Memories of Castle Green
By Tim Rumney, 13 January 2010 –
I was contacted late last year by Anna Walmsley who told me that as a child she had lived in the Lodge House at Castle Green (before it was a hotel). She was keen to come back and visit the property and gardens and see them following their conversion to a hotel in 1998. After she had lived here and before the hotel conversion the site had been the North West Electricity Board Regional Offices (NORWEB).
Following Anna Walmsley's stay she was kind enough to send me these memories of her fathers time at Castle Green which provide a fascinating insight not only to those of us who know the buildings and grounds as they are now but also as a social history of rural life at that time.
The Lodge is now the home of James and Catherine Alexander (the owners of the hotel).
The Old House is now the Business and Training Centre at ground floor level and Executive Bedrooms at first floor level (which is where Mrs Walmsley stayed when she returned).
The property is now 14 acres which includes gardens at the front and woodland to the rear.
The old outdoor stables are now the Pub.
You can still see the fir trees in the field opposite the hotel from the Restaurant window.
Thanks to Anna Walmsley we now have even more history that we can share with our guests. Enjoy the memories...
My memories of the Old House by Jack Walmsley
I was born in Castle Green Lodge in 1915. I lived there until 1939 when I went abroad during WW2. My wife and eldest daughter Anna continued to live there with my parents until 1945 when my teaching career took us to East Yorkshire. My parents continued to live in the lodge until the house was sold in the 1950s. These are some of our memories.
The House and Grounds
My father, John Lofthouse Walmsley, came to work at Castle Green in the 1890s. At first he had to live in “digs” as the house was being refurbished. This is possibly when the present “original house” was built. He then moved into the Lodge where he lived until the 1950’s. When he arrived, the estate was about 70 - 80 acres and included Castle Green Farms but Mr Jefferys sold most of this land, keeping only 17 acres. The estate now consisted of Busky, which was the field on the other side of Sedbergh Road; the paddock in front of the house and the wood behind it. In the wood was a two storey playhouse for the children, equipped with a fireplace, furniture and toy cooking and dining utensils.
At the back of the house, near the main entrance of the hotel, was a courtyard lit by a Victorian street lamp. Around this were the kitchens, coach house, stables for 4 horses, laundry, coal and wood houses. The library, which I was allowed to use, is now the conference room to the left of the front door. The other conference rooms were very grand reception rooms with wonderful views. The back drive, leading to the hotel reception area, was for tradesmen and led from the courtyard, past the present pub to the entrance on Sedbergh road, by the three cottages which belonged to the Jefferys. The Gardener, Shepherd Greenbank, lived in one of these.
The present pub used to be the outdoor stables, with a hay-loft above. Four riding horses lived here. My father was in charge of the riding horses, carriage horses and carriages. He was a first class horseman and taught the family to ride. Once he rode down the drive standing, astride two horses!
The family consisted of John Henry and Mary Jefferys and their six children - Millicent, Bryan, Edward, Cecily, Barbara, Nancy and Guy. They owned slate mines in Coniston and Langdale and also Carding Mills for woollens on the waterside near Stramongate Bridge and at Mealbank to the north of Kendal. They were upper class and wealthy and had seven house servants. The boys worked in the family industries.
Mr Jefferys suffered a heart complaint which led to temporary insanity. He lined the family up and was about to shoot them but fortunately my father heard something and disarmed his employer, who was sectioned and taken to hospital. He later recovered, went home but died soon after. Bryan took over the business. Bryan and Edward joined the “Kendal Pals” in WW1. They became sergeants. Bryan lost a leg and Edward transferred to the Flying Corps. After the war, Guy was killed in a motor cycle trial. The girls were well educated, I think at the Mount School in York. Cecily went up to Cambridge. They all did volunteer work in WW1. Nancy worked on a farm in Norfolk. She gave me a piece of Zeppelin shot down on the farm. After the war, Cecily became an Alderwoman.
