Phase VIII - 1482 to c 1557

 

The Moated Site iii) Gascoigne

 

John and Elizabeth Neville's daughter Joan was married to Sir William Gascoigne of Cusworth, Harewood and Lotherton, and it was through her that the Gascoignes inherited Wood Hall and Womersley on John Neville's death in 1482. They continued with the improvements at Wood Hall.

 

Although John Neville's new bridge was only about 35 years old, in 1493 Sir William Gascoigne began the remodelling of the entrance to Wood Hall, constructing an impressive gatehouse and drawbridge, presumably to reflect his status. It may be no coincidence that he was upgrading this relatively minor property only two years before he was High Sheriff of Yorkshire (in 1495).

 

 

 

Fig 32: Artistís impression of the Gascoigne gatehouse (P Scholefield)

 

The new gatehouse was based on two rectangular tower foundations, constructed actually in the moat, the west one in effect free-standing, while the east tower walls were tied in to the bank. The bases, standing on shallow stone platforms, which may possibly have belonged to an earlier structure, were constructed of massive limestone ashlar blocks, probably from the quarries at Stapleton or Tadcaster.

 

 

Fig 33:The tower bases for the Gascoigne gatehouse butted

against the earlier revetment wall

 

Chamfered plinths supported the superstructure, built of the more flaggy local limestone, which was also used to make the roof slabs. It is likely that these upper walls were rendered with a lime-based plaster, though no evidence for this was recovered. The room above the gatehouse arch, which seems, from evidence of food items and utensils found in the moat immediately in front of it, to have been used as a banqueting room, had windows with leaded diamond-shaped glass panes. A limestone chimney cap found in the moat suggests a fireplace in the room. Externally, the chimney at one end of the pitched roof was balanced with a limestone ball finial at the other.

 

 

Fig 34: A window-pane from the gatehouse, found in the moat.

 

 

 

Fig 35: Limestone chimney cap from the Gascoigne gatehouse

 

The gatehouse would have been visible for the full mile of the journey from Womersley, and must have been very impressive - though less so from the rear, which seems to have been supported on above ground timber sleeper beams, as there is no trace of more substantial foundations. The suggested reconstruction (figs 32 and 42) has the first floor jettied to the rear, to allow adequate space for the upper room, which would have housed the drawbridge winding mechanism as well as any other function.

 

The Neville period bridge was demolished during this building phase, and its longitudinal soleplates reduced in length to make way for the tower bases. The remaining timber was left in place, chocked for stability using timbers from a demolished building. A box-frame with four soleplates was constructed on the remains of the earlier bridges to form the fixed platform at the south side of the moat. At the north side, a similar fixed platform was constructed between the towers, leaving a distance of 3.5m to be crossed by the drawbridge, which pivoted on extensions of the towers' inner walls.

 

 

Fig 36: Plan of the Gascoigne bridge 1493 AD

 

In the original construction of the southern fixed platform, the superstructure was braced by beams angled from the base soleplates into the uprights of the trestles. This was found to be unsatisfactory, probably because of the length of the unbraced span of the superstructure, and in 1560/61 a remodelling was carried out. This involved shortening the distance of the span by relocating one of the transverse soleplates and bracing from the uprights directly into the superstructure. This version of the bridge survived into the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century.

 

 

 

Fig 37: Plan of the Gascoigne bridge after alterations in 1560/61 AD

 

 

Fig 38: The bridge of 1560/61 under excavation

 

 

As part of the same upgrading of Wood Hall, Sir William Gascoigne also added modern features to John Nevilleís Hall. This hall was originally constructed as a timber-framed building supported on dwarf walls. The kitchen lay immediately to the south of the hall - in full view of anyone approaching the site from Womersley. Sir William Gascoigne had the kitchen demolished, and constructed a new facade, probably entirely in stone, to the south gable-end wall and the western front of the house. The new build on the west front had been almost entirely robbed at a later date, but probably incorporated the most up-to-date windows. At the south-west corner of the house, as an integral part of the new facade, a rectangular stone tower of at least three storeys was constructed. This tower would have effectively blocked the original doorway into the screens passage. A new doorway seems to have been included in the new west facade, immediately to the north of the main hearth.

