Sunday, June 24, 2007

Godmond Hall, Burneside

Godmond Hall
Nr Kendal

This converted pele tower lays to the North of Burneside (to the East of Kendal) and just of the A591. At first glance, this beautiful building is nothing more than a secluded but large house hiding away at the foot of Potter Fell.

Above. An old painting of Godmond Hall.

On closer inspection however, the building can be seen to fit into that class of buildings common to this area....the pele tower. Looking at the photo, the pele tower is to the right of the main portion of the house, and has been much altered since its defensive days. The tower was built sometime during the mid 15th century, and the main house in the 17th century. The tower is two storeys high over a vaulted basement. The gabled roof replaces what was probably a flat roof with battlements.

The tower was probably built by the Godmond family, and in documents dating from 1777, the walls of the tower are described as being "two yards in thickness or upwards, and firmly cemented." The windows are described as being "small and crossed with bars of iron." The floors are described as being made of "many planks grooved into each other, to prevent assaults from above." The threat of attack was thought to come from 'raiders' unroofing the tower, and descending through the floors above.

Privately owned, the house is very difficult to photograph, most of all because of the well kept gardens. It probably warrants a visit in Winter when hedges and trees are bare.

Castle Dairy, Kendal

Castle Dairy
Wildman Street

Kendal’s oldest inhabited building, the Castle Dairy, lies on the North side of Wildman Street, about a hundred yards from Stramongate Bridge. Built in the 14th century as a cross wing house, the building retains many original features and is in particularly good condition. Originally a farm house, no doubt standing in open fields before the buildings of Wildman Street were erected, the house would have had open views towards the River Kent. The building was extensively re-modelled for Anthony Garnett, a successful local business man, in the 1560’s.

The name Dairy, is somewhat a misnomer, as the dairy associated with the castle, would most likely have been built closer to the outer curtain walls. It’s most likely that the name has been mis-spelled in the past, and in fact relates to Dowry….meaning a house where a Dower, or a widow would have lived. The house probably has connections with the steward of Kendal castle (as does the New inn on Highgate)

The house started life as a single storey cross wing house, a simple house with a range at one end. It’s quite likely that the two wings were added in the 1560’s, when Anthony Garnett gained possession of the building. Indeed, his name, initials and associated dates are scattered around the house in a host of intriguing carvings and stained glass windows.

From the outside, the single storey hall has three single arched sandstone windows to the left of the main doorway. The heads to these windows have been replaced fairly recently, including the carved faces. To the left of these windows, there is another simple sash window, next to a smaller door. Some old black and white photos of the house, show a stone built porch over this door. However it’s now been dismantled. Above the main door, a small date stone can be seen, bearing the initials AG and a date of 1564.

The right hand wing houses a huge square chimney, whereas the left hand wing has a traditional Westmorland chimney, round stacks and very tall. The dove cotes under the eaves of this wing appear to be still open to the elements, and sit above two sandstone arched windows. The ground floor windows are more recent simple sash windows. Each side wall of the first floor room has a small window in it, each one barely 10 inches high and 8 inches wide.

The left hand wing has similar windows, although the ground floor windows look much older, the sandstone more weathered and the lintel at a jaunty angle. This wing is an almost identical copy of the right hand wing, except for the round Westmorland chimneys, and the blocked dove cotes. The ground floor side wall has a tiny window in just below chest level. It is probably about 8 inches high, and no more than 4 inches wide, and consists of three tiny leaded panes of glass. Likewise, there is a similar window on the outside of the first floor of this wing. This time the window is about 6 inches high, about 3 inches wide, and again consists of three tiny leaded panes of glass. This window has a slightly arched head, and a solid sandstone surround.

Entrance to the house is gained through a doorway in the South East of the central hall. This single storey room contains a large range that dominates the wall to the left.

All the wood work in the hall is dark wood, probably oak (or so I’ve been told) and it dominates the house throughout making it dark and quite claustrophobic. The floor of the hall is made of huge slabs of what looks like Lakeland slate. To the right of the hall a small staircase provides access to the first floor North East wing. Above it is a small piece of vaulted ceiling. Two of the windows to this part of the house, contain tiny stained glass windows. Each window is no more than 5 inches high, and is a simple diamond shape, with the pattern\design painted in vivid yellow paint. Again, I’m told that these are all original. The first window contains the letters AG (for Anthony Garnett) surrounded by knot work. A grimacing skull is painted at the bottom angle of the window. The second window has a yellow fleur de lis capped with a crown.

