button to main menu  Old Cumbria Gazetteer
included in:-  

 Calgarth Hall, Windermere
Calgarth Hall: Gents Mag 1849
evidence:-   old text:- Gents Mag
item:-  coat of armsSamson and DelilahCivil War
source data:-   Magazine, The Gentleman's Magazine or Monthly Intelligencer or Historical Chronicle, published by Edward Cave under the pseudonym Sylvanus Urban, and by other publishers, London, monthly from 1731 to 1922.
image G849B137, button  goto source
Gentleman's Magazine 1849 part 2 p.137  "CALGARTH HALL, WESTMORLAND."
"And is not this a haunted hall?
Are not the spells of time
Still lingering round its hoary walls
With eloquence sublime?"
"THE tourist, or in the older fashioned phraseology of the dalesman the laker, who in his light skiff glides o'er the azure depths of the wide clear waters of Windermere, when at the close of day the rays of the westering Sun glorify with the witchery of eventide the whole of the eastern shore, cannot fail at such an hour of surpassing loveliness to have had his attention drawn to the remains of an old manor house, situate on the side I speak of, about midway between the head of the lake and the pretty-looking village of Bowness. Should the beholder be one of who "in thir present days," as Edie Ochiltree says, "when things o' the auld warld sort are na keepit in mind round winter fire-sides as they used to be," has a feeling for old names and events, he perchance may find his fondness for the spirit of by-gone ages gratified by a visit to the mansion in question, and his inquiries after the family who once owned it not unattended with a portion of that interest which the examination of the fading things of a remote era always more or less excites."
"Landing in the nearest of the tiny bays that indent the margin of this lovely lake, the stranger may proceed along a plain until the gables and round buttressed chimneys of the mansion, overgrown by ivy of the richest foliage (and which, by the way, I may observe grows in more luxuriant profusion in Westmerland than in most other parts of England, verifying the saying in the sweet old ballad, that -"
"- the oak, the ash, and the bonnie ivy tree,
That flourish best at home in the north countrie.)"
"attract observation to where the Hall of Calgarth, rearing those lofty remnants of its former state, amidst still more stately trees, stands in the glittering flood of sunshine a ruined monument of times that are no more."
"The situation of the house, whose history belongs to the world of shadows, but whose ruins still form an object of interest, is within a short distance of the water, upon the narrowest part of the small and pleasant plain; and I know of but few spots in the neighbourhood where the lover of picturesque antiquity could so lose himself in dreams of the past as in contemplating this dilapidated fabric."
source data:-   image G849B139, button  goto source
Gentleman's Magazine 1849 part 2 p.139  "..."
"The house, whose style of building was such as prevailed in these parts in the reign of Elizabeth and her father Henry VIII., at one time must have been a fine old place to behold. Though greatly injured, it is still picturesque; but it has known its troubles, having been for a long period in the possession of farmers, for whose accommodation the useful but in-elegant offices of a modern farmery have been erected with part of the materials, it has been despoiled of all its pride, and the integrity of its appearance lost in the additions and alterations of later days. So great indeed has been the curtailment of its original proportions, that it is impossible to make out what its precise form has been. It is said to have been designed somewhat after the manner of those venerable halls at Levens and Sizergh, which yet remain to gratify the antiquarian enthusiasm by the architectonic display and ornamental embellishments that so unequivocally illustrate the conceptions of medieval art. If this be true, the reduction of that has reduced an edifice, which, even so late as 1774. Dr. Burn the learned historiographer of Westmerland states was "a fair old building," to its present condition, has indeed been complete. What is now called the kitchen, and the room over it, are the only portions of the interior existing, from which a judgment may be formed of the care and finish applied to its internal decoration. In the former, which appears to have been one of the principal apartments, though now divided and associated with humble uses, the armorial achievements of the Philipsons, or Phillisons as the name seems sometimes to have been formerly spelled, crested with the fine ostrich plumes of their house, and surmounted with their motto, "FIDE NON FRAUDE," together with the bearings of Wyvill impaling Carus, into which families the owners of Calgarth intermarried, are represented in stucco over the fire-place, by the coarse skill of some provincial artificer of yore, and still serve to connect their names with the place itself, though the large old fire-place has made way for the most miserable of modern ones. The window likewise retains some fragments of its former display of heraldic honour; for, "glowing with gem-like radiancy in the light of the sun's brilliancy," the arms of the early lords of the place, impaling those of Wyvill, and the device of the Briggs, another Westmerland family, with whom the Philipsons were also matrimonially connected, yet appear in their proper blazon. Heretofore the windows were more richly dight with other armorial cognizances of the family and their alliances,"
source data:-   image G849B140, button  goto source
Gentleman's Magazine 1849 part 2 p.140  "for in Mr. Machel's time, who visited the hall about 1680, and was curious in such matters, the following arms, described by him, were then to be found as fenestral enrichments, some of which, Dr. Burn says, were remaining when he wrote the History of the County in 1777:-"
""1. Philipson. Gules, a chevron between three boar's heads couped, ermineƩ, tusked or; impaling, Azure, a chevron between ten cinquefoils 4,2,1,2,1, argent, charged with three mullets gules, by the name of Carus."
