TBH was away for the weekend, so: days out! With Sean Bean reading a modern adaptation of the Arthurian Legends playing on the CD player in the car, we drove up the M6 heading for the Penrith area. This was another day inspired by one of the Discover Eden leaflets, in particular ‘Brougham and Eamont Bridge’. We wouldn’t walk much of the route this time, or visit either of the two megalithic sites it takes in (they will have to wait for another time). We were after castles.
We started with Brougham Hall, more a fortified house than a castle, known (for reasons which escape me) as ‘The Windsor of the North’. There’s been a hall here for a very long time (possibly since 1307) but the current buildings are of various periods – the oldest being Tudor. One previous owner was the first Lord Brougham, one time Lord Chancellor of England, and designer of the Brougham carriage, the first of which was produced here in 1837.
More interestingly (to my mind) the Hall also once belonged to Lady Anne Clifford (1590 – 1676). This formidable lady, born at Skipton Castle, inherited her father’s estates when she was 60, during the English Civil War, and spent the remainder of her life touring her properties and restoring or rebuilding the castles and churches which she owned. There’s a Lady Anne Clifford Way from Skipton to Penrith which I have long wanted to walk, with a guide book and a website by Sheila Gordon.
The enormous door-knocker is a copy of the one at Durham Cathedral (TBH a County Durham girl, saw this photo and recognised it as such immediately). Before that copy was made there was another – I can’t decide from the Hall’s website whether it was original or another copy. Anyway, what is clear, is that it’s a 12th Century design and very imposing.
A private restoration of the hall is underway. It’s free to visit, but a donation is requested. The hall is home to several businesses including a small cafe which we can heartily recommend (try the pan-fried haloumi and humus baguette).
I think that this is the oldest surviving building.
Many people were taking advantage of the glorious November sunshine and sitting outside the cafe to eat al fresco.
(Yes, I know, this is the North of England and that sentence sounds completely implausible, but – it’s true!)
Close to the hall is Brougham Castle.
This is another former residence of Lady Anne Clifford, in fact this is where she died. The castle is now ruined but it still has a very imposing keep…
And an almost equally formidable gatehouse…
It’s possible to climb the keep, on a set of very worn steps (the sandstone is not very hard-wearing), and to tour the top floor in a passage in the wall…
From where there are great views of the River Eamont…
Once we’d had a thorough look around the kids were adamant that they wanted to stay and play (or sword fight).
So I had another roam around. The walls of the keep were festooned with…
…which I was surprised to find still flowering.
Poor old Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee are destined to stare out in horrified disbelief from high on the Keep walls, perhaps for hundreds more years.
The keep dates back to the early Thirteenth Century, but the castle is built on the site of an important Roman Fort ‘Brocavum’ built in 76 AD and once the most northerly fort in the Roman Empire. If you wander around the outside of the castle, as we did, you can clearly see ditches and mounds beyond the moat which date back to the Roman fort. A Roman headstone is built into the ceiling of the keep’s staircase and other Roman remains are on display in the small visitor centre at the entrance to the site.
Any Latin scholars up to translating this?
We rounded off our day with a walk beside the fast-flowing Eamont. We skimmed a few stones and the kids found a tree to climb. I’m pretty sure that A and I saw a salmon leap out of the water (it was a big fish anyway). We also found…
…another Pip Hall etching. (Once again no rubbings I’m afraid – we had crayons this time, but no paper!) The artwork helped to explain what this curious structure….
…in a riverside garden might be for. In fact this is where Penrith Swimming Club used to meet. Which immediately made me think of Roger Deakin’s marvellous ‘Waterlog’. If you haven’t read it, and you are the sort of person who is ever tempted by a dip in a tarn, or a river or the sea, then you really should.
Lots of photos in the slideshow this time: