Farnley Hall

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The Hall

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Farnley Hall, on the outskirts of Otley in West Yorkshire, has been a family home for hundreds of years. During that time, it has undergone many changes, both architectural and social. In the Second World War it was even used as a maternity hospital; but it is perhaps best known for its connection with the painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner, who visited the Hall for the best part of twenty-five years, and whose paintings were inspired by the scenes he enjoyed of the Wharfedale. Ruskin’s words, quoted above, attest to the depth of the connection between the artist and the place. 

The first mention of the Fawkes family in the district occurs in 1289, when Falcasius de Lindeley is recorded as having successfully sued the Vicar of Leathley and nineteen others for cutting down trees on his property. Later, in 1378, there is a mention of “John Ffaukes and his wife and their villa of ffarnlay”. It is not known where the villa stood in those days, but it was probably on or near the site of the older part of the existing building. In the 16th century, or early in the 17th century, the house now called Old Farnley Hall was built. 

Farnley Hall today is therefore really two houses. At the south end is the four-square block that was built by John Carr of York. Adjoining it to the north is the older wing, which is now used as a separate house.  

That older part, Farnley Old Hall, was owned and occupied in the 1780s by Francis Fawkes. He was described as “the blunt squire of many acres”, a wealthy widower with no surviving children. He decided to leave the house and most of his land and money to his distant kinsman, Walter Beaumont Hawksworth of nearby Hawksworth Hall.

Walter Beaumont inherited the Hall in 1786 from Francis and took the name Fawkes, under the terms of his will. He did not, however, enjoy his inheritance for very long, as he died in 1792; but during those few years he transformed the house. Not only did he materially alter the existing house, but he also commissioned John Carr of York to add a reception wing.  

At the time of Walter’s death, his Georgian wing had barely been completed. It was therefore left to his son, Walter Ramsden Hawksworth Fawkes, to finish the work, to furnish the house and to fill it with his remarkable collection of pictures.

Farnley Hall * Otley * LS21 2QF * England