Brougham Hall

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Just a mile south of Penrith is the estate of Brougham Hall. Originally a medieval manor house, the site has been fortified since 1307 and the last battle on English soil was fought in the meadows below Brougham on 18th December 1745 – the climax of the ’45 Rebellion (Jenkins, 2003). The ruin of Brougham Hall conceals a long history. The name Brougham derives from Brocavum, celtic for home of the badgers, and was adopted by the Romans for their fort located one roman mile north east of the Hall. Brocavum Fort commanded the bridge over the River Eamont and controlled the junction of the principle roman road from York to Carlisle with the secondary roman road to Ambleside and Hardnott. Until 1237 Scotland started at Brougham and the St Andrews Cross still flies from local churches. King Alexander, Prince Charles Stuart of Scotland, King Henry II, King Richard I, King Henry III, King Richard III, King James I and King Charles I of England have all had an influence on this area. With history that can be traced back to the Late Neolithic Period, Brougham Hall has been host to many great characters. From Hadrian and his northern defences to Winston Churchill, accompanied by Eisenhower, who came to inspect his top secret C.D.I tanks. These vehicles were used in the first Rhine crossing at Remagen on 7th March 1945. Initially owned by the de Burgham family, ownership of the house was divided into three parts during the 13th century and remained this way until 1676. On the death of Lady Anne Clifford, her share was sold to James Bird, her trusted agent, which gave him full ownership of Brougham. James was responsible for extensive building work and the expansion for the Hall. Part of the estate was already owned by the Broughams prior to James Bird and it wasn’t until John Brougham of Scales bought Brougham Hall in 1726 that the Hall was returned to Brougham ownership. The Lord Chancellor of England, Lord Brougham and Vaux, also lived at Brougham Hall and after successfully defending Queen Caroline against King George IV in 1820, he went on to design the famous Brougham Carriage.

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Brougham Hall received license to crenelate in 1307 and the oldest surviving building above ground level at the Hall is the Tudor building in the courtyard. Dating to around 1480, the door, lower windows and upper west window are all original with two upper windows later installed, as is the machicolation over the door. The date of the building falls at about the most turbulent time in British history when no fewer than four monarchs came and went within a three year period. Richard III was well known in the Penrith area as ‘Lord of the North’ and his reign, between 1483-1485, was also short-lived. The fine studded panelled entrance gates (above) are made of Oak and date to the Tudor period. Still in use every day, the gates have been repaired in finest quality English Oak by a master craftsman, in memory of Brougham’s Clerk of Works, Don Mawdsley, who sadly passed away in 2003. The gateway doors are in a round chamfered arch under a machiolated parapet and originally there was an inner lock which was dated and inscribed AP 1680 (Anne Countess of Pembroke). The nails, bolts and hinges attached to the door also date from the Tudor period. History was made at 11am on 15th October 1905 when King Edward VII set off through this early 17th century gate to Raby Castle, over Stainmore, in the first motorcade in the north of England driven by a British monarch. Setting off along a 54 mile stretch of road (which had been hand-swept to ensure that the king did not get a puncture!), there was a policeman at every intersection pointing in the direction that the king should go. A 40hp plum coloured Mercedes was taken to Brougham Hall from Balmoral specially for the journey and various other motorcars joined in this historic event.

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The First Lord Brougham acquired the Hall in 1810 and under the stewardship of his younger brother William, the house was restored and improved. As Brougham Hall is en route to Balmoral Castle in Scotland, it was host to royalty on several occasions and became known as The Windsor of the North. The house remained in the Brougham family for four generations until the 4th Lord Brougham, Victor Henry Peter, accrued numerous debts and was forced to sell the estate in 1934. Purchased by his neighbour, Major Carleton Cowper, Brougham Hall was stripped and partly demolished. The site retains the fortified walls of the original enclosure and the ruins of the Hall, billiard room, coach archway and the cellars beneath. The remaining buildings are constructed from mixed sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings and the hall range has only the cellars and a few courses of stonework that still survive. The last substantial structure to be built at Brougham was the tower, Lord Chancellor’s Den (below), built by Richard Charles Hussey, Vice President of the RIBA, in 1864. The tower sits on huge foundations of a much earlier tower and incorporates an early example of a Bitumastic damp-proof course. On the ground floor there was a full sized billiard room and in the office above, Henry Peter, Lord Chancellor of England, thought out some of his famous contributions to British history – the Great Reform Bill of 1832, the establishment of the Charity Commission, the reform of the Privy Council, the establishment of the Old Bailey, the establishment (with Bentham and the Prince Consort) of London University and many other far reaching pieces of socialistic legislation. Phase I of the restoration of this tower was completed in 2012 and involved the de-vegetating, stabilising and reinforcing the upper-most part of the ground floor of what will eventually be a three floor tower. The ultimate aim is to house an extensive collection of site specific Regency State papers (an archive containing many of Lord Brougham’s more important documents, which are of national and international importance) and become a public exhibition and scholarship centre. Phase II will involve the reconstruction of the first and second floors and Phase III will involve the archiving and conservation of the aforementioned documents.

