intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
If you forget for a moment electricity and the car, life at the little Kirkby Thore Hall cannot have changed much since the Middle Ages. The story goes that its weather-beaten stones come from Roman ruins in the village… Under its antique framework, generations of country squires have brought up their families here in the service of the Count of Westmorland, in an area fraught by countless conflicts between the English and the Scots. Now a listed site, it has benefited from a skilled and careful restoration. Located in the heart of the Eden Valley, it offers splendid views over the wild landscape which separates the rocky Pennines chain from the Lake District.
The Old Hall seigneurial room © Kirkby Thore Hall
The famous Hadrian’s Wall (1st-4th c. AD) is only a few roman miles from Kirkby Thore @ Walt Jabsco
In their conquest of “Britannia”, Roman soldiers conquered the territory of the Brigantes, a region now known as Cumbria, around 84-85 A.D. However, General Julius Agricola failed to capture all of Scotland, whose populations would remain a constant thorn in the side of the Roman colonists. Hadrian’s Wall, about 40 kilometres (24mi) to the north of Kirkby Thore, would constitute the northernmost frontier of the Empire for over 300 years. Considerable archaeological remains of the Roman presence have come to light in the area, in particular a fort on the road between Carlisle and York.
Many old fortifications still bear witness to border tensions, such as Castle Pendragon © Clive A. Brown
In the Middle Ages, the region became one of the fiefs of the Anglo-Saxon kings of Northumbria. It passed under the aegis of the Scots before being subjugated by the Normans in 1092. Westmorland’s wilderness areas were the battleground of many conflicts between England and Scotland from the 13th to the 16th centuries, bringing pillages, massacres and destruction in their wake. Until the unification of both crowns under King James Stuart in 1603, the inhabitants in this troubled area also fell victim to Border Reivers, lawless armed bands, who used to hold the villages on both sides of the frontier to ransom.
The initials of Thomas Wharton, once owner of the manor © KTH
It is difficult to say for certain when Kirkby Thore Hall, the seigneurial residence which superseded old Whelp castle, was built. The oldest sections probably date back to the 14th century, but written references to the site start cropping up in the archives in the 15th century (see pages 375-381). As the Lord of Kirkby Thore (that’s his name), had no male heir, the residence passed by marriage to John Wharton, during the reign of King Edward IV (1461-1483). The new owner probably carried out some extension work. The Wharton family lived in the manor for over 200 years, amongst other things assuming the role of vicar to old St. Michael’s church (12th century).
St. Michael’s Church of Kirkby Thore and its fortified tower date back to the 12th century © Visit Cumbria
Lady Anne Clifford, then aged 30
In the 16th century, the fief was placed under aegis of the Count of Cumberland, George Clifford. Feeling his days on earth were numbered, he decided to leave his lands to his brother in his will. This decision enraged his daughter Anne, aged just fifteen and the legitimate heiress to the title. Anne, who was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth and subsequently a member of James Stuart’s close circle, spent nearly forty years asserting her rights to this vast family property before having her claim upheld. The Countess of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery (through her marriages), she spent the remainder of her life maintaining her castles. Her private journal provides insights into the many battles fought by this admirable but inflexible dame.
David Tucker in front of the manor
You reach Kirkby Thore Hall down a tree-lined path sprinkled with daffodils. The splendid red sandstone facade gives the appearance of being built with recovered stone (which would explain its irregularity), which probably came from the old feudal castle or even ancient Roman buildings.
The main entrance gives onto a vast dining room, furnished with a dark timbered ceiling and an attractive sculptured fireplace. The small adjoining library has a rich collection of novels and tourist guidebooks. Next door is the living room, with various historic mullioned windows. A picturesque winding staircase leads to the seigneurial bedchamber, the Old Hall bedroom, whose massive framework provides an impression of medieval safety. A contemporary stained glass window enhances the double Gothic bay and its king size bed befits the rank of its initial owners. The Orchard bedroom, recently renovated, also highlights various period features.
Christine and David Tucker, who now live in the family house, are pulling out all the stops to keep the spirit of this venerable house alive. The furniture which they have chosen to furnish the bedrooms is of the period. As for the breakfasts they serve, local specialities get top billing!
The large living room of the manor is quite a beautiful setting for the breakfast tables © Kirkby Thore Hall
The impressive burr oak table in the dining room is said to have come from a thousand-year-old tree trunk.
From the start, you will be captivated by the wonderfully rugged countryside. The view over the Pennine peaks and the fairytale rivers of the Eden Valley are worth a visit in themselves.
Cumbria is one of the least populated regions of all England © Graeme Churchard
Brougham Castle © Paul McGreevy
However, as we are here to appreciate history, a visit to the castles of Lady Anne Clifford is also strongly recommended. Three of these are in ruins, which makes them particularly impressive: Brougham, Pendragon and Brough.
The interiors of Appleby castle, which was the Countess’s final residence, still remain (as do its ghosts). Guided tours are available. So why not add a trip to the town and its market to your excursion?
Castle Appleby is used regularly as a period setting for historical movies © Chris Hills
The old Fellsman Settle-Carlisle train © Andrews
Some steam trains still run along the Settle-Carlisle railway line. The journey goes through various particularly panoramic valleys, via its 20 viaducts and 14 tunnels.
Kirkby Thore is located about fourteen kilometres (8mi) from the Lake District National Park, with its spellbinding views. There are water sport facilities on its numerous lake and its wilderness areas, forests and peaks are perfect for hiking; discover its villages and rural lifestyle.
The fantastic atmosphere of the Lake District, its wilderness and its mysteries … © Andrew Campbell
Plenty more suggestions to make your trip more enjoyable can also be found on the Kirkby Thore Hall website.
To fully appreciate the period atmosphere of Kirkby Thore Hall, do not hesitate to enhance your stay by reading a few books (nothing beats a good historical novel to bring old stones back to life). Listening to some period music may also be a good way to transport you back in time… A few suggestions:
Learn and understand
Books to savor during your stay
The perfect setting for a little music
Beautiful surroundings, fabulous hosts just perfect for a peaceful relaxing break
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Kirkby Thore Hall B&B
Christine & David Tucker
Kirkby Thore, Penrith
CA10 1XN CUMBRIA
+44 1 7683 62989
B&B’s own website
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