Sizergh Castle

Sizergh Castle

 

Sizergh Castle and Garden is a stately home and garden at Helsington in the English county of Cumbria, about 4 miles (6.4 km) south of Kendal. The castle, a grade I listed building, is in the care of the National Trust along with its garden and estate. It is the home of the Hornyold-Strickland family. In 2016 the Sizergh estate was included in the newly extended Lake District National Park. The earliest part of the building is a tower of fourteenth or fifteenth century date.

There are oak-panelled interiors, including the Inlaid Chamber, where the panelling is inlaid with floral and geometric patterns in pale poplar and dark bog-oak. The contents of the Inlaid Chamber were sold to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V & A) in the 1890s and it was displayed as a reconstructed period room. The return of the panelling to its original location at Sizergh was advocated by among others Mark Girouard. The panelling returned in 1999 under a long-term loan. The bargeboards probably date from the seventeenth century.

The Castle contains a variety of paintings, including the following: a collection of portraits of the Catholic Royal Stuart family reflects the Strickland family's links to the Jacobite court in exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye; there are portraits by Alexis Simon Belle, painter in ordinary to James VII & II and the Old Pretender, of Queen Mary of Modena and her daughter Princess Louisa Maria; Strickland family portraits, including works by local artist George Romney, a portrait of Mrs Anne Strickland (her mother) by Harriet Strickland (1816–1903), and a portrait of Lady Edeline Sackville.

The Deincourt family owned this land from the 1170s. On the marriage of Elizabeth Deincourt to Sir William de Stirkeland in 1239, the estate passed into the hands of what became the Strickland family, who owned it until it was gifted to the National Trust in 1950 by Gerald Strickland, 1st Baron Strickland's grandson Lt. Cdr. Thomas Hornyold-Strickland, 7th Count della Catena. Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII and a relative of the Stricklands, is thought to have lived here after her first husband died in 1533. Catherine's second husband, Lord Latymer, was kin to the dowager Lady Strickland.

It was extended in Elizabethan times. Sir Thomas Strickland went into exile with James II. Around 1770, the great hall was again expanded in the Georgian style. The garden has a lake and a kitchen garden as well as an award-winning rock garden. The rock garden, which was constructed in the 1920s, is the largest limestone rock garden belonging to the National Trust. It includes part of the National Collection of hardy ferns. In 1336 a grant from Edward III allowed Sir Walter Strickland to enclose the land around Sizergh as his exclusive park. The estate covers 647 hectares (1,600 acres).

 

Sizergh is famous for hawfinches. These elusive birds favour the car park area around our visitor centre and feed on the hornbeam tree casts. They are best seen in winter and spring, when the leaves are not fully out on the trees. The National Trust have recently started a new research project with the RSPB, Nature England and Lancaster University to find out more about the hawfinches.

Woodcock. Whilst walking through the woods you may also flush a woodcock. The Latin name is Scolopax rusticola, meaning 'rural dweller'. Their cryptic camouflage makes them very hard to see as they sit tight amongst the leaf litter throughout the day. Only at night do they give themselves up when they feed in open fields using their long wading bill to probe out worms.

Buzzard. Look out for these beautiful birds of prey if you are walking around Sizergh estate. They can sometimes be seen early in the mornings. Sizergh estate has a rich and diverse range of fritillary butterflies ranging from the Pearl Bordered to the High Brown fritillary. Countryfile has named Sizergh as one of the best places to photograph these butterflies. If you take a look in the rock garden at Sizergh you might be lucky and see great crested newts. They also have palmate and common newts living around the pools in the rock garden.

Here are some key tips for finding hawfinch. Apart from patience, you'll also need keen eyes and ears and a bit of prior knowledge... Firstly it's important to know that hawfinches prefer to ‘hang out’ in the tops of trees. So make sure you scan the tops for a large finch on your visit. They have a characteristic ‘tick’ call (which to some sounds like a fizzy drink can opening). This is the first sign of their presence. Hawfinches can easily be muffled out in a woodland setting with other birds such as robins and song thrush which also have a very similar call. If you hang around in the car park they can be heard with relative ease.

