An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1936.

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'Levens', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland, (London, 1936) pp. 151-157. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/westm/pp151-157 [accessed 18 April 2024]

In this section

56 LEVENS (D.g.)

(O.S. 6 in. (a)XXXVIII, S.E., (b)XLII, N.E.)

Levens is a parish, formerly part of Heversham, and 6 m. S.S.W. of Kendal. Levens Hall is perhaps the most interesting 16th-century house in the county and Nether Levens is also of much interest.


b(1). Levens Hall (Plates 125, 128), house and stables and gardens on the S. bank of the river Kent and 1,300 yards E.S.E. of the church. The House is of three storeys; the walls are of local rubble with freestone dressings and the roofs are slate-covered. The estate came into the possession of the Bellingham family in 1489 and remained with them until 1688 when it was sold to Col. James Grahme and passed in turn to the Howard and the Bagot families. There are some remains of a 14th-century house of the local type consisting of a hall-block with a tower-wing at one end and a cross-wing at the other. The basement of the N. part of the present E. cross-wing probably formed part of the tower-wing and other portions of the mediæval building may survive in the lower walls of the existing hallblock and W. cross-wing. As it stands, however, the house is largely a reconstruction of Sir James Bellingham 1577–1641; the new building was certainly in progress in 1586; at this time the tower was added on the N. and the staircase-wing on the S. of the hallblock. The kitchen-wing, S. of the hall and the then detached brew-house were built at the same period. Various alterations were made to the house by Col. James Grahme, from 1691 onwards; in 1703 the kitchen-wing was partly destroyed by fire and re-built together with a new range connecting it with the brewhouse; the main staircase is also of this date. The new range, S. of the courtyard, was altered in the latter part of the 18th century and the Howard Tower at its E. end is an early 19th-century adddition.

The house, as it stands, is mainly an interesting and little altered example of the Elizabethan age, with rich fireplaces, plasterwork and panelling of that and later periods. The layout of the gardens with their unusual variety of cut yews is one of the finest examples of such things in the country.

The N. Front (Plate 125) consists of four main bays, three of them gabled and one carried up as a tower and embattled. The windows are of stone mostly with hollow-chamfered jambs and mullions and moulded labels; the larger windows have transoms in addition; all are of late 16th-century date. The hall-block, at the hall or first-floor level, has a square projecting oriel of six lights on the front and two on the return; adjoining it on the W. is a doorway of c. 1700 with a moulded and eared architrave cut into a late 16th-century window; it is approached by a flight of steps with stone parapets. The tower is of four storeys. On this front there are three lead rain-water pipes and heads, two with ornamental straps and heads with the initials I. and D.G. and the dates 1691 and 1692 respectively; the third is of 1796. The E. Front (Plate 128) has windows generally similar to those on the N. front. The E. cross-wing has on the first floor a canted bay-window of four lights on the front and two on the sides; this bay is carried up above the main eaves and gabled; further S. is a small square projecting wing also carried up above the main eaves and gabled; this wing perhaps represents a mediæval garde-robe wing heightened and altered in the 16th century. The return S. wall of the E. cross-wing has two modern windows. The W. Front has two chimney-stacks and 16th-century windows similar to those on the N. front. There are two rain-water pipes and heads, one with the initials M.G.H. and the other with the initials I. and D.G. and the date 1700. The S. side of the main block, W. of the kitchen-wing is of two gabled bays and has a number of late 17th-century windows with stone mullions and transoms of square section; there are two rain-water pipes and heads both with the initials I. and D.G. and dated 1691 and 1700 respectively; the latter is enriched with cherub-heads. Several of the chimney-stacks of the house, have shafts of the local cylindrical form. The Kitchen Wing is of two storeys and retains some of its 16th-century windows. On the W. side is a doorway of the same date with moulded jambs and square head with a triangular inner head; the door is nail-studded and has an ornamental iron scutcheon and knocker; a rain-water head on this side has the date and initials I. and D.G. 1692. A rainwater head on the E. side is dated 1787. The South Range of the courtyard is of two storeys. The middle part, built c. 1700 was much altered late in the 18th century, the rain-water heads being dated 1773 and the clock-turret 1788; to this or a later period belong most of the external features. The Brew-house at the W. end of the range is a 16th-century building and retains a doorway with a triangular head of that period; in the W. wall are some windows perhaps of late 17th-century date, but the rest of the openings are modern. The Howard Tower at the E. end of the range is entirely modern.

