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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Corbridge: Aydon Castle

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Amid the scars of ancient roads and fortifications, the slopes of hills in Northumberland conceal the austere and strong architecture of the “land of great castles” (Allsopp & Clark, 1969). The steep gradient to the Cor Burn forms a defence on three sides of Aydon Castle and its bailey with strong walls and gateway protecting the north side of the house. A wonderful survival from the Middle Ages, Aydon Castle is often recorded as Aydon Hall. Although planned as a manor house, its proximity to the England-Scotland border meant that it had to have some of the attributes of a fortress. Prehistoric and Roman remains have been discovered near Aydon yet there is no certain evidence that the site of the castle was occupied before the 13th century. First recorded in 1225, the village formed part of the barony of Bolam and combining two Old English words, meaning ‘hay pasture’, Aydon was acquired shortly after 1290 by a Suffolk landowner – Robert de Raymes. Most of what survives at Aydon was built between 1295 and 1315 and it is an exceptionally well preserved fortified manor. As one of the first areas to be raided from Scotland, Edward I granted a royal licence to crenellate in 1305. Most of the buildings were already completed by this time with a licence to crenellate more often granted when works were finished. Licences were very rarely refused as those who wanted the status of a castellated house were charged a fee by the king who could also control the spread of castles within his realm. Exercising control over the building of non-royal castles, 12th century government officials introduced the legal obligation to obtain a licence before a residence could be fortified (Friar, 2003). The earliest stone buildings at Aydon are the hall, chamber block and the garderobe/latrine wing (Summerson, 2004). The battlemented walls were built to the north between 1300 and 1305 enclosing the buildings within an inner courtyard.

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Inner courtyard stairs to the hall

Before entering Aydon Castle it is evident that it was a fortified manor house and not a fortress. There was never a gatehouse or any other form of defensive outworks and the small ditch that extended in front of the north wall would not have kept any serious attacker at bay for long. The smaller outer courtyard was characteristic of medieval architecture – providing some defence and by creating a series of entrances, it was also intended to impress. A further stage to pass before entering the castle buildings is through the inner courtyard (above). Replacing an earlier one, the present stairway dates from the 16th century and originally there was a porch at the top. The porch was later replaced by a lean-to that covered the whole length of the stair of which the roof outline is still visible on the wall. Although staircases were usual and probably of wood construction, the ladder and trapdoor were frequently used in the early part of the medieval period and most external staircases of the 13th century have since been replaced (Wood, 1994).

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Fine stone vault of the stores

The ground floor of an early medieval house was often vaulted in stone which raised the living rooms to the first floor level and thus became more defensible. The vaulted ground floor became extremely popular during the first half of the 13th century and the stores underneath the second kitchen at Aydon are particularly fine (above). Providing fireproof storage accommodation, there are three interconnected rooms that were built to hold the stores for the kitchens immediately above. The doorway into the stores has a shouldered lintel, also known as Caernarvon arch, which became common from the latter part of the 13th century onwards and there are many good examples throughout Aydon. This block was converted to stables in 1657 by William Collinson who briefly owned the estate from 1654 until his son, Henry Collinson, sold up in 1702.

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Downstairs solar

In the early Middle Ages the solar was a private bed-sittingroom of the owner and his family. With servants sleeping in the hall or in work rooms between the storage, individual bedrooms were rare. The downstairs solar at Aydon has three doorways in the west wall of the room, one of which opens onto the inner courtyard. The room was originally only accessible from above which suggests that it was a retreat for the lord’s family, likely during the winter months. The only two 13th century windows that survive are small lancets with others thought to be have been installed during the 16th century when the room was converted into a kitchen. The room features an original 13th century fireplace in the east wall which is beautifully decorated with a row of carved stone bosses (below). Aydon Castle contains several excellent and unusual examples of elaborate 13th century fireplaces.

