Lintel inscribed with 'I 1608 F

Project Profile

Project Title :

Lucker Old Hall, Lucker

Client :

JMP Architects for HPB Assurance Ltd

Type of Work :

Desk-based Assessment, Evaluation and Excavation

Project Gallery 

Lucker dovecote   Possible medieval stone drain overlain by flagstones  
Remains of the Georgian hall   Cobble surfaces with the Hall in the background  
Cobble surfaces   Machining underway in front of the older section of the Hall  
Excavating a flagstone surface-docote in the background   Digital planning using overhead cameras  


Lucker Old Hall, Lucker, Northumberland


NAA are undertaking a programme of investigations for JMP Architects, on behalf of HPB Assurance Ltd, associated with a new holiday complex development on the site of the former Lucker Hall, in Northumberland. This former Georgian hall was sadly destroyed by fire in the 1980s and is now in a state of semi-collapse. However, the history of site goes far beyond 18th century, with recent excavation at the site beginning to provide a glimpse of life in medieval Lucker.

In 2013, a short phase of excavation uncovered evidence of settlement which included a series of property boundaries, cobbled surfaces, a stone lined drain, industrial waste and ridge and furrow cultivation; which can all be dated to the medieval period by the associated pottery fragments. Such well-preserved and comprehensive evidence of in-situ medieval occupation is relatively rare for Northumberland. This is because such material usually lies beneath the heart of an existing settlement and it is only when new development takes place that archaeologists have the opportunity to understand more about the foundation of our villages.

The first reference to a Hall at Lucker dates to the 1316, when in the midst of a period of savage border warfare and famine, Simon de Lucker built a new hall within the manor. It is uncertain whether this structure was in the location of the present building, although it would seem likely. The family retained the manor for five generations until David de Lucker died in 1379 without heir. The estate then passed to an uncle, John de Clifford, but was forfeited to the Crown following Sir John's part in a rebellion against the King in 1379. The treacherous knight was subsequently banished and forced to flee across the border to Scotland. The manor then passed to the powerful Percy family and formed part of the famous Barony of Alnwick. In 1569, Thomas Percy took part in the Rising of the North, when a group of northern earls unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow Elizabeth I, and again Lucker passed into Crown hands.

By the end of the 16th century the Hall was occupied by Thomas Forster of Adderstone, Sheriff of Northumberland and the nephew of John Forster, the Lord of nearby Bamburgh Castle. When Thomas died in 1587, he left a detailed inventory in his will of all the goods contained in the Hall including the furniture, pewter, kitchen goods and agricultural equipment. Using this we can determine that Lucker was a dwelling of some status during the Elizabethan period. Indeed, Sir Thomas was a favourite of Elizabeth, despite his rather licentious ways and numerous illegitimate children. On his death Lucker probably passed to one of Sir Thomas's legitimate sons, John, and this is the first direct link we have to the surviving Hall building. There is an inscription on a stone lintel above one of the doors which reads 'I 1608 F', which almost certainly refers to John Forster (J appearing as I in old script) and could mark the date of the foundation of the 17th century hall, part of which still stand today, although in a semi-ruinous state.

Soon after this date we have the first plan of Lucker, drawn around 1620. This shows the layout of the village and the surrounding medieval strip field system. The properties in the village are divided off into a series of rectilinear plots known as 'tofts and crofts'. These were the basic unit of land division in a medieval village. The 'crofts' are small buildings aligned along the road, while the 'tofts' are the narrow strips of land stretching out to the rear, used to grow vegetables, graze milk cows and keep chickens and the like. Two (or possibly four) plots can be seen within the area of the present development and during the recent excavations ditches and surfaces were found corresponding with these distinct land divisions. The 1620 map also seems to indicate a building which could be the Hall, although the scale of the plan is much too small to be able to discern anything clearly.

The first detailed plan we have of the existing Hall dates to 1815, on which the building is noted as 'Mr Forester's House'. This is probably a variation on the spelling of Forster, and indicates that the Hall had remained in the hands of the family since the late 16th century. The layout of the site in the early 19th century is much as it appears today, although the stables are different; the original stables being destroyed by a devastating fire in the mid 19th century in which 16 horses died. The walled garden and dovecote which both date to the 17th century, are shown, although the eastern wall of the garden was demolished in the mid 19th century.

Soon after 1815 the Hall became a 'highly respectable boarding school' run by Miss Thompson, but by 1865 was leased to John Archibold, a successful local farmer, The property was described at this time as being 'a superior dwelling house' containing two cellars, a porch, entrance hall, staircase, dining room, drawing room, breakfast room, two kitchens, a pantry, a dairy, a cold store, six bedrooms, one dressing room and a water closet. The Hall remained a high status building until the turn of the last century, and you can imagine the grand balls and gatherings held in its splendidly decorated rooms. Unfortunately, post war decline and the catastrophic fire in the 1980s has left the Hall in a sorry state and structurally unsound. It is too unsafe for any further building recording but an archaeological watching brief will be carried out during demolition, and then further works undertaken within the footprint of the structure, if required.

This will all form part of a second phase of excavation and monitoring works to be undertaken by NAA at Lucker Hall over the coming months, during which we hope to uncover further evidence of medieval occupation and potentially establish a date for the construction of the current Hall and any predecessors.

All of the recent work on the site has been funded by HPB Assurance, who recognise the importance of understanding and conserving Lucker's past, whilst ensuring a viable economic future through regeneration. Further updates will be posted following the next programme of works.

For the recent update Click here