In 2019, we are celebrating the 50 years of the Diocese of Lancaster Youth Service at Castlerigg Manor. To mark the occasion, we have been researching the history of the wonderful building and gardens that we call home.
In the early 1800s, wealthy industrialists were growing sick of the polluted and squalid conditions of the rapidly expanding cities, and began to seek the unspoilt beauty of the countryside. One such industrialist was John Marshall, the MP for Leeds. Having consulted his friend William Wordsworth, Marshall purchased the Castlerigg Estate: including Great Wood and Castlehead (where we often take groups walking today!). John Marshall also paid for the Keswick Parish Church to be built, although he died before it was completed.
The Fenton family bought the house in the late 1840s, and made extensive renovations to the house. The Fenton family coat of arms is still above the front door; it is likely that they added the tower to the house.
At some stage, a man called Joseph Ledger bought the house and started work on the gardens and terrace. The family planted the garden, including what were, at that time, unusual shrubs and trees from all over the world. Unfortunately, the family got into financial difficulties, partly due to the great cost of the garden and terrace works, and were forced to sell the house. The letters E, J and L appear in the terrace stonework, those being the initials of Joseph Ledger.
In 1888, the house, garden and fields came up for sale by auction under the name of ‘Castelette Tower’, and was bought by Reginald Dykes Marshall. With the house, Marshall also gained the title ‘Lord of the Manor’. The 1891 Census shows him living at Castlerigg Manor with his family- including five daughters and one son. They employed some twelve servants who also lived in the house. Reginald died in 1913, and his wife remained living in Castlerigg Manor until she sold it to Herbert Walker, who seemed to have cared more about the title than he did the home- documents suggest the house was empty for much of the 1920s.
In 1927 the house and grounds were sold to Percy Hope of Keswick, who in turn sold it to the Milcrest family. They converted the house into a hotel, including turning the stable block and coach house into garages.
In 1940, the Army requisitioned the Manor and used it as a part of their Driving and Maintenance School. The Army surfaced the drive for the first time, and placed a sentry box at the gate. After the War, two related families, the Addisons and the Pages, purchased the Manor, and returned it to its use as a hotel. There were twenty-one rooms, including three in the lodge, which could accommodate 38 guests.
In 1965, Lancaster Diocese bought Lakeside House in Keswick as a youth centre. When the Manor came on the market in 1969, Monsignor O’Dea bought it “down to the last teaspoon”, together with the lodge, for a little over £20,000. Dominican nuns initially ran the domestic side of the house. Over the last 50 years, approximately 150,000 young people have stayed at Castlerigg Manor, and have been led on their retreat experience by over 100 retreat staff, most of who were young adult volunteers, and 14 priests and many religious.
In 1979, £125,000 was spent adding the Games Room and Conference Room to the Manor, expanding the facilities for young people. Castlerigg Manor now welcomes school groups as well as parish and youth groups, up to 77 people. In 2014, the ‘Manor Makeover’ saw a major renovation of Dining Room and all of the bedrooms and bathrooms for young people, as well as new accommodation for staff and accessible rooms for guests.
Stories of Castlerigg
To celebrate our 50th year at Castlerigg Manor we are collecting your stories and memories of visits to Castlerigg. Some of those we have received appear here, and we’d be delighted to hear of your memories or photographs.