Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Levens Hall, Levens

Levens Hall

Levens Hall, along with Sizergh Castle, is one of the South Lakes area's most popular tourist attractions, and is world famous for its topiary gardens. From my point of view however, the hall is a fascinating collection of period buildings, based around not one, but probably two fortified towers, one highly visible whilst the second is hidden...incorporated into the core of the structure.

Above. View the Levens Hall looking South towards the 16th century tower.

Levens was traditionally the seat of the Redman family, who may have been in possession of the estates here at Levens from the 12th century right through to the mid 14th century, when Curwen speculates that the original fortified building was constructed. This original tower, with accompanying hall block and tunnel vaulted basement is now hidden within the confines of the wing to the rear or the East side of the building, shown in the photo below.

      Above. View of the East side of the hall, possibly incorporating a 14th century tower.

I have been on the tour of the interior of the Hall, but this was many years ago, so I unfortunately have no recollection of what was visible in this portion of the building. Next time I visit I'll make sure I check out the architecture here to try and establish what is left of what is rumoured to be the original fortified part of the building. Peter F Ryder in his review of the defensible buildings of South Lakeland seems fairly reticent about Curwen's suggestions about this earlier tower....he does agree with Curwen that the presence of the thick walls here could suggest an early tower, but doesn't fully commit himself.

 Above. View of the Hall through the gates.

The view above, shows the tower (the second bay from the right) which most likely dates from the 16th century, and is clearly shown in Machel's sketch from his travels during the 17th century. Peter F Ryder has contemplated that the tower may be earlier, possibly basing his assertions on the look of some of the architectural features that can still be seen. 

 Above. Close up of the tower, possibly dating from the mid 16th century.

Above. Machell's sketch of the hall as it would have appeared to him in the 17th century.

When all is said and done, it's plain to see that Levens is a complex structure, with each succeeding family adding to and changing the fabric of the hall and its attendant buildings. The Bellingham and Grahame families have all had input into the building, and their contributions over the years have only served to enlarge the site and further confuse us.

 Above. View of the hall from the gardens to the North.

 Above. Oblique view of the 16th century 'pele' tower.

 Above. The South side of the Hall.

Mike Salter, in his The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria surprisingly makes little mention of the hall, and his comments don't really contribute much to the discussion. 

When the Grahame family took ownership of Levens, in 1688, Colonel James Grahame brought a French gardener Guillaume Beaumont with him. Beaumont was responsible for the design of the gardens in 1694, as well as the long avenue of trees across the River Kent in 1701.

The Levens Hall website is well worth checking out.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Roman tile kiln, Scroggs Wood, Kendal

Roman tile kiln
Scroggs Wood

From the title of this new posting, you'll probably by now have worked out what this small indentation in the earth could be. By all accounts, it's a collapsed tile kiln, possibly Roman in origin, and more than likely connected with the Roman fort of Watercrook just across the River Kent nearby.

The kiln was discovered in 1814, but the fact that it is in the region of 2000 years old took a back seat, when two bodies were found buried within the collapsed remains. These bodies were not affected by the heat of the kiln, so it's likely that they were buried there after the kiln ceased to be used. Apparently one of the bricks recovered from the kiln is now in Kendal museum....I'll have to see if I can photograph it for this posting. The kiln may date from the last period of occupation of Watercrook fort (between 120 and 130 AD) and may have been part of the large civilian vicus that sprang up around the fort in its later years. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Kelter Well, Clifton

The Kelter Well

The Kelter Well can be found just to the side of the A6 on the Southern outskirts of Clifton. I guess the well was once a source of water for the residents of this small Eden village, but looks to have been turned into a memorial to those who died during the skirmish that took place here between the retreating army of Charles Stewart and the Duke of Cumberland's pursuing army in 1746.

The sandstone plaque to the rear of the small enclosure, reads "The Battle of Clifton Moor, 18th December 1745". Traditionally this is always stated as the last battle to have taken place on English soil. The skirmish, as it's probably better described as, involved the rear-guard of Charles Stewart's retreating army and the Duke of Cumberland's pursuing army. 