The best times to connect with these birds are between first light and 11am. The best months to visit are late January, February and particularly good months are March and April. Given that the hawfinches spend most of their time in the tops of trees they tend to disappear from view from May onwards when leaves are plentiful and they are shielded from the gaze of lurking birdwatchers. While you are in the area you might also like to try one of Sizergh’s homemade flapjacks from the café and a cup of hot chocolate - yum. Who knows, you may even spot a hawfinch from inside.

Still living in the house today, the Strickland family have been associated with Sizergh since 1239 when the heiress Elizabeth Deincourt married William de Stirkeland. This makes Sizergh one of the longest family-inhabited country houses in the UK and evidence of this can be found all around you. The warm, cosy rooms adorned with the most exquisite and elaborately carved Elizabethan oak panelling, display the family’s wealth of the Tudor period. During this time Walter Strickland near tripled the size of the house, while his wife Alice set about making its interiors the most fashionable of its day. The astonishing Elizabethan Inlaid Chamber at Sizergh is of national and international significance, with some of the finest panelling ever made for an English country house.

A true patchwork of styles, taking a stroll through the House will lead you from the base of the medieval solar tower, through the Elizabethan interiors, into the French regency-styled Drawing Room and beyond. Cherished family photos sit alongside precious antiques, linking the past with the present day. In a house full of contrasts, fine craftsmanship can be seen throughout, from the impressive collection of Gillows furniture, to the stunning Italian-designed ceilings. They all have stories to tell, not least of all the splendid Victorian dining table, which awaits your uncovering of its tales and secrets.

Sizergh is a place of survival and strength, and this can been seen in the extensive collection of characterful family portraits which adorn the interiors. Discover the amazing story of the Stricklands in exile, all told through the astonishing Stuart Royal portraits that hang in the Dining Room. From the Battle of Agincourt, to the fight for Malta during the Second World War, the Strickland’s involvement in over 700 years of national history can be uncovered first-hand at Sizergh. With treasures and quirks unveiled at every turn, come and discover these truly remarkable stories and enjoy relaxing in this unique family home.

Parking is not suitable for motorhomes and caravans. Savour local, seasonal food in their contemporary licensed café. Buy a picnic to enjoy while relaxing in the garden. Pub and farm tea-room nearby. Parking is 250 yards away. The shop has gifts, plant sales. Suitable for school groups. Dogs are welcome on the wider estate at Sizergh, but not in the garden. Assistance dogs welcome in all areas . Baby-changing facilities . Front-carrying baby slings and hip-carrying infant seats for loan. Children's information sheets and quiz available. Mobility spaces in the car park and drop-off point. Adapted toilet facilities by the main toilet block. Braille and large print guide available. Building - level entrance. Level access to two rooms. Many stairs to other floors, reproduction of Inlaid Chamber panelling in lower hall. Ramp to visitor reception building including shop and café. Two wheelchairs available. Grounds - grass and loose gravel paths, steep slopes, terraces, uneven surfaces. Map of accessible route is available. Some visitors may require assistance from their companion. A single-seater PMV and manual wheelchairs available.

Kendal bus station is a 10 min walk from Kendal train station. Walk under the railway bridge, go straight ahead at the mini roundabout, take the bridge across the River Kent, turn right at the cross roads and bus Stand E is on your right.

From Kendal, take the 555, 755, 551 or 530 to the Brettagh Holt roundabout near Sedgewick from Stand E at the Kendal bus station on Blackhall Road. The buses are frequent and the 555 runs every day. For times of the next buses visit www.nextbuses.mobi and enter “cumdjgam” or “Kendal Blackhall Road“. Once at Brettagh Holt, take care crossing this busy road and use the crossing place. Continue walking in the direct of the bus, and then turn right down Nannypie Lane following the brown sign to Sizergh Castle. Take care on this country lane. Walk past the Strickland Arms pub and continue along the driveway to Sizergh Castle (20 mins walk).

 

Location : Sizergh, near Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 8DZ

Transport: Kendal (National Rail) then bus. Bus: 555, 755, 551 or 530 (see above).

Opening Times House: March 18th through October, Tuesday - Sunday, 12:00 to 16:00

Opening Times Garden: Daily, 10:00 to 17:00, winter 10:00 to 16:00

Tickets : Winter, Adult £5.50; Children £2.75

Tel: 015395 60951