Gawthorpe Hall is a compact three-storey Jacobean house, set on the edge of the Penines, which today finds itself surrounded by the industrial region of south Lancashire.
The estate was in the hands of the Shuttleworth family for 200 years before the present house was built between 1600 - 1605 for Sir Richard Shuttleworth, a wealthy Elizabethan barrister.
Sir Richard probably employed the talented architect, Robert Smythson, to design his house. Smythson was the architect of the prodigy houses at Hardwick and Wollaton and Gawthorpe is very reminiscent of these buildings.
The close-set tiers of mullioned windows appear like a vast lantern and the overall composition of the house is enhanced by a prospect tower which rises from the centre of the building.
Gawthorpe Hall is considered to represent an important milestone in the evolution of English domestic architecture. It contains innovations in style and plan and the great hall, for example, in contrast to the medieval and early Tudor practice, runs at right angles to the entrance front.
The Shuttleworth family continued to live at Gawthorpe Hall and in the 1850's Sir James Kay Shuttleworth, the great Victorian reformer who had married the heiress to the property, commissioned Sir Charles Barry to carry out restoration and improvements to the house.
Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament, worked on the house with his collaborators A.W.N. Pugin and J.G. Grace, between 1850 - 2.
External changes to the building include the heightening of the prospect tower and the addition of an open work parapet.
Inside the Hall, the combination of Barry's Victorian work and original decoration gives the house an atmosphere of crowded opulence. The ceilings and entrance lobby received Barry's treatment and a new staircase was built.
Much of the 17th century decoration survives and in the drawing room the original plaster ceiling, panelling and fireplace seem to be perfectly in tune with the Victorian furnishings.
The long gallery which runs the length of the south front on the second floor has the original plasterwork and is hung with early 17th century portraits. Many of the paintings at Gawthorpe Hall are on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.
On the first and second floor several rooms are given over to the exhibition of the needlework, lace, textiles and costumes collected by the late Hon. Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth, the last of the family to live at Gawthorpe Hall.
The unique display contains a wide range of needlework techniques and many embroidered quilts, smocks, waistcoats and other pieces mainly from the 18th and 19th century but also including some modern work.
Gawthorpe Hall is now in the care of the National Trust and is partly let as a College of Further Education