The Hall's Historic Past
Kirklinton lies on what has always been the frontier zone between England and Scotland.
In Roman times it was north of Hadrian's Wall, but south of the advance fort at Netherby. It is said that, at that period, the River Lyne was navigable to the sandstone formations at Kirklinton and the weathered face of some female deity, presumed to date from that time, is carved into the cliff at The Captain's Seat.
Until absorbed into England in 947, Cumberland was part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, the British Kingdom straddling the Solway that emerged from the ruins of the Roman occupation.
Thereafter, it remained disputed territory, passing between the English and Scottish crowns. William the Conqueror exempted Cumberland from the Doomsday Book as it was the bulwark against a pro-Aetheling Scotland, while William Rufus preferred to cede it to Scotland in order to secure his northern border when distracted by affairs in Normandy.
It fell to Henry I to recover Cumberland for the English throne in the early 1100s. Maintaining the border was then entrusted to Ranulph des Meschines, a significant Norman baron, who was made Earl of Cumberland, and who parcelled up the recovered territory along the border as Baronies and Manors to be held by his Norman knights such as the de Moultons, the Dacres, the Viponts and others.
Ranulph des Meschines granted the Barony of Levington, encompassing the Manors of Kirklinton, Solport and other land, to one Richer de Boyville, a commander in the Royal Army of the North. De Boyville was his vassal in Normandy and possibly also his kinsman. A little time later, Goddard de Boyville (or 'Goddard Dapfier'), Richer's son or brother, was granted the Barony of Millom in West Cumberland by William des Meschines, Ranulph's younger brother.
The Stable Buildings
The stable buildings seem to have been re-ordered at the same time as the 1875 wing was erected. The main stable block incorporates an earlier much altered stable and added a Jacobean block to match the new gables on the old Hall. A low single storey wing extends two sides round a cobbled yard. Amongst other elements it incorporated a two bay carriage house with fine curved archways and a boiler house with a tall and elaborately detailed brick stack. The 1937 particulars state that this housed a 'Robin Hood' generator.
The 1875 wing also incorporated a four storey tower under a hipped roof, the top floor of which contained a water tank fed by a pump powered by a water wheel in the lower reaches of Longcleughside Beck. Although most of this has vanished, it is clearly shown on the Deeds and the right to reinstate it has been retained.
The grant of Levington was subsequently confirmed by the King and Richard de Boyville proceeded to erect Levington Castle at a strategic point immediately to the south of Longcleughside Beck, on the cliff top overlooking the River Lyne. He also constructed (possibly re-constructed) St Cuthbert's Church, which retained its Norman form until re-built in the 1840s. Two Norman arches remain inside and two Norman columns and capitals rest in the garden of the Old Rectory adjacent.
Levington appears to have been intended as a significant settlement, with a Charter granted in 1252 to hold a weekly market every Thursday and an annual three day fair on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul (29th June). However, it was sacked by the Scots in 1320 and appears never to have been re-built.
The de Boyville family possessed Levington until 1272, with the death of Helwicce, wife of Eustace de Balliol and daughter and sole heir of Sir Ranulph de Boyville (or Levington). On her death, the Barony was partitioned among her six aunts or their heirs and the Manor of Kirklinton was sold to the de Tilliols of neighbouring Scaleby. Other branches of the de Boyville (Boyle) family were seated locally during the Middle Ages at Weslinton and Thursby and continued to flourish in West Cumbria and Southern Scotland.
From the de Tilliols, Kirklinton passed by descent to the Musgrave family, seated at Hayton Caste, near Aspatria, and this may explain the failure to restore Levington after its ruination by the Scots. Nonetheless, Lord Burleigh's Map of 1590 does indicate a tower at 'Kirkleuington', although its exact location is not known.