Above. Memorial to members of Bland's Regiment who died at Clifton.

It's thought the skirmish only lasted for a few hours but resulted in the deaths of around twelve Jacobite soldiers and around 15 English Dragoons. The outcome of this small engagement is widely thought to have been a minor victory for the Jacobite forces. The English Dragoons retreated a short distance, enabling Charles Stewart's forces to further retreat from England and back into Scotland. 

Monday, September 01, 2014

Bee boles in Kendal

Bee boles around Kendal

I've recently set myself a little project of 'collecting' as many of the surviving bee boles in Kendal as I could find, and that were easily photographed. All in all I think I've done pretty well. I think a couple have probably been removed or built over, and another is on private property and the owners never got back to me with permission to photograph their boles. So....here are the latest that I've managed to bag.

Rosemary Lane.

This tiny collection of boles, consists of four recesses set about a foot apart. I've seen photos of them when the undergrowth had been cleared away and they are in remarkably good condition. However, the small patch of land on which they are built is now over grown and they're very difficult to photograph....as you can see. It's thought that these boles may have been built in the early 1800s. They're not readily visible and a little climbing was necessary to catch these photos.

Captain French Lane.

This bole is huge, probably standing to four feet high. There is a small shelf in the rear that may have been used to hold the skep during the winter months. The bole is built into the retaining wall that is built into the foot of Castle Garths, and has probably undergone significant consolidation works, as its entry in the IBRA Bee Boles Register states that its condition was 'fair', but looking at this recent photo, its fair to say its in excellent condition now. This bole probably dates from the mid to late 1800s, and is said to have been one of a number of bee boles in this area. Others are said to have been existed in the grounds of the nearby Brewery.


When the old Renault garage was demolished to make way for new buildings, the structures shown below were exposed in the rear wall of the land to rear of the garage. At first it was thought they may have been the remains of small iron forges, and that there could have been a smithy here....but with my collection of bee boles growing I thought that these could perhaps been boles, bricked up when the housed here were demolised in the early 1900s.

Stricklandgate House.

Whilst waiting for the culinary delight that is a McDonalds burger, I noticed the small arch bricked up between the two black bollards. I'm taking a wild guess that this area may have been the back garden or yard of Stricklandgate House, which would have made it the ideal place for a set of bee boles. There is no mention of this structure anywhere, and its inclusion here is pure guess work.

The IBRA Bee Boles Register is your first stop for searching for these intriguing structures,  but don't be disappointed, many of them are on private property and may not be visible.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kendal Castle, Kendal

Kendal Castle
Castle Hill

One of my favourite castles, Kendal Castle is a shadow of its former self. Neglected by generations of Parrs and subsequent owners, we're really lucky to have any remains here at all. So much has vanished and been quarried away over the years, that its surprising just how much remains looking over the town. Kendal Castle is visible from all roads leading into the town, and I think this is what gives the castle its charm. The seasons also play their part, giving the castle many different looks throughout the year.

Above. The castle, probably from Castle Howe. 

Above. The castle from Low Fellside. 

Above. The castle from Scout Scar to the West of Kendal. 

Above. The castle from Castle Garths to the West, just below Castle Howe. 

Above. The castle from Sedbergh Road near the Castle Green Hotel. 

Above. The castle, looking East from the top of Captain French Lane. 

Above. The castle looking East.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Castle Howe, Kendal

Castle Howe,

Castle Howe, Kendal’s first castle, lies on the hill side over looking the West of the town. The earthwork remains are sandwiched between Gilling Gate and Beast Banks, and are easily accessible from both sides by footpaths.

Above. Castle Howe with the beacon on Castle Hill in the foreground.

The remains consist of an extremely well defined motte, rising to around 11 metres, and around 18 metres in diameter at the summit. The base of the motte measures around 160 metres, and is surrounded by ditches and embankments. The bailey lays to the East of the motte, and is roughly triangular in shape, and has been destroyed by the creation of a public park, once a bowling green.

