During 1984 an archaeological investigation of the Old Hall by the County Archaeology Service has shown that the late 16th century house was an enlargement of an earlier structure, almost certainly a late medieval Hunting Lodge.
The Wentworth Estate was remodelled in the early 18th century to suit contemporary taste, with artificial lakes and follies, and the Old Hall fell into disuse and was gradually dismantled in the 1720’s and 1730’s, Its stone and timber were re-used in a number of buildings including the present farmhouse which stands to the west of the single block of the Old Hall which was allowed to survive, and the ruins of you can see today.
In 1727 Daniel Defoe, the author “Robinson Crusoe” passed through the area on a tour of England he wrote :
“From Rotherham we turned north west to Wentworth, on purpose to see the old seat of Tankersley, and the park, where I saw the largest red deer that, I believe, are in this part of Europe: One of the hinds, I think, was larger than my horse, and he was not a very small pad of fourteen hands and half high. This was anciently the dwelling of the great Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, beheaded in King Charles the First’s time, by a law, ex post facto, voted afterward not to be drawn into a precedent. The body lies interred in Wentworth Church.”
Later in the 18th century the park was divided up and both coal and ironstone mines were created, and the landscape started to change.
The Remains of the Hall
At first sight the ruins of the Old Hall appear to represent one bay of an Elizabethan stone-built house of three stories with mullion-and-transom cross windows and hollow-chamfered string courses. On closer inspection it can be seen that the east wall is in fact the west wall of an earlier building.
During the 16th Century it was common for the nobility to take existing structures and completely re-model and extend them. A similar modification to a hunting lodge was Sheffield Manor.
Only one rectangular block of the hall exists today, and it is in a very advanced state of decay, and storms have made this much worse. An engraving made in the 18thCentury shows the Hall to be a long building with several projecting Tower-like bays to the front (Facing North). However the 19th Century sketch shown on the previous page shows a lot less. The building looks to be 3 stories, and there is evidence of a cellar on the site, now filled in. If you look closely you can see from the remains on the East wall that it is the west wall of an earlier structure, and contains the remains of a Medieval fireplace from that previous structure, on the ground floor. This wall has a fireplace near its south end, with a chimney behind it. The fireplace has a flat-pointed arch with a moulding of rolls and hollows that look very different to the Elizabethan fireplaces on the First Floor. On the first floor there are a series of heavy corbels, also of medieval character; a similar range of corbels on the external (i.e. west) face of the wall towards its north end carries a projection, probably a second chimney stack. At first floor level the internal (east) face of the wall has been largely rebuilt in brick, with two good Tudor fireplaces. The outside wall keeps its medieval outer face. One unusual feature of the ruin is that it has lead drainpipes to take the water off the roof embedded in the wall, which you can see in the picture.
The Archaeology report from 1984 mentions that the field to the East contains masonry just under the surface of the soil, and that further archaeological surveys could reveal more information regarding the layout out the Elizabethan manor house, which we know as Tankersley Old Hall.