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Winston Churchill commandeered Brougham Hall, Lowther Castle and Greystoke Castle in 1942 for the development of an extraordinary weapon. The Canal Defence Light was a top secret weapon devised between the two great wars and a development and testing site was set up in and around Brougham Hall. The tank was equipped with a 13 million candlepower white arc light which had a strobe operating at a frequency that had the effect of temporarily blinding the enemy. These tanks were without any other offensive weaponry and the intention was to move forward in a V formation of 150 tanks which comprised three squadrons of 50 tanks. On 5th May 1942 Winston Churchill drove through the 17th century gateway arch to inspect the Canal Defence Light Tanks and in December of the same year, he returned to watch the trials of this secret weapon. Although the tanks were never used as intended, they were used to illuminate the Rhine for the Remagen crossing on 5th March 1945 and for operations in Mesopotamia and north Eastern India. A plaque under the staircase in the courtyard has been erected, unveiled by Brigadier Ewan Morrison on 16th July 1992, dedicated to the memory of the officers and men who served at Brougham Hall between July 1942 and June 1944. These men were drawn from the 1st and 35th Tank Brigades of the 79th Armoured Division and were supported by the R.E.M.E. who left in 1945. After the war, the army camp at Brougham was used as a displaced persons camp until the early 1950’s and thereafter, it was used by the Ministry of Supply as a petrol dump.

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Over the next couple of decades Brougham Hall became a neglected ruin despite being purchased by two companies who had intended to make commercial gain from the land. Christopher Terry had fallen in love with the dilapidated Hall during the 1960’s and after hearing of plans to build on the land, he acquired Brougham in 1985. The Brougham Hall Charitable Trust was founded in 1986 and for one peppercorn, Christopher Terry transferred the Hall to the Trust on 8th October of the same year. Committed to conservation, Christopher has intended to restore Brougham as it was externally and having been rescued from dereliction, restoration work also commenced in 1986. Now home to an array of arts and crafts workshops and businesses, the Hall has a restored Tudor Block, Brewery and Stable Block. Priority is given to the parts of the building that are in most urgent need of attention and original building materials are being re-used wherever possible. Brougham Hall has its own skilled craftsmen and thankfully, there are sufficient drawings, photographs and paintings to be certain of the external appearance of the building.

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While the tracery of the ornate windows looks delicate, it actually weighs well over a ton. One of the windows in the Lord Chancellor’s Den was repaired by master craftsmen in May 2005 and it took three men to lift the larger pieces of stone. The sculpture of Christ (below) is the work of Josefina de Vasconcellos who continued to visit Brougham long after her 100th birthday. Helen Beatrix Potter was also a frequent visitor to Brougham Hall as her brother in law, the Reverend Arthur John Heelis, was the Rector of Brougham from 1900-1922. The Rev Heelis had a Phoenix three-wheeled car, which is still in existence and this was the sixth car to be registered in Westmorland. Beatrix Potter complained often about having to push this car to a start every time she came to Brougham! On one of her visits, she gave a copy of ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ to Eileen Brougham for her birthday and signed the flyleaf: “to Princess Eileen, on Peace Day, Brougham, August 23rd 1919”. Peace Day was chosen to celebrate the official end of the War. Beatrix Potter’s husband, William Heelis, was a solicitor and he chaired a Coroner’s inquest after James Maughan from Byker in Northumberland was killed by falling masonry in the Lord Chancellor’s Den. Maughan was 22 years old and his demise was pronounced “accidental death” in the days before Health & Safety. The co founder of the National Trust Canon Rawnsley was also a frequent visitor to Brougham Hall.

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In November 2010, Brougham obtained full planning consent and listed building consent to proceed with one of the very few specially built political archive centres in the country. This consent was expanded in October 2013 to include the greater part of the remainder of the Hall. Of British Library calibre, the best of Brougham’s papers, of which many are hand illuminated on vellum, are to be mounted in a rotating exhibition in the Lord Chancellor’s actual office at Brougham. The display will be on two levels – a public exhibition and a separate static one for students of Politics and Economics and scholars. One of the buildings in the courtyard is devoted to the preservation of parts of the history and heritage of Brougham Hall and the encouragement of vernacular skills. NADFAS are currently engaged on a three year programme to clean and restore a 1675 Flemish Oak screen which once adorned the Brougham Armour Hall until the sale of the 1930’s. It was then removed to a church in Ayrshire, the roof of which collapsed onto the screen causing considerable damage which is now being rectified. Other projects involve workshops and the restoration of a Brougham Carriage, made in Paris in 1894, the restoration of two mid 18th century sphinx and the restoration of a stained glass window for the Lord Chancellor’s Den.