Levens Hall

Interior. The Ground Floor is now occupied by servants' quarters. The Servants' Hall is lined for most of its height by 16th-century panelling with a cornice; the stone fireplace (Plate 41) has moulded jambs and triangular head with the date and initials (I.) B. and A.B. (for James and Agnes Bellingham), 1589 and two bugles; over the fireplace is an enriched arched panel with side-pilasters and a cartouche of the quartered arms of Bellingham; flanking the panel are two stags as supporters. The House-keeper's Room has a fireplace of c. 1700 with a moulded stone surround. In the E. wall is a doorway, perhaps of mediæval date, with hollow-chamfered jambs and segmental-pointed head. The N. part of the E. cross-wing is probably of 14th-century date and has a stone barrel-vault; the S. and E. walls have each an original doorway with chamfered jambs and shouldered head; there is a recess with a similar head in the S. part of the E. wall. The First Floor contains the principal rooms of the house. The Hall (Plate 126) is lined for most of its height with late 16th-century panelling having a frieze of oblong panels; above the panelling is a deep plaster frieze (Plate 135) divided into bays by pilasters supporting an enriched entablature; each bay on the E. and S. walls contains an enriched cartouche-of-arms representing the alliances of the Bellingham family; there are seven cartouches on the E. wall and six on the S. wall; their place is taken on the N. and W. walls by a series of badges, etc.; flanking the doorway in the N. wall are shields-of-arms of Bellingham quartering Burneshead; the fireplace in the S. wall has a moulded stone surround of c. 1700; the plaster frieze above it has a large achievement of the royal arms (Plate 132) of Queen Elizabeth; against the W. wall, in place of the panelling, is an oak screen (Plate 106), with two doorways having shaped sub-heads, and a frieze of arabesque panels; above this is a central architectural panel with an achievement of the quartered arms of Bellingham, with the initials and date I. and A.B. 1617, and flanked by large supporting monsters; the ceiling (Plates 49, 132) is divided by curved and moulded ribs into an elaborate geometrical design with foliated terminations and small pendants; in the middle are the royal arms of Elizabeth and there are also various Bellingham badges; in the upper part of the window of the oriel are two cartouches-of-arms in painted glass of Bellingham alliances and in the window over the doorway are four lozenges with Bellingham heraldry. The Dining Room (Plate 129) in the W. wing has a partition of late 16th-century panelling on the S. side, with an enriched frieze; in the middle is a blocked doorway flanked by Ionic pilasters supporting a cornice, pediment and scrolled cresting; there is a similar doorway in the E. wall; the other walls are lined with stamped leather, of late 17th-century design; the fireplace has a moulded stone-surround of c. 1700; it is flanked by fluted oak pilasters supporting the late 16th-century overmantel (Plate 135); this has enriched diminishing side-pilasters and an enriched central panel, sub-divided by moulded ribs; the middle panel has an inlaid achievement of the arms of Bellingham, with the initials and date I.B. 1586; the minor panels have inlaid floral designs; the ceiling is divided by moulded ribs into an elaborate geometrical design, with rosettes and small pendants. The Smoking Room, adjoining the Dining Room on the S., is lined with panelling divided into bays by enriched Corinthian pilasters and surmounted by an enriched entablature; this panelling is partly of late 16th-century date, but most of it is modern and it may have been brought from elsewhere; the fireplace (Plate 131) has a moulded surround of c. 1700 but is flanked by late 16th-century terminal pilasters supporting the overmantel; this is of two bays divided and flanked by standing figures of Wisdom, Justice and Truth; the two bays have elaborate strap-work enrichment and the shelf is carved with eagles and monsters; flanking the two outer figures of virtues are half-figures of griffins. The Drawing Room (Plate 127), in the E. cross-wing, is lined with late 16th-century panelling with enrichments and an arabesque