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Levens Local History Group

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2019-04-02 Meeting 18 April changed:

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2019-03-25 Meeting 20 June changed: now a tour of Helsington Laithes, 15C manor house

The tour of Lancaster Castle arranged for 20 June has fallen through. Instead, a tour of Helsington Laithes has been arranged through the courtesy of the owners.

Helsington Laithes

The ancient house of Helsington Laithes lays South West of Kendal and can be seen clearly from the road travelling North into Kendal. The manor of Helsington and the house have, in their long history, been home to local families the Helsingtons, the Stricklands, the de Thwengs and the Bellinghams....all land-owning families in the surrounding areas.

It is thought that there was a hall on this site from as early as the 13th century, although it's unlikely that anything survives of this building. The earliest parts of the house date from the 15th century, this portion once housing the dairy and scullery. It is this part of the building that possibly represents the remains of a solar tower, long since changed, rebuilt and remodelled over the years.

It is a three storeyed wing with a gabled roof, measuring some eight by six metres over walls some 1.3 metres thick. The West walls of this wing, however, are a massive 2.4 metres thick; somewhat thicker than most simple domestic houses of this era. The rest of the site consists of a 16th century kitchen block to the East of the early part of the building, together with a 16th century hall further to the East, and the 16th century cross wing shown above. There are also 18th century additions to the North and the South and substantial Victorian alterations. Pevsner was not very complimentary of the house.

The manor house at Helsington Laithes is first mentioned separately from Helsington in 1511. Once the location of the manor court, the earliest parts of the building date from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Plasterwork bearing the initials I and AB, and the date 1538, probably records the Bellingham family, who leased Helsington Laithes from Lord Lumley in 1517. A lease of 1540 describes it as having been ‘late in the tenure of Thomas Bellingham’ and four years later, in 1544, Allan Bellingham purchased the manor of Helsington and its members from the crown for £137 10s. As the Bellinghams subsequently resided at Levens Hall, the manor house at Helsington Laithes was leased out. William Curwen, a member of a cadet branch of the Curwens of Workington, was assessed jointly with Christopher Hudson for nine hearths at Helsington Laithes in 1670; in 1674 Curwen alone was assessed for seven. The manor house was the ‘Helsington Hall’ Machell described in 1692 as having been recently re-built by the then lord of the manor, Col. Grahme. By 1693, the demesne farm was occupied by Christopher Wilson (d.1731), and in 1766 by Richard Wilson. William Stavert, one-time High Sheriff of Westmorland, who served as church warden in Helsington for 43 years, was living at Helsington Laithes with a large household in 1891.

The owners, Mr & Mrs D. Hague have invited us for a limited tour of their private home. David Hague will conduct the tour. We can view the outside of the house in detail, the original and Victorian entrances, the Victorian and 17th century staircases, the original stone solar spiral stairs (though we cannot ascend them), the 1538 plasterwork, and part of the original scullery area with its unusual cupboard, as well as the Victorian reception area where we can view photographs and historical accounts, and where we will be served refreshments at the end of the tour.

Parking is limited, and we will have to organise ourselves nearer the event. As this is a private home visitor numbers have to be limited to 30 members of Levens LHG. The tour will start at 18.30 on Thursday 20 June and will be allocated on a first come first served basis. The tour was announced at our meeting on Thursday and there are 15 places available. If you want to attend please email Stephen as soon as you can.

2018-12-24 Meetings for 2019

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2018-10-12 LEVENS IN WWI

National Lottery support for Levens Local History Group to mark First World War Centenary

Levens Local History Group has received a National Lottery grant of £5100 for its project ‘Levens in WWI’. Awarded through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War Then and Now programme, the project focuses not merely on the servicemen whose lives are commemorated on the war memorial at St. John the Evangelist Church in Levens, but also on those who survived the conflict and returned to the area, as well as the role of the women, children and men who stayed at home and aided the war effort.

An exhibition, to be held in both St. John’s and Levens Institute with refreshments in Levens Methodist Chapel, will be held over the weekend of 10 & 11 November to mark the Centenary of the First World War. This will complement Levens Parish Council’s display of commemorative poppies, which can be seen in the centre of the village. The project will enable local people to come together to preserve the memories and heritage of the people who lived through the First World War. Volunteers have collected photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, keepsakes, letters and photographs, as well as family tales, which have enabled them to build a clear picture of what life was really like.

Items of interest will include; the story of Peggy, a Levens horse taken to the front to serve an artillery officer, and later repatriated from Salonika, and Lady Bagot’s Hospital of Friendship, which served the allied armies in Belgium and France, and was supported by many local donations and fund-raising appeals.

With help from professionals, the information gathered will both form an on-line interactive archive where everyone can access and contribute information, which will allow the public to discuss, contribute, share and research information about WWI and the Home Front, and will also be made available through a book to be published in 2019.

Thanks go to the National Lottery players throughout the country whose contributions have brought history to life in a small part of Cumbria.

2018-10-10 Change to October meeting

Our advertised speaker, Sarah Howard, has had to give backword, as she is ill. Fortunately, and a very short notice, we have been able to secure the services of a well-known and respected regional historian, Dr. Bill Shannon, to take her place.

Accordingly, our talk on the 18th will be 'Mapping Morecambe Bay - the Early Years'. Many of you will know Bill, and he has spoken to us before. His depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for maps of all ages, linked to his presentational skills and keen interest in all things historical and archaeological, will guarantee a most interesting evening.


General Data Protection Regulations May 2018. Please note the following documents:


BOOK: The Ague: a History of Indigenous Malaria in Cumbria and the North
Ian D. Hodkinson (

Published by The Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society. £8.50 inc. postage
Size 210mm x 148mm 84 pages Softback Tract Series 26 ISBN no. 978 1 873124 74 1

Copies can be obtained, using the order form and flyer, from Ian Caruana, 10 Peter Street, Carlisle CA3 8QP. (Tel: 01228 544120).

If you are having difficulty obtaining a copy please contact Ian Hodkinson directly (email as above) or the Levens Local History Group (