Mrs Jefferys strongly discouraged the family from marrying. She thought her husband’s disease may have been hereditary. Millicent disobeyed, left Castle Green, married and had a son, although she did come back to visit. Bryan died of peritonitis in 1927.
Unfortunately the slate industries petered out, 2 carding mills closed and owing to mismanagement the family fortune was lost. The carding mill in Kendal kept running and Edward gave up farming on Salisbury plain to run it. Nancy did a little husbandry on the estate. Cecily and Mrs Jefferys died. Nancy and Edward were left to run the estate, but couldn’t agree and so the estate was put up for sale. It was sold to NORWEB, in the 1950s for £10000! The last time I saw Edward was when I visited him at the mill. He was retiring and had sold out to one of the Fothergills of South Westmorland.
In a good summer this was one of the delights of the year.. Everybody used to rally round. The only machine was the mower and everything else was done by hand. The hay was left in long swathes which were turned over by rake until dry, put into small heaps or “cocks” (haycocks) then larger ones and finally loaded onto the hay cart drawn by Clydesdales. This would take several days. We were served coffee, tea, cider and sandwiches etc. It was really a party; the hard part was treading the hay in the loft over what is now the pub.
The day was hard, working from dawn to dusk. There were riding and working horses to look after and a jersey cow which my father milked. This provided rich milk for the house and for my parents. The last horse to live in the stables was called Nimrod, on which Nancy Jefferys hunted with the Oxenholme Staghounds. A great parrot in the house kept us all entertained. There were many species of birds and lots of red squirrels which fed on the lodge windowsill and would sometimes venture into the kitchen. My father and daughter used to feed them.
Many salesmen called at the Lodge and my mother would sometimes ask them in for a meal, particularly the French Onion seller who cycled there with his wonderful onions around his neck. There was also a ruddleman, selling red stone to clean doorsteps and thus he was always red. Men came round selling fish, cakes, bread, books and many other things. The postman walked 30 miles on his round. On the way back he blew a whistle and collected letters for posting. On his retirement he was replaced by a man with a van!
Castle Housing Estate
Mrs Jefferys discovered that she could see part of the council estate from her bedroom window, so she had quick growing fir trees planted to cut out this view. They are still there in the field opposite the hotel, surrounded by a small fence.
Castle Green Farm
The farm, now largely built on, was run by an old-fashioned farmer called Tommy Bentham. I have seen him threshing corn with a flail as in biblical times. He had a pond in one of his paddocks which provided enjoyable skating for everyone. This pond is still there behind the cottages.
I remember a smallpox epidemic and the 1918 Spanish Flu. People round about became ill, but luckily the Jefferys and ourselves escaped.
At the end of the back lane, above the house, was an avenue leading over the old LMS railway line to a wood, comprised mainly of spindle trees. There were 2 streams leading into Wakefield’s and supplying them with water. During WW1, German POWs used to come up from Kendal and cut down the trees. During their breaks, my mother and I used to talk to them. Once, aged three, I watched carefully as they cut and stacked the logs. I then went home and neatly cut and stacked my father’s rhubarb in the same fashion. I was not very popular.
The Wakefields lived in the house next door, going towards Sedbergh. It was a huge bungalow set back and unseen from the road. They had 6-7 servants and my sister Gladys was one of them. Mary Wakefield was head of that branch of the family, who were bankers, owning Wakefield’s Bank. She was founder of the Mary Wakefield Music Festival, held in Kendal and visited by Sir Henry Wood.
Her nephew, WW Wakefield (known as WWW) of Cambridge Harlequins and Captain of England, lived there for some time. He was knighted and raised to the peerage. He moved to their townhouse opposite County Hall and became president of Kendal Rugby Union Football Club.
As a kid I spent much time at this farm, which is the first turning on the right up the Sedbergh Road. The original farm house was Elizabethan. There is a right of way past the farm and over the Kendal-Oxenholme Railway line which takes you into Parkside. Turn right here and walk back to Castle Green.