The Vale of Lyvennet

Its Picturesque Peeps and Legendary Lore

By John Salkeld Bland



The first record of Gaythorn Hall is that the whole, or part of it, belonged to the Hospital of St. Leonard at York. In 1281 they had a grant of free warren in Docker and Gaythorn. According to Burn it  was in possession of the Pickerings, and sold by Sir Christopher Pickering of Ormshead in the reign of James I. to Sir James Bellingham of Over Levens. This cannot have been the case, for in the reign of Henry VI., this manor, Levens, Helsington and Fawcett Forest were bought by Alan Bellingham, 8th son of Sir Robert Bellingham, Knight, of Burnshead. Alan was the treasurer of Berwick, and deputy warden of the marches. He was succeeded by his son Thomas, who died previously to 1550.

Thomas left two sons, Alan the elder, and Thomas, who married a daughter of Thomas Blenkinsop of Helbeck, Esq., and sister of the wife of Lancelot Pickering, Esq., of Crosby Hall. He resided at Gaythorn Hall.

After the Dissolution, the Bellinghams became possessed of the advowson of Crosby Church, and in 1597, Thomas Bellingham made a presentation of the living to William Willan. Gaythorn then passed to James Bellingham, Esq., of Helsington, eldest son of Thomas’ elder brother Alan. James lived at Gaythorn as early as 1604, and it is believed he was the builder of the present Hall. He was knighted by King James I. at Durham on his first coming into England in 1603. He died in 1641. The property descended to his eldest son, Sir Henry Bellingham, baronet; he was knighted on the shire in Charles I’s reign. He was succeeded by his brother Alan, who represented the county in 1661 and died in 1672. Then followed James of Levens, his son, who died in 1680, and succeeded by his son Alan. He was knight of the shire in 1681 and 1685. Being a wild and gay young man, he consumed a vast estate, and sold Levens, Haythorn, etc., to Col. James Graham, privy purse to James II.: who represented the county for many years, and left  an only daughter, Katherine. She married Henry Bowes Howard, Earl of Berkshire. They had issue William, Viscount Andover; he died in the lifetime of his father, but left issue Henry Howard, Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire, in the descendants of whose family it still remains.

Gaythorn Hall is situated in a wild dreary district, far away from any other habitation, and it is rather surprising to find so stylish a building in such an isolated situation. It is a large building, in the Elizabethan style, with large mullioned windows of six and eight lights each. There is a projection on the front side, supported by an arched doorway with three large mullioned windows in the upper story, and above the arch are the Bellingham arms. Within this is the door, above which is a rudely carved figures of a mermaid, and the footstones are curious grotesque heads. The lower rooms are large and spacious; the ceiling of one is beautifully ornamented with vine leaf and branch work, with the family arms in the centre. The upper rooms are also very spacious; in these are one or two very handsome stone chimneypieces. Behind the Hall was, at one time, the remains of a private chapel, but it is now all gone, and no record of it is left, excepting the upper part of a mullioned window, more ancient in style than the present Hall, which no doubt occupies the site of a previous building.

There is a curious legend connected with Gaythorn Hall, respecting a family who lived there. The husband was a Protestant, the wife a Roman Catholic. Their firstborn son the mother insisted should be reared according to her faith; the father objected, and wished him to be a Protestant. The mother, being a determined woman, insisted that if it might not be as she wished, the child should not be brought up to any religion. The consequence was, the heartless woman had the child put down into a cellar below the house, without any clothing. Into this place she threw it some straw and old rags to lie upon, and for its food, potato peelings, paste and dirty washings. These she threw in at a hole without even herself entering the place. Here the child remained unknown to any but themselves till it was six years old, when by accident a man about the building heard a peculiar cry. There being always curious suspicions respecting this child, he was induced to compel its mother to disclose its hiding-place, and it was brought forth, a hideous looking monster, unable to walk. The nails of its hands and feet were grown like eagles’ claws, and its body was almost covered with hair, which was matted with dirt and filth. The child was then cleaned, clothed and properly fed, sent to school, and eventually, though enduring such hard treatment in infancy, grew up to manhood, occupied a respectable position in society, and lived to a good old age.



The Vale of Lyvennet, Its Picturesque Peeps and Legendary Lore, By John Salkeld Bland, 1910.
Originally transcribed by Diane Coppard and Kate Burns, and reproduced here with their permission.

19 June 2015.

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