Since the five great families who have owned Levens Hall were all related, it can be said that Levens Hall has experienced continual family ownership for over 700 years.
The History of Levens Hall
It was originally a medieval pele tower, erected by the de Redman family of Yealand Redmayne in 1350, a time when raiders from the Scottish borders were a constant threat . The De Redmans remained owners until wealthy local landowners The Bellinghams chose Levens as their main residence in the 1550’s and bought it off them. In 1578 James Bellingham built a family residence around the tower, which was completed in 1641.
In 1694 the east and south wings, a staircase, brewhouse and gardens were added by Colonel James Grahme, who acquired Levens from his cousin, Alan Bellingham, who squandered his wealth on gambling. Grahme was a good friend of King James II and served as his keeper of the Privy Purse and Master of the Buckhounds. This friendship was maintained throughout the Kings abdication and exile. Grahme filled the house with fine furniture and works of art. Famous for its yew topiary, the garden was designed by Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont, who was already well known for designing Hampton Court’s gardens. He spent the last 40 years years of his life working at Levens. His portrait is found in the house inscribed with “Gardener to King James II and Col. James Grahme…” Most of the gardens as they are now were constructed between 1694-1710.
Grahmes three sons pre-deceased him and his daughter Catherine, Countess of Suffolk and Berkshire, through an advantageous marriage into the Howard family, inherited Levens. She insisted no changes were made to house or garden. After her death in 1762 Levens went to her grandson Henry Howard. Henry gave Levens to his widowed mother to be her home home, and Lady Andover lived there until 1803. She encouraged the gardener to grow rambling roses and honeysuckle among the Topiary.
Levens was then inherited by six year old Mary Howard, who’s father was a Bagot but used the Howard name. Mary also inherited several other great houses but she had a soft spot for Levens. She and her husband made many changes, including the addition of a tower, the instillation of wood panelling in the upstairs rooms and restoration of leatherwork in a sympathetic Jacobean style. They also established two schools and were known as great benefactors.
As Mary was childless, on her death Levens Hall passed on to her fathers great-great-nephew, Josceline Bagot. He was a career soldier,fighting in the Boer War and was also Aide-de-Camp to the Governor-General of Canada, as well as being MP for Southern Westmorland. He also held appointments at the Treasury and also the Home Office. He was made a Baronet in 1913 but sadly died before the baronetcy was conferred.
His son, Alan Desmond Bagot was created a Baronet in his place. Sadly though, Alan died of pneumonia just 7 years later aged 24. However during his short time at Levens Hall he made many practical improvements to the house.
Levens Hall was then inherited by Sir Alan Bagot’s nephew Oliver Robin Gaskell in 1921, when he was only 7 years old. He assumed the family name of Bagot in 1936. Leased until Robin and his family took possession in 1946, during his time at Levens Hall Robin completely restored it, added fine paintings and opened the house to the public. He saved Levens Park from destruction by preventing a dual-carriageway being routed through it. He died in the year 2000.
Hal Bagot grew up at Levens and came to live in the house after his marriage in 1975, subsequently with his four children. He has carried out extensive renovations, added pictures and clocks to the collections, and has developed the house opening and the estate. As part of this progress, the old stable block has recently been converted into modern office suites.
The Haunted History of Levens Hall
Like many great houses Levens Hall has more than one ghost associated with it. It boasts 2 ladies of differing colours, a small black dog and a harpsichord played by ghosts.
The Hall is nestled in a large deer park, one of Lakelands oldest. Apparently in the 18th century a starving gypsy woman called at the Hall asking for food and seeking shelter from the harsh, bitter cold. She was turned away because she was a gypsy, and with her last dying breath she shrieked this curse at them: “No son will inherit the Hall until the river Kent doesn’t flow anymore and a white fawn is born in the park.” Levens Hall at that time had a herd of Black Norwegian fallow deer….and it was indeed nearly 2 centuries later, in 1896, when the River Kent did freeze and the first little white fawn was born to the herd,….closely followed by the birth to the family of Alan Desmond Bagot. He was the first boy to be born again at Levens Hall since the curse was uttered.
The ghost of the ‘Grey Lady’ gypsy has been seen by many of the Bagot family wandering around the grounds, especially on the bridge over the Kent, and also roaming the corridors inside the Hall, the very place she sought refuge in before her death.
In 1973, she was seen at the narrow bridge leading to the house. When she made a sudden move into the road, a motorist tried to avoid her and had a nearly fatal accident. There is speculation as to whether this was the Grey Lady or the Pink lady…but as the Pink lady seems to be confined to the house it seems safe to assume that it was in fact the Grey Lady!
Sometimes the Grey Lady, on her internal wanderings, is accompanied by another of Levens’ ghosts, a little black dog. In the 1950’s Mrs Bagot admitted that she had sometimes seen the phantom dog rushing down the staircase. The dog is still seen running up and down this staircase to this day, confusing visitors by playfully frolicking around theirr feet on the stairs only to vanish into thin air once they get to a room. Many have tripped up as they try to avoid stepping on him.
1973 was also the year when the ‘Pink Lady’ made her debut. Two separate groups of visitors saw the figure of a woman standing on the staircase wearing a long pink print dress, mop cap and apron. This is the same staircase that the little black dog favours. Since then the ‘Pink Lady’ has been seen from time to time in different parts of the house.
And there is also the spirit of the Harpsichord. Again, in the 1950’s, Father Stonor was making a visit to the house to see someone ill in bed. As he passed the Main Hall he noticed the bright electric lights were on and he could hear someone playing the harpsichord. Not wanting to disturb them, Father Stonor carried on upstairs where he then spent some time with the sick person, before passing the Hall again on his way out. He noticed the bright lights were still on and the harpsichord was still being played. Hearing familiar voices coming from a nearby room he called in to tell the Family he was leaving. The lady of the house was in here, having a candlelit tea party with friends. When he asked why they weren’t using the main lights she replied that the electrics were off because of a power cut. Astonished, he told them of the bright light above the musician and the harpsichord in the Main Hall. They immediately rushed out to see who was playing the harpsichord, only to find the Hall in darkness and silence. Apparently the only person in the Hall who could play the harpsichord was Mr Bagot……..who was away on business!
Most Haunted Investigation
When Karl and Rick walk around the house lots of strange noises are heard outside and Karl is mysteriously prodded. The mystery surrounding the cold blast on Yvette’s hand supports the theory of paranormal existence, when a digital photograph shows an orb near her hand. Finally the team perform a séance where significant orb activity strongly suggests the presence of paranormal forces at work.
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