Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kirkby Hall, Kirkby In Furness

Kirkby Hall\Cross Hall
Kirkby In Furness

Situated on the A595, the small village of Kirkby In Furness sits nearly eight miles North West of Ulverston, looking out over Duddon Sands. The hall shown below, is sited to the North of the village, next to the old railway. The hall seems to have been the subject of much debate regarding its defensive credentials....with some historians hinting that there may have been an earlier building on the site, possibly a pele tower or other defensive tower, or that the existing hall and its buildings, contain the remains of a pele tower or other defensive tower.

The building seems to contain the remains of two halls. The first hall contains a newel in the South Eastern corner, possibly indicating that there was a tower here....possibly the remains of our original pele tower. The second hall, to the East of the building, contains a very thick North Western wall, also possibly the remains of an earlier, defensive (?) tower. The East wing dates from about 1450, whilst the West wing dates from around 1530. The photo above, shows the South Eastern face of the hall. The newel lays beneath the middle of the three largest chimneys, and is probably the oldest part of the hall. The small, roofless building in the foreground, contains a number of bee boles in its South Eastern external wall. The West wing of the hall, contains the chapel, which was accessed through a wooden trap-door in the dairy passage. This small room still retains its wall paintings in ochre and black, depicting trees, animals and the ten commandments. The hall was originally called Cross Hall....a name it gained due to a preaching cross that was mounted in the South East angel of the courtyard.

The earliest building here was the home to the Kirkby from sometime in the 12th century. It is unlikely that anything remains of the original buildings. The Kirkbys were an influential land owning family from the 12th century right through to the 18th century. John Kirkby (born around 1204) was a judge on the King's bench, as well as Baron of the Exchequer. Richard Kirkby (born 1624) was Governor of Chester Castle. The Kirkby family were also Sheriffs of Lancashire and Justices of the Peace. The family's downfall was as a result of their support for Charles I during the Civil War. It's unusual that they managed to retain most of their lands....especially when considering the example of the Phillipson family of Kendal who lost both property and personal possessions for their Royalist sympathies!! The hall finally passed from the Kirkby family in 1719, into the hands of the Cavendish family, who in turn held the hall until 1771. Not easily accessible, but can be viewed from nearby common land.

Many thanks to Nick Cornah for the photo. Check the link for some great photos of the hall:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mote of Annan, Annan

Mote of Annan
Dumfries and Galloway

Laying some 18 miles to the North West of Carlisle, and situated a few yards off the A75, Annan possesses the earthwork remains of what was the original seat of the de Brus, or Bruce family. The badly eroded motte and bailey castle is situated just off the aptly named Bruce Street, on the East banks of the River Annan, and is, sorry to say, a shadow of its former royal self. The River Annan has completely removed the Western half of the motte, turning it into a narrow ridge....much the same as at Tebay.

The photo above, shows the motte looking North. The river is on the left of the photo. The ditch surrounding the motte can still be seen.

The motte now stands to around fifty feet high, and, due to the damage caused by the River Annan over the years, the once round motte, is now around fifty feet by twenty feet at the summit. A broad ditch that separated the motte from the bailey, can still be seen, stretching some 270 feet to the South, and about three feet deep. The motte and the bailey were also probably surrounded by a deep ditch, but these have long since been destroyed by the river, and a certain amount of landscaping that has taken place here.

The photo above, shows the base of the motte looking North, from within the ditch.

The castle is believed to have been built during the early 12th century, by the de Brus (Bruce) family. It seems that it was occupied for a very short period of time, as by 1166 it is thought to have been abandoned in favour of more comfortable and dry accommodation at Lochmaben Old Castle. Because of Annan's connection with the Royal Bruce's, the town became a Royal Burgh, and as a result of its importance, and its position so close to the border with England....especially being only 18 miles from Carlisle, it was frequently attacked, occupied and used by the English in their campaigns against the Scots. After the motte was abandoned, it seems that the church became the strongest and most defensible building in Annan, being used by Edward I in 1299, for safely and securely storing arms and supplies. The church was destroyed in 1547 by Henry VIII's army, forcing the towns folk to build a new fortified tower, surrounded by ditches and wooden palisades. This fortification was built by Lord Herries in the early 1560's, and was reputedly large enough to hold a garrison of one hundred men with fifty horses. It was destroyed in an English attack in 1570, but rebuilt again in 1579 by Lord Maxwell. Unfortunately nothing now remains of this later fortification.

