Levens Hall, a large Elizabethan house and Grade I listed building, dates mostly from the late 1690's. The original construction, a 1350 pele tower, was built by the de Redman family in a time when Scottish border raiders were a threat. The de Redmans remained owners until 1562 when the Bellingham family took over.
In 1578, James Bellingham inherited and proceeded to construct a family mansion around the tower, completing the work about 1641. A wing, staircase, brewhouse, and gardens were added in 1694 by Colonel James Grahme, who came into ownership after the Bellingham owner's gambling debts led to the loss of the Hall. Grahme served for many years in Parliament. The Howard family added a tower in 1820 when they inherited the Hall. They also established two schools.
An original long gallery was, at some time, changed into a series of rooms. Oak panelling and chimneypieces and Italian plasterwork are part of the Elizabethan décor. The dining room is embossed with Cordova leather (1688). Decorating the wall above the fireplace in the panelled great hall are the arms of Elizabeth I. William and Mary and Jacobean furniture (added in 1694), paintings (Rubens and Lely), and a collection of 1708 English patchwork are on view. Family memorabilia are scattered throughout the rooms. Two items are related to famous men: Wellington's watch and Cromwell's armour.
Famous for its yew topiary, the garden was designed by Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont, who was already well known for designing Hampton Court's gardens. He spent the last 40 years of his life working at Levens. His portrait is found in the house with the inscription “Gardener to King James II and Col. James Grahme...”. Mostly constructed between 1694 - 1710, the garden now comprises more than 90 topiary works. Using electric shears, the gardeners spend four months trimming the topiary to keep it in shape. Beech hedges, seasonal beds, a rose garden, and a fountain garden also figure in the garden scheme. The grounds include an herb garden, vegetable borders, and an orchard.
The Hall sits in a large deer park, one of Cumbria's oldest. There are legends related to this herd of dark fallow deer. It is said that a white fawn born into the herd holds special significance-good or bad-for the owners of Levens Hall. The legend surfaced on a number of occasions. One such was when the owner had a white fawn shot and misfortune fell on the family. Another story was that a gypsy woman, given short shrift by the family, put a curse on them. She forecast that no male heir would be born until the River Kent stopped and a white fawn was born. One winter the river froze over and a white fawn was born. Shortly thereafter a son was born to the family. Thus the curse was given credence.
Levens Hall is also noted for its ghosts: a black dog who inhabits the stairs and a friendly lady in pink.
The Hall is proud of their secret recipe, dating from Elizabethan times, for spiced Morocco Ale (now made by the Daleside Brewery). It was named by Colonel James Grahme who associated the dark beer with Tangiers. The beer was matured for 21 years and served in the garden every May. Guests were once required to stand on one leg and empty, at one go, a tall Constable glass of the ale while pledging “Luck to Levens whilst t'Kent flows”.
The Redman, Bellingham, Grahme, Howard, and Bagot families all owned Levens Hall and were all related, so it can be said the home has experienced continual family ownership for over 700 years.
Levens Hall is still, as it has been for centuries, a lived-in family home. Its atmosphere reflects the fact that it is a much loved one.
Levens Hall is five miles south of Kendal off the A590/A6.
Tel. 015395 60321
Fax. 015395 60669
Open: Aprilmid Oct, SunThu; gardens, gift shop and tearoom, 10am5pm; house, noon4.30pm (last entry 4pm)
Steam engine collection
Children's play area
Note: Please check opening times and dates before visiting in case of changes.
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