Above. Castle Howe from Castle Hill to the East.

There have been numerous dates put forward for its creation. One suggested date is 1092, a date which ties in with the invasion of part of Westmorland by the Normans in their push North.

Above. Castle Howe from the East looking across Castle Hill.

The Barony of Kendal fell at the hands of Ivo de Taillebois at about this time. Ivo was brother to the Earl of Anjou, and an avid follower of Duke William of Normandy, supporting the Duke in his invasion of England in 1066. As a reward for his unfailing military support and success, Ivo was granted the Barony of Kentdale, a title that brought with it huge swathes of land in what is now Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.

Above. Castle Howe in Winter.

As well as Castle Howe in Kendal, Ivo also has connections with Kirkby Londale’s motte and bailey castle on Ruskins Brow, and towns right across the South Lakes area, including Beetham, Kirkby Stephen, Kirkby Lonsdale, Heversham and Burton in Kendal.

Above. The base of the motte on the North side.

Kendal Castle, to the East of the earthworks, may have been built whilst Castle Howe was still being used. There’s no evidence to suggest that Castle Howe was directly replaced by the new castle the other side of the river. If anything, there’s every possibility that Castle Howe was the baronial centre of Kirkland, and that Kendal castle was the baronial centre of Kentdale.

Above. The memorial to the Glorious Revolution.

Castle Howe eventually became redundant, as did the castle, and the administrative centre of Kendal moved to the Moot Hall in the centre of town (Now occupied by Thorntons).

Above. Castle Howe from the bailey area.

In 1788, to celebrate the centenary of the revolution of 1688, an obelisk was erected on the summit of Castle Howe. The monument was designed by Kendalian architect Francis Webster. The earthworks are now looked after by South Lakeland District Council, with information boards placed at the foot of the motte.

Above. The motte from the North East.

The Saturday Magazine, (published in 1833 by the committee of General literature and education), indicates that the site was once known in Kendal, as Castle-Law Hill....which it claims indicated that local justice was meted out from the flat summit. A map of Kendal, dated 1863, also shows the motte and bailey with this name. (The motte is also known as Castle Low Hill...so the motte appears to have been known by a number of names in the past) Indeed, anciently, Moots, or Moot Hills were traditionally places where the law was upheld, a place where the judiciary would meet to decide on local cases brought before the elders or judges.

Above. The foot of the motte looking up the stairs on the South side.

Other traditional explanations accredited to Castle Howe, state that the mound is the remnant of a Roman watch station, or even a siege work, thrown up when Kendal Castle was being attacked (by whom I'm not sure, but there's no historical indication that the castle was subjected to any military action) Local tradition was that Kendal Castle was 'knocked about' by Oliver Cromwell, but it's now known that Cromwell paid little or no attention to Kendal, and the castle probably saw little or no military action against it.

Above. Looking across the bailey to the motte.

So Castle Howe has not always been recognised as a motte and bailey castle....indeed it is only in the past 80 years or so that its true nature has been identified, and the many uses and reasons for its existence are readily identifiable when inspecting old maps of the town.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

St James' church, Burton in Kendal

St James
Burton in Kendal

There has been some suggestion by a few authors that the tower of Grade I listed St James at Burton in Kendal "may have been a pele" (to quote the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiqarian and Archaeological Society 1901) I've included a few photos of the tower here for reference. Though the tower, dating from the 12th century boasts walls some four feet thick in places, and no windows at ground floor level, it's very unlikely that this would have formed part of a fortified church, as at Great Salkeld for example. 

The tower and Nave are separated by a tall 12th century arch which would have meant that the Nave and tower would have had to have been part of the same fortified 'enclosure'. As the Nave shows no indications of defence at all, the tower is most likely a simple tower designed to hold a heavy peal of bells.

Above. Plan showing the tower and Nave.

Perriam and Robinson (The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria) reject the suggestion that this was a defensive or fortified building in any way and I'm inclined to believe them.