The motte and its grounds are open during daylight hours.

Many thanks to Neil MacInnes for the photos.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Helsington Laithes, Nr Kendal

Helsington Laithes
Nr Kendal

The very ancient house of Helsington Laithes lays at the junction of the A6 and the A591 just South West of Kendal. During the Winter months, the stark white house can be seen clearly from the road travelling North into Kendal on the A6, but is hidden by trees during the Spring and Summer months. The manor of Helsington and the house have, in their long history, been home to local families the Helsingtons, the Stricklands, the de Thwengs and the Bellinghams....all land owning families in the surrounding areas. The earliest parts of the house date from the 15th century, this portion once housing the dairy and scullery. It is this part of the building that possibly represents the remains of a solar tower, long since changed, rebuilt and remodelled over the years.

This part of Helsington is situated beyond the wing shown in the photo below, to the East of the site. It is a three storeyed wing with a gabled roof, measuring some eight by six metres over walls some 1.3 metres thick. The West walls of this wing however, are a massive 2.4 metres thick.....somewhat thicker than most simple domestic houses of this era. The Northern wall of this wing is slightly thinner than the West, South and East walls, possibly indicating that it was once an internal wall, and that part of the building was demolished at some point.

The photo, above, shows the 16th century cross wing looking from the East.

The rest of the site consists of a 16th century kitchen block to the East of the early part of the building, together with a 16th century hall further to the East, and the 16th century cross wing shown above. There are also 18th century additions to the North and the South...not shown here.

Above. The West wing and the central hall.

It is thought that there was a hall on this site from as early as the 13th century, although it's unlikely that anything survives of this building. Check out the link to the Helsington Laithe's web site for details on renting the property and a brief history.


The Old Castle, Lindale

The Old Castle\Dixon Heights Tower
Lindale Nr Levens Cumbria

These illusive remains are to be found perched precariously at the summit of Eller How, high above the A590, some six miles West of Levens. The larger area is known as Newton area of South Lakeland that gives its name to two hamlets less than a mile apart...High and Low Newton. The heights are also known as Dixon Heights, with a right of way passing a few yards to the West of the tower's now sorry remains. According to the Cumbria Action Group, the ruins can be attributed to George Webster of Kendal, the town's famous architect and marble cutter, who owned land at Eller How a few hundred feet below Dixon Heights. He built the house at Eller How in 1827, so it's likely that the folly was built soon after this, probably as a summer house or a 'quiet' retreat. From here, the Webster family would have had excellent and unspoilt views across to Witherslack to the North East, Grange to the South and Hampsfell to the South West. The ruins are not linked in any historical way to the area a few hundred yards to the North, shown on maps dated 1851, as The Old Castle, but it may have been on George's mind to build the folly here, on or near the site of the Old Castle....whatever that name may have once applied to. Interestingly....also shown on this map, to the North of the Summer House, there is another site, clearly labelled as Tower. Obviously some more research of this whole area is needed, including a field take some more photos and to take a good look at the remains of the tower.

Philip Davis rejects this as a fortification, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. All documentation (what little there is) point to these ruins being the remains of a summer house or folly. The area to the North of the tower (Dixon Heights) is still called the Bishop's Tithe Allotments on ordnance survey maps. More research is needed to find out what this area referred to, although my best guess is that it was connected with nearby Cartmel Priory in some way....possibly Furness abbey even!!

I think the next step is to visit the ruins here at High Newton, and to confirm the type of building that can just be seen from the nearby main road. There are a couple of photos of the ruins here....but they don't really tell us much.