Blencowe Hall—we can’t get enough of it.

Young and old travel from the four corners of the world to see it explore it and feel part of it!

Blencowe Sign

It’s pretty amazing to believe that in this day and age, following numerous wars, conflicts, industrial changes and migration to all corners of the world that a medieval building belonging to an original ancestor might be visited, by me no less; but that’s exactly what I was fortunate enough to do today!

As two cyclists pause with cameras on the country path border of the gorgeous property I’m dancing excitedly around, I’m proud to say ‘it’s mine’ – well, sort of. You see, today we ventured to a village, more precisely a property, Blencowe Hall. ‘Blencowe’, as you may have noticed, is quite similar to ‘Blinco’, and if you had figured that far, perhaps you correctly assumed that this is somehow related to me. Related it is, literally, because over the past few years my family in Australia, along with a dedicated international group have been researching, documenting and sharing our ancestry – all the way from here – a little place called Blencow in northern England.

A book edited by Jack Blencowe has even been published on our origins through to American and Australian migrants, and it covers our surname variations – Blencow, Blencowe, Blincoe, Blinco etc…  We’re lucky because our surname is unique and therefore more easily traceable than some. One popular theory over this side of the world is that a young lad, Robert Blincoe, was actually the ‘real’ Oliver Twist!

But I digress from my actual journey which leads me to The Lakes District – obviously a ‘must-do’ on any UK itinerary, but a journey that has become a special individual quest as well; and what an extraordinary place to find!

Hall grounds

Among other accolades, the property (its current owners and architect) won a 2009 Design Award, and in 2010 was an RICS North West winner of a Building Conservation award as supported by the English Heritage Council. The estate continues to undergo renovations, but is now regularly used for parties, functions, special gatherings and events, and we were lucky enough to enjoy a private viewing today. While it has been restored to the ultimate in chic, original aspects of Blencowe Hall remain both inside and out including stone staircases, windowsills and fireplaces.

Furnishings within compliment the old-world feel, with antique wardrobes, dressers and bookshelves completing each room; stylish and contemporary fittings are all visitors will find in the bathrooms, kitchen and entertainment areas though.

The main home comprises of a lavish entrance hall, two reception rooms, massive kitchen and pantry, three large levels boasting 12 bedrooms, a study bedroom, six big bathrooms, mature gardens, across 55 hectares, traditional and modern range of outbuildings including stables which have been lavishly converted into cottages for rent.

A spectacular dark glazed window over the huge crack in the south tower is the centrepiece of this unique renovation which was embarked upon by the property’s current London-based owners who literally spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on restoring the structure in order to pursue a dream of transforming ruins into a historical kind of luxury.

Situated on the very edge of the stunning Lakes District, Blencowe Hall is listed as a Grade 1 fortified medieval manor that has undergone ambitious renovation over the past ten years. Perched atop a bluff above the small river of Peterill, it is surrounded by its own fields and views to the Lakeland Fells. It is nearby to the village of Greystoke, dominated by Greystoke Castle, and The Boot and Shoe - a fabulous pub (always important!). Sadly the Crown Inn located in the Hamlet of Blencow has closed.

Glased windows

The discovery of Roman ruins, gold coins dating back to the reign of James I, artefacts and reportedly the oldest indoor toilets in the region point to the historical interest of this property, but for me though, it’s even more personal because the people who originally lived here and ran the estate are, we’ve recently discovered, my family.

Sir Henry de Blencowe was one of the most prominent members of my clan to live here. Having served twice as High Sheriff of Cumberland, in 1617 he was knighted (fab!) by King James I Evidently there was some scandal surrounding this knighthood, but that’s ok – it’s not my place to query and I am happy to have knights in my family

Another interesting link is ‘The Nine Days Queen’ angle: Anthony Blencowe was the sixth generation of the family at Blencowe Hall. He married Winnifred Dudley who was a relation of Lord Guildford Dudley, the husband of Lady Jane Grey (aka, the ill-fated Queen of Englandfor nine days).

Her connection to Blencowe Hall is recalled in a dedication over the main entrance in the Central Range, thought to have been inscribed by Sir Henry Blencowe during extensive renovations of the property in the late 1500s. The inscription is in Latin and is thought to read: "Live still to die, that you by death may purchase eternal life," which is a sentiment Lady Jane wrote to her sister the night before her sad end.

Alas, poor Lady Jane was caught up in the whole ‘King Edward VI (15-years-old) nominating her to be Queen before he died’ affair; Mary (his half-sister, soon-to- turn-a-bit-nutjob-on-England, and daughter of Henry VIII) was not pleased at this declaration and managed to take the throne in the end, consequently Lady Jane ended up beheaded, along with Lord Dudley. Blimey!

Interestingly (and on that same note), Robert Dudley, a later descendant of the Dudley family, is thought to have also had Royal connections as one of Elizabeth I’s favourite suitors. How exciting – it’s just like an episode of The Tudors!

Most importantly in relation to Blencowe Hall, the original who made it all happen was a gentleman by the name of Adam de Blencowe, the earliest traceable ancestor of our family and founder of the lands we visited today. Adam’s estate was gradually built up in the area through the 1300s primarily thanks to gifts of land received for ‘loyal service’ from King Edward III. Adam was actually knighted too, and granted a coat of arms: how extraordinary to think of this lifetime long ago that I’m linked to: a fascinating world of knights, manors, legends and romance. Actually, I made the romance bit up, but I’m sure there was some in there somewhere…

Another amazing historical fact: During excavation work in the area archaeologists found an ancient Roman drainage system which ran from the main courtyard area, under the north tower, and out into the garden. This was measured, recorded and left intact under the new floors because it is working just as well now as it ever did!

Hall stream

Rain dissipating (finally) and sun emerging, we bid farewell to Downtown Abbey… er, sorry, Blencowe Hall, and zoomed off down the M6 towards Windermere, the gorgeous and largest lake in England. This region is famous for inspiring writers like William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter and I have to admit, after visiting the quaint village with its water activities, cute dogs and bird-life, ice-cream shops and sweet local gift shops I was definitely in a happy mood. We cruised back towards Penrith via scenic winding back roads past the equally pretty lake-land precinct of Ullswater, across rolling green hills lined with mysterious stone walls and dotted with old homes and pubs.

A fabulous, interesting, intriguing and uniquely lovely day.

Sarah Blinco,
London ex Australia