frieze; in the angles and flanking the windows are Corinthian pilasters; the two doorways are flanked by terminal pilasters; the figures bear baskets of fruit and are themselves set against fluted pilasters; the cornice above is carried over the doors, and surmounted by an elaborate over-door with the quartered arms of Bellingham; the fireplace (Plate 130) has late 16th-century stone jambs and square head; it is flanked by coupled Doric pilasters supporting the overmantel; this is of three bays and of two stages, the former divided and flanked by Ionic and Corinthian columns in the two stages; the enriched panels of the lower stage have each an achievement or cartoucbe-of-arms—(a) Bellingham, (b) the same quartering Burneshead and (c) (b) impaling the quartered arms of Curwen; the middle panel of the upper stage has the royal arms of Elizabeth and the sub-divided side panels have the initials and date I.B. 1595; the ceiling has moulded ribs forming an elaborate geometrical design with small pendants, leaves and sprays; in the N. window are six panels or shields of painted glass (Plate 42) of the arms and alliances of Bellingham, one being dated 1613; in the bay-window are sixteen lozenge-shaped panels of Bellingham heraldry and families allied with them; the glass is all of late 16th or early 17th-century date. The South Drawing Room, adjoining the room just described, is lined with late 16th-century panelling with lozengeenrichments, frieze and cornice; the fireplace (Plate 134) has moulded stone jambs and a flat triangular head; it is surmounted by a rather later overmantel supported on two standing figures of Samson and Hercules; the overmantel itself is of two bays, divided and flanked by standing figures of the senses, Touch, Smell and Taste; the bays have each an enriched panel with a carved figure-subject representing the elements and the four seasons; below them is an inscription "Thus the five Sences stand portraitted here, The four Elements and Seasons of the year, Samson supports the one side as in rage, The other Hercules in like equipage"; there are enriched entablatures above and below the main panels and on the upper cornice is a broken pediment supporting figures of Hearing and Sight and an elaborate strapwork cartouche of the arms of Bellingham; the ceiling is similar to that in the Drawing Room; the window has two oval panels of painted glass with Bellingham heraldry. The Writing Room, to the E., is lined with late 16th-century panelling with an arabesque frieze and dentilled cornice. The Second Floor includes the following rooms. The Patchwork Room, in the E. wing, is lined with late 16th-century panelling with a cornice; it is made up with modern work; the stone fireplace has moulded jambs and flat triangular head. The Beaumont Room, in the same wing, is lined with embossed stamped leather. The Bellingham Room, in the same wing, is lined with panelling similar to that in the Smoking Room and divided into bays by Corinthian pilasters; the fireplace is similar to that in the Patchwork Room. The Bath Room, over the Writing Room, is lined with late 16th or early 17th-century panelling and has a fireplace with a moulded surround of c. 1700. The Redman Room, over the hall, is lined with panelling similar to that in the Bellingham Room but of doubtful antiquity. The Redman Dressing Room is lined with stamped leather of late 17th-century design but of doubtful age; the adjoining corridor has early 18th-century panelling. The Billiard Room, also over the hall, has an early 17th-century stone fireplace with moulded jambs and flat four-centred head; above it is a frieze of conventional foliage and a moulded shelf. The room in the tower is lined with late 16th-century panelling and has a fireplace with a moulded surround of c. 1700. The main Staircase is of c. 1720, with panelling of the same date. The staircase, S.E. of the hall, is lined with early 18th-century panelling, with stamped leather above it. The roof of the W. wing is of late 16th-century date and of five bays with tiebeams and raking struts. Over the main staircase are two mediæval trusses, probably re-used; the principals are slightly foiled above the collar and there was a king-post between the tie-beam and the collar.