To the rear of the hall, a small low passageway takes you through to the South West wing ground floor. The date 1560 can be seen clearly carved into the left hand wooden panel of the doorway. The other side of this piece of wood is carved with a Latin inscription: “PAX HUIE DOMUI” with a date that is too feint to read. It perhaps says 1718.

This small dark passageway leads to the hallway that links the older 14th century hall with the additional wing. There are three fine sand stone arches here, providing access into the one room of this wing. Up until the 1980’s, all but two of these were blocked off. The stone mason marks can still be seen carved into the stone uprights of the door ways. The floor of this passageway is of interest here. It continues into the room occupying the ground floor of this wing also. Legend has it, that this floor, collectively made of thousands of worn pieces of stone no more than a few inches long, is part of the old roman road that may have run along the banks of the River Kent, leading to the ford that was once placed where Stramongate bridge is now. Whether this is true or not….who knows, but this is a startling piece of architecture.

Moving into the main room of this wing, the walls are made of the old dark oak throughout, and serve to partition the room from a small passageway that then leads onto the kitchen from the days the Castle Dairy was a restaurant. The door that separates the kitchen from the rest of the building would originally have been an external door. It is thick dark oak with huge metal hinges, and sits inside yet another sandstone doorway. The floor here is a continuation of the pebbled floor in the small passageway next door.

Returning across the hallway and back through the central block, the area that was used as a bar is perhaps the most disappointing room in the whole house. The floor here has been replaced with a modern tiled floor. The bar area occupies an area that was once partitioned off but has since had the old wood panelling removed. All in all, the room is to all intents and purposes, a modern room.

Climbing the stairs to the first floor of the North East wing, takes you to the most interesting room of the whole hall. A short corridor to your right leads to the bedroom, which contains two interesting pieces of furniture. The first item is the magnificent four poster bed.

Again this is made of the dominant dark oak wood. The main feature is the head board, which is decorated with two male heads, one with horns, the other with what looks like rodent’s ears.

There are three maned lions beneath this, and the centre piece is probably the coat of arms of Anthony Garnett, for it is undoubtedly his bed. The coat of arms is made up of the letters AG surrounded with knot work (as in the stained glass windows) The second item of furniture in this room, is the dark oak ambrey.

The cornice of this fanciful piece of furniture is inscribed with yet more Latin: “OIA VANITAS HONOR DIVICIE POTESTAS” The date 1562 and the initials AG. A lion’s head sits in the midst of the Latin inscription. This room has a beautiful barrel vaulted ceiling, with dark oak supports running its full length.

Where these supports are joined, there are carved wooden bosses with more coats of arms carved on them.

There used to be three of these bosses, but only two now remain. The first contains symbols representing the families of Parr, Fitz-Hugh, Roos and Anthony Garnett. The second contains symbols representing the families of Deincourt and Strickland. One of the oak supports rests upon a finely carved pair of Gryphon heads.

There are also another four stained glass windows in this room. Again, each window is around 5 inches high, and diamond in shape. The first window shows the letters AG in yellow, with a grimacing skull beneath it. The second window shows an eagle plucking a child from a tree top. The third window shows the same scene, albeit with the yellow paint much removed. The last window shows the initials AG surrounded by knot-work. Besides the two main windows in this room, there are two additional tiny ones. Each window is no more than 8 inches high, and set within the thick walls.

Moving back down the first floor corridor, a doorway gives way to what was reputedly the chapel of the house. The wall separating the hall way from this room is dark oak panelled, whilst the other main internal wall is oak with plaster partitions (archetypal Tudor panelling) The windows in this room lend themselves to the idea that it was once a domestic chapel. They are distinctly arched with small leaded panels.

The First floor of the South West wing was unfortunately not explored. This wing is entered from the outside via a small flight of steps, and on the day I visited the keys were not available. A return trip will have to be made.

