Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Beetham Hall, Beetham

Beetham Hall
Nr Milnthorpe

Travelling North on the A6, and about two miles South of Milnthorpe, Beetham Hall is easily visible from the road. The remains of this magnificent medieval hall are still incredibly numerous, with a tower, chapel, hall and out buildings surviving from the 13th century, mixed in with later buildings and barns.

Above. A view of Beetham Hall from the A6 to the South East.

Although the hall is privately owned, I think the owners are aware of the interest that such a building has for members of the public. As well as being allowed to freely roam the site on the day I visited, there are small signs dotted around the interior of the buildings stating what function they used to have. I understand that the property is owned by the estate at Dallam Tower, which also owns Heversham Hall.

Above. Part of the curtain wall.

As you approach up the drive from the main road, the first thing that you come across are the remnants of the curtain wall, or barmkyn. To the right of the drive these remain to around 15 feet high in some places, with loop holes still visible in much of the remaining wall. At around a foot and a half thick in places, the curtain wall would have provided good defence against a small scale raid or attack.

Above. Part of the curtain wall.

The wall’s route to the left of the site of the original gatehouse is now built over by a late 18th century or early 19th century barn. In fact, most of the curtain wall to the left of the driveway has long since been built over, with the only remains left protecting the corner of the courtyard. The curtain wall to the rear of the site has been destroyed, as has the portion that would have run along the North West side of the courtyard. Some of the wall’s remains have possibly corbels at the highest point. It’s been suggested that a wooden wall walk may have been built onto these supports.

Above. Interior of the courtyard showing the curtain wall.

Once in the courtyard the farm house is the first building to be seen, directly in front of you. This building dates from the 17th century, possibly 1693 or 1653 (the date stone is well worn) and was originally built for Thomas Brabin.

Above. Chapel window and piscina.

To the left of the house, and to the South of the courtyard, lays the remains of the Great Hall. This building would once have been the centre of the hall, and is 40 feet by 25 feet in size. The hall was lit by huge windows dating from the 14th century.

Above. Window in the old Hall.

They are still in situ, but most have been blocked up, probably to stop the sandstone supports from falling out. The left of the hall are the remains of the buttery wing, now much in ruin. These remains have Western walls from roughly the 14th century, and on the East, walls of a 17th century nature.

Above. The South facing window in the chapel.

To the right of the hall lays the solar wing, the Lordly living quarters of the whole complex. The solar is a two storey building, once four storeys, now roofless, with a small chapel on the first floor. The fine end window can still be seen in place, with sandstone arch heads. In the wall of the chapel a small piscina can still be seen embedded in the wall next to a small single light window.

Above. The solar tower at the South of the complex of buildings.

A door leads from the solar wing to a modern terrace that overlooks the fields to the South West of the complex. Here the outer wall of the solar wing shows considerable damage, with the huge cross walls damaged to about head height. All the windows are in situ and open, bar one, which has been bricked up.

Above. The chapel and the hall (to the right)

The hall was certainly built in the early 14th century, and has been continually added to over the years. After 1485, the lands at Beetham were forfeited to the crown when the Betham\Bethum family were found to have backed the Yorkist army at the battle of Bosworth Field. Henry VII granted the estates to the Stanley family in recognition of the fact that they had deserted the army of Richard III and joined Henry VII’s army, influencing the outcome of the battle in Henry’s favour.

Above. Another view of the chapel.

The hall was once again involved in political intrigue and royal jousting when it was besieged by Thomas Fairfax in 1644 during the civil war, suffering damage at the hands his forces. It’s not known what amount of damage was caused by this attack, but the hall was partially rebuilt in the 17th century.

Above. Beetham Hall from the South.

Above. Another view from the South.

Eventually it passed into the hands of the Cliffords (like many castles and towers in the Westmorland\Cumbria area) and then eventually into the hands of the Wilsons of Dallam Tower near Milnthorpe in 1767, and under who’s ownership it remains today.

Above. The solar tower from the West.

Although this is a private property, it can be seen clearly from the road side (A6) and also from a footpath that runs behind the property. Excellent views can be had from both vantage points.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Penrith Castle, Penrith

Penrith Castle

Penrith castle sits opposite Penrith station, sandwiched between Ullswater Road and Castle Terrace. With its Southern position in the town, it was the last of four fortified buildings in Penrith (the others being Hutton Hall, the Two Lions inn and St Andrew’s church)

Penrith castle is probably one of the most recognisable castles in Cumbria….a simple square plan castle of red sandstone, sitting on top of a low motte and surrounded by a dry ditch. The castle was originally a small pele tower, the remains of which exist to about chest height, and with a vaulted cellar below the flat platform that marks where the thin tower walls would have stood.

All that remains of the Strickland Tower is the platform from which this photo was taken.

This is the vaulted cellar beneath the remains of the Strickland Tower.

