Crackenthorpe Hall

History & Geography

Crackenthorpe Hall was mentioned in the Domesday Book and is now listed by English Heritage as Grade II*, being of Historical and Architectural importance. The House has evolved over the Centuries with Tudor, Restoration, Georgian and Victorian alterations. Now shrouded by trees, protecting it from the outside world, time slows and something of its history becomes almost tangible. It is thought likely that there was a Roman Villa on this site, evidenced by the Roman Altars that have been incorporated into one of the east gable walls of the house. Crackenthorpe Hall is thought to have suffered at the hands of invading Scots and early border ' Reivers' (an old name for a robber or bandit). The border Reivers were notorious between the 14th - 17th Centuries as inhabitants of the turbulent and lawless 'Debatable' lands between England and Scotland. There were constant bloody raids, to accumulate possessions and property and perpetuate often long running, family feuds. It is partly for this reason, that many of the houses in this region contain a Pele Tower (small stone square or oblong buildings, with walls up to ten feet thick). These buildings were designed to withstand raids and short sieges. Some examples of properties which originally included a Pele tower are Holm Cultram Abbey, Bewcastle Castle, Lanercost Priory and Naworth Castle , Carlisle Castle and Cathedral, Rose Castle, Hutton in the Forest, Sizergh Castle Kendal, Levens Hall, Muncaster Castle, Penrith Castle and Brougham Castle. Although there is no remaining evidence of a Pele Tower at Crackenthorpe Hall, it is very possible that it was destroyed by invading Scots, in the early 13th Century. Crackenthorpe Hall is steeped in history, and became of national importance when King Henry VI took refuge here, following his defeat by the Yorkists at the Battle of Hexham in 1464. Apparently he lived incognito, disguised as a working gardener; doubtless this was a security precaution in these politically dangerous times. The King's bedchamber remains the principal bedroom in the Old Manor House. Sadly however, the original four poster bed is no longer in the Manor, but is thought to be on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The heavy atmosphere of quiet mystery is further reinforced by the troublesome and well-documented ghost of Peg Sleddall. She was Lady of Crackenthorpe Manor during Cromwell's time. Her husband, a staunch Royalist publicly tore up Cromwell's new Charter for Appleby. However, she was greatly displeased by her husband's will, and thereafter is said to have haunted the family and the Hall, as the Grey Lady of Crackenthorpe, reappearing before the death of successive heads of the family. Peg's ghost was so troublesome that she was exhumed from the churchyard and reburied in the River Eden adjacent to Crackenthorpe Hall and covered by a large Granite boulder brought in for the purpose. Catholic priests were brought in to conduct the ceremony, as a Latin service was apparently more effective. The exorcism decreed that Peg should remain in her river grave for 999 years and is allowed to roam only once a year. The Granite boulder is now known as Peg's Stone. There have been many sightings of Peg over the years, sometimes in her carriage, often accompanied by the Helm wind blowing down from the Pennines.

The delightful Eden Valley lies conveniently on the fringe of the Lake District, The latter is seven hundred square miles of England's most beautiful National Park. This ancient glacial landscape renowned for its Lakes and mountains, is home of both England's largest lake (Windermere), and highest mountains (four over 3000 ft) Scafell Pike is 3210 ft, and nearby Helvellyn is 3118 ft. Other well known Lakes in the area include Ullswater, Derwent Water, Coniston and Haweswater plus many others, each with its own unique character and charm. It is therefore no wonder that the Lake District is England's most popular tourist destination outside London. There have been many great literary figures connected to the Lake District. These include the poet William Wordsworth, who had homes at Rydal, Grasmere and Keswick; Beatrix Potter, John Ruskin, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, John Keats, Charles Dickens and Arthur Ransome, author of the children's books, ' Swallows and Amazons'. There are many ancient sites to visit, including Druid standing stone circles, the largest of which 'Long Meg and her daughters', is within easy reach. There are many Castles, Pele Towers and Churches to visit, and an abundance of wildlife to be observed. Clearly, this area offers an abundance of opportunities for historic, geographic and literary activities. See the Activities page for additional leisure activities..

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