South face of Holker Hall
|OS grid reference||SD 359 774|
|Architect||John Carr, George Webster,
Paley and Austin
|Designated||25 March 1970|
Holker Hall (pronounced Hooker) is a privately owned country house located about 2km to the southwest of the village of Cartmel, Cumbria, England. The building dates from the 16th century, with alterations and additions in the 18th century, in 1859–61 and in 1871–74; the last alterations involved rebuilding a wing that had been destroyed by fire. The house stands in an estate of about 80 hectares, and is surrounded by formal gardens, parkland and woodland. The house itself is listed at Grade II*, and the surroundings gardens and grounds at Grade II. Within the grounds are six structures listed at Grade II. The house and grounds are open to the public at advertised times on payment of an admission fee. The former stable buildings have been converted into a café and gift shop. A series of events is organised in the hall and grounds, including an annual garden festival.
The land on which the house stands was originally owned by Cartmel Priory. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century it was bought by the Preston family, who were local landowners. The estate has never been sold since then, having passed by inheritance from the Preston family to the Lowther Family, and then to the Cavendish family. The first house was built in the early 16th century by George Preston. In 1644 the estate was confiscated from his successor, Thomas Preston, by Parliament, but was later restored to him. On his death the estate passed to the Lowther family by the marriage of Thomas' heiress, Catherine, to William Lowther. In 1756 it passed again by marriage to Lord George Augustus Cavendish, and has remained in the ownership of the Cavendish family since.
The Jacobean house was altered in 1783–84 by John Carr of York. It was largely rebuilt in 1838–41 for the 7th Duke of Devonshire by George Webster of Kendal in Jacobean Revival style. In 1859–61 the Lancaster architect E. G. Paley carried out some minor alterations. In 1871 the front (west) wing of the house was almost completely destroyed by fire. The Duke commissioned Paley again, together with Hubert Austin, (the firm was then known as Paley and Austin) to rebuild the wing. This they did on the same footprint, but on a grander scale, adding two towers, the whole being in Elizabethan Revival style. The estimated cost of this was about £38,000 (£2,620,000 as of 2013).
Webster's remaining wing is in roughcast stone with ashlar dressings and a slate roof. Paley and Austin's west wing is in variegated red sandstone. Its entrance front faces the east has a porch placed asymmetrically, which is flanked by turrets with domes and pinnacles. Behind the porch is a tower with a copper-covered ogee-shaped cupola, and to the right of this is another tower, which is broad and square with a lead-covered pyramidal roof.
Garden and grounds
The parkland around the house was laid out in the late 18th century, with additions during the following century; these included an arboretum, a conservatory, terraces, and a walled garden. The conservatory was a large structure designed by Joseph Paxton, but has since been demolished. In 1910 Thomas Mawson redesigned the formal garden. His design included a terrace wall to the southeast of the hall. Since then there have been further developments. In 2003–04 a cascade, labyrinth and car park were added by Kim Wilkie, and a sundial by Mark Lennox-Boyd.
In the grounds are a number of structures that are listed at Grade II. The north lodge with its gate piers, standing on the B5278 road, dates probably from the early 19th century and was possibly designed by George Webster. It is a single-story building in roughcast stone with ashlar dressings and slate roof. The gate piers are circular and rusticated with domed caps. The south lodge, also on the B5278 road, is dated 1875 and was designed by Paley and Austin. It is a two-storey building with an L-plan, constructed in limestone with a slate roof. The entrance gates and associated railings to the hall itself, also on the same road, date from about 1875, and were also designed by Paley and Austin. To the southeast of the hall are stable buildings in a U-shaped plan, constructed in stone with slate roofs. They are dated 1864, and incorporate a timber bell turret with a pyramidal roof, a clock, and a weathervane. To the west of the hall is a two-tier circular ice house, which has been present since at least 1732. Also in the grounds is a limestone underpass beneath the B5278 road that gave access from the formal gardens to the kitchen gardens. In the grounds to the north of the hall is a lead statue of Inigo Jones by John Michael Rysbrack, dating from about the 1740s; this was moved from Chiswick House in the 19th century.
The hall continues to be the home of Lord Cavendish and his wife. The older wing is used by the family and is not open to the public. At each end of the long central corridor in this wing are spiral staircases, which are contained in semicircular projections. On one side of the corridor are rooms including a drawing room and a small dining room. On the other side are service rooms, and behind these is a courtyard. The contents of the wing include panelling removed from Canon Winder Hall, Flookburgh, a chimneypiece from Conishead Priory, and a pair of Baroque barley-sugar columns.