""2. Philipson, impaling Laburne, Azure, six lioncels rampant argent."
""3. Barry of ten, or and sable, a canton of the second, by the name of Briggs."
""4. Philipson, impaling Wyvill; Gules, three chevronels braced vair, on a chief or, a mullet pierced of five points sable."
""5. Carus, impaling Wyvill."
""6. Philipson, single;"
"and both of these, say the authorities I have named, are also in plaster work over the hall chimney very complete, and over Philipson's is this mottoo, FIDE NON FRAUDE.""
"All these intelligent memorials of other days are now gone, save thoses of the Briggs' and of Philipson impaling Wyvill, which, as has been poetically observed in relation to similar adornments elsewhere, "yet remain to attest by their presence that the former owner had made the very light subservient to his state, and pressed the sun itself into his list of flatterers, bidding it, when it shone into his chamber, reflect the badges of his ancient family, and take new hues and colours from their pride.""
"In the same window, underneath the emblazonry, is this inscription, likewise on painted glass:"
D . IN . ANNO . 1539 .
MBAR . 1579."
"The room over the kitchen has been nobly ornamented after the fashion of the day by cunning artists, and it still retains, in its dilapidated oak-work and richly adorned ceiling, choice, though rude, remnants of its ancient splendour. It has a dark polished oak floor, and is wainscoted on three sides with the same tough wood; which, white and bleached with age, is elaborately carved in small and regular intersecting panels, inlaid with scroll work and tracery, and surmounted by an embattled cornice. In this wainscot two or three doors indicate the entrances to other rooms, whose approaches are walled up, the rooms themselves having been long since destroyed. The ceiling is flat, and formed into compartments by heavy intersecting moulded ribs, the intermediate spaces being covered with cumbrous ornamental work of the most grotesque figures and designs imaginable, amidst which flowers and fruits and other products of the earth, moulded in stucco, yet exist to tell how many times the fruitage and the leaves outside have come and gone, have ripened and decayed, whilst they endure unchanged."
"So late as 1789, when Clarke wrote his Survey of the Lakes, there was remaining over the fireplace, in what was then called the dining-room, two devices remarkably well carved in oak. One exhibited Samson asleep upon Delilah's lap, while the Philistines were cutting off his hair; the other was a representation of Jeptha, after his rash vow, meeting his daughter. In the room then designated the parlour, there were also upon the ceiling several devices moulded in stucco, in which the figure of the wyverne, the crest of the ancient family of Wyvill, was frequently repeated. And even down to so recent a period as 1820 the walls of one of the rooms were covered with various paintings in fresco or distemper, of the Virgin and other saints."
"But of all these perishing evidences that were so characteristic of the era of its youth and freshness, the only things indeed associated with the period of its former state which were left to tell of its interior decorations, how scanty are now the remains; most of what was existing within the last half century is gone, and the few abiding fragments, being liable to continued damage from the weather and want of care, are likely soon to vanish also."
"The fretted roof looks dark and cold
And tatter'd all around,
The carved work of ages old
Dropp'd wither'd on the ground.
The casement's antique tracery
Was eaten by the dew,
And the night-breeze whistling mournfully
Crept keen and coldly through."
source data:-   image G849B141, button  goto source
Gentleman's Magazine 1849 part 2 p.141  "On musing the fate of this time-stricken memorial of a departed race, a peculiar melancholy takes possession of the heart, and it cannot but be regretted that it was not so repaired to prevent it falling into such decay. Had attention been bestowed on the preservation of its original figure and uniformity, it might, from the strength of its walls, have remained for ages to come an interesting monument of the domestic architecture formerly used in the construction of their mansion-houses by the gentry of note in Westmerland, and still be a place to attract the regard of the reflective antiquary, who, in beholding these vestiges of its fallen grandeur, will haply call to mind the following lines, as applicable to its present state:-"
"Such were the rooms in which of yore
Our ancestors were wont to dwell,
And still of fashion known no more
These ling'ring relics tell."