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From 1837 Brougham Hall has had a fascinating and varied vehicular history. Designed by the first Lord Brougham, the Brougham Carriage was the veritable Volkswagen of horse drawn vehicles. In 1837 Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, Whig Politician, and Lord Chancellor to William IV, perceived a need which would make his mark on the carriage world forever. With coachmen and grooms waiting into the small hours for debates to finish in the Palace of Westminster, his usual form of transport was cumbersome and labour intensive. Brougham thought there was a need for “a refined and glorified street cab that would make a convenient carriage for a gentleman, and especially for a man of such independence of ideas as one who carried his own carpet bag on occasions when time was important and his own servants otherwise employed!” (Furnival, 1999). This carriage was the first to have elliptical springs and his revolutionary design included the necessity of being light and compact and needing only one horse and coachman. Lord Brougham’s coach builders, Messrs Sharp and Bland of South Audley Street, advised him that his designs would never find popular appeal. To their eternal discredit, they completely failed to recognise the potential of Lord Brougham’s design. Lord Brougham duly took his design round the corner to the Mount Street premises of a neighbouring firm, Robinson and Cook (later to become Cook and Holdway of Halkin Place, London), and on 15th May 1838 the first Brougham Carriage rolled off the production line. Thousands of this carriage were eventually produced in factories all around the world. The original 1838 Brougham Carriage, which was used by Lord Brougham, Gladstone and Disraeli, was restored in 1977 by the company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Markers to commemorate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. It was exhibited that year at Ascot and the Guildhall and then presented to the Science Museum in South Kensington.

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1838 Brougham Carriage (Ragley Hall Collection)

 In 1995 the fourth Lord Brougham purchased two eight litre Bentleys, of which only 100 of these vehicles were ever made, and both cars are still in existence. Wolfie Benarto, the Chairman and owner of Bentley Motors, was a regular visitor to house parties at Brougham Hall. In 1931 Rolls Royce bought Bentley Motors and on 16th May 2004, Brougham Hall played host to the Rolls Royce & Bentley Enthusiasts Club who were celebrating the centenary of Mr Royce meeting Mr Rolls. Cumbria Classic Cars makes an annual visit to Brougham Hall with numerous other arts festivals and events held throughout the year.

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Courtyard Door Knocker Brougham Hall

There are only four known examples of the 12th century design of the door knocker (above) in existence – two are in Durham and two from Brougham. Both of the Durham rings were bronze and the sanctuary ring on the north door of Durham Cathedral (below) is considered to be “one of the most striking achievements of Romanesque bronze casting” (Archaeologia, Vol 107 1982). During the medieval period, Durham Cathedral offered St Cuthbert’s protection to fugitives who had committed a great offence. Those claiming sanctuary held onto the ring of the Sanctuary Knocker, which dates to 1172, until a monk admitted them into the Cathedral. Sanctuary seekers were given a black robe to wear and offered 37 days of sanctuary in the Cathedral, after which they either chose to stand trial or were taken to the coast and sent into exile. The right of sanctuary was abolished in 1623. Concern was expressed for the safety of the Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral in 1977 and eventually the decision was taken to remove it and replace it with a copy. There was no evidence to suggest that the ring had been removed previously and for the first time, it was possible to thoroughly examine the ring in laboratory conditions. The Victoria and Albert Museum carried out metallurgical tests and the British Museum made a cast (Archaeologia, Vol 107 1982). The original Sanctuary Knocker is displayed in the Durham Cathedral Treasury with the copy now hanging on the north door. The Brougham ring was made of iron and similar to the one at Durham Cathedral, it faced due north, on the courtyard gate. The Brougham ring was stolen and in an attempt to replace it, the Brougham Hall Charitable Trust asked the Bishop of Durham for consent to use the mould cast by the British Museum. Although the Bishop was amenable, the Dean and Chapter were not so the long task of drawing another from the monster’s head began. Carved in wood, a sand mould, in seven pieces, was taken from the wooden head and finally cast in bronze by Collier’s Foundry in Sussex in 1993. This copy now graces the courtyard door at Brougham Hall.

Brougham Hall is Grade II* Listed.

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Sanctuary Knocker Durham Cathedral

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Beningbrough Hall

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Beningbrough was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Benniburg and was owned by a man named Asford. Much of the land passed to the Hospital of St Leonard, a religious foundation run by monks, during the 12th and 13th centuries. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, St Leonard’s Hospital and its land were surrendered to King Henry VIII. In 1544 the land was sold to John Banester and in 1556, his nephew Ralph Bourchier inherited the estate. Ralph began building a house on a site approximately 300 metres south-east of the present hall and recent surveys suggest that it had a timber frame with fine panelled interiors – some of which were reused in the present hall (Alton, 2011). The building passed down a line of Bourchiers and was eventually inherited by John Bourchier in 1700, aged just 16. The present hall was completed in 1716 and rises out of the flood plain of the River Ouse.

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In 1704 John Bourchier embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe and spending almost two years in Italy, he absorbed the Italianate Baroque architectural style into his plans for a new house at Beningbrough. The command of the classical Renaissance vocabulary that Bourchier admired in Europe played a major role in the planning of the hall and although the building is constructed in the English tradition of brick, much of the exterior detailing is derived from Roman sources. Like Bourchier, many gentlemen scholars undertook Grand Tours as part of the 17th century tradition of the virtuoso. Referred to by Francis Bacon in 1605 as those who “entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation”, these men did not receive any formal training in building design. The highly acclaimed English Baroque architect Sir Christopher Wren taught himself “when he turned to architecture” (Downes, 1971). The grammar of the Renaissance was initially learned from the treatises of Alberti and Vitruvius and the illustrated books of Serlio, Palladio, Vignola and Scamozzi with practical experience gained under a great master. Following his grand tour in 1754 and his study of the Baths of Diocletian and Caracalla, the architect Robert Adam declared in his Ruins of Spalatro that “with sword in hand… and reflections on the subject I must own they contributed very much to the improvement of my taste and enlarged my notions of architecture” (Adam, 1757). Essentially public architecture, the baroque country house was almost always built for the gentry or aristocracy. With eternal ideas deriving from antiquity and the desire to emulate their elegance and purity of a better age (Tinniswood, 1991), the 18th century classicists agreed that the buildings of the ancients should “serve as models which we should imitate, and as standards by which we ought to judge” (Adam, 1774).

