The History of Leighton Hall

The earliest records of Leighton Hall in Carnforth go back 750 years to 1246, when it is known that Adam D'Avranches had a fortified manor here. Since then there have been 26 owners of the property and only twice has the ownership passed by sale. Even now, the current owner is a descendant of that first recorded resident.

Every owner of Leighton Hall, with one exception, has been a Roman Catholic and during Penal Times a priest was always hidden somewhere in the house. The only owner to conform to the Established Church was Sir George Middleton, the last of the Middletons of Leighton, although his wife remained a staunch Recusant throughout, Sir George was a distinguished Cavalier. A colonel of the Royal Army, he was both knighted and made baronet on the same day at Durham in 1642. He was twice High Sheriff of Lancashire and paid fines amounting to £2646 for his loyalty to the Crown in Cromwellian times.

He was succeeded by his grandson, George Middleton Oldfield, who died at Leighton Hall in 1708. The next owner, the unfortunate Albert Hodgson, who had married Oldfield's daughter Dorothy, was taken at Preston in the 1715 Jacobite Rising. Leighton Hall was sacked and burned by government troops & Hodgson's life interest in the property was confiscated.

However, in 1722 Leighton Hall was sold at public auction and bought back for Hodgson by a friend, a Mr Winkley from Preston. Hodgson was eventually released from prison and retired to his ruined and heavily mortgaged property. The situation was saved in the next generation by his daughter, Mary marrying the wealthy George Towneley of Towneley Hall.

George Towneley rebuilt the house in the Adam style, replanted the woods and laid out the park in 1763. The present beauty of Leighton Hall's grounds is very much a result of George Towneley's investment. Unfortunately there were no children of the marriage and in 1782 Mr and Mrs Towneley left Leighton after establishing their chaplain in a house at Yealand which became the present Catholic presbytery. When in 1786 Mr Towneley died, the property was sold by his nephew, John, to Alexander Worswick of Ellel Grange in 1805. Worswick was a banker in Lancaster and married to Alice Gillow.

His son, Thomas failed in business after the Napoleonic Wars, but this was the start of the two hundred year association of Leighton Hall with the famous Gillow family. Thomas sold the property in 1822 to his cousin Richard Gillow, the grandson of Robert Gillow, the founder of the famous furniture business Gillow & Co. of Lancaster.

Richard was a man with fashionable ideas and so he refaced the house in the new "Gothic" style between 1822 and 1825 and retired from the business to live the life of a country squire at Leighton Hall. His wife was a Stapleton from Carlton Towers in Yorkshire.

Their son, Richard Thomas Gillow, inherited the property in 1849 and died in 1906 at the magnificent age of 99. Known throughout the county as the "Old Squire", he built the Roman Catholic Church at Yealand in 1850 and the new Victorian wing at Leighton Hall in 1870.

When he reached the age of 70, he was convinced that he had not much longer to live and could only be induced to carry out minor repairs, saying that the things would see him out. As he lived another 29 years, his grandson, Charles Richard Gillow, inherited a very dilapidated property.

Charles died in 1923, but his widow lived on at Leighton Hall until her death in 1966 at the age of 96. Their daughter Helen, married Mr, James R. Reynolds who was the son of the late Sir James P. Reynolds, Bt. Of Woolton, near Liverpool.

On her death in 1977 the house passed to their eldest son Mr. Richard Gillow Reynolds, who married Susan Kenyon, and they have two daughters, Katherine and Lucy. Richard and Susan Gillow Reynolds are the current owners of Leighton Hall. Like his father, Richard Gillow Reynolds continues to improve and renovate the Hall and its estate.