It is thought that there was a hall on this site from as early as the 13th century, although it's unlikely that anything survives of this building. The earliest parts of the house date from the 15th century, this portion once housing the dairy and scullery. It is this part of the building that possibly represents the remains of a solar tower, long since changed, rebuilt and remodelled over the years.
It is a three storeyed wing with a gabled roof, measuring some eight by six metres over walls some 1.3 metres thick. The West walls of this wing, however, are a massive 2.4 metres thick; somewhat thicker than most simple domestic houses of this era. The rest of the site consists of a 16th century kitchen block to the East of the early part of the building, together with a 16th century hall further to the East, and the 16th century cross wing shown above. There are also 18th century additions to the North and the South and substantial Victorian alterations. Pevsner was not very complimentary of the house.
The manor house at Helsington Laithes is first mentioned separately from Helsington in 1511. Once the location of the manor court, the earliest parts of the building date from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Plasterwork bearing the initials I and AB, and the date 1538, probably records the Bellingham family, who leased Helsington Laithes from Lord Lumley in 1517. A lease of 1540 describes it as having been ‘late in the tenure of Thomas Bellingham’ and four years later, in 1544, Allan Bellingham purchased the manor of Helsington and its members from the crown for £137 10s. As the Bellinghams subsequently resided at Levens Hall, the manor house at Helsington Laithes was leased out. William Curwen, a member of a cadet branch of the Curwens of Workington, was assessed jointly with Christopher Hudson for nine hearths at Helsington Laithes in 1670; in 1674 Curwen alone was assessed for seven. The manor house was the ‘Helsington Hall’ Machell described in 1692 as having been recently re-built by the then lord of the manor, Col. Grahme. By 1693, the demesne farm was occupied by Christopher Wilson (d.1731), and in 1766 by Richard Wilson. William Stavert, one-time High Sheriff of Westmorland, who served as church warden in Helsington for 43 years, was living at Helsington Laithes with a large household in 1891.
The owners, Mr & Mrs D. Hague have invited us for a limited tour of their private home. David Hague will conduct the tour. We can view the outside of the house in detail, the original and Victorian entrances, the Victorian and 17th century staircases, the original stone solar spiral stairs (though we cannot ascend them), the 1538 plasterwork, and part of the original scullery area with its unusual cupboard, as well as the Victorian reception area where we can view photographs and historical accounts, and where we will be served refreshments at the end of the tour.
Parking is limited, and we will have to organise ourselves nearer the event. As this is a private home visitor numbers have to be limited to 30 members of Levens LHG. The tour will start at 18.30 on Thursday 20 June and will be allocated on a first come first served basis. The tour was announced at our meeting on Thursday and there are 15 places available. If you want to attend please email Stephen as soon as you can.
Levens Local History Group