Chipping Campden

On the way back to our holiday accommodation from Snowshill, our route took us close to the small Cotswold town of Chipping Campden. As it was only mid afternoon, we decided to make a short diversion and stop to have a look. This holiday was out first experience of the Cotswolds which is famous for it’s pretty villages with buildings constructed from the golden-Cotswold stone, a type of oolitic Jurassic limestone. Chipping Camden certainly had plenty of them.

The town’s website tells us that its

an ancient wool town, jewel of the Cotswolds, centre of the Arts and Crafts movement, a beautiful place to visit, live or work

but there didn’t seem to be anything about its history. There is, however, plenty of information of the Chipping Campden History Society website.

There were settlements in the vicinity going back a long way, but the town really started to grow between the 13th and 15th centuries due to the wool trade. Apparently many of the buildings in the town date from this period. By the 17th Century the wool trade had declined, but it continues to grow and prosper as a Market Town.

We didn’t spend very long in the town – one of us wanted to get back to the accommodation – so we only had time to take a brief wander along the main street.

Looking closely, the buildings may have been built with the same type of stone but there were different styles, reflecting the different periods when they were erected. The buildings in the High Street are apparently mainly from the 14th century to the 17th century. There were many good examples of vernacular buildings

but we also spotted a number of Georgian style properties, probably built as the town expanded as it became more prosperous.

“Campden” originates from the Saxon ‘campa’ ‘denu’ -meaning ‘a valley with cultivated fields ringed by unfenced hill pastures’. The “Chipping” part of the town’s name, added later during it’s history, is from Old English cēping, meaning ‘market’, ‘market-place’. There are several other towns in the area with the same element in the name, and only a few weeks ago I was in the old Lancashire Chipping on the edge of the Forest of Bowland. So, not surprisingly, the town has an old market square and it was here that we found the old market hall.

Funded by a wealthy benefactor, Sir Baptist Hicks, It was built in 1627 to provide shelter for traders in goods such as cheese, butter and poultry. Not surprisingly it’s a Grade 1 Listed Building.

Like just about every other building on the High Street it’s built of the local creamy limestone. It has a stone slate roof, and each of the slates is secured by a single wooden peg through a hole resting on the wooden cross strut.

The old cobbled stone floor was very uneven! It’s believed that this is the original floor.

Today it’s owned by the National Trust and their website tells us that

In the 1940s it was almost sold to an American, but local people heroically raised the money to buy it first. They gave it to the National Trust

The market hall is the start, or end, point of the 102 mile long Cotswold Way. Now that’s given me an idea!

Coiner Country

For my second walk last week, on Tuesday I caught the train to Hebden Bridge and set off for a wander in the hills to the south of the small former industrial town. The landscape here at one time would not have been dissimilar to that of Bowland where I’d been walking the previous day. Hills and deep valleys that, before the arrival of humans, would have been covered with woodland, but the trees were felled and the flocks of sheep sent up on the hills resulting in a landscape of peat covered millstone grit moorland. The underlying landscape may be similar, but there’s a big difference between how the two areas evolved and, so, how they look today.

Bowland was a forest – and way back ‘forest’ that meant that it was reserved for hunting by nobility. Consequently, human settlements were small and scattered. Landowners weren’t allowed to clear and cultivate the land, restricting development and prohibiting change. In many ways time seems to have passed it by. That isn’t entirely true as during the 18th Century it wasn’t completely untouched by the industrial revolution; there were some mills and facories and mining activity, but on a relatively small scale, with litle trace of it now. And for many years the land was still dominated by hunting of a sort, with large shooting estates restricting develoment and prohibiting access.

The Calder Valley, however, developed differently. Like much of the South Pennine regions of both Lancashire and Yorkshire a textile industry emerged. Initially with spinning and weaving done in the home, providing a second income for subsistence farmers. Raw wool or yarn would be provided by merchants, which was processed by a family of spinsters and a hand loom weaver, the finished cloth then collected by the merchant. This was known as the “putting out” system. The architecture of the traditional farmhouses and cottages reflect this. They were built with workrooms on the upper floor and windows constructed to allow as much daylight in as possible. Commonly there was a row of multiple small panes divided by stone mullions.

Then with the advent of the Industrial Revolution the narrow valleys with their fast running rivers were ideal for water powered mills. This all led to a very different human landscape than in Bowland with a much denser population with larger settlements and with houses and farms scattered across the valleys and on the lower slopes of the hills. This was very evident during my walk when, before I was up on top of the moors, I seemed to be passing old farms and dwellings every few minutes!

