The Stanleys had three major households in Lancashire: Knowsley Hall, Lathom House, and New Park. Please see the map for their locations.
The Stanley households were vibrant places to be with a constant stream of visitors and entertainment. The households were large, luxurious, and very busy. There could often be a preacher's sermon on Sunday, and a play performance the very same evening (Sally-Beth MacLean 217). Members of the audience for plays and sermons alike came from the surrounding area and were of mixed religious sympathies. This is, in part, what makes the Stanley households so exciting to discuss in terms of entertainment since this was "a site where people of Catholic, Anglican and Puritan sympathies were brought together" (Findlay and Dutton 8). The entertainment the Stanley households put on was important not solely for the nobility and gentry in the audience, but to the county in general, as: "the household of an earl could be the focus of the personal and political ambitions of a whole county, and its influence might extend even further afield" (Coward 85).
What Do We Know of their Households?
We have a fair amount of information about how the Stanley households were run and organized from the fortuitous survival of the Derby Household Book. Unfortunately most of the original buildings of Lathom House, Knowsley Hall, and New Park show little trace of how they looked in the sixteenth century (George, REED, li). Lathom House, was the Stanley family's principal residence during this time. It was destroyed in a dramatic siege during the Civil War ("The Siege of Lathom House"). New Park was situated less than a mile from Lathom House. All that survives of New Park is a small square earthwork on Ormskirk Golf Course. ("The Medieval Deer Parks of Lathom"). Knowsley Hall is the current Earl of Derby's main residence and does still incorporate some early Tudor parts of the original building ("Knowsley Hall").
The Stanleys maintained one of the largest groups of servants in the country to run their three households. In the sixteenth century they employed no less than 140 servants (DHB 88). They also employed their own fool (Raines 117). The household was run in the same manner of the Royal Court. The household accounts tell us that most of their consumption was provided for by their estates, for example, their ale was made in-house. An average week's consumption was "one ox, a dozen calves, a score of sheep, fifteen hogsheads of ale, and plenty of bread, fish, and poultry." (Raines viii)
Unfortunately William Ffarington, the keeper of the accounts, seems to have been constantly rushing as he recorded the events of the household. His terse writing and difficult punctuation make the records difficult to interpret. As Raines longingly notes "we could have spared much of what the Diarist has recorded to have enjoyed for a short time the table talk of the guests." (xv) What we do know about the households, is that in the short period of 1587-1590 players performed at least twice a year on important occasions. For more on this, please see the Visits page. The households were of central importance to the Stanley family and showcased their power and prestige. It is highly likely that the performances of Strange's Men and Queen's Men in the households would have been discussed across the county.
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