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The top of a pilaster (Great Hall)

Little is known about the building history of Beningbrough but it is believed that William Thornton, a “joyner and architect” (Tinniswood, 1991) supervised the construction of the hall. Thornton is described as Bourchier’s architect in a list of Yorkshire houses contained in a copy of The Builder’s Dictionary of 1734. Thornton worked at Bramham Park, Wentworth Castle and under Nicholas Hawksmoor at Castle Howard and on the restoration of Beverley Minster. Working to the designs of Bourchier, Beningbrough is a two storey building of double-pile plan and constructed of red brick in Flemish bond with ashlar dressings and cumberland slate roof. The symmetrical facade features a central entrance bay with Doric pilasters supporting an entablature with cornice.

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Solid York stone pilasters (Great Hall)

The Great Hall is a fantastic display of splendour with imposing fluted composite pilasters gracing the double height room that soar to the groined vaults above balconied openings. Resembling the classical grandeur of Baroque palaces in Italy, the Great Hall connects a lot of the ground floor rooms and not only designed to impress, it was used to serve as a busy circulating space. The room is lavishly adorned with monumental portraits of 18th century British monarchs which come from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. The National Trust acquired Beningbrough in 1958 and when conservators stripped back paint on the plinths supporting the pilasters, they discovered that they were made from solid York stone. The creamy white colour of the stone is what the pilasters have been redecorated with and at the same time, the floor was re-laid with smooth flagstones, as it had originally been (Alton,2011). Often decorating the entrance halls of Roman villas, sculpted portraits also feature at Beningbrough. The impressive bust of Pope Clement XIV (below) is above the fireplace in the Great Hall and was carved in Rome in 1771 by the Irish sculptor Christopher Hewetson. When Mrs Earle, owner of Beningbrough during the 18th century, became pregnant, Pope Clement gave her special permission to stay in a convent during her time in Rome in 1770-1771.

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Bust of Pope Clement XIV above the fireplace in the Great Hall

Providing a link between the Great Hall and the original state apartment (now the Drawing Room) on the ground floor and the Saloon on the first floor, the Great Staircase Hall (below) displays particularly fine craftsmanship. Reserved exclusively for the owners and their guests, the cantilevered wooden staircase would have been climbed in formal procession on special occasions. To the left of the Great Staircase is a small door which opens onto another tiny set of stairs which run alongside their much grander counterpart and were used by the servants. The intricate fretwork of the banister appears to be elaborate wrought-iron work but the spindles are in fact carved in wood – likely to have been crafted by William Thornton, the chief craftsman and master woodworker.

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The Great Staircase Hall

The last in the Bourchier line to hold Beningbrough was Margaret Bourchier. Margaret married Giles Earle in 1761 and they had two sons. Following the death of both sons fighting in the war against Napoleon, when Margaret Earle passed away in 1827 Beningbrough passed to reverend William Henry Dawnay, a close friend of one of her sons. The estate was owned by the Dawnay family between 1827 and 1916 (Alton, 2011).

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Ground floor corridor

The State Apartment and State Dressing Room (below) are on the ground floor adjoining the Dining Room. The original form of the state apartment was lost with the creation of the current Drawing Room so the National Trust has re-created the State Apartment in the south-east part of this floor. The intimate Dressing Room and Closet would have been reserved for use by the occupant of the State Bedchamber with only close friends permitted to enter. These smaller rooms would have provided a cosy retreat to escape the biting cold of the larger rooms during the winter. Kings would have met with their key ministers and advisors in their own closets, also known as cabinet rooms, and is where the origin of the political word cabinet stems. The stepped chimneypiece was specifically designed to display ceramics. Oriental porcelain was the fashion from the late 17th century and the room displays some fine pieces of Delftware on loan from the Ashmolean and Victoria and Albert museums.

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Chimneypiece State Dressing Room

The fabulous Dining Room (below) was originally referred to as the Great Parlour during the mid 18th century and was the main dining room by the 19th century. Rather than hung with fabric, the walls are of panelled wood and although they are painted a pale green colour, the original decor would have been a stony white colour. Inspired by the colours found at Boughton in Northamptonshire, the National Trust chose the current scheme as an ideal colour to complement the gold framed portraits. The walls are ornately covered with portraits of members of the Kit Cat Club. Sharing a commitment to uphold the “Glorious Revolution” (Alton, 2011), Whig politicians founded the most distinguished and influential club of its day – the Kit Cat Club. Meeting regularly in a London tavern, the club took its name from the mutton pies that were served up by the owner of the tavern, Christopher Cat. The custom of presenting a portrait to the club’s secretary, the publisher Jacob Tonson, was introduced by the Duke of Somerset. Sir Godfrey Kneller was an artist and member of the Kit Cat Club and during the first two decades of the 18th century, he painted nearly 40 club portraits. Almost half of Kneller’s Kit Cat portraits are on display at Beningbrough with the remainder at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

‘Hence did th’Assembly’s Title first arise, And Kit Cat Wits sprung from Kit-Cats Pyes’ (The Kit-Cats, A Poem, anon 1708).

