LANCASHIRE is not the first place you would associate with William Shakespeare - but a group of actors made the short journey from Bolton to Preston to discover the Bard’s connections to the Red Rose County.

The cast of the upcoming production of Twelfth Night left the Octagon Theatre’s rehearsal room to visit Hoghton Tower yesterday, where a young Shakespeare stayed as a member of a group of theatrical players, between 1579 and 1581.

Along with Sir Bernard de Hoghton, they explored the rooms of Hoghton Tower, a Grade I listed building and the ancestral home of the de Hoghton family, in preparation for the play, directed by David Thacker.

Mr Thacker, the Octagon’s artistic director, said: “It was great for the cast to be able to see Hoghton Tower where many scholars believe William Shakespeare worked as a tutor before becoming a playwright.

“I’m sure Shakespeare was drawing on his experience there as a young man when he wrote Twelfth Night about 20 years later. And it was wonderful for the actors to be able to imagine him there.”

Recreated in 1565 by Thomas Hoghton, the ancient, hilltop manor house, which stands 650ft above sea level, retains its all of its Tudor-Elizabethan character.

Rosie Jones, who will play Viola — a young lady shipwrecked on a foreign land who disguises herself as a man to work for the Duke, Orsino — was one of the 10-strong cast who made the journey.

Rosie, who is currently playing Vickey in Hobson’s Choice at the Octagon, said: “For Viola, it’s useful coming and here to see how it would have been as a working house.

“The landscape and everything about the place feels like Shakespeare could easily have done some of his writing here.”

Professor Richard Wilson, the Sir Peter Hall Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kingston University, London, believes a teenage Shakespeare was brought to Hoghton Tower by Edmund Campion, a Jesuit priest, or John Cottam, his schoolmaster.

Sir Bernard, the 14th Baronet, said: “William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and we think he came here in 1579 which would make him 15, which was the statutory age you left grammar school.”

The Hoghton family, who lived at the Tower for hundreds of years, were staunch Catholics and the cast of Twelfth Night were shown priest holes, where priests would hide during the period when Catholics were persecuted by law in England, from the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558.

Volunteer Richard Roberts showed the group the room most associated with Shakespeare — the school room — which later became a ballroom complete with sprung floor.

He said: “We believe that William Shakespeare had a role as a tutor and would have taught the children of the house in this room.

“He was well-educated for his time.”

Twelfth Night runs from February 27 to March 22.