Penrith was always at the forefront of the border wars between England and Scotland, within easy reach of raiding and invading Scottish armies, and sometimes neglected by the English. In 1242, the manor of Penrith was in the guardianship of King Alexander of Scotland. The manor was granted to him in 1237 as part of a deal struck in York. The terms of the agreement were that King Alexander should give up all rights to Cumberland, Westmorland and Northumberland for an annual payment of £200 from the English crown. When Alexander died, the manor was inherited by John Baliol, but when he and Edward I quarrelled, the manor was seized by the English crown and granted to Anthony, Bishop of Durham. In 1345, in revenge for the loss of the manor of Penrith, a Scottish army crossed the border and burnt Penrith and the nearby towns of Salkeld and Sowerby. The following year (1346) a licence to crenellate was granted to the town, allowing for town walls to be constructed. The licence reads "Licence for the good men of Penereth to crenellate their town." (many thanks to Philip Davis) How much work was done on these defences is not known, but nothing now survives of them.

Documentation tells us that John de Deux, Duke of Brittany granted land at Penrith, by way of a lease, to William Strickland. Included in this grant, was the right to build a fortalice, or a small fortification, which the Duke of Brittany held the right to use when he was in the area. In 1397, William Strickland received license to crenellate the fortification from Richard II, and a pele tower was built. The exact wording of the license is as follows: “quandam cameram suam in villa de Penreth. Licence for William Stirkeland, clerk, to crenellate his chamber in Penreth in the March of Scotland.” There is some confusion over the exact location of this pele tower though. Some documentation seems to suggest that the tower is the one that still remains at Hutton Hall, whilst most historians agree that the license relates to the Strickland Tower at Penrith Castle. This tower is situated at the North East side of the castle, and as mentioned above, survives only to chest height. The entrance that leads into the courtyard today runs alongside the platform that this tower would have originally stood on. In 1399, yet another license to crenellate was granted, this time to build a barmkyn around the yard. The wording for the license is as follows: “Licence for William de Stirkeland, to whom the king lately granted licence to crenellate with stone and lime a chamber in Penreth upon the March of Scotland, to make a mantlet of stone and lime, join it to the said chamber and crenellate the same and so hold it for ever, in aid and succour of the said town and adjacent country. The roll recites the previous grant thus: "nuper," &c., "concessimus," &c., "licentiam," &c., "kernellandi quandam cameram in villa de Penreth March. Scociae. Nos de uberiori gratia nostra concessimus" &c., "licentiam quod ipse unum mantelettum de petra et calce facere et camerae prasdictae conjungere et mantelettum praedictam kernellare” These defensive walls were around 1.5 metres thick and remain in place today to their original height on the South East and South West sides, but have been pretty much destroyed everywhere else.

At this stage in the castle’s life, the internal buildings within the barmkyn would most likely have been of wood. It wasn’t until the early 1400’s, that Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, who was granted the castle by Henry IV started to rebuild the internal buildings in stone, as well as adding the Red Tower to the North West of Strickland’s Tower. (William Strickland had become the Bishop of Carlisle in 1400, so his interests lay elsewhere) The new stone buildings also included a great chamber, a chapel, a private chamber, a great Hall, kitchens and last of all, the White Tower in the North West corner of the castle’s yard.

The remains of the Red Tower.

The remains of the White Tower.

Ralph Neville was killed at the battle of Barnet in 1471, and subsequently, Edward IV granted the castle and the town of Penrith to his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, later to become Richard III. The moat was most likely also added at this stage. Richard Duke of Gloucester continued the expansion of the castle, building a strong gateway to the North West of the Red Tower.

The remains of the North Western gatehouse.

The tower here was built out beyond the castle’s walls, to a position where the gate house could be easily defended from the tower walls. The Duke effectively turned the castle into a Royal residence, and during the building work took up residence at the nearby Duke of Gloucester inn.

The Duke of Gloucester Inn.

Most of the buildings on the North West of the castle have been destroyed to such an extent, that there are barely any walls existing now that stand above waste height. The Kitchens and some store rooms are situated in this area, and although the floor plans are clearly visible, little remains of the walls above ground. A survey of 1565 tells us that the North East gatehouse was mostly collapsed at this time. Henry VIII had had materials from the castle removed to be used in building elsewhere. A further survey of the castle from 1572, describes the North Western gatehouse as in total ruin, the stables in danger of imminent collapse and the chapel, great chamber, hall and kitchens as un-repairable. It was also noticed that much stone had been removed from the castle.

The last years of the castle seem to be of little consequence. In 1648, it was used as a base by General Lambert for about a month. It was granted to the Duke of Portland by William III in 1694, and was later sold to the Duke of Devonshire, and then sold onto the Lancaster and Carlisle railway company. Penrith Urban Council obtained the castle in 1914, against the will of the people of Penrith, and the site was excavated and consolidated during the 1920’s.