I caught the direct train from Wigan alighting at Hebden Bridge station. It was like travelling back in time to the middle of the 20th century – but, then, it is Yorkshire.

I set off turning right from the station and under the tracks to join a steep track up the hill.

and then took a track alongside fields heading in the direction of Mytholmroyd.

I passed several old houses

before turning crossing a stile and setting off up a path up the steep hill side.

Looking back down to Mytholmroyd

At the top of the climb I reached Erringden Moor – the purple heather was out!

The moor here is a notorious bog and boardwalks have been lain across the worst sections by the local Community Rights Of Way Service (CROWS). Without the work done by CROWS this route would be pretty much impassable for much of the year. Walkers who wander of the path can easily become stuck in the bog up to their knees, and in the past the bog has allegedly swallowed numerous sheep and even a horse. However, thanks to the efforts by CROWS’ volunteers, it’s now become a popular route, particularly due to it’s historical associations,

for I was now in the stomping ground of the Cragg Vale Coiners, a notorious counterfeiting gang who lived in what was then an inaccessible territory in the late 18th century. The gang used to take gold coins and shave or file the edges. The shavings of precious metal were then melted and cast to produce new counterfeit coins which were put into circulation along with the originals. That’s why modern coins have a milled edge as that allows such tampering to be detected.

A large proportion of the local population were involved in this and they were led by “King David” Hartley, who lived in a remote farmhouse on top of the moor, which was on my route. (His brothers were known as the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of York). Some consider the coiners to be local heroes, Calderdale “Robin Hoods”. Others consider them as a bunch of vicious rogues. I think there’s an element of truth in both points of view.

The Coiners are the subject of a rather excellent prize winning novel, The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, who lives in the area. It’s being adapted for TV for the renowned director Shane Meadows. I’m looking forward to watching it.

I followed the path that took me along the top of the steep, wooded narrow valley known as Broadhead Clough, now a nature reserve. Given the impassable nature of the moors, this was the main way up to “King David’s” house. It would have been easy for the gang to control access through the clough.

There was a good view over Mytholmroyd as I carried on along the moor.

I reached Bell House

Bell House – the Home of “King David” Hartley

There was an elderly gent with a younger man (his grandson?) working on a vehicle parked outside the bounds of the property. He was the father of the owner and was staying in the house. He called over and told me I could have a look inside the courtyard if I wanted. I took him up on the offer.

Bell House

I stopped to chat for a while before carrying on, taking a path across the moor

from another old farmhouse (nicely converted and modernised) a couple of hundred metres or so from Bell House.

This took me to a track overlooking the steep valley of Cragg Vale.

I carried on along the track towards Withins Clough Reservoir, which was built to supply water to Morley, near Leeds. Construction, which drowned a number of farms in the valley, started in 1891 .

I took the path alongside the side of the reservoir. Due to the lack of rain over many weeks the water level was very low

Then I turned off to take a path across the moor leading to Stoodley Pike

Looking back towards the reservoir

As I climbed up the hillside, the monument on top of Stoodley Pike came into view

Reaching the top of the hill I stopped to take a rest, grab a bite to eat, and take in the view over the moors towards Todmorden and the hills beyond, where I’d been walking earlier in the year.

Rested, I carried on towards Hebden Bridge. The cloud that had provided some relief from the heat of he sun had dispersed and it was getting hot as the heat wave we’d been promised stared to arrive.

Looking back to Stoodley Pike

As I crossed the fields the hilltop village of Heptonstall came into view

as well as Hebden Village down in the bottom of the valley.

After crossing the fields I took the path down through the woods (some welcome shade provided by the trees) which would lead back down into the valley.

There were glimpses of Hebden Bridge with it’s distinctive architecture through the trees. The tall terraced houses that can be seen in the photograph below are “over and under” houses built due to the limited space in the narrow Calder valley. In most northern industrial cities and towns workers’ houses were often built “back to back” – i.e. two houses sharing a common rear wall. This wasn’t so feasible in Hebden Bridge so they built one house on top of another. One house occupies the upper storeys which face uphill while the second house in the lower two storeys face downhill with their back wall against the hillside.

Arriving back at the station, I wasn’t quite ready to return home, so I decided to wander along the canal and pop into the town centre.

I had in mind to climb up to Heptonstall and take a look at the grave of “King David”. He was buried there following his hanging at York on 28 April 1770. However, the temperature had risen considerably during the day and I was tired after what had been a long walk, so instead bought myself a couple of bottles of cold diet coke from the Co-op and returned to the station. I didn’t have too long to wait for the direct train to Wigan North Western.

