Scarecrows at Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire

This week, Nick and I are enjoying a few days in my home town of Southport, a seaside resort on the Lancashire coast. We’ve visited a few relatives and spent time in nice places while we’ve been over here, so I thought I’d share a few photos we took at Rufford Old Hall.

Rufford Old Hall is a National Trust property near the town of Rufford in Lancashire. It is a beautiful Tudor building, built by Robert Hesketh in the 1530s and was owned by the Hesketh family for 400 years until it was donated to the National Trust in 1936. Only the timber-framed Great Hall survives from the original structure. The Jacobean-style rustic brick east wing was added in 1662. A third wing was added in the 1820s.

The Hall is surrounded by Victorian and Edwardian gardens and woods and flanked by a branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

We took photos of the Hall and gardens but also of fifteen scarecrows, many of which could probably be described as  unusual or even a little bit weird, placed across the grounds. One was hidden indoors, which we only found when we decided to head into the tea shop for a cup of tea.

I believe the ‘Scarecrow Event’ is held annually and the scarecrows are made by members of the local community and Rufford Old Hall staff and volunteers. Participants, mostly children – and being half-term, there were a lot of them there – are given a map with the locations marked on to help them find the scarecrows. They are also given a little bit of information about the origin of ‘scarecrows’, which I’ll summarise here:

In medieval Britain, scarecrows were originally young boys who were given the job of scaring away the birds from the corn fields (wheat, barley, oats or rye). Originally called bird ‘scarers’ or ‘shooers’, they would patrol the fields with bags of stones and chase away any bird that tried to land by waving their arms or throwing stones. The birds were mostly crows and starlings. The Great Plague of 1348 wiped out so much of the population there were just not enough boys for this job left. People started to stuff sacks with straw and carve faces in turnips to make ‘scarecrows’ they could stand against poles. Of course, wherever available, boys would continue to do this job as well, and did so until the early 1800s when factories and mines offered children better pay. Either way, life was not easy for many youngsters – but that’s another story.

I’ll say no more about the scarecrows. Here are all fifteen of them:

I’ll finish with a few more photos of Rufford Old Hall and the lovely gardens in their autumnal dress:


About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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31 Responses to Scarecrows at Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire

  1. I hadn’t known about the boy scarecrows. Thanks

  2. irinadim says:

    I love Tudor architecture. I had no idea the original scarecrows were real boys. Lovely post, Millie. Thanks for sharing.

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Irina. The Tudors certainly liked the elaborate look (well, the rich ones did, at least). The black and white is strikingly beautiful, I agree. It’s funny about the boy scarecrows and I imagine a lot of people would find that piece of information interesting (including me!). 😀

  3. Annika Perry says:

    Mllie, lovely photos and interesting about the history of scarecrows. There was quite a collection there for you to admire! 😀🎃

    • milliethom says:

      Hi Annika. Yes, it was an interesting visit altogether. It was fun finding the scarecrows and the grounds at Rufford Old Hall are lovely. I’d love to visit in spring when all the daffodils and other spring flowers are out. 😀

  4. anroworld says:

    Lovely story and amazing set of photos!

  5. arv! says:

    Hope to travel and explore historical sites of England someday! Your post certainly inspire me to do so!.

  6. draliman says:

    Lovely photos 🙂 I’ve been afraid of scarecrows ever since they came to life in a Dr Who episode 😦

  7. milliethom says:

    I know what you mean. After some of the horror films and TV series about scarecrows, they’re seen as totally evil – very much like clowns. There are often scarecrow festivals around Cornwall, so perhaps you need to watch your step . . . 🙂

  8. Love Rufford Hall – did you spot the ghost, or did the scarecrows frighten it away? I had no idea about the history of scarecrows; if I thought about it all, I assumed they’d simply evolved. These scarecrow events are becoming more common – there’s a big one at Wray, not far from Lancaster. You’ve shown some great works; the ingenuity and skill is varied, but always impressive!