Levens Hall, Plan Showing the Lay-out of the Gardens

The Kitchen Wing has on the ground floor the modern kitchen with a large fireplace in the E. wall; it has chamfered jambs and segmental head; the southern room has a large fireplace in the W. wall, probably that of the former Kitchen. On the first floor, re-built after the fire of 1703, are the Cedar Dressing Room and the Cedar Room; both have fireplaces with moulded surrounds and the latter room is partly lined with panelling; the S. and W. walls are hung with tapestry. In the South Range a number of rooms are lined with panelling of c. 1700 and there are several fireplaces of the same date with moulded surrounds. The staircase at the E. end of the range is also of c. 1700 and has moulded strings, twisted balusters and square newels.

The Old Stables form a long range of building, N.E. of the house. It is of two storeys; the walls are of rubble and the roofs are slate-covered. It was built c. 1600 and has a lower late 17th-century addition at the S. end. There are several original two and three-light windows and in the W. wall is a doorway of c. 1700 with moulded architrave, frieze and cornice. Inside the building are some exposed ceiling-beams and one compartment contains stalls for five horses; the divisions have reeded columns or posts supporting entablatures; in the cottage at the S. end are two fireplaces with moulded surrounds of c. 1700. The entrance to the stable-yard has early 18th-century semi-octagonal piers with moulded caps and ball-terminals.

The Gardens (Plate 128) were laid out for Col. Grahme Monsieur Beaumont c. 1700. The garden E. of the by house is laid out formally, as shown on the plan, with box edgings and a large series of clipped yews, including, besides more ordinary forms, a crowned lion, various birds, barrister's wig, pyramids, summer-house, etc. At the N. end of this garden is a lead rain-water cistern with the initials and date I.G. 1704. The garden S. of the house is laid out in four main divisions with hedges; the S.E. division, now tennis-courts, was formerly the bowling green. A plan of the gardens, made about 1720, indicates that their general form has been retained, though certain minor alterations have been made. The N. front has lawns and a drive enclosed by a low, stone wall of c. 1700 with a central entrance, flanked by rusticated piers; on either side is a timber balustrade divided by stone piers. Each pier has a stone vase and there are similar vases at intervals on the wall.


b(2). Levens Bridge, over the river Kent N.E. of Levens Hall, is a rubble structure of two spans with cutwaters to the central pier and segmental arches. The bridge is of three dates, the central portion, about 11 ft. wide, being perhaps of the 17th century. The widening on the W. side is probably of the 18th or early 19th century and the much broader widening on the E. is modern.


b(3). Nether Levens (Plate 133), house, 770 yards W. of Levens Hall, is of two storeys; the walls are of rubble and the roofs are slate-covered. It belonged to the Preston family from 1452 to the latter part of the 17th century. The S. part of the house, consisting of the main block, the ruined S. cross-wing and a part of what was probably the N. cross-wing, was built early in the 16th century. About the middle of the same century the long N. wing was added and c. 1594 additions were made partly on the site of the earlier N. cross-wing. The E. side of the original main block has an early 16th-century window of four four-centred lights in a square head with a moulded label and casement-moulded reveals; further N. is a two-light window of the same date; on the upper floor is a late 16th-century window of two transomed lights with a moulded label, an altered window perhaps of the same age and two late 17th-century windows with solid wooden frames. The W. side of the same block has an original window of two pointed lights in a square head and at the N. end of the block is a projecting garde-robe tower (Plate 136) finished with a gable. The remaining walls of the S. cross-wing are fragmentary. The original part of the N. cross-wing has a late 17th-century window, with a solid frame, in the W. wall. The added N. wing has a mid 16th-century window in the lower storey of the W. wall; it has a moulded wooden frame, mullions and transom and is of seven lights below and five lights above the transom; above it is a five-light window with a wooden frame. The late 16th-century additions on the E. side retain a number of windows of that date and the gable of the small more northerly part has a panel with the initials and date T. and A.P. 1594; the main addition seems to have formerly extended further to the E. The chimneystacks of the house, generally, have cylindrical shafts.

Interior.—Many of the ceiling-beams are exposed. In the old main block is an original fireplace with a flat four-centred head; the staircase of c. 1700 has turned balusters, square newels and moulded strings. The garde-robe is entered by an original doorway with a segmental-pointed head. The kitchen, in the N. wing has a large fireplace recess partly screened by projecting walls. On the first floor, a room in the main block is lined with late 16th or early 17th-century panelling, with enriched frieze-panels. A room over the dairy has a late 16th-century stone fireplace with moulded jambs and triangular arch in a square head; the roof of this wing has two king-post trusses and there are remains of a king-post truss in the roof over the parlour. Several of the upper rooms have early 18th-century panelled doors.

Nether Levens

Condition—Good, but S. wing ruined and some heavy growth of ivy.

Monuments (4–15)

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys. The walls are of rubble and the roofs are slate-covered. Some of the buildings have exposed ceiling-beams.