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Carved bosses above the fireplace (downstairs solar)

The polite version of latrine, a garderobe or privie, was used in the privy sense from the 14th century. The privy chambers (camerae privatae) were attached to other rooms and were usually situated at the end of a passage. Privies were always provided with a small window or some form of ventilation – shafts could be ventilated or ventilators in the roof also occur. Unless a corbel was provided, as at Aydon, the window sill would serve as a place on which to put a light. Adjoining the upstairs solar, the location and amenities of the latrine tower at Aydon (below) suggest that this was the lord’s bedchamber. The room is lit on three sides by windows and was effectively a medieval en suite. The latrine itself is a double-decker and the small cupboard cut into the wall at the far end has the chute next to it. The shaft is concealed in the buttress at the south east corner of the room and although the latrine is directly above one on the ground floor, the upper one is set further back to prevent accidents. Later refurbishments of this chamber resulted in the addition of a fireplace and in the 1920’s, the chamber became a bathroom. By this time the latrine had been superseded by an earth closet in the kitchen garden.

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The latrine tower

The chief room in a medieval house was the hall. With a central hearth, the medieval hall developed from a barn like structure of prehistoric and Saxon times and during the earlier Middle Ages, the room could be raised to the first floor. Raised on a stone basement these first floor halls were more defensible and were in use from the late 11th century onwards. The first floor hall is found common in both town and manor houses and the high table, where the owner and his family would dine, was at the upper end of the room. The private quarters, or solar, was often at the end of the hall and eventually a separate room developed. Divided off with curtains initially, a wooden partition would be used and by the 12th century, there might be a more permanent division built in stone. Retaining the outer staircase, the hall at Aydon has no sign of a wall fireplace suggesting that it was heated from the one in the room below or from a fire in the centre of the room either in a brazier or on a stone hearth.

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East end of the hall

The social centre of the whole complex, the hall was where the lord appeared in public especially when entertaining guests. The open roof at Aydon gives space for smoke to rise and escape through a louvre at the top. The roof is not original but was replaced with one very much like it during the 16th or 17th century when repairs were made to the hall. The walls, which would have been plastered and decorated with paintings or wall hangings, would have needed constant cleaning due to the effects of smoke. There was originally a gallery at the west end of the room where musicians would play and from which a steward or servant could observe the meal. The hall was the communal living room and was also the main living and sleeping space for all but the lord’s immediate family. The room was screened off at one end from the kitchen and other service areas and the stone screen (below) was inserted during the 16th century. The wall of the hall is narrowed at the west end to give access to the doorway suggesting that the chamber block was built before the stone hall and possibly, it may have been built up against an original hall with thinner wooden walls.

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The 16th century stone screen in the hall

During the 16th century the eighth Robert de Raymes consolidated his estates and gave Aydon to Sir Reynold Carnaby in exchange for lands at Hawkwell. In the process of building up a substantial estate at Hexham, Sir Reynold placed Aydon in the hands of his brother Cuthbert. The Carnaby family made significant changes to the estate especially to the kitchen and to the roofs. Dendrochronology indicates that the timber in the roofs of the latrine block and the west wing kitchen date to the 1540’s. Following the civil wars of the 1640’s, Ralph Carnaby was heavily penalised by parliament for supporting Charles I and as a result, Aydon Castle was sold in 1654 with an estate of 300 acres of arable land to William Collinson of Tynemouth and together with his son Henry, they farmed their estate until 1702.

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Around 1830 Sir Edward Blackett, the sixth baronet, put the castle into a complete state of repair as it had long been ‘neglected and ruinous’ (Summerson, 2004). The land was once again used as a working farm and the interior was altered to provide the necessary accommodation. Members of the local Rowell family came into occupation and they stayed at Aydon for just over a century. A schoolroom was installed on the first floor of the old latrine block and as there was no electricity until 1950, oil lamps and candles were used to provide lighting. Aydon was completely self-sufficient and the Rowell family appear to have lived well. In a county guide published in 1889, the writer William Tomlinson described Aydon as “a better class farm house, though still retaining many of its ancient features.” As farming became less profitable in the early 20th century and with the roofs needing constant attention, Sir Charles Blackett, the ninth baronet, placed the castle in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works in 1966. A thorough restoration got underway which included the removal of practically all the 19th century fittings (Summerson, 2004). Surviving little changed from its original state, Aydon Castle is an outstanding example of a 13th century manor house.

