Grand Houses In The Lake District
In looking at Large Houses, Small Houses and Cottages we are looking at the evidence in the built landscape of the interaction of social and economic forces as well as those of topography and climate. Different social classes went through similar stages of development in their houses but at different times. Similarly in looking at the agricultural buildings of the farmstead we are seeing another Great Rebuilding reflecting status, albeit of a different sort from that of the domestic buildings. The rebuilding of farm structures tends to be later than domestic structures in the first place, but the benefits of properly planned buildings erected in a permanent fashion went first to the farm buildings of higher status, such as barns and stables, and passed down to those of lower status, such as pigsties and poultry sheds, rather later. Furthermore the buildings show how the tremendous improvement in farming techniques led to a demand for more farm buildings and of even better design and construction than those already provided.
Large Houses, which were occupied by families of some local importance, survive in some form from the late medieval period, are rather more numerous from the sixteenth and seventeenth century, but merge into the category of polite architecture when built in the late eighteenth century and afterwards. The earlier buildings include some real or fanciful provision for defence, but later examples make no such acknowledgement. Large Houses were also farmhouses and substantial ranges of farm buildings, many of nineteenth century date but some of earlier dates, provide a setting for the domestic buildings. Isolated towers are not characteristic of the Lake District. More commonly the early Large House was based on a conventional Tshaped or Hshaped plan with one wing taken up as a tower, battlemented and with walls of defensible thickness, and sometimes, as at Beetham Hall near Milnthorpe and Middleton Hall near Kirby Lonsdale, with stone curtain walls and some simple gatehouse. Even these houses are relatively less numerous than in other parts of Cumbria where closer proximity to raiders and more productive land worth more ambitious raiding made provision for defence more understandable.
The Tshaped Large House plan included a multi-storey wing at right angles to a hall which was open to its roof. The more common Hshaped plan made use of two such wings, one at each end of the open hall. The original central hearth heating the hall has in all cases been replaced by a fireplace: a deep chimney breast boldly projecting from the rear wall of the hall, or, more commonly, a wide stone fireplace backing onto the cross-passage which ran between hall and crosswing. Conventionally there was another passage, running through the lower crosswing and leading to an outside kitchen, but here the passage was vaulted and flanked by vaulted buttery and pantry, an arrangement which may be seen at Preston Patrick Hall. As elsewhere in the country the hall was usually modified by the insertion of an intermediate floor in the late sixteenth or the seventeenth century and the great chamber so formed was made more modern and more comfortable by the provision of a plaster ceiling which, as at Yanwath Hall near Penrith, conceals the magnificent carpentry of a medieval roof.
Adrian vultur writes for Lake District Honeymoon Hotel