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The Dining Room

The Drawing Room (below) is next to the Dining Room and was originally two separate spaces – a bedroom and a withdrawing room that formed part of a state apartment. The dividing wall was likely to have been removed during the 1830’s when the fashion for ground floor bedrooms was superseded by a greater need for large reception rooms. The room features an exquisitely carved wooden frieze depicting shells, vases and palm fronds that is intricately detailed with the initials JMB which stand for John and Mary Bourchier, who the house was originally built for. The magnificent woodcarvings and panelling were moved around during 19th century alterations and again after 1917 when Lady Chesterfield had the woodwork stripped of paint to reveal the pine beneath. Thought to be original features and depicting members of the Bourchier family, some of the portraits in this room were actually bought by the Dawnays in the 1890’s (Alton, 2011).

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The Drawing Room

Originally referred to as the Great Dining Room, the Saloon (below) would have been used for large parties, county balls, family celebrations and banquets. This grand room features gilded pilasters, decorative dentils and a coffered ceiling. Allowing space for celebrations, the Saloon was kept uncluttered with chairs pushed to the edges of the room. There are two 18th century mirrors in this room that come from Holme Lacy. To prevent deterioration, the mirrors were carefully cleaned and treated in 2009 as part of the ongoing conservation work by the National Trust. The elaborate Italianate decoration in the room is another example of William Thornton’s skilful wood craftsmanship and not, as it appears, moulded in plaster.

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The Saloon

Enid Edith Wilson was a wealthy shipping heiress and became Lady Chesterfield following her marriage to Edwyn Francis Scudamore-Stanhope, 10th Earl of Chesterfield, in 1900. The Chesterfield’s furnished Beningbrough with lavish furniture and pictures from Holme Lacy, in Herefordshire, where they lived until 1909. They finally came to Beningbrough in 1917 and completely redecorated the house. Lord Chesterfield died in 1933 and making way for servicemen from nearby RAF Linton On Ouse, Lady Chesterfield temporarily moved to Home Farm in 1941. She returned after the war in 1947 and remained at Beningbrough until her death in 1957 aged 79. As there were not enough assets to cover the death duties, Beningbrough was offered to the Treasury and in June 1958, it was acquired by the National Trust. Lady Chesterfield transformed her closet into a luxurious modern bathroom (below) in the 1920’s. A very extravagant touch are the taps above the bath which can be shut away in their own cupboards to create a more finished look to the room.

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Lady Chesterfield’s Bathroom

On the top floor of the building are galleries (below) that combine the National Portrait Gallery’s 18th century collections with interactive technology. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the galleries are the result of collaboration between the National Trust and the National Portrait Gallery who have been in partnership at Beningbrough Hall since 1979. Hosting a vibrant programme of touring exhibitions and long term loans, this Baroque mansion is an appropriate historical setting to display the fine 18th century portraits. Launching a new initiative in 2006, the Gallery and the Trust refurbished and restored the rooms on this floor and opened the galleries to the public for the first time. Bringing the 18th century portraits and sculptures to life, the interactive galleries are home to Making Faces – 18th Century Style, Visiting Portraits, Portrait Explorer, Family Matters, Portraits Tell Stories, Getting the Picture and Turning Heads exhibitions. The touch-screen computers in the IT study room on this floor enable visitors to search the entire National Portrait Gallery Collection. The ‘Virtual Portrait’ computer in the Getting the Picture room lets you commission your own 18th century style portrait which can even be emailed home. The new very definitely meets the old on this floor!

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Top floor galleries

Most of the trees in the parkland at Beningbrough were planted between 1830 and 1870. The Head Gardener at this time was Thomas Foster and he was responsible for over 300 acres of parkland as well as the gardens. The various owners at Beningbrough have all left their traces on the landscape surrounding the house. Lewis Payn Dawnay, who inherited Beningbrough in 1891, planted 11,000 trees, extended the lawn to the south and replanted the north avenue with broadleaved lime trees. The accomplished artist and watercolourist William Sawrey Gilpin was hired by the Dawnay family to advise on the landscaping of the parkland. His influence on many areas of the parkland was extensive and thankfully, his sketches and notes have survived at Beningbrough. Restoration of Beningbrough began in 1977 and the National Trust redesigned the two small formal gardens, the Walled Garden and continued to develop a range of new planting schemes. The gardens are overlooked by the Victorian Conservatory (below) and feature an Italian Border which was recently replanted to reflect John Bourchier’s Italian interests. The South Lawn was inspired by a sketch dating to 1720 by the 18th century printmaker and engraver Samuel Buck which shows how the gardens might have looked at the time.