All in all the building is a stunning piece of medieval architecture, in excellent condition, and standing amongst buildings from many periods. It is probably Kendal’s only surviving ‘true’ medieval house, the many others in the town having much building work and redesign done on their fabric. Although it’s not open to the public, it can be viewed easily from Wildman street.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Medieval towers, St Tropez

St Tropez

A recent trip to St Tropez in the South of France revealed these medieval towers guarding the harbour in this ancient southern town.

There are three towers in total, guarding the harbour: Guillaume Tower (also known as Suffren Tower), Portalet Tower and Jarlier Tower. There are only two of the three pictured here (it was far too hot and far too busy to go looking for the third)

St Tropez also has a large 16th century citadel which now houses the Naval museum, but the three harbour towers are much older than this building.

Similar to the St Tropez towers, is the following...this time in Jersey, and not as old. This tower can be found at Greve de Lecq, on the North coast of the island. It was built sometime around 1778, probably being one of the first towers to be built in the face of a French\Napoleonic invasion.

The photo above (courtesy of Charles Jeffries) clearly shows the machicoulis...gaps in the masonry that the defenders could use to fire missiles at anyone attacking the base of the tower. This tower was part of a building project that incorporated the erection of 22 towers, later leading to a vast building project incorporating the South coast of England...again planning for the protection against a French\Napoleonic invasion. This tower did not stand alone in its defence of the North coast (for which it was the only tower built in this region) To the West of the tower, a redoubt was built on the headland, and on the other side of the bay, two batteries were built. The tower is painted white on the seaward side, making it visible far out at sea. This serves as a navigational marker for ships. The landward side is unpainted.

Preston Patrick Hall, Preston Patrick

Preston Patrick Hall
Preston Patrick

Situated about seven miles to the South of Kendal, Preston Patrick is a dispersed area of small hamlets and farms, and one of the older parishes in the South Lakes area. The area’s history dates back to the 12th century when Thomas de Wyrkington founded an abbey of Premonstratensian canons between today’s Preston Patrick and Holme. The site was eventually abandoned in favour of Shap Abbey. The name “Preston Patrick” is derived from “Priest’s town” or “Priest’s farm”, and from Patrick de Curwen, an earlier owner of the manorial area.

Above. Old photo of the hall.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, during the reign of Henry VIII, Thomas Preston, the then holder of the manor of Preston Patrick, purchased Furness Abbey from the crown, this purchase also including vast tracts of lands. He then quit Preston Patrick Hall in favour of the more comfortable lodgings at the abbey. From this time on, he made sure that the family name was altered slightly, so that in documentation, any Preston was to be known as a Preston of the Manor and the Abbey. No doubt a show of wealth and familial significance. In the 16th century, the hall and the manor passed to John Preston of Preston Richard and Nether Levens Hall, by way of marriage to Ellyn Curwen.

The hall as it is to be seen today was largely built in the late 14th century. It resembles Selside Hall near Kendal, with its twin wings, each of two storeys, and large connecting central hall.

Indeed, both wings, front and back, and an element of the extension to the left of the building are all dated to the late 14th century, with elements of both the ground floor and the first floor of the central hall also dating from this period. The central hall contains elements of some rebuilding work from the late 15th and early 16th centuries, as well some further rebuilding and redesign from the 17th century. The hall block was probably heightened during this latter period of rebuilding, and remains open right the way to the roof timbers.

Above. Floor plan of Preston Patrick Hall.

The basement in the right hand tower is vaulted, whilst the basement in the left tower is joisted. Whether this indicates two periods of building is unclear, but could just mean that the left tower was repaired at a later date using newer building methods.

Above. Machel's sketch of Preston Patrick Hall.

The right hand tower contains a room once used as a manorial courtroom on the first floor. This room is entered through a doorway at the top of a later flight of stairs, which clearly was once a window. The sandstone heads still remain in place. The courtroom was used to pass judgments on local Quaker preachers when the breakaway religion was first finding its feet. When the hall was being altered, a hidden staircase was discovered built into the wall, linking the house to the courtroom.

Some documentary evidence seems to suggest that the site was surrounded by a curtain wall, and that there was also an additional tower.