Holker Hall

At the beginning of the summer we decided to join Historic Houses, so that we could visit many of the houses and halls in the area. Having only visited a couple of houses so far, we think we've already covered the cost of our annual membership. Membership also means that we are more likely to visit an "historic house", even if only for a short visit. This has certainly proved to be the case so far.

So, with an hour to spare earlier this week, we decided to have a quick visit to Holker Hall. I know Holker Hall fairly well, but Chris has never visited the Hall, although we have enjoyed the café a few times.

The garden was looking spectacular, very overblown, and even though we are still in July, rather autumnal.

The Hall is lovely. So many different styles and periods of architecture jostling for preeminence! The original House was built in the early 17th Century. After it was almost destroyed by a disastrous fire in 1871, William Cavendish and his daughter, Louisa, recruited the most eminent architects and designers of their time, to rebuild Holker in the very latest style. I love the imposing tower and the cupola is just stunning. Lancaster architects Paley and Austin, better known for their church architecture, even had a hand in the restoration.

There aren't many literary links connected with Holker Hall, but I do love that the house appears as Severns Hall in John Buchan's novel The Dancing Floor (1926), where Leithen, having sprained his ankle among  the Cartmel Fells whilst heading for an obscure station, probably Cark in Cartmel, hobbles up to the massive pillared porch, and is taken by the butler, into "a vast hall of the worst kind of Victorian Gothic", full of:

"sham-medieval upholstered magnificence. It was Gothic with every merit of Gothic left out, and a air of dull ecclesiasticism hung about it. There was even an organ at one end, ugly and staring, as if it had come out of some nouveau riche provincial church. Every bit of woodwork was fretted and tortured into fancy shapes."

Not the most flattering description, but accurate none the less! Holker Hall is the embodiment of the ugly and the beautiful, at one and the same time.