The part of the hall open to the public is Paley and Austin's west wing. The entrance porch leads into a long hall, which opens into the library, the billiards room, the drawing room and the dining room; all of these rooms have elaborately decorated plaster ceilings. In the library are about 3,500 books, some of which survived the 1871 fire, and some of the former possessions of the scientist Henry Cavendish (1731-1810), including his microscope. On the walls of the billiards room are four painted panels that are attributed to Jean-Baptiste Oudry, a caricature by Joshua Reynolds, and paintings by Jan Wyck and Matthias Reed. The walls of the drawing room are lined in silk, and the room contains a Carrara marble fireplace. Paintings in the room are by Claude Joseph Vernet (its companion-piece was destroyed in the fire), Salvatore Rosa, and Douglas Anderson. The furniture in the dining room includes chairs by Thomas Chippendale. On the walls are portraits of family members, and a self-portrait by Anthony van Dyck. At the far end of the entrance hall is a cantilevered oak staircase which is approached through limestone arches. It contains over 100 balusters, each of which is carved with a different design. Its windows contain heraldic stained glass. The upper floor contains a gallery and four bedrooms. In the gallery are items of furniture, and these include a table with a purse once belonging to Georgiana Cavendish. Queen Mary's Bedroom gained its name when it was used by Queen Mary when she stayed in the house in 1937. The Wedgwood Bedroom contains a Carrera marble fireplace incorporating blue and white Wedgwood Jasperware. The four-poster bed is by Hepplewhite. The Gloucester Bedroom and Dreesing Room gained their names when they were used by the Duke of Gloucester and his wife when they visited in 1939. The walls are decorated with engravings of Brighton Pavilion by John Nash. The Duke's Bedroom was used by the 7th Duke during the later years of his life.
The formal gardens comprise 10 hectares, and the surrounding parkland, deer park and woodland, comprise 80 hectares. The formal gardens are on the south and west sides of the house, and to the north and west are pleasure gardens with a winding path leading to and through the arboretum. The formal garden to the south of the west wing is known as the Elliptical Garden, and to the left of this is the Summer Garden. To the northwest of the hall is the Rose Garden containing a pair of summer houses. The pleasure gardens include a cedar planted by Lord George Cavendish in the late 18th century, and an Auracaria planted in 1844. There are also two areas of kitchen gardens, one to the northwest of the hall, and the other to the north of the B5278 road.
Parts of the hall and the gardens are open to the general public during the summer months, an admission charge being payable. The former stable buildings have been converted into a café and gift shop. Events are organsied from time to time in the house and grounds, including an annual garden festival.
The hall itself, together with its terrace wall, are listed by English Heritage at Grade II*. Six structures in the grounds are listed at Grade II (see above). The gardens and grounds are included in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens at Grade II. In their book about the Lancaster architectural practice, Brandwood et al say that it was Paley and Austin's "most important country house commission". Writing in 1969, the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner expressed the opinion that the west wing is the "outstanding domestic work" of Paley and Austin. It is "the grandest [building] of its date in Lancashire ...by the best architects then living in the county".[a]
- At the time Pevsner was writing, the hall was located in what was the historic county of Lancashire.
- Holker Hall: History, Parks and Gardens Data Services, retrieved 12 November 2012
- History of Holker, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- Hyde, Matthew; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2010) , Cumbria, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, pp. 410–411, ISBN 978-0-300-12663-1
- Brandwood, Geoff; Austin, Tim; Hughes, John; Price, James (2012), The Architecture of Sharpe, Paley and Austin, Swindon: English Heritage, pp. 125–126, ISBN 978-1-84802-049-8
- UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Lawrence H. Officer (2010) "What Were the UK Earnings and Prices Then?" MeasuringWorth.
- English Heritage, "Holker Hall and terrace wall approx 70m to garden to south-east (1335814)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 12 November 2012
- English Heritage, "North Lodge and gate piers to Holker Hall (1335813)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 12 November 2012
- English Heritage, "South Lodge to Holker Hall (1100291)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 12 November 2012
- English Heritage, "Entrance gates and railings to Holker Hall (1087144)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 12 November 2012
- English Heritage, "Stable building to south-east of Holker Hall (1087140)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 12 November 2012
- English Heritage, "Ice House approx 640m to west of Holker Hall (1087141)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 12 November 2012
- English Heritage, "Underpass approx 120m north-west of Whitegate Cottages (1087139)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 12 November 2012
- Welcome, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- The Library, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- The Billiards Room, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- The Drawing Room, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- The Dining Room, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- The Staircase, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- The Gallery, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- Queen Mary's Bedroom, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- The Wedgwood Bedroom, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- The Gloucester Bedroom, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- The Duke's Bedroom, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- Holker Hall: Summary, Parks and Gardens Data Services, retrieved 12 November 2012
- English Heritage, "Holker Hall (1000665)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 12 November 2012
- Visitor Information, Holker Estate, retrieved 12 November 2012
- Events, Holker Estate, retrieved 13 November 2012
- Festival, Holker Estate, retrieved 13 November 2012
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (2002) , North Lancashire, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, pp. 144–145, ISBN 0-300-09617-8
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