The route

A wander around Ruthin

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After we’d looked around the exhibition at the Ruthin Craft Centre, we decided to walk the short distance into the small town and have a look around.

There’s been a town here since the 13th century when, during t his consolidation of the conquest of North Wales, Edward I had a castle constructed in this strategic location. There’ not much left of the castle today and it’s now part of a hotel, set in it’s own grounds. Apparently  Prince Charles stayed here for the night before his investiture as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1969. As was usually the case, a community developed around the castle, so the town was probably originally a bastide, populated with English settlers. But these days it’s very Welsh!

Probably the most notable event in the town’s history occurred during the Welsh revolt 1400–1415 led by Owain Glyndŵr. The revolt was sparked when Reginald de Grey, Lord of Ruthin, who was a big mate of the king, Henry IV, allegedly stole some land claimed by Glyndŵr . His response was to attack Ruthin with several hundred men, looting and burning down most of the buildings in the town. This was the start of the rebellion, during which Glyndŵr  was proclaimed Prince of Wales.

Being rather out on a limb away from the main industrial centres, Ruthin is rather frozen in time and, as a consequence, there’s a significant number of interesting old buildings. It’s a small town centre, only a few streets, so it didn’t take long to look around.

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The Old Court House was built in 1421 after the original court house building was burned down by Owain Glyndŵr ‘s men. It’s a Grade II* Listed building and until 2017 housed a branch of the National Westminster Bank.

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The Old Court House

Nantclwyd House in Castle Street is a Grade I listed timber-framed mansion and the oldest building in Ruthin dating from 1314.

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Nantclwyd House

Today, it’s a museum. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit.

There’s some “newer” buildings, too, a number from the Georgian period

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Exmewe Hall, on St Peter’s Square, it looks like a Tudor timber framed building, but was actually reconstructed during the 20th century to mimic the black and white town mansion, built around 1550, that originally stood on the site.

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Exmewe Hall

I enjoyed looking at the old buildings, but before we headed back to the car to set off for Anglesey, we had to go to prison!

Heptonstall

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On Easter Saturday I decided to take advantage of the good weather and get out for another walk. I’d enjoyed my walk over Blackstone Edge the previous Saturday so thought I’d take the train back over to the South Pennines, this time to Hebden Bridge for a walk over to Stoodley Pike. I arrived in the former mill town in the bottom of the narrow Calder Valley, which has now become rather trendy and “Bohemian”. I didn’t stop long, I’d been a couple of times before, but decided to gead up to the small community of Heptonstall, just up the hill from Hebden Bridge. And what a hill it is!

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I took the VERY steep cobbled lane up from the centre of Hebden Bridge

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and then up a steep road that took me into the village.

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There’s been a settlement here as far back as at least 1253 and it was even the site of a battle during the Civil War. Historically, it was a centre for hand-loom weaving, The work was done in the worker’s own homes, usually on the top floor and the old cottages and houses have long rows of stone mullioned windows on the first-floor which were meant to allow in plenty of light for the weavers.

High up on the hill it was away from the dark and damp valley floor. However, during the early Industrial Revolution, with the advent of water power, the new factories were built by the source of their power, the river, so Heptonstall went into decline. As a consequence, it’s almost as if it’s been frozen in time. I guess that for many years the buildings would have fallen into disrepair, but with the resurgence of Hebden Bridge, Heptonstall has also become a desirable location and the old houses and other buildings have been renovated.

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The former Cloth Hall, which is now a private house,was built between 1545-58. Finished cloth produced in the town and nearby area used to be traded here.

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The Octagonal Methodist Chapel was built in 1764 and the design and construction of were overseen by John Wesley, who frequently preached here. It’s one of the oldest Methodist churches in continuous use today.

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No visit to Heptonstall would be complete without a visit to the churchyard. There’s actually two churches there, one of them a ruined shell. The original church, dedicated to St Thomas a Becket, was founded c.1260, but was damaged by a gale in 1847. The new church which replaced it, dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle, was built just across the churchyard. 

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A large proportion of visitors come up the hill to see the grave of Sylvia Plath who is buried in the new graveyard, just across a narrow lane from the church.