  9. milliethom says:

    Thanks Mike. One of the Rufford scarecrows was the Grey Lady, so I suppose I could say yes, we saw the ghost of Rufford Hall. 😀 Unfortunately, I’ve never had any luck in meeting ‘real’ ghosts. Perhaps it’s me who scares them away – and I’d have liked to say ‘Hello’ to Queen Liz I
    You’re right, scarecrow events and festivals are becoming more common. There were scarecrows all over the place in the Land’s End area when we were down in Cornwall two years ago. I’ll look out for the event at Wray for next year as we’re often in that area. I have relatives in Carnforth so I’ll ask them to keep their ears open.
    The scarecrows at Rufford were definitely a mixed bunch but each one was interesting and creatively presented.

  10. Lovely post – Creepy but cool to know 😀

  11. thanks for the story Millie as always and great photo !! Happy Halloween!

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Cybele. I’m sorry to have left this reply for so long, but I haven’t been able to do any blogging for a while, so everything has been overlooked. Hope to visit your blob very soon.

  12. afairymind says:

    That looks like a fun day out! I love all the different scarecrows. 🙂

  13. Beautiful pictures; loved the scarecrows! Like your new witch mast, too. 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Jack – and many apologies for this very late reply. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me at the moment and my blog has been sadly abandoned for a while. Hope all is well over there in Arkansas and you are making great headway with your writing – and many other projects. 🙂

      • No problem, milliethom. I completely understand. Sadly, medical issues are taking up most of my time and I’ve been off blogs and the internet for awhile and my writing has taken a back seat. 😦

      • milliethom says:

        I’m sorry to hear that, Jack and sincerely hope you’re much better now. Medical issues are ongoing in my family, too, and I can’t wait this year to be over. My writing has also progressed very slowly, I’m ashamed to admit. Roll on 2018. 😀

  14. Joy Pixley says:

    That tea shop scarecrow does not look interested in scaring anyone away at all! Great photos, and what a lovely way to spend the day. I enjoyed the background on the scarecrow boys. Although my perspective is different — given the kinds of really hazardous work children did over the ages, that seems like one of the less dangerous jobs!

  15. Pingback: Cape Cod Scenes, Reading Adventures, and Neighborhood Turkeys | Sheila Hurst

  16. equinoxio21 says:

    Thank you for the post. Loved the Hall. 1500’s. That’s almost new by European standards. 🙂
    Something Americans will never quite fathom. We had a house in Normandy. A modern, two-century old thing. The church was from the 13th century… I do love those old places. Think of all the people who’ve lived there. The many stories those walls have head.
    Have a lovely week-end.

    • milliethom says:

      Yes, Tudor buildings are quite ‘young’ compared to the Roman remains and medieval castles – not to mention the many Neolithic structures around Britain. I adore old buildings and remains of any kind, and we spend a lot of time visiting them, both in the U.K. and whenever we go on holiday abroad. Your house in Normandy sounds wonderful but I presume you’re back in the U.S. now? I’d love to visit some of the petroglyph sites over there. Have a wonderful weekend, too – and I hope you had a very Happy Thanksgiving.

      • equinoxio21 says:

        I second that. My family is from Brittany, so I know the alignments of Carnac. Yes, I’m a “frog”. 😉
        And we’re not in the US, but in Mexico were we moved many years ago. Have a nice Sunday.

  17. inesephoto says:

    I am catching up, Millie. Haven’t been online much. Hope all is well.
    We too have a couple of Scarecrow festivals. It is exactly as you say – they are made by the members of local community during the year and then displayed around the town. So fun.
    The Rufford Old Hall is beautiful.

  18. milliethom says:

    Hi Inese, it’s lovely to see you! Apart from the few posts I’ve done in the last couple of months, I’ve hardly been on my blog recently, either. This year has rapidly gone from bad to worse for us, and I can’t wait for it to be over. But, I won’t go into all that now.
    The scarecrows were good to see. Some were better than others but together they made a nice, colourful display around the grounds. It’s a pity no photography was allowed inside the hall, but it seems that the items in there still belonged to the family.
    Scarecrow Festivals are becoming quite popular. One had just finished when were were down in Cornwall eighteen months ago. They are definitely fun! Thanks, Inese. 😀

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