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“The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions.” G.M. Trevelyan: Autobiography of an Historian (1949).

Aydon Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade I Listed.

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Stokesay Castle: Gatehouse

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At the time of the compilation of the Domesday Book in 1086, Stokesay formed part of a prosperous estate called Stoches. An Anglo-Saxon word which suggests the presence of a cattle farm, Stoches was held by the Lacy family who became lords of Weobley and Ludlow. The first recorded tenants appear to have built a small keep with an adjacent hall (Jenkins, 2003). Dendrochronological evidence shows that building at Stokesay did not begin until after 1285 when the local wool merchant, Laurence of Ludlow, owned the rights of the manor – purchased some four year earlier. Laurence erected the impressive manor house with crenellated tower and built walls round an inner bailey. His family occupied Stokesay until 1598.

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While Stokesay is a castle in name only, when the antiquary John Leyland passed through Shropshire in 1543 he described it as “buildid like a castel.” The title of Stokesay Castle only became common during the 16th and 17th centuries which no doubt reflected the social pretensions of its owners and as Alec Clifton-Taylor (1986) notes, “a castle was a good address.” Although a stone curtain wall was built to enclose Stokesay, the present gatehouse was not built until 1640. Nothing remains of the original gatehouse which was likely to have been of stone construction (Summerson, 2009). Unique to the Middle Ages, castles, or feudal residences, were more often than not lived in than fought over. Simple gate towers were in use throughout the medieval period, usually as secondary gates, and the ostentatious embellishment of gatehouses had their part to play from the 14th century onwards (Friar, 2003).

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The widow of a former Lord Mayor of London, Dame Elizabeth Craven, purchased Stokesay in 1620. Her son William was a soldier who spent much of his time abroad and he made permanent alterations to the appearance of Stokesay between 1640 and 1641. The gatehouse timbers are dated between 1639-1641 – when William was busy with building work. Given the ornately decorated character, the gatehouse was not concerned with defensibility. The two storey gatehouse is half-timbered and features a central passageway with a studded door. The ground level walls are close studded with the first floor jettied out above. Carved along the lintel above the entrance is the biblical story of the fall of man with the trees of life and the knowledge of good and evil at each end. Adam and Eve appear on the ornately carved brackets flanking the entrance with others exquisitely depicting angels, acanthus leaves and dragons. “A real touch of the Renaissance – what fun those craftsmen had!” (Clifton-Taylor, 1986)

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At some point the gatehouse became a refuge for a coiner and by 1877 there was a caretaker living in the building. When the architectural historian Thomas Hudson Turner visited Stokesay in 1845, he described it as “one of the most perfect and interesting buildings which we possess.” Following the death of Jewell Allcroft in 1992, Stokesay was placed in the guardianship of English Heritage and a four year campaign of restoration got underway.

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Referred to as domus defensabiles in the Domesday Book, fortified homesteads were both a residence and a personal stronghold. The inherent desire to provide a facade with a “satisfying architectural climax” (Friar, 2003) is more than evident at Stokesay. What survives at Stokesay Castle is a remarkable example of a fortified manor house and the “breezy Jacobean gatehouse is a gem” (Jenkins, 2003).

