four matching doorways. Two of the
doorways are practical but the other two are false concealing very
small cupboard spaces and were designed purely to maintain the
symmetry of the room.
The bay window alcove is where King George V and Queen Mary
breakfasted when they stayed at Crewe Hall in 1913. The view from
here would have been over formal Italian gardens leading down to a
large ornamental lake. The artificial lake drained away when the
dam broke in 1941. From photographs of the Long Gallery and its'
furnishings it is obvious that the Crewe family enjoyed a very
opulent life style which involved servants in very long hour of
Prior to 1922 when the Crewe family left, there would have been
around 100 servants in the Hall - it had 190 rooms. There were 20
gardeners growing all the produce for the house in the 3½ acre
walled garden. There was the Home Farm and in addition
approximately 50 farms and 200 cottages in the immediate locality.
These comprised the estate sold to the Duchy of Lancaster in 1936
but in earlier days the Crewe's were said to own "half of
The fireplace here is the very one where the great fire of 1866
started. Recently, when this room was being renovated, fire
blackened bricks were found behind the panelling. The figure over
the fireplace are Sir Ranulph Crewe, the founder(on the left) and
his brother Thomas' grandson, Bishop Crewe of Stene in
Northamptonshire who was Bishop of York and later Durham.
On the Top Gallery, can be seen the stained glass windows
decorated with the Crewe armorials. The record of marriages in the
hammer-beam roof can be seen through the open balcony.