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The Stable Block (below) is now home to offices and a display area. Built in the 18th century for the Bourchier’s, and with 19th century additional wings built for the Dawnay’s, the stables are constructed of brick with stone dressing. The Stable Block main range features a central pediment with a sundial adorning the tympanum and a cast-iron mind vane above. The central three bays project forward and feature a round arched arcade with three windows above. The Latin inscription over the sundial had faded when the National Trust acquired Beningbrough and was only discovered in an old photograph. Having been repainted it reads TEMPUS EDAX which means time is voracious. The Stable Block is Grade II Listed.

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The Stable Block

The Walled Garden was restored by the National Trust in 1995 and included the recreation of the original paths and the planting of over 120 fruit trees. Among the varieties planted were those known to have grown in the York area during the early 19th century. One of the most famous varieties is the Ribston Pippin which was a Victorian favourite and first grown at Ribston Hall near Knaresborough. The beautiful parkland surrounding Beningbrough is a wonderful landscape and well worth exploring.

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The primary status of architecture over the other fine arts is evident when 18th century Britain is compared to 16th century Italy. Seen as the consequence of a widespread improvement in taste and the awakening of a ‘national genius’, the progress in Britain was considered the result of “the study of what is elegant and beautiful, sensibility, discernment, and a correctness of eye… The genius of native artists has been called forth into new and laudible exertions” (Bryant, 1992).

Taken from Tract I by Christopher Wren:

“There are natural Causes of Beauty. Beauty is harmony of Objects, begetting Pleasure by the Eye. Natural beauty is from geometry, and geometrical figures are universally agreed ‘as to a Law of Nature’ to be the most beautiful.”

Beningbrough Hall is Grade I Listed.

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Hanbury Hall

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Hanbury Hall stands in stunning parkland in the district of Wychavon in Worcestershire. Hanbury was acquired by the Vernon family, rich lawyers, in 1631 and was expensively rebuilt by Thomas Vernon in the 1690’s. A talented lawyer at the Courts of Chancery, Thomas Vernon was supplied with designs for the hall by three men – William Rudhall, James Withenbury and John Chatterton. Closest to what was built is the designs of William Rudhall who came from Henley In Arden. The building is constructed of red brick in Flemish bond with ashlar dressings and features prominent wings which flank a recessed central entrance beneath a deep pediment. The two storey hall also features a central octagonal cupola which is said to “rise like a Dutch gallant with a weak chin” (Jenkins, 2003). Little changed from the original plans from the end of the 17th century until it was acquired by the National Trust in 1953. Showing considerable signs of wear and tear, Hanbury has, thankfully, continually been conserved since it came into the care of the Trust.

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Thomas Vernon commissioned the artist Sir James Thornhill to create the wall and ceiling paintings that lavishly adorn the interior. Thornhill was the only British large scale painter of the time and his work on the cupola of St Paul’s Cathedral is his most famous. Entering the main hall (above), you are immediately greeted with an assembly of classical deities. Representing an open-air gallery, the fabulous wall paintings are set within architectural surrounds and depict the story of the Greek hero Achilles. At the time of building Hanbury, a painted staircase was a statement of wealth and with an increased interest in classical civilisations, the story of Achilles and the Trojan War was a fitting mythological theme to be depicted. The Great Staircase is cantilevered and features turned and fluted balusters. The panelling on the walls is finely carved and grained to represent walnut although it is actually made of pine. 

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Although adapted in the 18th century, the downstairs rooms are of a conventional 17th century house. The upstairs rooms are furnished with four-poster beds, porcelain and paintings. Flanked by wild Baroque doorcases, the Gothick Corridors are so named after the wallpaper that decorates the walls. Inspired by wild nature and emphasising strong colours, the Gothick style relates to the art forms prevalent in Northern Europe from the 12th to the 15th centuries.

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Hanbury was a parish belonging to the church of Worcester at the time of the Domesday survey in 1088. From the Norman Conquest onwards, Hanbury was within the boundaries of the Royal Forest of Feckenham and with harsh forest laws, only chosen officials could hunt in such designated areas. After Feckenham lost its royal status in 1629, local families, including the Vernons, bought up land to increase their estates.

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The Formal Garden at Hanbury is part of the grand plans from George London which were laid out for Thomas Vernon in circa 1700. Consisting of intricate and symmetrical parterres and different areas divided by clipped hedges or walls, work to restore the Formal Garden, made up of six parts, began in the early 1990’s. During the late 18th century, London’s work at Hanbury was replaced with the more informal landscaping style of Lancelot Capability Brown. The old stables and farm buildings were demolished at the same time with the kitchen garden removed to a new walled enclosure away from the house.

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In 1865 Thomas Bowater Vernon commissioned R.W.Billings to design a new forecourt with elaborate brick gate piers, archways and railings with gazebos at the corners. Although they are Victorian interpretations, they echo the original pavilions seen in early 18th century drawings. With the aid of generous bequests and a European Union grant, the Formal Garden and the avenues leading into the park have been returned to their original splendour.

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“A fayre Parcke, which though in thys paryshe is styled Feckenham Parcke, sooting in name with the Kynges vast forest, reaching in former ages far and wyde. A large walke for savage beastes, but nowe more commoudyously changed to the civill habitations of many gentell-men, the freehoulds of wealthy yeoman and dwellings of industrious husbandmen.” Thomas Habington (1560-1647)

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Hanbury Hall is Grade I Listed.