"The oaken wainscot richly graced
With gay festoons to mimic flowers,
The armorial bearings now defaced,
All speak of proud and long past hours."
"The ceiling quaintly carved and groin'd
With pendent pediments reversed,
A bye-gone age recalls to mind
Whose glories song hath oft rehearsed."
"Its hard fate, however, fell upon it in an age when the stately structures of our ancestors, that reminded posterity of the former importance and condition of things, were looked upon with ignorant contempt, and neglected as unworthy of notice or preservation. Thus it has happened that our venerable edifices, noble relics of those middle ages when the picturesque architecture of England flourished in all the original harmony and strength of character of its most interesting phases, became progressively deteriorated, and eventually destroyed, through the ill-taste or want of care in those who ought to have taken an interest in preserving them; and thus, to use the melodious expression of a gifted Bard,-"
"The house is gone,
And, through improvidence, or want of love
For ancient faith and honourable things,
The spear and shield are vanished, which the knight
Hung in his rustic hall."
"It had many years ago a more desolate and drear appearance, and its melancholy aspect seemed heightened by the mysterious tradition of its human sculls. This famous legend was a tale full of the superstitious notions once so common in country places, and which, - everywhere strengthened by sights and sounds that confounded the limited intelligence of the rustics, to whom even a faint shadow frequently becomes a palpable ghost, and the mere pasing of a churchyard after nightfall, or the remembrance of a nursery story, often filled the dark and lonesome void with spectral illusions, - probably gave rise to the report that the house was haunted."
""Airy tongues that syllable men's names" were heard in every blast that moaned along the mountain sides, or rustled through the woods. Strange shapes and fantasies, dim and shadowy objects which required no great effort of imagination to invest with the outlines of form, were presented in the vapoury atmosphere of the lakes and vallies, affecting even the strongest minds as consequently the frightful visits and fearful deeds which the unquiet spirits of the place were said to have performed to terrify and distress the neighbourhood. Gradually have the tales of spirits and apparitions become less frequent and more vague, and fictions such as these have long since grown cold and powerless on the faith of even the simple out-dwellers in the country. Yet the story of the skulls, to whose reputed properties and mysterious movements so much horrific infallibity was once attached, is a legend of the dark ages of ignorance, too whimsical and improbable to deserve being recorded otherwise than as an instance of the never failing credulity of superstition."
"Wild as this localized tradition may appear, it was a popular tale of immemorial standing, of which however there are other versions with a difference to be picked up, that the skulls belonged to an old man and his wife who, in times long ago, were unjustly put to death for an alleged crime. These ancient persons lived on their own small property adjoining the lands of the Philipsons, whose head coveted to number it among his extensive domains, and long endeavoured by every"
source data:-   image G849B142, button  goto source
Gentleman's Magazine 1849 part 2 p.142  "fair means to obtain the possession. The owners however not being willing to part with it, he determined in an evil hour to have it at any cost, and awful was the price he paid."
"The old people, as the story runs, were in the habit of going every day to the hall to share in the viands that fell from the lord's table, for he was a bountiful man to the poor, and it happened once when they went that a pie was given them into which had been put some articles of plate. After their return home the valuables were missed, and their cottage being searched the things were found upon them. the result was as the author of the mischief had plotted, they were accused of theft, tried, and sentenced to be hanged, and their prosecutor got their inheritance. The story goes on to relate that on their way to execution, after denouncing in the words of the 109th Psalm the conduct of evil doers like Philipson, they pronounced a curse upon the owners of Calgarth, which the gossips of the neighbourhood say has ever since cast its blight upon the ownership of the estate, and that, notwithstanding whatever authentic records may prove to the contrary, the traditionary malediction has been regularly fulfilled down to the present time. After the death of his victims, Philipson was sadly tormented, for, as if to perpetuate the remembrance of such injustice, and as a momento to their innocence, their skulls came and took up a position in the window of one of the rooms, from whence they could not by any means be effectually removed; the common belief being that they were for that end indestructible, and it was stoutly asserted that to what place soever they were taken, they invariably reappeared in their old station; they were buried, burnt, powdered, dispersed to the winds, and upon the lake several times, but all to no effect as to their removal or destruction. In 1775, when Mr. West visited the Hall, they still remained in the place where they were said to have lain as long as could be remembered, and it was then thought an impeachment of the taste and curiosity of the inhabitants of the surrounding country, if they could not say they had seen the skulls of Calgarth. "Some person, however," says Clarke, has lately carried one to London, and, as it has not found its way back again, I shall say nothing more on so very trivial a subject." "As far as can be learned," adds another informant, "the story is simply this. In former times, when the Roman Catholic clergy were compelled to seek safety in retirement from the persecution of the Reformers, one of them retreated to Calgarth, where he occiupied one of the rooms as a cell, and the skulls were brought to him thither as objects for reflective contemplation." A different account, though still lame and unsatisfactory, has it that there formerly lived in the house one of those famous wise women, who, as may be collected from passing remarks in the early English chroniclers, were once among the lower class of our country people consulted as the general medical advisers, but who in too many instances professed to cure by the more questionable agency of those charms and spells of which the adjacent vale of Troutbeck yet vaunts its professors. This person had two skeletons by her for purposes connected with her profession, and the skulls, happening to meet with better preservation than the rest of the bones, they became in time accidentally invested with their singular reputation. Such is the essence of this goblin story, which Mr. Green in the "Tourist's New Guide," published in 1819, has totally dissipated by informing us that "time has proved more than a match for the invisible agent that sought to perpetuate these monuments of wrong, that one of the skulls has turned to dust, and the other was fast mouldering away;" and now even that one has also"
"- gone with the old belief and dream
That round it hung."
