Location : Cockermouth – Grid Ref: NY 158338
Isel Hall, Cockermouth, CA13 0QG. Tel: 01900 821778
Standing on a steep slope above the winding River Derwent and two miles from Bassenthwaite Lake, Isel Hall is a spectacular building. Its south facing terraces command glorious views to the river, which is banked with rhododendrons in the Spring. In the distance are the Lakeland fells and Skiddaw.
The oldest part is the Great Hall, with the pele tower probably built about 1400 on the site of a much older structure possibly destroyed when the Scots raided Cockermouth in 1387.
The tower is barrel-vaulted at ground level with a few of the original slit windows. The top floor has windows of the period of Henry VIII. On the first floor, an original fireplace is preserved.
The domestic range was enlarged about the time of Henry VIII. A later wing was added in the 16th Century, about 126 ft long with a gable roof. There was a further Elizabethan wing, but this has now gone. In the 19th Century a billiard room was added. This is now the drawing room.
The Lawson Crest (shown left), the sun supported by the arms of the law, is a motif which is much in evidence both outside and inside the hall.
Before the Lawsons, Leighs were living at Isel since the reign of Edward II (1307-1327). The first Leigh to live at Isel was William who died in 1354, and is buried with his horse in Isel churchyard. The Leighs lived here until 1572, when the house passed to the Lawsons, and generations of Lawsons lived here until the last of the line, Margaret Austen Leigh, died in 1986. She left the estate to her friend and distant relative, Miss Mary Burkett, OBE.