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There’s a lot of old graves in the old churchyard

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The most notable “resident” is David Hartley, the KIng of the Crag Vale Coiners, who was executed in York on 28 April 1770 This is his gravestone

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Some consider the coiners to be local heroes, Calderdale “Robin Hoods”. Others consider them as a bunch of vicious rogues. In either case, they are the subject of a rather excellent prize winning novel, The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, who lives in the area

Just by the graveyard there’s a rather excellent little museum, housed in the old grammar school building that was constructed in 1642

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There are exhibits about the history of the village, its industry, the Civil War battle and, of course, the coiners.

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Partway back down, the view over Hebden Bridge

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and then down the steep, cobbled lane

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back to Hebden Bridge where I took a break by the old packhorse bridge for a bite to eat before setting off on my walk up Stoodley Pike

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Springhill

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After we’d had a last look around the grounds of the Argory, we drove over to another National Trust property, Springhill, which was about 30 minutes drive away in the direction of our hotel. It’s another example of the type of dwelling owned by the gentry rather than the nobility.

The house was built by William ‘Good-Will’ Conyngham as part of his marriage contract to Anne Upton in 1680 to ‘erect a convenient dwelling house of lime and stone, two stories high, with necessary office houses, gardens and orchards’.

The Conynghams were another family of Protestant settlers and it’s likely that the first house on the site would have been fortified (we saw a number of this type of dwelling later in the week) as the natives they displaced didn’t always take too kindly to their land being occupied. The family had a habit of naming their sons William (a good Protestant name!) so nicknames are used to differentiate between them.

Springhill was given as a gift to the National Trust in 1957 by Captain William Lenox-Conyngham shortly before his death. Neither he nor his brother had any children to whom they could leave the estate.

The house is rather different than the neo-Classical Argory, being of a more vernacular Ulster farmhouse style. The original part of the house is two storeys high, with seven bays and a steeply pitched roof. The two single storey flanking wings were a later addition. In front of the building are two projecting single story buildings with Dutch style gables. Apparently this was quite fashionable in Ulster during the 17th Century– no doubt influenced by King Billy.

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This is the back of the house. Less symmetrical mainly due to later additions.

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The visit to the house is by hourly guided tour. Once again the guide was very knowledgeable and informative with some entertaining anecdotes and stories about the house and the family. I snapped a few pictures inside

This is the library (the wall of books rather gives that away, of course!)

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The gun room. Given the nature of the times the owners would have needed the means to defend themselves

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Note the very long barrelled gun stood up on the left of the chimney breast. The NT Website tells us

Springhill’s Long Gun was presented to Alderman James Lenox, after the Siege of Derry in 1689. He was onboard the ship Mountjoy that broke the boom and ended the siege. As well as being a close friend of “Good Will” Conyngham, the first gentleman of the house, his great-grandson George Lenox-Conyngham inherited the house through his mother Ann Conyngham, and was the gentleman who brought the two families together in his surname.

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The house is situated in ample grounds with pleasant walled gardens

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There’s also a Costume Collection displayed in the old laundry building.

Unfortunately time was pressing after our guided tour as the site closed at 5 so we only could take a brief walk around the grounds. A pity as the rain had eased off by now.

Despite the rain we’d had a good day. It was interesting to visit two more modest houses (relatively speaking) which gave a picture of the life of prosperous Presbyterian Plantation families in Ulster from the 17th to 20th Centuries

Hezlett House

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Just outside the seaside resort of Castlerock, Hezlett house is an early cruck built timber frame dating from 1691, making it one of the oldest vernacular domestic buildings in Northern Ireland. Originally built as a parsonage, the house was taken over in 1761  by a Presbyterian farmer, Isaac Hezlett, whose family continued to live there until the National Trust acquired the property in 1976.

The walls are built of uncoursed rubble with roughcast and a core of earth and sand. The house is particularly interesting for its cruck construction, a form not often seen in Northern Ireland at this date. Several areas in the house are left bare to expose the cruck trusses and other structural details.

The original house has been extended and looks like two dwellings. In fact the left side was an extension built for the owner’s widowed mother – a type of “granny flat”. But the Trust has fitted it out as a  single Victorian farmstead. Some of the furnishings are from the house itself while others have been acquired from elsewhere.

The first room visited is the kitchen

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The Parlour

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Then upstairs – watch your head!

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The maid’s bedroom

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This windowless room in the rafters is where the farm “servants” would have slept

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It’s likely that the farm labourers living here were children – many of them probably orphans who were “farmed out” to work as agricultural labourers. Just like one of my great grandfathers, who was born in 1857 in Liverpool. He was orphaned in 1866 when he was only 9 years old and turns up on the 1871 census in Halsall near Southport working as a “farm servant”.