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“I do love these ancient ruins: We never tread upon them, but we set our foot upon some reverend history.” John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi (1612)

The gatehouse is Grade I Listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

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Stokesay Castle: The Great Hall

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South wall

Early medieval houses tended to have halls of aisled construction but gradually the obstructive posts were omitted resulting in a magnificent building type. The 13th century carpenters were experimenting in methods which would obviate the need for aisle posts and the cruck form of roof construction, which transferred the weight of the roof to the walls, eventually made them unnecessary. There is no evidence that the hall at Stokesay ever had aisles but there was likely to have been a screen across it. Reducing the size of the hall when it was used for its principle function, a wooden screen would have provided shelter from the draughts from the screens passage which led to the service rooms – the buttery, pantry and kitchen (Friar, 2003). The hall in a medieval castle or manor house, such as Stokesay, was the nucleus of an estate and considered the most important room in a dwelling. The walls of the hall would have been plastered and whitened and some of the original plasterwork can be seen on the north and south walls at Stokesay (see above). The hall at Stokesay stands on the western side of the courtyard and was built in the early 1290’s.

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Built of sandstone rubble and retaining its extraordinary timber roof, the Great Hall at Stokesay is described as “one of the most evocative medieval halls” (Friar, 2003). Built to replace an earlier wooden hall, it comprises four bays with separate gables above each window and the doorway. The roof was originally supported by three pairs of crucks with each pair braced by two collar beams. Each cruck rested on a stone corbel above the hall floor but they were replaced by stone pilasters in the 19th century. The roof is a fantastic range of raised crucks, aisled end trusses and an unusual example of collar-purlins without crown posts (vertical king or crown posts provided extra stability). The fabulous cruck timbers cover the whole expanse of the hall and the three great wooden arches over the room are a rare survival for this period. Each supported by two horizontal collars, the topmost collars are supported below by pairs of struts. The arches are linked by purlins (the horizontal beams) which run along the side walls of the roof.

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It is unknown where Laurence of Ludlow obtained his timber however, following his death some years later, his eldest son William was recorded as buying 24 oaks from the royal woods at Bushmoor and Haycrust – five miles north of Stokesay. Under the supervision of the carpenter, trees were cut up where they fell and the same marks of arcs and circles are found in the north tower, hall and solar block. The timbers have been dated by dendrochronology to the late 1280’s and show that these buildings were erected at the same time and possibly overseen by the same carpenter. The two upper floors of the north tower are accessed from the hall via a wooden staircase (below). Similar to the roof, this staircase survives from the late 13th century and the same carpenter’s marks occur on both. Using high quality wood, the treads of the staircase are cut from whole tree trunks and the sturdy brackets supporting the landing also date to the 1290’s (Summerson, 2009).

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North wall with 13th century timber stair

Three large windows feature on the east and west walls and as was usual in the 13th century, only the upper parts of the windows were glazed. The lower levels were commonly open to the elements in fine weather and covered by wooden shutters in cold or rain. Shutters were almost invariably fitted to window openings with surfaces often painted with heraldic and other decoration. With glazing an expensive commodity, shutters were often braced like doors with pulleys and ropes used to close larger sets (Friar, 2003). The pointed trefoil head to the lights, which was much more common during the 13th century, feature at Stokesay and the hall windows have soffit cusps – more usual for the period are cusps built as part of the chamfer of the lights (Wood, 1994).

Enchanted by what he saw, the writer Henry James visited Stokesay in 1877 and remarked: “I have rarely had, for a couple of hours, the sensation of dropping back personally into the past so straight as while I lay on the grass beside the well in the little sunny court of this small castle and lazily appreciated the still definite details of medieval life.”

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North end with wooden window shutters

Bassenthwaite: Mirehouse

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Surrounded by the breath taking scenery of Skiddaw, Ullock Pike, Grisedale Pike and Lake Bassenthwaite, Mirehouse occupies a perfect spot on the outskirts of Keswick. Planted in 1786, great Scots pine – the only species of native forest conifer in Britain – line the walk towards the house. The long walk along the drive takes you past the Bee Garden and Poetry Walk with stunning views of Ullock Pike and Dodd Fell. Although records indicate that there was people living at Mirehouse during the 16th century, the present house was built in 1666 by the 8th Earl of Derby. The only time Mirehouse has been sold was with the sale by the Earl to his agent Roger Gregg in 1688. The Gregg family and the Story family owned the house until Thomas Story left it to John Spedding of Armathwaite Hall in 1802.

