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Lathom House

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Latun; Lathun; Latheham

In the civil parish of Lathom.
In the historic county of Lancashire.
Modern Authority of Lancashire.
1974 county of Lancashire.
Medieval County of Lancashire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD46650844
Latitude 53.56984° Longitude -2.80705°

Lathom House has been described as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Fortified Manor House.

There are no visible remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


"At the death of Edward the Confessor, Lathom with a berewick was held by Uctred ...... The berewick may have been the half of Martin which had been incorporated with Lathom, or else Ormskirk ..... .....The next lord of Lathom whose name is on record was Siward son of Dunning, who held it in the thegnage about the time of Henry II ....." (VCH)
Lathom House, moated mansion is "....believed to have been erected as early as temp. Ed. I, and by Robert de Lathom, formerly Latun or Lathun .... It possessed nine fine towers flanking each other .... a wall 6 ft. thick, studded with numerous turrets, a fence of strong and high palisades and a moat 24 ft wide and 6 ft deep ....." (Smith)
"Leland, who visited the place about 1540 writes thus: 'Lathom, most part of stone. The chiefest house of the Early of Derby. Two miles from Ormskirk' ......" The house was besieged by Parliamentary forces in 1644, and again in 1645 when it was almost destroyed. ".....two or three little timber buildings being alone left to mark the spot of the palatial mansion ...."(VCH) "....a portion of the old chapel, of which the greater part ..... lies in the grounds, is known to have been incorporated in the South front of the present hall, nearly opposite to which, and not far from the entrance, several skeletons in recent years have been found ......" Several carved stones belonging to the old building have also been found, and east of the hall some 17th c. tobacco-pipes (Smith). The present Lathom House was built on or near the site of the original between 1724 and 1734. The centre part of the house was pulled down in 1925. The two wings now standing are unoccupied property of the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board (OS Reviser). (VCH 1907; Smith 1872; OS Reviser)
The present Lathom House is often said to stand on part of the site of the old house, but this is at least doubtful. Seacome describes the old building as standing upon marshy ground in a hollow, whereas the present house is situated on fairly high ground commanding an extensive view. Nothing now remains of the old building, and no picture of it is known to exist, the drawing by Roby in "Tradition" being purely imaginary; but if Seacome's description of the site is correct it could not be where the present building stands, and was more likely 1/2 ml. to the south. In the grounds are many pieces of stone from the old building, including the pieced up tracery of a large window (Cheetham 1920).
Bishop Rutter, who was resident at Lathom House throughout the siege of 1644 describes it as standing on 'a flat, upon moorish, springy and spumous ground ...' hidden from sight by rising ground on the south and southwest, and north and east, sides which sloped so abruptly down towards the mansion '... that nothing (i.e. no cannon) planted against it on those sides can touch it further than the front wall ...' The situation of the original Lathom House is supposed to have been between the northeast offices of the present mansion and the kitchen garden (Draper 1864).
The old LATHOM HOUSE has completely disappeared and its site is unknown. A shallow depression in front of the house is said to be a moat but this is doubtful.
SEACOME'S description of the site seems to point to the house being somewhere in the vicinity of the ditch called CROMWELL'S TRENCH and about 1/2 mile from the present LATHOM HOUSE which was built in the early 18th cent (Broxap 1910)
"LATHAM HOUSE stands upon a flat, upon a moorish, springy and spumous ground, was encompassed with a strong wall of two yards thick; upon the walls were nine towers, flanking each other, and in every tower were pieces of ordnance, that played three one way and three the other. Without the wall was a mote eight yards wide and two yards deep ..... {also} ... a high strong tower called the EAGLE TOWER in the middle of the house .... and the gatehouse was also two high and strong buildings, with a strong tower on each side of it." {Includes a rather confused description of the situation of the house, referring to it as a natural stronghold and compares it to the palm of a man's hand, flat in the middle and with rising ground about it. The rising ground is said to be so close to the house that it was not possible to use artillery to breach the walls, presumably because the pieces could not be depressed sufficiently}
The ninth earl of Derby erected a new front to LATHOM HOUSE but died in 1702 before it was finished. His brother, the tenth earl, who died in 1736, rebuilt the seat "in the modern way" (Seacombe 1793)
The present LATHOM HOUSE, only the two side wings of which remain, is empty and delapidated. The architecture is of the 18th cent in the classical style. The information given by {Seacombe} would indicate that a house existed here in the late 17th cent and was rebuilt in the early 18th cent. The situation on high ground commanding an extensive makes it extremely unlikely that this is also the site of the house involved in the sieges of 1644 and 1645, the position of which, described by {Cheetham; Draper and Seacombe} was in a hollow. In the grounds around the present house are scatters of stones (some dressed) and both early and modern brick. Local enquiries revealed that during the war of 1914-18 the site was occupied as a remount depot with many buildings, since demolished, in the grounds. Much of the material lying about probably came from these buildings or the demolished central part of LATHOM HOUSE, although some may be associated with the house that existed before the rebuilding in the early 18th cent. The possible moat referred to by {Broxap} is about 150.0m south of the house in a field now under the plough. In its present state it consists of a wide shallow depression oriented east and west and extending for about 60.0m. It is 18.0m wide with a maximum depth of 0.5m. There is no evidence that it ever formed part of a moated enclosure. In the vicinity of this depression there is a heavy scatter of occupational debris, stone, brick, glass, pottery etc. The black earth in the bottom of the depression suggests that it was once water filled and may have been a pond forming part of some ornamental ground. The ground between the NE corner of the hall and the kitchen garden, referred to by {Draper} as the supposed site of the original LATHOM HOUSE, is on a NE slope. There are no traces of building foundations and the situation in no way agrees with that described by {Cheetham; Draper and Seacombe} The only trace of the chapel referred to by {Smith} is a small piece of window tracery lying with other stones about 150.0m SW of the house. This may have been part of a domestic chapel incorporated with the house that existed before the early 18th rebuilding. There is no record of any pre-Reformation chapel in this area except for that attached to the nearby almshouses. (SD 40 NE 1) Centred SD 46650844 The most likely site for the original LATHOM HOUSE is about 900.0m SE of the present building. Here there is a moated enclosure which incorporates the ditch called CROMWELL'S TRENCH referred to by {Broxap}. The situation agrees in every respect with that described by {Cheetham; Draper and Seacombe} being in a marshy hollow with higher ground to the NE and SW. The site is only really accessible from the NW where there is lower ground. The fortifications form a rectilinear figure the east and north-east side of which is formed by 'CROMWELL'S TRENCH' a deep, steep sided, artificial ditch. On the NW and SW sides the defences consists of a deep, narrow ravine carrying a small stream, and probably partly artificial. To the south is a wide, high, bank which also appears to be partly artificial. There is a trace of an outer ditch to this bank at one point. The marshy ground on this side would be an additional defence. The defences in their present state are strong but damming of the stream where it leaves the north side of the enclosure would make them even more formidable and would probably form a continuous water obstacle. None of the present gaps in the defences could be associated with an original entrance. The interior of the enclosure is heavily overgrown with bracken, bramble and bushes. The partial perambulation that was made revealed no traces of any occupation. In view of the contemporary descriptions of the house with its massive curtain wall, towers, barracks and gatehouse the absence of any stonework is remarkable and is the only doubtful feature in the association of this site with the original LATHOM HOUSE. The defences and situation are such that with a fairly high wall inside the moat ({Seacombe}) refers to a wall two yards thick but gives no height) it would be very difficult for a gun with a flat trajectory to hit any building within the enclosure. {Draper} states "that nothing (i.e. cannon) planted against it on those sides (south and south-west, north and east) can touch it further than the front wall". Despite the absence of any stonework or building foundations it is concluded that this moated enclosure is probably the site of the original LATHOM HOUSE, destroyed in 1645 (Field Investigators Comments F1 EG 26-NOV-57). (PastScape)

