Levens Hall, Cumbria

To describe this house as a 'fine Elizabethan mansion' does not emphasise its medieval origins, or prepare the visitor for the olde worlde charm of the greystone, gabled property and its beautiful gardens. The irregular shape of Levens Hall is a clue to the various periods of building spanning some 500 years. In the mid 13th century the structure was a simple square fortified tower house (pele tower), but this was transformed by the Bellingham family in the second half of the 16th century.

Retaining the tower in the central core of the new house, many refinements were made and all modern comforts were installed to provide a lavish family residence. The house was again extended early in the 18th century, when Colonel James Grahme added a South Wing and Brew House. At the same time, he also commissioned James II's gardener at Hampton Court to lay out the gardens at Levens Hall. In 1820 the building was completed with the Howard Tower.

Superb plasterwork ceilings, and richly carved oak panelling feature throughout the house, the work in the ground floor rooms being largely Elizabethan. The dining room has an especially luxurious feel to it because not only is there a moulded plaster ceiling, an exquisite wooden overmantel to the fireplace, and a set of very fine Charles II walnut chairs, but the walls are covered in embossed Spanish leather. In fact, every room at Levens Hall is a feast for the eyes, from the elaborate decor to the personal family treasures collected over the last five centuries. Paintings, china, clocks, heraldic glass, and numerous unique items of memorabilia are on display for the visitor to enjoy. This is not a museum piece but a family home with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Outside the much acclaimed topiary gardens, designed by Monsieur Beaumont, remain much as they were when he first laid them out over three hundred years ago. Lovingly maintained, the sculptured trees are underplanted with seasonal bedding and always look a picture, as do the other gardens at Levens Hall. Colourful herbaceous borders, parterres of wild flowers, and a formal fountain garden with lime trees are all accessible to the public.

Situated on the edge of the Lake District, just five miles south of Kendal, this lovely family home is a rare find. Totally unspoilt by unnecessary modernisation, but sympathetically restored and maintained for continuing use. With more than 700 years of habitation to date Mr & Mrs Bagot, the current owners of Levens Hall, are keen to ensure that many future generations will be proud to call it home.

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