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With more emphasis on convenience than grandeur, the house has been enlarged over time. The wings were added in 1790 for Thomas Story and the rear extensions were constructed in 1830 by the London architect Joseph Cantwell for John Spedding. In 1832 the south side of the house was demolished and new higher rooms were built. Further rooms were added in 1851 and a servants’ wing and chapel were completed in the 1880’s. The cross on the south side of the house (below) marks where the half timbered chapel once stood. Riddled with dry rot, it was demolished in the 1960’s. The two storey late Georgian house features seven bays between two canted bay windows with a porch of four Tuscan columns (above) and the building has painted roughcast walls. The lawns were terraced in the 1850’s and the Victorian colonnade (below) is the most formal aspect of the garden. The colonnade houses a display of the winning poems in the annual Mirehouse Poetry competition.

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The interior of the house is essentially a tribute to the Spedding Brothers, James and Tom, and their friends among the Romantics of the early 19th century. Although in many ways Mirehouse is a typical English Manor House, its charm lies in the poetic inspiration of its literary connections and its landscape. The front rooms are of a “cultured gentleman” (Jenkins, 2003) and contained within which is a collection of letters and works of Francis Bacon. Many first editions of Bacon’s work are displayed as well as Spedding’s collection of Bacon’s papers. James and his brothers were educated at Bury St Edmunds and became friends with Edward Fitzgerald (who gained fame with his translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam), Alfred Tennyson and Arthur Hallam. Following the death of Edward, younger brother of James, in 1832, Tennyson wrote a poem entitled ‘To JS’ – the first of his great elegies. The quiet composure of James is depicted in the opening lines of the tribute:

The wind, that beats the mountain, blows

More softly round the open wold,

And gently comes the world to those

That are cast in gentle mould.

James reviewed the 1842 Poems in the Edinburgh Review and being close friends with Tennyson, regularly discussed his draft poems. The numerous paintings, letters and drawings, as well as early photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron, tell the story of the friendship between James and the Tennysons, Fitzgerald, Hallam, Thackeray and other literary figures.

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The library contains letters and manuscripts relating the story of Thomas Carlyle and some of his struggles with some of his works. Thomas was a close friend of James and a regular visitor to Mirehouse. Describing his friend as “Dear hospitable Spedding”, Thomas called on James on his way to his Scottish home at Ecclefechan in Dumfriesshire. While working on his Frederick the Great in 1851, Thomas remarked “I am deep in extremely dull German books about the history of Frederick.” Following the publishing of Volume One in 1857, Thomas wrote “If I live to get out of this Prussian Scrape (by far the worst I ever got into) it is among my dreams to come to Mirehouse.” Taken from The Literary Associations of the English Lakes: “There are those who would fain have that library filled again with the voices of old time. Tennysons’s deep-chested tones, FitzGerald’s laugh, Monckton-Milne’s wit, Carlyle’s strong Northern brogue, James Spedding’s dignified speech, and Tom Spedding’s humour.” Mirehouse is set in a wonderfully inspiring spot in Cumbria and exploring the stunning landscape surrounding the house, you truly get a sense of the poetic voices of the past. Canon Rawnsley had a favourite time to visit Mirehouse:

“Mirehouse in April is at its best. The great grove of Scots fir seems bluer in head and ruddier in stem against the evening light… Lambs cry from the home meadow, and the ravens, as they sail over to Skiddaw Forest, almost have a kind of geniality in their voice… The long lighted evenings with their saffron glory over Wythop prolong the spring-like day, and keep the thrushes singing until star-time.”

Mirehouse is Grade II* Listed.

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Knowle: Baddesley Clinton

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Badde’s Ley, Badde’s wood or clearing dates back to before the Conquest. The Saxon holder in 1066, Leuvinus, was replaced by the Norman knight Geoffrey de Wirce who was granted the manor by William the Conqueror. Walter de Bisege owned the manor 200 years later and his grand-daughter married Sir Thomas de Clinton – hence where Baddesley Clinton derives. With a number of defensive ditches being dug at the end of the 13th century when the Forest of Arden was being settled, it is likely that the moat at Baddesley dates from this time and that Sir Thomas may have been the first to construct a house on the site of the present building. Through the marriage of Nicholas Brome’s daughter Constance to Edward Ferrers, the Baddesley Clinton estate has passed through 13 generations of the Ferrers family until the mid 20th century. One of the most notable occupants at Baddesley is Henry Ferrers. Nicknamed the Antiquary, Henry was a historian who introduced much of the 16th century heraldic glass and the oak panelling in the Great Hall. The historian William Camden described Henry as “a man both for parentage and for knowledge of antiquary very commendable… who hath at all times courteously shewed me the right way when I was out, and from his candle, as it were, hath lighted mine.” Spending much of his life in historical research, he had planned to complete a history of the kings and queens of England.

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View through the Gatehouse to the 19th century Tudor style service wing

It is believed that there was a manor house on the site from around 1230, shortly after the estate came into the hands of the de Clinton family. Originally comprising a group of buildings surrounded by the moat, the medieval gatehouse would have served as the entrance to the original great hall and would have been a timber framed structure. With little remaining of the original house, the earliest visible elements date from the 15th and 16th centuries. A programme of rebuilding was underway in 1459 when John Brome acquired the manor which included a new L-shaped chamber block, a south-east tower and additional chambers. A new gatehouse range was added by Edward Ferrers during his rebuilding between 1526-1536. Henry Ferrers began a programme of improvements in 1574 which included alterations to the Gatehouse Range (new roof) and the rebuilding of the East Range, new staircases and first floor corridors for increased privacy. During the 17th century, the gatehouse had mullioned and transomed windows installed when a new Great Parlour was created by a rearrangement of the dividing walls over the gatehouse. Domestic gatehouses were not generally defensive in the military sense but gave sufficient protection against bands of marauders and provided a suitable place for the emblems of the owner, founder or patron.

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Often containing closets used as secret hiding spaces, houses of the late 16th century had vaulted cellars and tunnels connected with the sewage. A tunnel some 30 inches wide passes below the west wing at Baddesley which was constructed as a sewer to receive the drainage of the house (Wood, 1994). The level of the moat was raised at intervals to clean it with steps at one end allowing access for a servant to brush it out. During the times of religious persecution, the tunnel was transformed into a hide for Catholic priests by the 16th century architect Nicholas Owen, a specialist in building priest holes. Known as Little John, Owen trained as a carpenter and was a personal servant of Father John Gerard, the Jesuit Superior. With increased financial pressures, Henry Ferrers rented Baddesley out in 1590 to the daughters of Lord Vaux who were ardent Catholics. The Vaux sisters allowed a number of English Jesuit priests to use Baddesley as a base for missionary work and apparently did so without Henry’s knowledge. Following the Act of Uniformity in 1587, it was a treasonable offence to be or to harbour a Roman Catholic priest in your house so the Vaux sisters created a number of hiding places incase Baddesley was visited by the priest hunters. Despite the threat posed by the Act and risking their lives, the servants remained loyal.