Latham-house stands upon a flat, upon a moorish, springy, and spumous ground, was encompassed by a strong wall of two yards thick; upon the walls were nine towers flanking each other, and in every tower were six pieces of ordnance, that played three the one way and three the other. Without the wall was a mote eight yards wide, and two yards deep; upon the back of the mote between the wall and the grass, was a strong row of palisadoes around; besides all these there was a high tower, called the Eagle Tower, in the midst of the house, surmounting all the rest; and the gate-house was also two high and strong buildings, with a strong tower on each side of it; and in the entrance to the first court, upon the top of these towers, were placed the best and choicest marksmen, who usually attended the Earl in his hunting and other sports, as huntsmen, keepers, fowlers, and the like; who continually kept watch with scrued guns and long fowling pieces upon those towers, to the great annoyance and loss of the enemy, especially of their commanders, who were frequently killed in their trenches, or as they came to went to and from them. (Seacombe)

It is noteworthy that this site was more defensible in the C17 for being in a low lying location rather than on high land. Smith (1872) dates the site from temp Edward I but gives no evidence for this opinion. Seacombe's description appears to be that of a courtyard house possibly like Bodiam Castle, although with an additional outer court. However Lewis (1848) states it had a rather incredible 18 towers. Leland mentions it 'most parte of stone, the chefest howse of the Erles of Darby.' At no time, despite all these towers is the house called a castle.
Wikipedia (7 June 2013) reports medieval foundation were found at the site of C18 Lathom House (SD459091) and it is often thought the C18 house site occupies the site of the medieval house (including in earlier version of this database). The documentary evidence supports the medieval house as being located in Spa Roughs wood and the found medieval remains may represent a hunting lodge in the park.
The Stanley's (Earl of Derby) were an up and coming family but relatively new as nobles. Lathom House might be compared to other 'castles' of similar nouveau riche. (c.f. Kirby Muxloe or Herstmonceux)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:30

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