Blencow Hall

Has been described as a Certain Pele Tower

There are major building remains

NameBlencow Hall
Alternative NamesBlencowe Hall
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishGreystoke

Fortified house with gatehouse wing. Probably late C15 with 1590 alterations and additions; further C20 alterations. Thick walls of large blocks of pink sandstone rubble, the towers with battlemented parapets and stone spouts. Hall and gatehouse wing have graduated greenslate roofs with banded red sandstone chimney stacks. 2-storey, 4-bay hall with flanking rectangular 3-storey, single-bay towers, the left tower extending to rear as a 2-storey, 5-bay gatehouse wing, forming overall H-shape. The front wall of the hall has been completely rebuilt, probably in 1590, being moved back about 2m; part of the original front wall remains as a buttress in return angle of left tower and the original roof line can be traced on this tower wall. 2-light stone-mullioned windows under hoodmoulds, the right windows blocked on ground floor, to accommodate a C19 porch, and partly blocked above. Right tower thought to be older, perhaps confirmed by angle turret containing newel staircase, common to the tower and the hall before its rebuilding. The turret shares front wall with the tower and has a stone-surround doorway and small irregular chamfered openings on 4 levels. The front wall continues beyond the turret as a buttress, perhaps added, since it cuts light to hall windows. Between this buttress and the present hall front, an upper-floor opening from the newel stair would have led into the hall. Front wall also has a small ground-floor casement window under a 4-light stone-mullioned window with hoodmould and large relieving arch; 2nd-floor similar 3-light window. Battlements partly removed in C20. Right return wall and rear of this tower have 2- and 3-light stone-mullioned windows, some partly blocked, all under hoodmoulds, one insertion inscribed M.H. 1918 (Howard); some label stops are carved heads, others are inscribed H.B. (Henry Blencow). Left return wall, at junction with the rear of the hall, has a squint window avoiding the hall

Left tower also has a turret, with shared front wall, but without a stair. Front wall rent from ground-floor window to hattlements, but battlements otherwise complete. The turret projects on left return wall, otherwise common with gatehouse wing, which has 2-light stone-mullioned windows, one with hoodmould stops inscribed H.B. and left segmental-arched passage. Thick rear hall wall has Tudor-arched doorway with lintel inscribed in Latin and HENRY BLENCOW 1590, under an armorial panel, initialled H.B. or R.B. Various stone-mullioned windows and smaller openings, with earlier blocked windows. Rear wall of gatehouse wing has Tudor-arched doorways, one initialled H.B. External stone steps to C18 loft doorway. Interior of hall has Tudor-arched stone doorways throughout. A large C16 stone-arched fireplace in the kitchen. The present C19 staircase has earlier timber-framed partitions. Fireplaces and doorways in the towers on various levels, but both are derelict without roofs and floors. Interior of gatehouse wing has a smaller C16 stone-arched fireplace. (Listed Building Report)

This magnificent manor house has acquired not one but two defensive peel towers over the centuries. One of these has remained a habitable part of the structure, but the other, the southern tower, had fallen into ruin long before the new owners bought the house. Inside it was open to the sky and fireplaces were still visible several storeys up, showing the location of the original rooms.

From the outside, the tower offers dramatic and intriguing clues to its history, including an enormous gash in the stonework – often said to be the result of an attack on the building by Parliamentary forces in the 1640s, but more probably the result of soft ground and underground water. The owners wanted the site, both a scheduled monument and Grade I listed building, to be habitable, wishing to create some holiday accommodation within it.

It would once have been standard conservation practice to leave the split tower as a ruin, but English Heritage’s buildings experts and archaeologists supported the owner’s desire to bring the structure back into use. The right intervention could continue the story of this complex medieval building. A building that is being maintained because people use it has far better long-term prospects than one from which the inhabitants derive no practical benefit. Eden District Council supported this approach and so gave confidence to both the owners and their architects.

The gash in the masonry that made the ruin so spectacular has been retained, in an eye-catching form. It remains as dramatic a sight as ever but now has behind it inset glazing and balconies. Inside, new rooms have been created; the stranded fireplaces once more relate to floors and hearths, and a bold and visually arresting solution has been found to give new life to a unique part of England’s architectural history. (English Heritage Constructive Conservation in Practice)

Gatehouse Comments

The restoration of Blencow in 2007-8 won numerous awards for it imaginative use of modern materials to make the seriously damaged tower a habitable building.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY450326
Latitude54.6854705810547
Longitude-2.85435009002686
Eastings345010
Northings532600
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 180-181 (plan)
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 21
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 35
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 82
  • Hugill, Robert, 1977, Castles and Peles of Cumberland and Westmorland (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 41-2
  • Pevsner, N., 1967, Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland (Harmondsworth: Penguin) p. 134
  • Curwen, J.F., 1913, Castles and Fortified Towers of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire North of the Sands (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 13) p. 350-1, 440
  • Taylor, M.W., 1892, Old Manorial Halls of Westmorland and Cumberland (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 8) p. 288-294 online copy

Journals

  • 1924, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 24 p. 355-6 (brief history) online copy
  • Curwen, J.F., 1907, 'Blencow Hall' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 7 p. 120-7 online copy
  • Taylor, M. Waistell, 1890, 'Blencow Hall' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 11 p. 73-80 online copy