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The Great Hall

A room of many uses, the Great Hall (above) was contrived by Henry Ferrers as a reception room and entertainments. Recording the installation of the great carved heraldic chimneypiece on 2nd March 1629, Henry remarks: “Work in the great chamber have finished and set up the chimneypiece… which I like well but the unicorn is not set up for the crest, and is as I think made too big and the horn too big, and too upright, and the eyes ill set and sidelong.” (Tinniswood, 1991) Formal dining took place in the first floor Great Parlour so although the Great Hall was recreated after the medieval fashion, it was quite different in function to other medieval manor houses. William Langland noted the tendency to dine apart in The Vision of Piers Plowman: 

Wretched is the hall… each day in the week

There the lord and lady liketh not to sit;

Now have the rich a rule to eat by themselves

In a privy parlour… for poor men’s sake,

Or in a chamber with a chimney, and leave the chief hall

That was made for meals, for men to eat in…

The great hall usually met several social needs, such as being a point of assembly for tenants, legal and administration purposes and was the main living room for the lord and their family. The central hearth, which necessitated a high roof, was gradually superseded by a wall fireplace, particularly from the 15th century onwards (Wood, 1994). It also became common during Elizabethan times for both the hall and the parlour to be “ceiled” with plastering becoming usual for ornament and effective protection against fire (Summerson, 1953). The fabulous fireplace at Baddesley is finely carved and derives from the printed designs in Sebastiano Serlio’s Five Books of Architecture and was moved to the Great Hall from the Great Parlour in 1572. Thomas Ferrers moved into Baddesey in 1747 and created a central door opposite the chimneypiece and added a plain plaster ceiling in this room. Concealing the 16th century timbers, the fine ceiling was not revealed until after a fire in 1940.

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The Library

The Library (above and below) was adapted from a first floor chamber and was created during the 17th century. In later centuries, this room was a bedroom and became known as the Ghost Bedroom. The fantastic carved overmantel is dated 1634 and was installed by Edward Ferrers. The beautiful oak lectern in the form of an eagle, made from a ship’s figurehead and dating to circa 1800, was introduced by Thomas Ferrers-Walker and his son in the 19th century. Thomas was responsible for recreating the Sacristy and removing an 18th century chimneystack. Thomas and his wife Undine also stripped back the many layers of paint in some of the rooms, repaired timberwork and revealed the ceiling in the Great Hall. Much of the furniture in the room is Georgian and many of the books are concerned with history and genealogy.

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The Library

Adjoining the Great Hall are the Drawing Room (below) and the Dining Room. Rebuilt in around 1790, the Drawing Room features glass, oak panelling and armorial chimneypiece that were re-used from other rooms in the house. One of the stained glass windows in the room is 16th century while the other was introduced in the 1890’s by Rebecca in memory of her two husbands. Rebecca Dulibella Orpen was born in 1830 and lived in County Cork with her aunt Lady Chatterton. The story goes that when the wealthy Edward Dering came to ask permission to marry Rebecca, the 53 year old Lady Chatterton misunderstood and announced to the world that she had accepted his proposal. Apparently too chivalrous to withdraw, Edward did indeed marry Lady Chatterton. Marmion Ferrers, the last Ferrers in the direct male line to live at Baddesley, married Rebecca in 1867. A talented and prolific painter, Rebecca filled the house with family portraits and many views of Baddesley Clinton. These four individuals – Marmion, Rebecca, Lady Chatterton and Edward Dering – became known as the Quartet. Living a “gentle Tennysonian existence” (Musson, 2015), the two inseparable couples restored and refurnished the house, recreated the Chapel and extended the servants wing. Lady Chatterton died in 1876 and following the death of Marmion in 1884, Edward finally married his true love Rebecca in 1885. After Edward’s death in 1892, Rebecca continued to live at Baddesley with her devoted servants until her death in 1923.

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The Drawing Room

After the death of Rebecca, Baddesley Clinton passed to her first husband’s great nephew. Much of the furniture was sold to Baron Ash at Packwood House (also in Warwickshire) as Ferrers relatives struggled to keep the house going. In 1940 the house was sold to Thomas Walker, a relation of the Ferrers family, and in 1980, his son, Thomas Ferrers-Walker, transferred it to the National Trust through National Land Fund procedures. The National Trust opened the house to visitors in 1982 and with the landscape that surrounds this idyllic ancient manor house being recognised for its environmental importance, there is a project supported by Natural England to restore the traditional character of the fields and park. Baddesley Clinton has a fantastic variety of architectural features that reflect both the changing fashions and the uses of this historic manor house.