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Broseley: Benthall Hall

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Benthall lies on the right bank of the Severn facing the town of Ironbridge in Shropshire. Benthall was recorded in the Domesday Book as belonging to Wenlock Priory and the Benthall family took their name from the place. Described as lords of the manor, they held the property from the priory. The first record of a house at Benthall dates to 1250 when Philip de Benthall owned land in Benthall Edge. The estate was acquired in 1283 by Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells and Lord Chancellor of England. The estate passed from Robert to his elder son Philip and from him the estate descended in the male line to William Benthall. William is believed to have built part of the present house which dates to circa 1535 with later, major improvements around 1580. The two storey building, with attics, is constructed of brick faced sandstone and features continuous mullioned and transomed windows on each level. The building has a central hall, eastern service wing and western parlour wing. The Hall also has semi-octagonal bays on the west side of the parlour, on the hall and on the service end.

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Overmantle in The Hall

Lawrence Benthall was the owner of the estate in 1642 and he married Katherine Cassy of Whitfield, Gloucestershire. They made many improvements to the interior of the house when the southern rooms were richly panelled and made into additional parlours or bedrooms. Panelling and a moulded plaster ceiling in the parlour are probably contemporary with a new staircase. Its older fittings are now of the 18th century and perhaps contemporary with alterations, including new fireplaces in both wings, attributed to T. F. Pritchard. New doorcases at the foot of the staircase and a new ceiling there were probably inserted after a fire in 1818. The overmantle in the parlour (below) shows the Benthall and Cassy crest joined together.

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King Charles I rallied many of the local gentry to his cause when he made Shrewsbury his headquarters on the outbreak of the Civil War. Col. Lawrence Benthall fortified his house for the King, and, in March 1643, commanded the garrison in a successful attack on a Parliamentary plundering party led by Col. Mytton of Wem. The King’s garrison remained at Benthall for a further two years until February 1645 when the Royalist stronghold of Shrewsbury fell in a surprise attack led by the same Col. Mytton. The surrounding country then came under Parliamentary control and in July of the same year, a Parliamentary garrison occupied Benthall. The neighbourhood of Benthall and Broseley was one of the most important coalfields in the west of England at the time and Benthall was a strategic vantage point from which to command the River Severn. The Parliamentarians used Benthall as a base to control coal to the Royalists at Bridgnorth and Worcester. A failed Royalist attack in 1645 led to a window and panelling in the Drawing Room sustaining damage.

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Benthall Coat of Arms – Overmantle Dining Room

Lawrence was succeeded by his eldest son Philip who died in 1713. His son Richard died in 1720 with no children but his uncle Edward had a daughter named Katherine. Married to Ralph Browne of Caughley Hall, Katherine had a daughter named Elizabeth whom Richard had settled his estate upon. Upon Richard’s death, litigation ensued from his two sisters when they made claim to the estate. The case was decided in favour of the Brownes in 1746 by the House of Lords and it remained in their possession for over a century. Another Ralph Browne inherited the estate and from him, Benthall passed to his wife’s niece. She married the Rev. Edward Harries and their son, Francis Blythe Harries, continued to own the estate until 1843. Following the fire of 1818, a new wing containing a large dining room was built at the east end of the house. In 1962 this was demolished except for two rooms in the basement, leaving a raised terrace.

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The house was sold in 1844 to the 2nd Lord Forester who was the owner of the neighbouring Willey estate. Various tenants occupied Benthall between 1845 and 1930. George Maw took up residence in circa 1852 when Maw & Co began to make tiles in the parish. Maw was a distinguished botanist and assembled a collection of rare plants in the garden which included 3-4000 distinct species. In 1866 he published A Monograph of the Genus Crocus. Another notable tenant was Robert Bateman, the son of James Bateman, the creator of Biddulph Grange. Both Maw and Bateman made changes to the interior of the house and major changes to the garden. The dovecote in the Rose Garden (above) is attributed to Robert and is thought likely to have been a garden room.

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Benthall came up for sale at auction in 1934 and Mary Clementina Benthall managed to purchase the house and the estate. In 1958 Mary proposed to leave the estate to her cousin Sir Paul Benthall. Sir Paul persuaded her to leave it to the National Trust along with some of the contents. Sir Paul and Lady Benthall became the first tenants of the Trust from 1962 until their deaths in 1992 and 1988 respectively. Sir Paul’s son James and his wife Jill then took up the tenancy and in 1996, Richard Benthall, the twin brother of James, took over with his wife Stella until 2004. While grand, the understated exterior of this beautiful property conceals a wonderfully lavish interior that is rich with ornamentation and detail.

Benthall Hall is Grade I Listed.

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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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Ulverscroft: Stoneywell Cottage

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Stoneywell Cottage emerges from the surrounding landscape and was built as a summer house for Leicester industrialist Sydney Gimson, director of Gimson & Co. Vulcan Works. This wonderful building was designed by the Arts & Crafts architect and furniture designer Ernest Gimson and built with fellow architect Detmar Blow. Stoneywell Cottage remained in the Gimson family for three generations until the National Trust acquired it in 2012.

