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Listed Building record MDR4441 - The Dower House, Penn Lane, Melbourne

Type and Period (2)

  • (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • (Georgian to Hanoverian - 1829 AD to 1831 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

The palace of the bishops of Carlisle stood within a short distance of Melbourne church on the north bank of the pool. It appears to have been a 13th century building and was taken down in 1821, the house built on the site being now inhabited by Mr John Earp. Briggs provides the only known detailed description of the old house, which he references as being derived from 'a conversation with a Mrs Chawner of Melbourne' on July 20th 1846: 'Its architecture was of that massive style characteristic of the period, and the building with its quaint pointed gables and diagonal-shaped chimneys partly covered with ivy-wreaths must have been a fine and picturesque old place. The walls were about four feet thick, and a 'dim religious light' entered the rooms through narrow and small-paned windows. Its outlets were by three Gothic doors, that from the south being the principal one which opened in to a wide and ample hall. The finest room in the house was the 'servants' hall', an apartment ten yards square, which at the time the place was dismantled contained some venerable furniture of carved oak which evidently had belonged to the bishops of Carlisle and had been handed down from generation to generation with the tenancy of the house. It consisted of a spacious table, black with age, supported by legs quaintly carved with various devices and massively made benches to match and a neat old chair bearing the date 1657. This is in the possession of the present proprietor. The dining room was to the south front.' He goes on to say that the mansion 'stood in a small croft, having no gardens attached, indeed from its then peculiarly beautiful situation, they must have seemed needless, for the pool and hanging wood occupied the southern front whilst the western was covered with small cottages, orchards, clumps of trees and in the distance was a pleasing range of uplands'. (1) The 19th century house is that situated at SK 3885 2498. There are no apparent remnants of the earlier building. (2) The Dower House as it exists today is the result of a building project by the Earp family in 1829, but has had later alterations spanning the later 19th and 20th centuries. It was built on the site of a much older residence known as Bewley Hall. Some of the information stated by Briggs in 'The History of Melbourne' [see authority 1], has since been proven to be erroneous. Briggs suggests that the first house on the site of the Dower House was built around 1229 and that it was perhaps the site of the Palace of the Bishops of Carlisle. As such it would have been lived in by the clergy associated with the Norman Church that had been lived in by the clergy associated with the Norman Church that had been built next door in the mid 12th century. This has however been disproved and it is now known that the neighbouring Melbourne Hall - originally Melbourne Castle [SMR 23204] - performed this function. Bewley Hall is most likely to have been an ordinary domestic dwelling for a local gentry or Yeoman family. Briggs notes that in the early 19th century, the antiquarian Adam Wolley published an account of Bewley Hall as being 'a very ancient building' described as 'a capital messuage'. At the time Wolley was writing (around 1812), the Hall had clearly declined in status as it was being used as a farmhouse, but was still referred to as 'Beaulie Hall'. A number of 18th and early 19th century maps illustrate the ground plan of the Hall and associated buildings with varying degrees of accuracy. The Hall was purchased by the Earp family in 1813, who demolished it in 1821. It appears that they rebuilt the property over the next ten years, creating the central part of the house as it stands today. The rebuild was completed by 1831 and renamed 'Church House'. At this time the farm yard to the north of Church House was divided to create two separate properties, divided by a passageway named Dark Entry. (3) Philip Heath believes that the old house physically adjoined an outbuilding to the east that still survives today. This outbuilding is currently used as a garage and games room, and scars from the removal of an adjacent building are plain to see. This theory also ties in to the ground plan indicated on a map of 1735. There is some evidence to suggest that the representations of Bewley Hall on later plans (1787-90) are actually estimates, as they demonstrably are where Melbourne Hall is concerned. Despite the site not being that of the Bishop's Palace, Heath believes that it may once have been the primary house of the parish, on a site possibly continuously occupied for a longer time than either Melbourne Hall [SMR 23279] or Melbourne Castle [SMR 23204]. Melbourne Castle apparently never had any of the buildings or farmland that a manor house (which essentially it was) might be expected to have. Bewley Hall, on the other hand, had both and was home of the steward or bailiff of the manor in the 16th century. Heath suggests that Bewley Hall was formerly the home of the de Melbourne family, and may at one time even have been the manor house but was transferred to the Melbourne's for services rendered after the Castle was built. It did not belong to the manor again until c. 1615, and was then sold off again in 1813. (4) The Dower House is a grade II listed house built in 1829, with late 19th century alterations and a 20th century addition. It is built of ashlar with a hipped slate roof and ashlar ridge stack, plus moulded eaves cornice. The house is of two storeys and four bays, plus the 20th century addition to the west. The south elevation has a glazing bar sash to the west with an advanced bay window to the east, which has double-glazed doors to the front with narrow flanking side lights, and also a moulded cornice with blocking course above. Beyond to west there are two full height windows with 20th century glazed doors. Above there are four glazing bar sashes. The western addition has glazing bar sashes. To the east elevation there is an off-centre pilastered doorcase with panelled door flanked by narrow side lights and a moulded cornice above supported by carved consoles. Rear window has datestone over inscribed 'I E 1829'. Central room has an early 19th century marble fireplace with reeded jambs and carved roundels to top corners. Staircase is late 19th century. (5)

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Briggs, J. J.. 1862. The History of Melbourne. pp 59-60.
  • <2> Personal Observation: F1 BHS 11-JUL-66.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Adam Architecture. 2014. The Dower House, Melbourne, Derbyshire: Design, Heritage & Access Statement. Appendix B; pp 10-4.
  • <4> Personal Observation: Heath, P. 2014. Comments on Dower House, Melbourne emailed to the DC Archaeologist 11/02/2014.
  • <5> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England. NHLE No: 1096382.



Grid reference Centred SK 3884 2498 (22m by 19m) (Centre)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

  • EDR992
  • EDR4458

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Record last edited

Jul 6 2018 2:27PM

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