The first known historical reference to Hutton-in-the-Forest is 1292 when King Edward I visited Thomas de Hoton who was made Crown Forester of Inglewood Forest, although according to some legends it was the Greene Knight’s Castle in the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain and the Greene Knights. Hutton-in-the-Forest was originally a medieval stronghold and the Peel tower survives. Peel towers (also spelt pele) are small fortified keeps or tower houses, built along the English and Scottish borders in the Scottish Marches and North of England, intended as watch towers where signal fires could be lit by the garrison to warn of approaching danger. By an Act of the Parliament of England in 1455, each of these towers was required to have an iron basket on its summit and a smoke or fire signal, for day or night use, ready at hand. A line of these towers was built in the 1430s across the Tweed valley from Berwick to its source, as a response to the dangers of invasion from the Marches. Others were built in Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland and North Riding of Yorkshire, and as far south as Lancashire, in response to the threat of attack from the Scots and the Border Reivers of both nationalities. Canons Ashby consists of the only Peel tower in the Midlands, due to the settlement of Cumbrian sheep farmer, John Dryden, in the county of Northamptonshire. Apart from their primary purpose as a warning system, these towers were also the homes of the lairds and landlords of the area, who dwelt in them with their families and retainers, while their followers lived in simple huts outside the walls. The towers also provide a refuge so that, when cross-border raiding parties arrived, the whole population of a village could take to the tower and wait for the marauders to depart.
Succeeding generations have altered and added to the Hutton in the Forest and both the outside and inside show a wide range of decorative styles from the seventeenth century to the present day. The gallery, a rare feature in the North of England, dates from the 1630s and contains early furniture and portraits. The hall, built in 1680, is dominated by the Cupid Staircase, which leads to a suite of mid-18th century rooms, including the Cupid Room. The drawing room dates from about 1830, the library from 1870, and Lady Darlington's Room is decorated in the Arts and Crafts style. The Walled Garden, built in the 1730s, houses a large collection of herbaceous plants. The terraces were originally laid out in the 17th century. The woodland walk contains a 17th-century dovecote which unusually still contains the potence, an internal rotatable ladder. The 1st Lord Inglewood added a number of new tree species to the grounds and the tree trail guide now lists seventy within the arboretum. In a nearby field the small church of St James is located, recorded as far back as 1291 as the Church in the Green Field. The architect Anthony Salvin in Victorian times carried out extensive renovations. A fragment of a Norman Cross is preserved within the church, and many memorials act as reminders of the influence of the Fletchers and Vanes over the centuries. There is a splendid dove-cote. The ground floor of the house is accessible for wheel chairs. Unfortunately there is no access to the second floor of the house except via the stairs. The Terraces, Walled Garden and part of the Woodland Walk are all accessible to wheel chairs, although the gravel paths can make pushing hard work. There is a disabled toilet within the toilet block.
Location : Hutton-In-The-Forest, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 9TH.
Transport: Penrith (National Rail) then taxi. Bus: Fellrunner Bus 132 only runs on Friday.
Opening Times: 11.30am – 4pm Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays 23 March – 10 April & 27 April – 2 October
Tickets : Adults £10.00 Children Free.
Gardens Only: Adults £10.00 Children Free.
Tel: 017684 84449