Levens Hall House and Gardens
- Historic House
- World famous topiary garden
- Deer Park
- Plant centre
- Play area
- Steam engines
- Creepy Crawly corner
At first sight Levens Hall is a small Stately home and garden, sitting by the banks of the River Kent close to the village of Levens and typical of many such properties in England. But a closer look is required, because behind the high walls lies a unique and really rather special property with a rich history.
Levens Hall started life as a medieval pele tower, built by the de Redman family of Yealand Redmayne. The Bellingham family chose Levens as their main residence in the 1590s and incorporated the fortified tower into a gentleman’s residence. The interior, with its fine oak panelling, ornate plasterwork and stained glass date from this period and give the hall its unique character. It remains a family home and successive occupants have built a fine collection of furniture, paintings, beautiful period clocks and miniatures, much of which is on show today.
In 1688 the house became the property of Colonel James Grahme who'd had a distinguished career in the Court of King James II. In those days fashionable gardens were very much a status symbol, and Grahme commissioned a young French gardener, Guillaume Beaumont, to create a garden at Levens. Beaumont, had been an apprentice of Andre Le Notre, creator of the garden at the Palace of Versailles, and he created a garden which can still be seen today.
The most famous element of Beaumont's design is the Topiary Garden, consisting of mostly abstract or geometric shapes sculpted from box and yew, however, there are also more recognisable character, including the King and Queen chess pieces, the Howard Lion and Queen Elizabeth and her Maids of Honour.
But there is much more to Levens than topiary. The gardens cover ten acres of gardens and include an old orchard, magnificent herbaceous borders, vegetable and herb gardens, a rose garden, fountain garden, fine lawns, wildflower meadows and wonderful willow labyrinth.
The Deer Park
Levens Park is part of a much earlier medieval deer park and was landscaped by Beaumont at about the same time that the gardens were being laid out. Black Fallow Deer and a herd of rare breed Bagot Goats roam the park in a landscape little changed over the centuries.
The park is free to enter, and a walk has been laid out through the parkland and along surrounding road, providing a wonderful facility for locals and visitors alike. You can get a copy of the walk leaflet produced by Levens Hall here.
If, having wandered the grounds, you fancy planting some of the plants you have seen at Levens in your own garden, then a visit to the Levens Plant Centre is a must. It offers a selection of perennial plants many of which can be seen growing in the Gardens at Levens Hall through the seasons, including the ever popular and brightly coloured Scottish Flame Flower (Tropeolum Speciosum). In addition there is occasionally surplus spring and summer bedding plants for sale at discounted prices. The plant centre is adjacent to the entry kiosk and free to enter.
Great stuff for kids to do
Levens Hall has always been a family home, and the owners are well aware of the importance of providing interest and activities for the younger members of the family. Consequently, there is much for children to see and explore.
With challenging climbing and slides for children under 12 years and picnic tables for families. Please carefully supervise your children while they are playing in this area.
Creepy Crawly Corner
Situated next to the playground, this is an interactive display encouraging children to learn about the animals and insects living in and around the garden.
Situated within the Gardens at Levens Hall, the Living Willow Labyrinth grows during the summer months to form a green hedge and provide paths for children and adults to explore as they hunt for the elusive hare in its centre.
Quiz and moue hunt
Kids don't always find wandering around a historic house very interesting, so the owners have devised a quiz with clues to follow in each room, and a mouse and bird hunt. There is even the opportunity to get dressed up as an Elizabethan house maid or lady.
Levens is home to a small collection of working Steam Engines, and every Sunday they are put on display. The present collection contains working examples of a 1925 Foden Steam Wagon, a Fowler 1920 Showman’s Road Locomotive known as “Bertha” and a half-size Traction Engine called “Little Gem”.
As seen on TV.....
If you are on your first visit to Levens, but you feel that parts of it seem familiar, it may be because you have seen it on Television, in a number of guises, including:-
Wives and Daughters (BBC production) starring Michael Gambon, Bill Paterson, Tom Hollander, Rosamund Pike and Justine Waddell.
Hound of the Baskervilles starring Richard Roxburgh, Ian Hart and Richard E. Grant.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall starring Toby Stephens, Tara Fitzgerald and Rupert Graves.
It is not only costume dramas that have been filmed at Levens. Gardening, antique and even Children's TV shows have featured the Hall and Gardens over the years, including:-
- Glorious Gardens from Above
- Gardeners World
- Antiques Road Trip
- Loose Women
And there's more .....
Ghosts and Legends abound at Levens
The most famous legend is about a gypsy woman who is said to have died cursing the house, claiming that no male heir would inherit until the River Kent ceased to flow and a white fawn was born in the Park. Strangely, the estate passed through the female line for four generations until the birth of Alan Desmond Bagot in 1896 when the river did indeed freeze over and a white fawn was born in the park. The three male heirs since have all been born on freezing winter days. A grey lady still haunts the drive near the river and has often been seen by visitors.
A little black dog has been seen chasing visitors up the main staircase as well as with the present owner's mother and wife outside the house.
An episode filmed by the television programme ‘Most Haunted’ in 2002 discovered some lights, sounds and disturbing atmospheres not previously experienced by visitors.