BB1237 : Nothing Ventured.....

14th November 2012

How can you live in a place for over forty years yet know next to nothing about one of the most imposing buildings in the vacinity, one that I have passed, literally, hundreds of times?

The building in question is Brettargh Holt.  For the avoidance of doubt, it is the one in Cumbria.  You might think it would be a unique name but there is one near Liverpool and another near Hereford.  It seems more than likely that the Cumbrian and Lancastrian ones have a link from the distant past.

Brettargh Holt, Cumbria, is a huge Victorian Building, not unlike Underley Hall that we visited on BB1234. Indeed it was that visit coupled with learning that the Holt was now on the market that triggered today’s outing.

With hotelier James being my only companion (there is a rival outing tomorrow!), my cover story was that I was a Venture Capitalist considering backing James on its potential purchase. To give this credibility, I had printed off the sales brochure.

There was a slight potential problem, I soon discovered, in that James had already visited the place twice in a somewhat different capacity!

First, we had to get there and then couple it with something else to make a worthwhile outing.  A plan was hatched.  We would walk all the way from Natland to Arnside then catch the bus back.

It didn't take long to cross the River Kent, pass by the Strickland Arms and into the grounds of Brettargh Holt.  I had been expecting some sort of security- hopefully not like the loose police dogs seen at Underley Hall.  In fact there was nothing. No-one to be seen at the premises.

Hello from James!

Into the grounds of Brettargh Holt

I had heard that Brettargh Holt used to be a place where young ladies went discretely to bear unwanted children.  Local rumour has it that a well known 1960s pop star had been a visitor after a not unusual sort of secret love with a welsh warbler  How true that is, I haven’t a clue.  I now know it to be true that it was a maternity home for unmarried mothers, operated by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart from 1944 to 1968.

Until very recently, i.e. this summer, the Holt was run by the Salesian Sisters of St John Bosco as a pastoral and retreat centre for children.  Costs presumably overtook them so it is now for sale, competing, no doubt, for the same type of buyer as Underley Hall.

Chapel Bell

Attractive Extension?

Trying to find more about its history was something of a challenge.  I found a 1230 reference to a Sir Hugh de Bretargh, Knight, from Haverbreaks near Milnthorpe. He seems to have gone south to the Liverpool area some twenty years later, following the birth of his daughter.

Some branch of the family presumably remained and did well for themselves as memorials to Brettargh Yeates are in the Kendal Parish records, according to the Westmorland Historic Texts Project.

The 34 year old George Henry Brettargh Yeates of Brettargh Holt, Milnthorpe, is recorded as dying in 1875 which is about the time that the present building was erected.  

Someone must have had very deep pockets.

And that is as much as I can tell you!

Tell them I came and no one answered

To my eyes, whoever buys this building has a challenge on their hands to transform it into a profitable venture.  Once again, deep pockets will be needed, perhaps many of them.

Fortunately that is something about which I need not worry. Nothing to be gained here. Not for me, anyway.

River Kent meandering through Levens Park

Targetting Milnthorpe for lunch (we were travelling light) we passed through Levens Park, seeing deer and Bagot goats.

Levens Deer

Bagot Goats

Levens Park

Next destination: Heversham Head, a fine viewpoint over the estuary.

Comitibus :  Heversham Head

Heversham Head Millennium plinth

Dropping down to the school fields, we noticed that the pavilion had been burned out and despaired at what sort of idiots would have done such a thing.

Burned out pavilion

Booths delivery wagon

We took the old railway track past Heversham to the A6 then down over the fields to the back of the new Booths supermarket.  

Today was opening day.

It was pretty busy.  

We had a look round and were impressed with the quality on display (a feeling aided by a free drop of wine, some very nice cheese samples and the cheerful staff, some of whom James recognised from elsewhere.

The new store

Tony would have liked this walk as we stopped at the Cross Keys for a midday pint and snack.  Once the watering hole of the King of Saxony, the Czarevitch of Russia and the widow of William IV, the landlord is seriously missing a trick.  Rather than trying to entice Booths shoppers to walk a few yards to eat a decent meal there (the supermarket has no café), he just moaned about it and produced for us a rather uninspiring lunch.  Still, the beer was fine and we had a bit of a chat with an old guy at the bar.

Dallam Towers

Refuelled, we passed through Dallam Towers grounds where the number of pheasant to be seen caused James' trigger finger to itch severely.  

Plenty of deer but pheasants hiding

The path through the woods seemed longer than I remembered but we at last reached Fairy Steps- that lovely crack in the limestone cliff that little children find an exciting rock climb and those of more generous proportions, a tight squeeze.

Onwards through the woods we emerged near a farm where there was a large pile of something blue coloured.  What is it and what it is it used?

I had never previously noticed the little pig guarding the gate to Hazleslack Tower.

There is little more to report except that we arrived at the Albion at Arnside with quite a lot of time to spare.  Once more, a feature that Tony would have enjoyed.

To our surprise, the old chap propping up the Cross Keys bar was now doing the same thing here.  He wondered what had taken us so long but gave us some respect when we told him the distance and route we had travelled.

Pig on guard

It turned out that he knew all the folk that I used to drink with there in 1970 before I was barred!

The estuary at Arnside

Looking up the River Kent

Working out the logic of the timetable for the return was a bit of a challenge until we realised that the bus performed an anti-clockwise circuit of the village.  Also, on its outward journey from Kendal, it was a school bus and therefore not on the printed schedule.  However, after dropping them all off, it once again became public transport. Or, given the scarcity of passengers, a large private taxi with the amenable driver more than willing to drop us off at our lane end.

So, a capital day but, in financial terms, nothing was ventured and nothing was lost.  No hotel purchases today.  I wonder which premises we will examine next?

Don, 14th November 2012




Wednesday 14th November

Distance in miles:

13.2  (Memory Map / OS)

Height climbed in feet:

1,296  (Memory Map / OS)



Other Features:

Brettargh Holt, Levens Park, Heversham Head, Booths, Fairy Steps


Don, James

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