A view of the rafters in the next part of the building

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Back downstairs now. A shot showing the cruck frame construction method

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The building doesn’t have foundations and is supported by pairs of curved timber, joined by a cross beam, which support the roof.

One of the two rather small downstairs bedrooms

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The nursery

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The parlour

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Being quite small, the house didn’t take too long to look around, but it gave a good impression of how an Irish farming family and their servants would have lived during the Victorian period.

Dolgellau

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Following our return from Lyme Regis, after a few days at home,we set out to North Wales for our second break in two weeks. We’d booked into a very nice B and B, Dofannog Fawr, in the Tal-y-llyn valley. On the way down we stopped off at nearby Dolgellau.

Although it’s the main town in the southern part of the Snowdonia National Park, it’s not very large; more of a large village really. The buildings are constructed of the local stone – grey dolerite and slate – so they probably didn’t look their best in the flat light of a grey day. Most of the buildings are best described as vernacular – i.e. built in the local style.

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This pub allowed customers to bring their own food!

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This was a rare example of a neo-classical style building in the town.

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This building used to be an ironmongers

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but today it’s an independent coffee shop

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Quite quirky, but serving good coffee and cakes and very popular

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In the background of this picture you can glimpse the reason why we were here!

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Black Hall

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We were up in Kendal last weekend primarily to visit the latest exhibitions at Abbot Hall and Blackwell. But we also had a wander through Kendal town centre.

There’s lots of interesting buildings in the small market town, from various periods. This is one that we spotted on Saturday in the main shopping street.

Black Hall is an old stone building with many features typical of the South Lakes. Particularly the large, cylindrical chimneys.

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It wars built in 1575 and modernised in 1801, which probably accounts for the Georgian look of the windows on the top two floors.

In 1869 it was converted into a brush factory, and this is commemorated with the original shop sign above the front door – a bristly hog.

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A feature on the building on the BBC Cumbria website tells us

“Kendals first alderman lived here …….. Before the town had the market charter in 1636, they weren’t permitted to have a mayor. Between 1575 and 1636, Kendal had an alderman who functioned as the mayor.”

Townend

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Townend is a National Trust property in Troutbeck, between Ambleside and Bowness.  that was occupied by the same family, the Brownes, for over 400 years. It’s a very typical Lakeland farmhouse built of rendered stone with a slate roof. It has the very distinctive, large, round chimney stacks that we saw all around the south Lakes and which were a way of showing off wealth (a bit like having a BMW parked on the drive these days – swanking off to the neighbours)

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It has a very pleasant, small, cottage style garden

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with an interesting wooden gate

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Across the road there’s a traditional Lakeland Bank Barn.

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It’s still a working farm building so isn’t open to visitors.

Access to Twnend is by guided tour in the morning – you collect a coloured clothes peg from the front door to book your place on the tour, if they’re all gone the tour is full. Visitors can self tour during the afternoons. It’s not a big property. Although it was the home of a relatively prosperous family of yeoman farmers it’s not exactly a manor house.

The original house was extended in the 1620’s. The extension, called the “Down House” because it’s lower down than the main building, is on the right when facing the front of the house. The older, main, part being known as the “Fire House”.

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It was quite dark inside. These houses had thick walls and small windows and relied on expensive candles for lighting. And the furniture was dark oak. One of the later Brownes was, to say the least, a rather enthusiastic carver and has made his mark (literally!) throughout the house.

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The Brownes were very well read and self educated and collected an impressive library which is being preserved by the National Trust

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Coniston Hall

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Many years ago during my first visit to Coniston, I stayed at the Coniston Hall campsite, which is in the woods on the shore of Coniston Water, south of Coniston Hall. The old manor house, which dates from the 16th Century when it was owned by the Fleming family, is still standing,  The west north east wing is in ruins but the rest of the building is relatively intact, the east wing being still occupied by farm tenants. The central part of the building, which at one time would probably have been the “great hall” appears to have been converted into a barn at some stage with the earth bank built to allow access to a barn door in the centre of the wall, turning it into a traditional Lakeland “bank barn”.

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The style of the house has many other features common to Lakeland vernacular architecture – stone walls and a slate roof and very characteristic, tall cylindrical chimneys which we saw on a number of houses in the area. Tall chimneys were, apparently, a means of flaunting wealth, rather like people who drive flash cars these days.

The house  has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building and today is owned by the National Trust, although it’s not open to the public.