Levens Hall

Of the three distinct periods in the history of Levens Hall it was the Elizabethan age which left the most glorious mark. James Bellingham moved here in about 1580 and thanks to his oak panelling of rooms and commissioning of ornate ceiling plasterwork, Levens Hall is a fine Elizabethan mansion, with a topiary garden to boot. 

The first building on this site was the pele tower in about 1300, its height and strength suitable for troubled times along the Anglo/Scottish border. But by the late 16th century things were more peaceful, hence James Bellingham’s desire to turn Levens Hall into a gentleman’s residence. 

Sadly his great-grandson Alan Bellingham lost the whole estate through gambling and in 1689 the property came into the hands of Colonel James Grahme who added two wings and a brewhouse. 

Self-guided tours start in the great hall. Apart from the wood carving and plasterwork, there’s plenty of fine furniture to see and a number of items relating to the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte. Look out for the Charles II walnut chairs in the dining room where the walls are of Cordova leather.

Colonel Grahme’s masterstroke, of course, was engaging Frenchman Guillaume Beaumont (gardener to King James II) to design and build the garden. Although it has evolved over three centuries, the extraordinary variety of shapes and sizes in yews and box hedges is a tribute to this great designer. 

Levens Hall, near Kendal LA8 0PD: 015395 60321. Bellingham Buttery, gift shop, plant centre, parking. Wheelchair access: access to the gardens, the Bellingham Buttery and shop; no wheelchair access to the house but a DVD of a house tour plays in the tea room. Walks in the deer park. Directions: Levens Hall is five miles (8km) south of Kendal on the A6. 

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