Hethersgill: Kirklinton Hall

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Kirklinton lies on what has always been the frontier zone between England and Scotland. Although it is not known what building, if any, stood on the present site in 1660, it is reputed that Edmund Appleby built Kirklinton Hall from the stone of the ruined Levington Castle as early as 1661. Edmund’s son Joseph married Dorothy Dacre of Lanercost and following the death of her brothers, she became a considerable heiress and the couple quartered their arms. Kirklinton Hall remained in the hands of the Dacre-Applebys until the mid 19th century when the Reverend Joseph Dacre sold the manor to the trustees of George Graham. He subsequently took the name of Graham Kirklinton, which became Kirklinton-Saul and by the 20th century, simply Kirklinton. The Hall was let out for much of the interwar period and the estate was sold in 1937. First requisitioned by the RAF for an officer’s mess, towards the end of the war it housed evacuees from Rossall School at Fleetwood. Following the war it was converted into flats which were occupied by servicemen working at Longtown MOD.

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A Mr Caine ran Kirklinton through the 1960’s as The Borders Country Club which was a casino and night club. Attracting gamblers both locally and further afield, the Hall had a glass-floored ballroom, exotic dancers, a first floor casino and bedrooms above. Mr Caine had gangster connections and there were many sightings of the Kray twins. Numerous famous bands and singers of the period performed at Kirklinton Hall but following a change in licensing laws, the casino ceased to be able to operate. Mr Caine abandoned the Hall which subsequently fell into a state of disrepair. An application to demolish the Hall was refused in the early 1970’s despite becoming a roofless ruin.

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Stable Block

Constructed of calciferous sandstone coursed rubble with dressed stone and ashlar, the 17th century house is a single pile three-storey c-shaped building. Featuring a five bay Classically dressed entrance facade, the windows have moulded architraves and full, flat entablatures. Red and buff sandstone appears to have been used decoratively and all the windows throughout the Hall were originally mullioned and transomed in stone. Kirklinton is stylistically attributed to Edward Addison, a pupil of the English architect William Talman. Talman was in the metropolitan circle of Wren and the Board of Works and a mannerism Addison learned from him appears in the frieze of the entablature – rather than being pulvinated or cyma recta, it is cyma reversa. The Hall has a decisive three storey arrangement with the piano nobile emphasised by rendering both ground and second floor windows as square with first floor windows approximately a double square.

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Up for auction in 2012, the opportunity presented itself to Christopher Boyle QC to step in and rescue Kirklinton from development schemes. In 2013, Mr and Mrs Boyle obtained planning permission and listed building consent to restore Edward Addison’s 17th century house. This work has started with the building cleared of rubble and forty year old trees, walls stabilised, outbuildings re-roofed and the restoration of the gardens and grounds.

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At some point prior to 1865, the Hall was doubled in length by the addition to the west of a two storey classical block with twinned curved bays under a ballustraded parapet. The west tower was completely rebuilt to house a grand staircase in what had become the central portion of the house. The gables of the rebuilt tower and the surviving east tower were elaborated with bold Jacobethan details. Above the door and first floor window of the staircase tower are upturned clam or scallop shells (below) which given the similarity, is considered a courteous nod to the Arms of the Dacres.

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The main stable block incorporates a much earlier altered stable and added a Jacobethan block to match the new gables on the Hall. A low single storey wing extends two sides round a cobbled yard and features a two bay carriage house and a boiler house.

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From a state of abject dereliction, the gardens and grounds at Kirklinton are being restored to Organic production. As much a ruin as the Hall, the formal terraces lay buried and invisible beneath grass, brambles and self-sown sycamores. The lawns and Kitchen Garden were high with hogweed and coarse grasses and the 120 yard long 18th century hot wall was decayed. Thankfully, this situation has been transformed. Drawing on contemporary writers such as Francis Bacon, John Evelyn and John Parkinson, the driving philosophy of the restoration seeks to explore and re-capture the 17th century spirit of the garden.

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The principle ‘Dulce et Utile’ (beauty and usefulness) is ingrained in the writing of the time and leads to the creation of a beautiful, yet productive, garden. The gardens at Kirklinton broadly follow their historical form and includes a 17th century style formal terrace which has been restored with English Roses.

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The Faerie Glen is a beautiful woodland walk along the cliff above Longcleughside Beck crossing three footbridges. Leading ultimately to the River Lyne and the Captain’s Seat, this notable local beauty spot is the site of an ancient rock-carved face (below). The legend tells that the carved face is all that remains of Maelgwyn the Fair, a faerie princess that pined away for love of the first de Boyville at Kirklinton.

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I completely disagree with Pevsner’s description of “an all rather bleak indifferent Georgian five bay centre.” The magic of Kirklinton invites you to appreciate this architectural delight where there is intrigue, mystique and beauty. Christopher and Ilona Boyle welcome you to “a place not to be rushed; a place whose special atmosphere needs to be savoured and soak up a little faerie dust.” As Alfred Tennyson wrote in 1849: ” An English home – gray twilight. On dewy pastures, dewy trees. Softer than sleep – all things in order stored, A haunt of ancient peace.” For those who enjoy all things classical, Kirklinton Opera hosts spectacular fully staged classical performances in the covered hall that are not to be missed.

Kirklinton Hall is Grade II Listed.

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