Beautifully restored and steeped in history, Kiplin Hall in Richmond, North Yorkshire tells the story of Jacobean England and the founding of Maryland is USA.
Earlier this year I took the plunge and signed my family up to the Historic Houses organisation. Unlike the National Trust and English Heritage, Historic Houses is not a charity, but rather a collection of independently owned houses and other historical properties. Although membership does include access to more popular venues such as Castle Howard and Harewood House, the majority of the properties are less well know and considered more ‘off the beaten track’.
Obviously at the time I was totally unaware the world was about to go into lockdown, but I was fortunate enough to have squeezed in a visit to the lovely Kiplin Hall in Richmond. I had known very little about this property prior to my visit, and I was certainly intrigued to find out more about this interesting and largely unknown Jacobean House and gardens.
The History of Kiplin Hall
Whilst the current Kiplin Hall has a history spanning around 400 years, like many other estates in England, we shouldn’t be surprised to find mention of the lands in the Domesday Book of 1086. Little is known about the following years, however from the Thirteenth Century onwards the lands formed part of the Easby Abbey Estate. It was the Dissolution of the Monasteries however that resulted in a change of ownership, with Lord Scrope of Bolton acquiring the estates in 1537, followed Lord Wharton in 1559.
The Calvert family enter the picture in the late Sixteenth Century with aristocrat Leonard Calvert leasing lands at Kiplin. The Calverts were an aristocratic Catholic family, but following the birth of our protagonist George in 1579, Leonard was later forced to have his son educated by Protestants teachers.
George then, had a good start in life, and having later achieved a degree in Municipal Law, embarked on a very successful political career. From Private Secretary to Sir Robert Cecil in 1603, to Clerk of the Privy Council in 1610, