Legends has evolved that Ordsall Hall was the location for Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby to plot the overthrow of King James in what was to become the famous Gunpowder Plot. Such has this legend gained credibility that the street directly adjacent to the Hall has been named 'Guy Fawkes Street'.
Whether the belief that Guy Fawkes hatched the Gunpowder Plot at Ordsall Hall is based upon fact or not, Harrison Ainsworth's novel (Guy Fawkes or The Gunpowder Treason: An Historical Romance, 1841) has cast the halo of romance around the Hall.
Passing through the rooms of the Hall, especially through the Star Chamber, it is easy to believe those moving scenes in which the great novelist has shown us the conspirator hiding from the troopers of King James, or brooding over the details of the plot that was to free the Roman Catholics from persecution.
In his romantic novel of Guy Fawkes, which many people have accepted as authentic history, Ainsworth introduces us to one Viviana Radclyffe, the sole representative of her family at Ordsall Hall during the absence of her father, Sir William Radclyffe, who is away attending a meeting of Catholic gentry at Holt in Cheshire.
Viviana is represented as a fair maiden of eighteen, whom Catesby comes in secrecy to woo, and at Ordsall encounters Guy Fawkes, who has come to secure the support of the Radclyffe's in the plot.
When the Hall is raided by pursuivants, come to the arrest the Roman Catholic priest in hiding at the Hall, Viviana, Catesby, Fawkes and the priest are all rescued by the timely intervention of Humphrey Chetham, who conducts them by a secret passage running beneath the moat to a summer house in the grounds, and thence through Old Trafford and Chat Moss.
Humphrey Chetham is portrayed as in love with Viviana, but differences of religious faith make their marriage impossible, and the story closes with Humphrey left solitary, his life 'tinged by the blighting of this early affection... true to his love, he died unmarried'.