Greystoke Village

Going home day arrived with more blue sky and glorious sunshine making me wish I could extend my holiday but unfortunately all good things have to end sometime. After a leisurely breakfast I started on the even more leisurely packing up process and eventually left the site at 2.30pm, though as a final part of the holiday I was stopping off somewhere on the way home.
The village of Greystoke, just five miles west of Penrith, was featured in my ”111 Places” book and it sounded interesting enough for me to want to take a look, though when I got there I was disappointed to find that the castle isn’t open to the public. Surrounding a small green with an ancient market cross dating back to the early 1600s the village was a very pleasant mix of old stone cottages and more modern houses, with a small shop-cum-post office, an outdoor swimming pool, St. Andrew’s Parish Church and the Boot & Shoe public house, while on the outskirts were racehorse trainer Nicky Richards’ racing stables, breeders of two Grand National winners in 1978 and 1984 respectively.
Greystoke Castle began life as a timber pele tower built by Llyulph de Greystoke. After the Norman conquest it was replaced in 1069 with a stone built tower then in 1346 King Edward III gave permission for the building to be castellated, resulting in the creation of the castle proper. In the early 16th century the Greystokes married into the wealthy Dacre family and in the 1560s Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, met and secretly married widow Elizabeth Dacre who had inherited the castle and its land on the death of her husband, 4th Baron Dacre/Baron Greystoke. With Thomas Howard’s three sons marrying Elizabeth’s three daughters the castle and its estate passed into the hands of the Dukes of Norfolk and the subsequent Howard family.
In 1660 the castle was destroyed by Cromwell and lay dormant for a generation, with a small manor house being built on the site from reclaimed stone. The castle was later rebuilt and enlarged in the 1840s to a design by renowned Victorian architect Anthony Salvin and the extensive estate land was converted into a modern farm. In 1868 a disaster occurred when a maid left a lighted candle in a cupboard full of linen, with the resulting fire destroying large parts of the castle. It was then rebuilt by Henry Howard, with Salvin being brought in to oversee the reconstruction using labour and materials from within the estate. Henry even returned some money to his insurance company saying that he had been over-compensated for his losses.
In 1912 author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who was a regular visitor to Greystoke Castle, wrote Tarzan of the Apes using the little-known place as Tarzan’s ancestral home, though the work was purely fiction as all previous 18 generations of the Greystoke family had been accounted for and none of them were ever raised by apes in the jungles of Africa. In 1939 the estate was commandeered by the army and the land became a tank-drivers’ training ground, while the castle itself later became a prisoner-of-war camp largely for Polish men who had been fighting for the Germans, with the prisoners providing labour to run local farms where the men-folk were away fighting.
In 1949 the army decided that it no longer wanted to retain the Greystoke estate but by that time the damage done to the castle and the estate itself was overwhelming and the compensation fund had been exhausted. So began the long slow process of restoration and modernisation, started by Stafford Howard and which has continued in some form ever since. Of course a castle isn’t a castle without an obligatory ghost or two and Greystoke supposedly has nine, including the statutory white lady, a monk who was bricked up within the walls and a butler who likes to play tricks on people down in the wine cellar where he drowned in a huge barrel of the stuff.
Fourteen generations of the Howard family have lived in the castle so far, with the current owner being Neville Howard, and though the place isn’t open to the general public residents of the village are allowed to walk in the parkland and the grounds can be hired for charity events, concerts and off-road driver training, especially for mountain rescue teams, while some of the rooms in the castle can be hired for conferences, civil weddings and receptions.
Under the pretence of being a resident I decided to take a walk up the long driveway to see if I could get within photo distance of the castle, and not too far along was an extensive garden with several colourful beehives dotted about among the trees and bushes. Another couple of minutes and I was within sight of the castle but I could see a couple of people up ahead so not wanting to be noticed I took a quick shot from the safety of some nearby foliage then retreated back down the driveway to the road.
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Across the other side of the village green was The Boot & Shoe Inn, originally an old coach house dating from 1511. According to my ‘111 Places’ book a very informative board describing the history of the village could be found on the way into the pub garden but though I looked all over I couldn’t find it anywhere. The large courtyard garden was very attractive though, with tables and seating on paved terraces and a raised grass area at the end with a couple of 3D murals between the trees.
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Across the road from the pub was the village shop and post office while round the corner was the outdoor pool and small cafe, both now closed, and at the far end of the street St. Andrew’s Church. It was open to visitors so I spent quite a while looking round, though there was so much of interest it deserves a future post of its own.
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Making the church the last stop on my walk round the village I headed back to the car park; time was getting on and I didn’t want to be too late back home. With no traffic delays on the roads it was a good drive back and the sun staying with me all the way made the perfect end to another enjoyable Cumbrian holiday.

14 thoughts on “Greystoke Village

  1. Glad you enjoyed your visit, you’ve got some lovely pictures.

    A long time ago, before we decided upon Bag End, we looked at a house on the edge of Greystoke. I still sometimes wonder what our lives would have been like if we’d chosen that one rather than this one.

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    1. I’ve often wondered how my life would have turned out if in previous years I’d chosen to do ‘x’ instead of ‘y’ – it’s a shame we can’t go back just to see what would happen. Maybe if you’d chosen Greystoke you would have moved on again after a few years – who knows? It’s a nice little village but I personally wouldn’t want to live there – although a job at the racing stables might swing it 🙂 🙂

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  2. Oh Eunice you make me laugh, I can just imagine you lurking in the undergrowth to get your photos. They are lovely photos as always and I’m glad you had a good holiday in Cumbria, I have enjoyed reading about it.

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  3. I wasn’t exactly lurking 🙂 I walked up the driveway quite openly and was actually passed by someone in a car coming from the castle, but not knowing who the people in the distance were I didn’t want to make myself too obvious especially as they had a couple of off-lead dogs. It’s a shame the place isn’t open to the public as I’d love to explore the interior.

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  4. Another place that has passed me by, or rather I have passed it by charging along the A66 to Keswick.
    Interesting little village.
    Did you see the pictures of Bassenthwaite merging into Derwent Water in this week’s floods.

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  5. Thanks BC, it looks a bit of a mess. The campsite I stay on is a couple of miles north of the lake and fortunately on high ground with half a dozen extensive fields between it and the river down below so it won’t be affected. I’d be interested to see what the river does look like in that area though as there are level fields on the far side.

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  6. WOW, the buildings are amazing. We have nothing that old where we live. Super beautifull! I love coming home after a good vacation but I also love being on vacation! Have a nice day!!

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  7. We have many very old buildings with a lot of history here in the UK and delving into their past is very interesting – I’m just now writing about a castle dating back to the 13th century. I wish I could have looked round inside Greystoke Castle though, given its very long history it must be really interesting.

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  8. It’s a shame that the castle isn’t open to the public, it has so much history. It looks like a nice, well kept, village though. A nice stop off on your way home.

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  9. Part of the castle is still lived in by certain members of the Howard family so I don’t suppose they want all and sundry traipsing all over the place, however well organised corporate events and civil weddings in some of the rooms will presumably offset what must be a very expensive upkeep. The village itself is really nice and I wish now I’d taken more photos but I can always go back another time.

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  10. I prefer the quieter corners Malc, that’s one reason why I camp at a site north of Bassenthwaite Lake, it’s in the middle of nowhere though only 5 miles from Cockermouth, and there are less tourists round that neck of the woods.

    I’ve just added three new categories to my category list : the Lakes, Wales and Ireland so I’m now in the slow process of putting the relevant posts in those categories – I may be some time 🙂 🙂

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