Summers at Salford Hall

Exterior of The Nunnery, Salford Hall, in the early 20th century.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference PH117/2

Verity Fincher wrote down reminiscences of her summer holidays spent at Salford Hall. Her recollections of the building offer an insight into its uses in the early 20th century.

The Squire’s apartments

Our summers at Salford started with the Easter holidays. When my sister came back from her boarding school, there was a great packing of trunks and the usual arguing about what room there would be for the toys and books we wanted and the clothes we would need. When we first went to Salford Hall we slept in the Squire’s apartments which were quite grand, we also had our meals there and used the dining room as a sitting room. There were two large double bedrooms, the one my parents used had panelled walls which had been painted a most horrible shade of greeny-grey. It had a large double bed with posts all round and faded tapestry curtains. Once a week we had a fire in the bedroom and a hip bath was brought in. A towel rail, with towels and our night clothes hung on it, warmed them ready for use when we hopped out of the bath.

The ‘faceless’ clock

To me the most exciting thing in the whole house was the ‘faceless’ clock. You started to walk up the shallow stairs which I think were made of elm and were uncarpeted, on the left was a cupboard and when you opened it there was the bottom half of the clock and if it had run down you could see the weights. At the top of the first flight of stairs were the Squire’s apartments, but if instead of going to them you turned left up another flight of stairs then on the left was another cupboard and it was here that the clock was wound up. On top of the house and clearly visible above the many angles of the roof was the belfry. Here the bell chimed the hours and the sound could be heard for many miles. It would tell the men working in the fields the time of day and in haymaking time it was heard with relief.

Past uses

Another bend in the stairs and another door in the wall, this time smaller. When you opened it there were shelves. If you pushed hard they swung open and below there was a dark and terrifying black space. This was the Priest’s Hole and legend had it that a passage led from here to the Parish Church and that it was used, in the years when Roman Catholics were persecuted for their faith, to make their escape. At the top of the stairs was the dormitory. It was no longer furnished but in the past this was where the nuns slept with the Mother Superior in a small room at the end.

When you went down the stairs again and just before you reached the Squire’s landing there were a couple of steps on the left. Up these there was another smaller dormitory even older than the other. The floors had great holes in them and plaster was coming off the walls which were festooned with cobwebs, especially over the windows. It connected with the wing we rented and to get to it you went down a winding staircase, at the bottom there was a narrow room on the right, and this looked out on the large hall. It was there the musicians played long, long ago when the house was in use and Lords and Ladies sat at the tables drinking wine and eating dishes of strange food brought to them by many servants and who were there to wait on them.

Verity’s full memories can be consulted at the Warwickshire County Record Office, reference DIG 195.

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