CLIFT HILL ...(message me for a floor and bed plan)
With majestic views over the Solway Plain, this grand building provides a captivating base from which to explore the Lake District, Hadrian’s Wall and Southern Scotland Clift Hill is a generously proportioned Edwardian mansion, designed for the last days of servants and built during the first years of the Great War. Long-defunct bell pushes can be found in most rooms, including some bathrooms; a reminder of a bygone era. Relive a time when enormous bath tubs and dressing for dinner were de rigeur. The house is the perfect place to celebrate a birthday with children and grandchildren who’ll be delighted to see hares in the garden in the mornings and startled deer, owls and buzzards in the daffodil rich orchard…my children say the house is perfect for hide and seek. Younger parties may enjoy darts in the stable, table football in the cloakroom and watching movies on the big screen after a barbecue at the fire-pit on the terrace followed by hot tub (on request, extra charge)
HOUSE & GARDENS
The building was conceived in 1913 and finished in 1915, designed by the Chance family, who were wealthy merchants from Manchester. They started building the house on the small hillock opposite but changed their mind and opted for the more solid rock that permits substantial cellars. During my work on the house, I have learnt how much the Edwardians loved fresh air. There is an elaborate venting system that resembles in parts one of those pneumatic tube transport devices. Nowadays I try to keep the cold air from coming into the house but the eleven fireplaces and forty-four doors often conspire against me. However, the illusion of being outside when indoors extends beyond the air vents. In the handsome dining room, William Morris wallpaper meets wisteria creeping in at the windows, creating an impression of a real and an imagined garden intertwining. The enormous family portrait on the dining room wall was painted by John Walton in 1957. Sharp eyes will notice that he is in the picture, holding a paintbrush. The wonderful fireplace and decor make this a room that can be as formal as you wish, or the perfect size for long board games or late-night poker sessions. In the ground floor cloakroom there is a magnificent thunder box lavatory and large double sinks. Pride in plumbing is a leitmotif of this mini mansion. From the master bedroom with its interesting en-suite bathroom, there is a view on all sides over miles of wide, open landscape, with both the North Pennines and Lake District omnipresent. Today you can enjoy these views just as the original owner, Mr Chance once did. Nothing but nothing has changed!
The house once had its own grounds, river, farm, greenhouse, stables and garaging for a multitude of vehicles. The river is approached by deeply sunken steps that are almost tunnels through the undergrowth and after a short hop past the cows you may find the eels and sea trout that my children loved. The cliffs here are particularly dramatic and totally unexpected, formed from an outcrop of very fine-grained, orange-red “Kirklinton” sandstone. Kingfishers live here and, if you are lucky, you might catch a flash of blue as you wade to the mini island at low flow.
For large parties, Clift Hill swallows children – you will get just occasional sightings. An old school bell sits on the front porch for you to summon them to supper. Houses like this are familiar to anyone who has ever watched a period drama and being here, in the spacious, elegant rooms, the Edwardian period comes alive. The original teak sink for washing your crystal is still there as are so many other features. If you can work out why there are sliding locks on the outside of so many doors or why there are arches in the interconnecting bedroom, please let me know!
For walkers, Hadrian’s Wall, a world UNESCO site, crosses 10 minutes from the house and of course, we are a short drive from the Lake District National Park and also the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. An abundance of maps is available. Nearby is the Great Border city of Carlisle, an ancient settlement with Roman discoveries still emerging. The cathedral alone is worth making the journey for, with stunning misericords and a magical ceiling depicting the heavens in midnight blue silk studded with gold stars. In the nearby countryside there are some enigmatic stone circles - including Castlerigg, dating from 3000 BC, which has bracing views of Helvellyn in the background – and Long Meg and Her Daughters, a Bronze Age stone circle near Penrith.
For rail enthusiasts, remnants of the days of railway glory all around, with the old Waverley Line route still available for unofficial exploration just up the road at Kirkandrews-on-Esk.
1915 context - the year of the house was the same year the British ran out of Artillery Shells and a huge factory was built around the same corner at Gretna; manufacturing Cordite - Known as the Devil’s Porridge (see museum devilsporridge org uk)
The area is also rich in other recent and ancient history, lack of redevelopment means that the former aircraft hangars and airfields from WW2 are easy to identify and visit. With maps you can cross and recross the river Lyne at all the historic fording points. Clift Hill stands apart, literally and metaphorically, from the other buildings in this area – the house appears on the horizon long before you reach it. All around are the so-called “Debatable Lands” – neither Scottish nor English for many centuries, families simply picked a side. You were either with the Grahams or the Armstrongs, battling for cattle, land and loyalty.
PRACTICALITIES - Ask me for a floor plan
Clift Hill is a great landmark, sleeping up to 21 people in beds and more by special arrangement (camp beds and tents are also an option). The grounds contain a stable, fruit bushes and orchard. There is a fun area adjacent to the driveway with trampoline, zip wire and often a slackwire. The views are of the unspoilt Cumbria countryside loved by Wainwright, and the Rivers Esk, Eden and Lyne are nearby. The local linear settlement of Longtown is unrepentantly stuck in a time warp and not at all twee. You will find the basics here. The hardware shop - John Graham - has those bygone parts you need and is worth a visit.
MORE ON THE HOUSE HISTORY
From auction records at Sotheby’s it is evident that Mr Chance liked his art and no doubt appreciated Ruskin. We have returned most of the house to an appearance that he, William Morris or Burne-Jones might have appreciated if alive in 1915: still lots of oak and proud metal work together with a smattering of stained glass. Many of the artworks on the walls of Clift Hill today are by family members, from portraits through to abstracts. Today, the house is slowly regaining the glowing vitality it enjoyed in the lifetime of its enigmatic original owner. It offers a unique chance to step into the world where servants were on the way out and central heating was on the way in. The original floorplan is retained and the numerous doors often make you feel as if you’re participating in a West End farce. Visitors often find themselves congregating in the large kitchen with its Aga, two sofas, and old bell system for the servants still visible. Or playing the piano and singing!
We rent hot tubs for your stay if required at £260 extra and can arrange a cook to prepare meals, allow £25 a head for 3 course dinner, teas and buffets also possible.