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Completed in 1899, the building is constructed of granite and slate rubble stone and originally had a thatched roof. Following a fire in 1939, the roof was replaced with Swithland slate by Humphrey Gimson. Stoneywell features original woodwork throughout the building and fully incorporates the simplicity of the Arts & Crafts movement.

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The Dining Room

The Dining Room is the first room you enter through the front door and was originally the kitchen until 1953. The last owners of Stoneywell, Donald and Anne Gimson, created a kitchen behind the door near the dresser (above top left) which had been the larder, earth closet and coal store. The beautiful oak table dominates the centre of the room and was made by Sidney Barnsley.

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The Sitting Room

The Sitting Room is accessed by a broad flight of slate stairs from the Dining Room. Providing wonderful views from the window seats, the room is an idyllic setting to unwind. The room features an inglenook fire, an Orkney chair and rush-seated chairs made for the National Trust by Lawrence Neil who still uses many of Gimson’s tools.

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The Main Bedroom

The Main Bedroom is accessed by a staircase from the Sitting Room below and features wonderful furniture, exposed beams and a triangular one light window. This quirky room has a walnut coffer (above right) which was designed and carved by Joseph Armitage. The coffer was made for Basil Gimson’s 21st birthday by Sidney Barnsley and was bought to Stoneywell in 1947.

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The Main Bedroom

In the 1950’s, the Walkthrough Bedroom (below) became a Nursery for Donald and Anne’s daughter Sally. The room has a beautiful colour print above the door to the landing which is from a painting by a Viennese schoolchild. The print was sold to raise money for the Red Cross following World War One as Sydney had been involved in helping Belgian refugees who had fled from Germany.

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Walkthrough Bedroom/Nursery

The Well Room (below) was so named owing to the fact that you step down into the room. The room was used as a bedroom for Donald’s son Roger but had previously been used as a summerhouse.

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The Well Room

Edward Barnsley was commissioned to make the bookcases which fit into the eaves of the room and accommodate the second hand books collected by Basil Gimson. The Well Room has a wonderful collection of furniture and working toys.

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The Well Room

The two cane chairs above were made by the Leicester firm Dryad. Reviving the traditional craft of basket making, Harry Peach, who was a friend of Sydney Gimson, followed the fashions of the continent but the firm’s production was sadly ended with the invention of the American Lloyd Loom.

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Mount Olympus

The bedroom on the top floor of the building was used by many visitors to Stoneywell and was named Mount Olympus – the highest point in the ancient Greek world. The room was much smaller than the present size before the fire of 1939 and was accessed by a ladder from the Nursery. The room has a wonderful collection of Arthur Ransom novels and a chess set (below) made by Donald Gimson.

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Towards Mill Lane is the conically roofed Well House (below). The Pump House is shared with Lea Cottage and was built in 1899 by Ernest Gimson for Mentor and Sydney Gimson. The one storey round building is constructed of granite and slate rubble stone with a Swithland slate roof and is Grade II Listed. Stoneywell Cottage is Grade II* Listed.

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Kirkby Stephen: Stobars Hall

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Located in a commanding position over-looking Kirkby Stephen stands the castellated mansion Stobars Hall. With extensive views of the surrounding landscape, this delightful setting was chosen by James Brougham for his mansion in 1829. The mansion was built and designed by Mr William Close of Kirkby Stephen who is described as a joiner, cabinet maker and architect (History, Topography and Directory of Westmorland and Lonsdale North of the Sands in Lancashire, Edition: 1849).

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The building features a late Georgian front with a Tuscan porch (above) and tripartite ground floor windows. The building is constructed of coursed rubble with incised jointing, moulded quoins and features an embattled parapet.

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North Westmorland had few real gentry and some who were described as ‘gentlemen’ were also successful farmers or businessmen. The 1829 Directory describes thirty men in the area who were described as gentlemen or ‘Esq.’ with no occupation stated. James Brougham was one of these men.

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Stobars Hall was later occupied by Captain Martin Irving JP, William Metcalfe in 1851 and by 1871, Matthew Thompson JP who was a local landowner and Deputy Lieutenant of the county.

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The mainly two storey building is of a L shaped plan with embattled towers, chimneys concealed in merlons and 16 pane sash windows to each floor. Many original features still remain throughout the building including doors, cornices and ornately decorated fireplaces (above and below).

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Finely decorated original cornice

A poem taken from The Book of the Chronicles; Or, Winter Evening Tales of Westmorland, Volume 1 adequately portrays the setting:

“Hail Stobars, hail! from thy high hill, We gaze and look, and wonder still: What a landscape greets our eyes, Spread beneath the lofty skies; Loveliest place of all the North, Art did much to bring thee forth; Brougham! thy honour’d Name shall be, Transmitted to posterity; In future ages will be sung- ‘The patron of the Poet Young.”

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Hand painted wildlife scenes adorn interior doors

The reception rooms north of the entrance hall feature re-used 17th & 18th century panelling and some of the hand carved pieces of furniture are incredibly rich in detail. The wonderful cabinet below is inscribed with the initials WME and is dated 1713. The panels are exquisitely embellished with geometrical patterns and flowers.

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The advantageous position of Stobars Hall includes views of Wild Boar Fell, Wharton Hall & Park and the Forest of Mallerstang.

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Stobars Hall is Grade II Listed.

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