Condition—Good or fairly good.

b(4). Cook's House, two tenements, ½ m. N. of (3).

b(5). Underhill, cottage, 270 yards N. of Levens church.

b(6). House and shop, on the E. side of the road, 560 yards N.E. of Levens church, contains an early 18th-century fireplace with a corbelled head and an enrichment in the middle of the lintel.

b(7). Orchard House, two tenements, on the E. side of the road, 620 yards N. of Levens church.

b(8) Quagg's House Farm, house, 640 yards N. of (7), was built in late in the 17th or early in the 18th century.

b(9). Heaves Farm, house, 1,200 yards N.E. of Levens church, contains a small cupboard with the initials and date W. and A.W. 1665 on the door. The early 18th-century staircase has turned balusters.

b(10). Frostwaite, house and barn, nearly ½ m. E.N.E. of (9). The House was built late in the 16th or early in the 17th century and contains some 17th-century panelled doors. The Barn, S. of the house, is of six bays.

b(11). Force Cottages, range of tenements, 970 yards E.S.E. of (10), were built late in the 17th or early in the 18th century.

b(12). Cottage, on the W. bank of the Kent immediately E. of (11).

a(13). Chamber's Tenement, at Brigsteer, on the N.E. edge of the parish nearly 2¼ m. N.N.W. of Levens church, contains some 17th-century panelled doors and a late 17th or early 18th-century staircase with turned balusters and square newels.

a(14). Cottage and Post Office, 100 yards N.N.W. of (13), retains a late 17th-century window with a solid frame.

a(15). Hill House, 150 yards N. of (14), was built late in the 16th or early in the 17th century. It contains some 17th-century panelled doors.


b(16). Ring Earthwork, a foundation on the E. side of the road 700 yards N. of Levens Bridge, consists of a bank perhaps indicating the foundations of a wall forming a circle on plan with a diameter, between banks, of 71 ft. The area within appears to have been much excavated in modern times, but there are indications still left that there was an inner bank running concentrically with the outer bank. The centres of these two banks are 12½ ft. apart; but the inner bank is now only left for a few yards on the S.E. side. Nine yards away from the centre of the main or outer of the two banks is a very much slighter one which is also concentric and has traces of a very slight outer ditch along the N.W. side. There is a slight causeway up to an entrance gap on the S.W. but this is probably modern.

Condition—Bad, work much mutilated and in danger of further damage.

b(17). Settlement and mounds, on Sizergh Fell, nearly 1 m. N.N.E. of Levens church. The Settlement consists of a roughly oval enclosure (nearly ½ acre) surrounded by a slight rampart, and having, to the S., an outer enclosure with a still slighter rampart. In the larger enclosure there are traces of an entrance on the N. with a faint suggestion of the rampart being turned inwards on the N.E. side of the gap. Some 11 yards N.W. of this entrance and against the inner scarp of the rampart is a circular sinking suggesting a hut. In the centre of the enclosure is a slight irregular shaped sinking while on the E., against the former rampart, there is a further sinking which, however, may be due to excavation. The stone walling has all gone except a few loose piles scattered on the rampart, but there remains one stone standing on edge on the top of the rampart immediately N.W. of the circular sinking. In the C. and W. Trans. N.S. XII, p. 397, it is stated that the rampart of the larger enclosure abutted on two tumuli, one at the S.W. extremity and the other on the N.E. These were excavated and the former yielded a skeleton and fibula with ring and bead of the 2nd-3rd century A.D. There were no remains in the second tumulus. Both have now disappeared. The rampart actually passed over a portion of the S.W. tumulus.

Settlement on Sizergh Fell in the parish of Levens

About 23 yards S.W. of the smaller enclosure is a circular mound of approximately 6 yards in diameter and about 1½ ft. high. It is covered with turf and is not mentioned in the account of the site quoted above.

About 20 yards W. of this mound are a number of slight but irregularly shaped mounds which would appear to be artificial.

On the hilltop and 280 yards S.E. of the settlement is a cairn. It was excavated (C. and W. Trans. N.S., IV, p. 71) and found to contain an urn said to be of the Bronze Age. This cairn now shows as a very slight grass-covered circular mound of approximately 24 ft. in diameter.

About 150 yards E. of this cairn are remains of a second cairn. It has been excavated and much disturbed but would appear to have had a diameter of about 38 ft. The stones in part still stand to a height of about 3 ft. It was found to contain the skeleton of a child and four adults (C. and W. Trans. N.S., IV, p. 201).


Little Strickland, see Strickland, Little. Long Marton, see Marton, Long.