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Rydal Hall

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Rydal Hall has an 18th-century landscape park and garden occupying a total of 75 hectares. There are also early-20th century terraces by Thomas Mawson. The site is now a religious retreat.


The site is on land which falls from the north and east down to the banks of the River Rothay.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

A grotto of 1669 built by Sir Daniel Fleming to take advantage of views of a natural waterfall, which became a focus for 18th century aesthetic tourism; formal terraced gardens of about 1909 designed by Thomas Hayton Mawson, and parkland with 18th century or earlier origins.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

Rydal Hall is situated on the east side of the village of Rydal, on land which falls from the north and east down to the banks of the River Rothay. The c 75 ha site is in rural surroundings with Rydal Water situated c 500 m to the west and the northern end of Lake Windermere c 3km to the south. Outside the registered area a rocky outcrop called Lanty Scar overlooks the west side of the park. The A591 runs from north-west to south-east through the western part of the parkland, and the River Rothay follows the road on its western side towards the north end of the site before turning south-west to leave the site at its south-west corner. Rydal Beck enters the park north of the Hall and runs southwards to join the Rothay at Rydal Bridge, c 500 m south of the Hall. The boundaries are formed by a mixture of stone walls and fencing.

Entrances and Approaches

There are three main entrances to the site. At the northern end of the site, gates and stone gate piers are situated at the principal entrance on the east side of a private road which leads north from the A591 in Rydal village. From these a drive runs eastwards and divides; one branch leads eastwards to the Hall, the other runs south and then turns eastwards, running below the terraced gardens on the south front of the Hall, and continuing over a bridge ( listed grade II*) across Rydal Beck, to a farmyard on the east side of the Hall. These drives and the bridge are shown on the large-scale OS map of 1897 but not on the 1st edition surveyed 1859. Some 20m to the north of this entrance, another entrance, shown on an estate map of 1770 by Thomas Goss, leads to a drive running behind the Hall on its northern side, over a stone bridge built in 1682, to the farmyard east of the Hall. The third entrance is situated at the southern tip of the site where there is a stone lodge and gates with stone gate piers. This leads to a drive which runs north and north-west through parkland, joining the drive running south of the Hall and branching into the farmyard. This route is shown on the 1859 OS map, though the lodge and entrance do not appear and the drive ended at a building c 300 m north of the present lodge. The 1770 map shows that the drive followed a different route, running to the farmyard from an entrance immediately south of Rydal Bridge.

Principal Building

Rydal Hall (listed grade II*) was built in the C16 and a wing was added to the north-east side in the C17. It was refronted, on the south side, in the early C19 with a symmetrical classical facade consisting of a central bowed range flanked by three-bay wings. The building is on a platform set into the slope with the principal front overlooking gardens and parkland which slopes southwards. To the east of the Hall there is a set of farm and service buildings built by Sir Daniel Fleming during the 1670s (all listed grade II*) which form an irregularly shaped farmyard as shown on the 1770 estate map.

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

Immediately to the south of the Hall there are formal terraced gardens designed by Thomas Mawson (1861-1933) c 1909 (both terraces, balustrading and steps listed grade II*). A terraced walk, balustraded on its outer edge, runs along the south front of the Hall and gives views to the south over the parkland. Lake Windermere, partially obscured by mature trees beyond the parkland, can be seen in the distance. A central double staircase of stone and concrete leads down to a wider, secondary terrace. This is bounded on the east, west and south sides by low walls which are surmounted by lengths of balustrading between plinths as shown on photographs of 1911 (Holme 1911). At the foot of the staircase from the upper terrace a paved walk runs south to a central circular lily pond and then continues to the edge of the lower terrace. On each side there is a rectangular lawn with a central circular bed and shaped beds at the corners edged by clipped box hedges, much as shown on photographs of 1911 (ibid), at which time the lawns were also edged by box hedges. A perimeter walk leads around the lawns, and on the north side of the terrace, against a retaining wall, there are deep beds for herbaceous borders, with concrete edging. Midway between the staircase and the edge of the garden on each side there are shelters set into the beds against the stone retaining walls. These have a bench seat flanked by paired concrete Tuscan columns linked by wooden pergola supports. There are matching opposed shelters set into the wall on the south side of the terrace.

On the southern edge of the second terrace there are gates leading to a second double staircase, which is aligned with the first staircase and Hall front. This descends on each side of a recess which has a bowed front supported by Tuscan columns, mirroring the front of the Hall. On the top is a miniature circular temple with Tuscan columns. There is a paved area in front of the recess and a staircase descends from this level down the slope in two stages. On each side the ground is ramped and planted with ornamental shrubs. The area occupied by the upper and lower terrace conforms broadly with a rectangular area marked 'Garden' on the estate map of 1770, and the area is shown on the 1897 OS map as two terraces linked by a central staircase.

On the east side of these gardens is an area known as the Croquet Lawn. This is reached from a ramped walkway leading down from the top terrace, and also from a set of stone and concrete steps which lead down from the lower terrace. The lawn is square with perimeter paths, and on the east side there is a garden shelter of the same design as those on the lower terrace, but of larger size. This area is bounded by a balustraded wall and there are views of Rydal Beck which runs through a gorge immediately to the east.

