When William I conquered England in 1066, he brought his own noblemen over from France. One of these was called Herverus, who was granted lands in Norfolk, Suffolk and Lancashire. His grandson, Hamo, married Maud Bussel, daughter of the second Baron of Penwortham, who granted the manor of Hocton to his new son-in-law. More favourable marriages brought more land to the family, which over time began to spell their name as Hoghton and de Hoghton.
|Hoghton Tower prior to the new building|
The family seat was rebuilt in Tudor times, and was completed by 1565, but Thomas Hoghton, a Catholic, only spent four years in the finished house, before moving in exile to France. His nephew, Richard, inherited Hoghton Tower and, being more politically astute than his uncle, became a favourite of James I (who made him a baronet). In 1617, James had returned to Scotland for the first time in fourteen years, and on his return to England he visited Hoghton Tower, arriving on August 15th and leaving on the 18th. The driveway approaching the Tower is half-a-mile long, and Richard almost bankrupted the estate in buying a red carpet for it, in a bid to impress the King.
|King James's Arrival at Hoghton Tower|
We know from the Journal of Nicholas Assheton, who was present, that the ploy worked, as the King spent his time hunting deer and generally enjoying himself. On August 16th, the King killed two deer in the morning, before, the day being ‘verie hotte’, he went in to dinner. At about 4 in the afternoon, he inspected ‘precisely’, for about an hour, the alum mines to the north of the Tower, (still called Alum Scar today), which he bought from Richard (to his relief), before killing another stag and going in late to supper. The following day, Sunday August 17th 1617, the Bishop of Chester preached to the King, after which there was a rush-bearing, music, a feast, revels and a masque. The bill of fare for the feast survives, and gives an idea of the luxury: -
SUNDAY'S DINNER, the 17th of August, 1617, for the Lords Table. —
First course— Pullets, boiled capon, boiled mutton, boiled chickens, roast shoulder of mutton, boiled ducks, roast loin of veal, pullets, roast haunch of venison, burred capon, hot pasty of venison, roast turkey, burred veal, I roast swan and 1 for to-morrow, hot chicken pye, roasted goose, cold rabbits, boiled jiggits of mutton, snipe pye, boiled breast of veal, roast capons, pullets, roast beef, cold tongue pye, boiled sprod, cold roast herons, cold curlew pye, hot mince pye, custards, roast pigs.Second course— One hot pheasant, and one for the King, six quails for the King, partridge, poults, artichoke pye, chickens, roast curlews, buttered pease, rabbits, duck, plovers, red deer pye, burred pig, roast hot herons, roast lamb, gammon of Bacon, roast pigeons, made dish, burred chicken, pear tart, pullets and grease, dryed tongues, turkey pye, pheasant pye, pheasant tart, dryed hogs cheeks cold turkey chicks.
Sunday Night's SUPPER, the 17th of August, 1617.— First course—Pullet, boiled capon, cold mutton, roast shoulder of mutton, boiled chicken, cold capon, roast ml toiled rabbits, pullet, roast turkey, hot pasty of venison, roast shoulder of venison, cold herons, sliced beef, umble pye, boiled ducks, baked chickens, pullet, cold neat's tongue pye, roast neat's tongue, boiled sprod, cold baked curlews, cold baked turkeys, neat's fest, boilded rabbits, fried rabbits. Second course-Quails, poults, herons, plovers, chickens, pear tart, rabbits, buttered pease, made dish, ducks, gammon of bacon, red deer pye, pigeons, wild boar pye, curlew, dry neat's tongue, - tart, dried hog's cheek, red deer pye.
Monday Morning's Breakfast, the 18th of August, 1617. —Pullets, boiled capon, shoulder of mutton, roast veal, boiled chickens, roast rabbits, roast shoulder of mutton, roast chine of beef, pasty of venison, roast turkey, roast pig, roast venison, boiled ducks, pullet, cold red deer pye, four roast capons, roast poults, pheasant, herons, boiled mutton, wild boar pye, boiled jiggits of mutton, burred ditto, gammon of bacon, chicken pye, burred capon, dried hog's cheek, umble pye, tart, made dish.
So, at least there was plenty to eat. How about that for a breakfast?
|Knighting the Sir Loin|
It seems likely that it was at this merriment that King James proclaimed the loin of Lancashire beef to be the best he had ever tasted, and taking his sword, he knighted the beef, dubbing it Sir Loin.
|Exerpt from William Harrison Ainsworth - The Lancashire Witches 1849|
If this happened at all, and there is no reason to doubt that it didn’t, this was just the King having a joke, as he was reputed to be fond of wordplay, punning on the word ‘surloin’, French sur longe – ‘over loin’ or ‘top of the loin’, but the name has stuck and we use sirloin as the normal spelling of the word today.
|Knighting the Sir Loin|
The same story is also told of several other monarchs, including Henry VIII and Charles II, so maybe the royals like to recycle their gags. Just across the road, in Hoghton village, the pub cum restaurant is called The Sirloin, and does a cracking pint of cask ale (and a welcoming log fire on a winter’s evening).
|Knighting the Sir Loin|
In the afternoon of August 17th 1617, King James received a petition from the Lancashire people complaining about the restrictions placed on them by the Queen’s Commission of 1579, which prohibited the people from indulging in any kind of out-door games or sports on the Sunday, after evening prayer, or upon holidays. The King was graciously sympathetic, and agreed that this was an injustice to the " good people" of Lancashire. This event probably led to the publication, in 1618, of The Book of Sports, published by royal authority, in which dancing, archery, May-games, Whitsun-ales, and May-poles were permitted to be indulged in on a Sunday evening.
|King James Page One - The Book of Sports 1618|
This undoubtedly pleased the common people, but it upset the Puritan divines, as did its republication by James’s son, Charles I, and is said to be one of the causes of the revolution against the crown, resulting in the English Civil War. During that war, the Hoghtons were loyal to the king, as Richard’s son Gilbert fought against the Parliamentarians, until the Royalists were defeated at Preston in February 1643. Gilbert barely escaped with his life – his wife was captured – and Hoghton Tower was taken, during which the gunpowder magazine in the pele tower exploded, killing 200 men. Amongst these was one Nicholas Starkie – the son of John Starkie, the same John who was possessed at Cleworth, leading to the execution of Edmund Hartley, and who was falsely exorcised by John Darrel in the 7 from Lancashire case. It’s a small world.
|Hoghton Tower inner court|
Hoghton Tower fell into disrepair in the next centuries – Charles Dickens visited it in 1854 and lamented the damage, setting a short story George Silverman's Explanation there. Eventually, from the 1870s, repairs were made, and the Tower is now fully restored and welcomes visitors. There are regular summer concerts in the grounds, and open-air theatrical events too. It is well worth a visit.