Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire, built in stages from c1450 onwards, epitomises for many the black-and-white timbered architecture of north-west England. Its curious bay-windows, crowding each other in a corner of the courtyard, and the famous view of its gatehouse, tottering over the moat, make it one of the most memorable Elizabethan manor houses.
The final stage, the long gallery over the gatehouse, is almost certainly an afterthought, probably built in the 1570s by John Moreton. It defies logic, gravity and time. Indeed, an architectural model inside the building shows where judiciously hidden modern steel joists hold it rigid.
The Elizabethans were fascinated by height in houses, and many owners built galleries and belvederes so they and their guests could take indoor exercise while admiring the gardens and the distant views from above.
Present-day visitors can still pace back and forth between two plaster reliefs, taken from Robert Recorde’s The Castle of Knowledge (1556), reminding them of “The Sp[h]eare of Destinye whose Rule is Knowledge” and, on the other hand, “The Wheele of Fortune whose Rule is Ignorance”.
Not many people realise, though, that Robert Recorde was the Welsh mathematician who first introduced, in his The Whetstone of Witte (1557), the equals sign =.
If you visit Little Moreton Hall you can astonish your companions with that little-known fact as you breeze up and down the long gallery, and if they’re not suitably impressed, add that Robert Recorde also contrived the word “zenzizenzizenzic” to represent the eighth power of a number.
Where would we be without Wikipedia?
Visitor details for Little Moreton Hall are at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/little-moreton-hall.