Sir Philip Musgrave was the Royalist Commander of Carlisle during the Civil War and his cousin, Sir Edward Musgrave of Hayton, raised and maintained a troop of horse for the King. It is said that on the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the debts occasioned by this and, no doubt, fines imposed during the Commonwealth, obliged Musgrave to sell the Manor of Kirklinton, which was bought by one Edmund Appleby of Bewcastle.
It is not known what building, if any, stood on the present site in 1660. Some authorities have Edmund Appleby building Kirklinton Hall from the stone of the ruined Levington Castle as early as 1661, but it is more likely that it was constructed by him, or his son Joseph in the 1680s.
Joseph Appleby married Dorothy Dacre of Lanercost. With the death of her brothers, she became a considerable heiress and the couple quartered their arms. In the course of the next 150 or so years the family name evolved from Appleby-Dacre, to Dacre-Appleby and finally just Dacre.
Kirklinton Hall remained in the hands of the Dacre-Applebys until the mid 19th century, when The Rev Joseph Dacre sold the manor to the trustees of George Graham. He subsequently took the name of Graham Kirklinton, which became Kirklinton-Saul and by the 20th century, simply Kirklinton.
Let out for much of the interwar period, the estate was sold in 1937. However, the hall and grounds did not sell and although they were offered again in 1939, the war intervened. Kirklinton wad first requisitioned by the RAF for an officers' mess and towards the end of the war housed evacuees from Rossall School at Fleetwood, Lancs. After the war it was converted into flats, many occupied by servicemen working at Longtown MOD.
The owners, Mr and Mrs Haynes, converted the flats into an hotel but this was not a successful and it was then let to a Mr Caine, who ran it through the 1960s as 'The Borders Country Club', a casino and night club which attracted gamblers both locally and arriving by private plane into Carlisle Airport. There was a glass-floored ballroom, exotic dancers, a first floor casino and bedrooms above. The Mr Caine had gangster friends and there were many sightings of the Kray twins. Numerous famous bands and singers of the period performed at Kirklinton Hall and many local people have fond memories of wedding parties and 21sts held there.
With a change in licensing laws, the casino ceased to be able to operate and Mr Caine abandoned the hall, which soon became prey to vandalism and dereliction. An application to demolish the hall was refused in the early 1970s. However, by 1972 it had become a roofless ruin; it was Listed Grade II in 1974.
The 1980s and 1990s saw a string of failed attempts to convert the Hall into flatted development. For a considerable period the site was occupied by a Mr McDermot, who lived in a caravan and kept geese. A poignant painting of 1992 by Alexander Cresswell shows Kirklinton at its nadir. The roof and all internal walls were removed and dereliction reached an advanced stage. Nonetheless, Mr McDermot did install some concrete joists above windows in the 17th Century house, without which the walls would, by now, have collapsed.
In 2005, the Hall and gardens were bought by a Cornwall-based property company. This new owner pursued an application for what was stated to be a multi-million pound restoration. The scheme involved some 22 houses in total, including a new wing and a new 'courtyard' development. Although the City Council resolved to grant permission, the scheme was not viable and the company was caught in the property recession that began 2008/9 and went into receivership. Its mortgagees went into possession and in 2012 put Kirklinton into auction.
This gave the window of opportunity to Christopher Boyle QC to step in and rescue it from further inappropriate development schemes. Mr Boyle and his family live at the nearby Mallsgate Hall Estate, which itself forms part of the Manor of Solport, originally granted with Kirklinton to Richard de Boyville in c. 1100. By happy coincidence of history, Mrs Boyle is, herself, descended from the Dacres.
In 2013, Mr + Mrs Boyle obtained planning permission and listed building consent to restore Edward Addison's 17th Century house once more to a family home. This work has now begun, with building cleared of rubble and 40 year old trees, the walls have been stabilised, outbuildings have been re-roofed and the restoration of the gardens and grounds proceeding apace.
Thus, by vicissitude and curious coincidence, history comes full circle and, still going strong after some 900 years, the stones of the old de Boyville stronghold will shelter a new generation.