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South side – the Chapel & Sacristy are located above the 18th century toilet block projection

The writer Fletcher Moss visited Baddesley Clinton following the death of Edward. Noting in Pilgrimages to Old Homes (1912), Fletcher describes the moment he was greeted at the door by a priest in Benedictine dress: “In the quaint epauletted livery of black is a butler whose mien is that of a family servant – not one who is bought with mere wages, but a survival from the days when servants were serfs or chattels, bred and reared on, and part of, the estate.” Speaking of Rebecca, he goes on: “In thorough harmony with the place is the Lady of the Manor, a handsome courteous elderly lady whose time is spent in works of charity, and who comes to say a few words of welcome not only for this day but also for another.”

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Coach House completed in 1714

An illustrated article on Baddesley Clinton appeared in the first issue of Country Life in January 1897. Described as “a truly quaint and beautiful domestic survival of the English country life of the olden time” (Tinniswood, 1991), John Leyland gives the following description of Warwickshire country houses: “mailed knights have dwelt within their walls, fugitives in troublous times have fled to their secret chambers, cavaliers have knocked at their oaken doors.” On arriving at Baddesley, Leyland notes: “About seven miles from Warwick… all amid the silent woods, its grey walls and timber gables reflected in a lake-like moat, stands the old Hall of Baddesley Clinton. Its aspect carries you back hundreds of years. You will readily, if so disposed, conjure up an old-world history when you look at it, and if you have any antiquarian interest – and who has not at least a tinge of it? – you can easily forget for the time that you are living in the Nineteenth century.”

Baddesley Clinton is Grade I Listed.

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East Range containing the Great Hall

Corbridge: Aydon Castle Kitchens

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The fortified hall house of Aydon Castle has, as so many historic buildings do, undergone numerous changes during its history. The house was unaltered for 400 years until it was entrusted to the government in 1966. This remarkably intact building is spartan and unfurnished and is a beautiful example of a 13th century manor house. The original kitchen (above) was the first of three kitchens to be built and part of the first programme of works to be completed by Robert de Raymes.

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The 14th century fireplace above stands where the oven once stood with a cupboard to its left and a chute for getting rid of slops and rubbish next to the window. The Carnaby’s were the 16th century owners of the castle and their coat of arms can be seen carved above the fireplace.

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The second kitchen range (below) was likely to have been built soon after the first kitchen and hall’s construction around 1305.  As Robert de Raymes was heavily involved in the fighting in the Borders after 1296, the original kitchen proved to be too small to provide for him and the many men involved in defending the house. With easy access to the hall, the room was divided in two which can be seen by the change in floor level. This first room was where food was prepared and where dishes were washed afterwards.

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The second room was where the cooking took place using seasonings stored in the cupboards cut into the walls. At floor level on the west wall (left of picture above) is a chute for waste to keep the kitchen clean of scraps. When this kitchen was in use, food was brought directly into the kitchen through the wooden door to the side of the chute instead of through the inner courtyard. At the far end of the room is the large fireplace which was moved from the service end of the hall to that end of the range. There are two low stone benches on either side of the hearth which may have been used to keep food and dishes warm but also could have acted as seats for watchmen coming off cold duty.

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This kitchen went out of use in the 16th century and when the room was deserted due to the floors becoming unsafe, the only inhabitants were pigeons. The series of holes cut into the stones around the top of the room (above) were added in the 19th century to provide nesting boxes for pigeons – valued for their meat, not as racers. The roof of the west wing kitchen features timbers that were inserted by the Carnaby family in the early 1540’s.

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