"The fame of these redoubtable relics is, however, as living as ever, for the respectable tenants of the house, who even in these days, when the spread of knowledge had almost banished from the glens and recesses of the North the dreams of superstition, had not been able to shake off entirely the secret influence of the old credulity, maintained with a slight love of the marvellous, that though the skulls have disappeared they believe them, invisible indeed to mortal eyes, to"
source data:-   image G849B143, button  goto source
Gentleman's Magazine 1849 part 2 p.143  "haunt their accustomed place in the window. While mentioning this fading remnant of an ancient mystery it may be added, that on conversing with a man who was working in the garden at the back of the house, he stated he had that morning, when trenching deeply into the ground, as if to verify this dismal tradition, turned up a quantity of human bones, and from the numbers he had dug up and reburied, he conceived there must have been a burial ground, or "some queer wark," on the site in former times."
"A grave historian might have overlooked this bit of private family history, but"
"When granite moulders and when records fail,
A peasant's plaint prolongs the dubious tale."
"And thus the story of the skulls of Calgarth lives to this day."
"It has been said by a recent critic that, "without directly abandoning the miraculous legends, which form so large a part of our early history, Dr. Lingard, in his work on the Anglo-Saxon Church, takes a low view of them, though he justly ascribes many of these relations to the intensity of the belief of the people in providential interpositions." With the following quotation therefore, taken from that eminent historian, I will leave this part of my subject, on which it may probably be thought there has been already too much said."
""Hence was generated a predisposition to invest every unexpected or wished-for event with a supernatural character - to see in it the evident hadiwork of the Almighty - a dream often would be taken for a vision, or a warning from Heaven - a conjecture afterwards verified by the event, be converted into a prophecy - an occurrence in conformity with the object of their prayer, be pronounced a special interposition of the Divine power, and narratives of distant surprising cures be admitted without inquiry, and on the mere testimony of the relators. It cannot be denied that this remark will apply to many of the facts recorded as miracles in our ancient writers - their previous disposition of mind has led them into error. It was, however, an error of the head not the of the heart; one which might argue a want of science and discernment, but not of religion and piety.""
"(to be continued.)"
source data:-   image G849B249, button  goto source
Gentleman's Magazine 1849 part 2 p.249  "(Continued from page 143)"
"THE history of this ancient hall is soon told. Like many other houses of its class throughout Westmerland, it was once the residence of a true-hearted race of cavaliers, who in those days of civil strife when in the hearts of the majority of the nation "loyalty was a creed" were, like the Stricklands of Sizergh, the Laybournes of Cunswick, the Rawlinsons of Cark, the Prestons of the Abbey, the Kirkby's of Kirkby, the Flemings of Rydal, and most of the other families of ancient descent in the county, distinguished in all their branches for a proud faithfulness to the royal standard through the baleful commotions of those evil times. Their cause, however, overthrown, ruin pressed hard upon them, and the survivors suffered severely in their estates from the fines and sequestrations imposed by the predominant party, in revenge for their unsubdued loyalty, or, as the ruling powers were pleased to term it, "their former delinquencies," in consequence of which they had been declining ever since the period of those unhappy broils. ..."

button to lakes menu  Lakes Guides menu.