 

 

Fig 39: Gascoigne period 1482 - c 1557

 

The tower, which was rectangular in plan, was tied in to the original building at the south-west corner. Its upper storeys seem to have been approached via the original western service room. Its lowest floor was a half-cellar, extending 1.4m below ground level, which was probably used as a cool buttery. This room was approached from its north side, through an external door and down a flight of stone steps. Its roof was probably vaulted to allow working head-room. Immediately east of the steps, and partly covered by them, was a stone-lined well which housed the base of a wooden pump. In the south-east corner a solid block of masonry held two small niches, possibly for lamps. This block was 1.4m by 1.35m in plan, and could have formed the base for a spiral staircase leading from the service room in the main house to the upper floors of the tower.

 

 

Fig 40: The base of Sir William Gascoigneís tower was a sunken buttery

 

The pump base from the buttery was formed from a squared cone of oak, measuring 0.35m x 0.29m at the base and tapering to a height of 0.6m. A cylinder 0.09m in diameter had been bored out of its core to a depth of 0.33m. A channel 50mm in diameter had been drilled from each of the four corners into the central cylinder. The external opening of each of these channels was covered with a perforated plate of white metal, presumably to sieve any large impurities from the water. The water would then have been led, through a system of leather valves, to a potential height of 7m - possibly to a new kitchen on the first floor of the tower. No sign of a kitchen to replace that immediately south of John Nevilleís Hall has been found elsewhere in the excavated area.

 

 

Fig 41: The wooden pump base from the buttery.

 

The combined effect of the alterations to the house, the tower and the fine new gatehouse was designed to impress the visitor making his way down the full mile of straight causewayed track from Womersley village to Wood Hall. In the interests of economy, however, this new grandeur was not carried on where it was out of sight - eg at the rear of the hall. Certainly all the building activity at Wood Hall in the mid and late fifteenth century seems to have left its mark in the local memory. It was probably the bright whiteness of the freshly-quarried limestone and render used for the gatehouse and facade that resulted in the description 'Wood Hall alias White Hall alias New Hall' found in a document of the early seventeenth century, more than 100 years later.

 

The assessment of the environmental evidence from the Gascoigne phase suggests that Wood Hall was still for the most part a working farm, with the emphasis on cattle and animal husbandry, though the north part of the moated platform continued to have a horticultural or agricultural use. The kitchen garden at the rear of the hall continued in use. Elsewhere on the site, however, things had changed. Evidence from the artefacts suggests a more leisured and pleasurable lifestyle.

 

 

 

Fig 42: Leisure activities in the garden at Wood Hall (P Scholefield)

 

Hawking and hunting were still practised, as well as archery, and peacocks graced the lawns at Wood Hall as well as (presumably) the dining table. Gaming counters have been found, and the tuning peg from a musical instrument. Most impressive is the glassware - three fine drinking vessels, one at least of possible Bohemian origin, had apparently been dropped out of the first floor window of the gatehouse into the moat below. One had originally borne the gilded inscription 'Iesu Maria' - interesting wording on an item seemingly deliberately discarded in late sixteenth century Protestant England.

Fig 43: An enamelled and gilded glass goblet, possibly from Bohemia, recovered from the moat.

Documentary evidence from this period tells of a marriage in 1548, of Sir William Gascoigne (the third at Wood Hall) to his second wife, Margaret Wright. The wedding took place in 'a decent and honest chapel in the side of the hall at Wood Hall', and was described in detail as part of the evidence in a later inheritance dispute. Young Margaret, daughter of a family living at Cusworth, was actually the god-daughter of Sir Williamís first wife, Margaret Fitzwilliam, and had been part of the household since her teens. On the day that the first Margaret died, the second Margaret was being 'churched' at Womersley, and her baby (Sir Williamís child) baptised. The inheritance dispute hinged on whether the second marriage was legal - or, indeed, had ever taken place. It was, and it had (by Archbishop of Canterburyís licence), and Wood Hall, with lands totalling approximately 300 acres, was left to Alice, daughter of Sir William and (probably) the first Lady Margaret (nee Fitzwilliam), on Sir Williamís death in 1557.

Fig 44. Wood Hall: The Gascoigne wedding party, 1548 (P Scholefield)

Phase IX - 1558 to 1725

 

 

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