To the north of the Hall there is an area of woodland occupying an area called Higher Orchard on the estate map of 1770, with paths leading through it. This is marked 'shrubbery and wood' on an estate map of 1840. An icehouse (C18, listed grade II*), is situated in the woodland c 70m north of the Hall and a game larder (C17, listed grade II*) stands on the eastern edge of the woodland beside Rydal Beck, c 50m north-east of the Hall.

Between the Hall and farmyard there is a bridge across Rydal Beck built by Sir Daniel Fleming in 1682, which probably replaced a wooden structure. Immediately south of this the Beck descends as a waterfall, called Low Falls, into a plunge pool and continues through a gorge, which frames the falls and casts shade upon the scene. At the edge of the water, c 100m south-east of the Hall, there is a small building called the Grotto (listed grade II*), built by Sir Daniel Fleming in 1668-9, who referred to it as the 'Grot' and 'my Grott-House'. It is a simple stone building with a door on the south side and a large window on the north side giving a view of the waterfall, the plunge pool and the bridge above it. The interior was originally panelled, and Fleming's accounts show that the cost of panelling and glazing amounted to more than the cost of the rest of the building. An account of it was written in 1692 by Rev Thomas Machell, who described it as 'a little grotto...[for] retirement' and the view of the fall from it as 'very surprising' (TAMS 1980, 49). Fleming had the scene from the window painted in 1682.

The area became a popular attraction in the later C18, and an anonymous account written in 1786 suggests that the visitor was led along a route to the summerhouse in such a way that the view of the waterfall was not visible until the door was opened, revealing it framed by the window in the opposite wall. The view from this spot was commended by Thomas Gray in his Journal of 1769 and by William Gilpin in 1786, amongst many others. The scene was described in verse in 1794 by William Wordsworth in An Evening Walk, and the falls were painted by Joseph Wright of Derby in 1795. The scene has been described as 'a beau ideal of romantic and Picturesque scenery' (Andrews 1989).

Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden is situated c 100 m north of the Hall and is shown on the 1840 map. It is divided from the woodland immediately north of the Hall by a low stone wall, with a gateway at the head of a path through the woods. A high stone wall runs along the western and northern side, and there is a blocked doorway in the west wall which led to a path running behind the wall. The garden is now rough pasture; it is shown divided into irregular sub-rectangular areas on the 1859 OS map, and on the 1897 edition glasshouses are shown against the inner face of the northern wall, and small buildings against its outer face.


Parkland extends to the east and south of the Hall. It is separated from the gardens by a cast-iron fence to the south of the terraced garden and by C20 fencing east of this. The land falls steeply from the eastern boundary and levels out as the A591 is approached. There are a number of knolls and hillocks planted with trees, and mature trees are scattered throughout the park. On the west side of the A591, in the south-west corner of the park, a wooded hill called Old Hall Hill was the site of a hunting lodge of medieval date. There is gentler land on the west side of the park alongside the banks of the Rothay, which contrasts with the rocky cliffs of Lanty Scar overlooking this part of the site. The 1770 estate map shows that parkland then occupied the eastern and northern part of the site, covering an area called High Park to the north and east of the present park boundary, outside the registered area. At this time the area south and west of the Hall was divided into fields and orchards; it is shown on the 1840 estate map as parkland.


Thomas Goss, Estate map, 1770

Estate map, 1840

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1859

2nd edition published 1920

OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1857-1860

2nd edition published 1897

Description written: August 1997

Amended: June 1998

Edited: March 1999

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The gardens are open daily, from 10am to 4pm.


On the A591 Ambleside to Grasmere road.


The Carlisle Diocesan Retreat and Conference Centre


The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):


The site was owned by the Fleming family from the 16th century or before. Improvements to the house, grounds and estate were made during the last half of the 17th century by Sir Daniel Fleming (1633-1701) who kept account books recording building work, including the construction of the grotto. The Fleming family remained in ownership of the Hall until 1970 when the house and gardens were purchased by the Diocese of Carlisle which currently (1997) uses them as a retreat, conference and youth centre. The Estate remains (1997) in family ownership.


18th Century

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD1662
  • Grade: II*


  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: Thomas Mawson was commisioned to create the terraces in the early 20th century. They fell into decline after World War 2 but were restored in 2005.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: The walled kitchen garden pre-dates the Mawson era, probably dating from the early-19th century. It is largely used as a campsite but a large part is fenced off where allotment-style gardening has been adopted.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Glasshouse
  • Description: The original glasshouse range has gone but the slate base remains. A new lean-to greenhouse is planned to be built on the base.
  • Planting
  • Description: It is planned to plant 50 heritage apple trees (Lake District varieties) in the autumn of 2005.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Garden House
  • Description: The head gardener's cottage is now owned privately and is separate to the walled garden.
  • House (featured building)
  • Now Hotel And Retreat
  • Earliest Date:
  • Herbaceous Border
  • Lawn
  • Pond
  • Summerhouse
  • Waterfall
  • Description: Rydal Falls.
  • Game Larder
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Icehouse
  • River
  • Description: River Rothay.
  • Boundary Wall
  • Description: The boundaries are formed by a mixture of stone walls and fencing.
  • Grotto, Waterfall
  • Description: Circa 1669 built to take advantage of views of a natural waterfall,
Key Information





Principal Building

Religious Ritual And Funerary


18th Century





Open to the public


Civil Parish





  • Tom Attwood

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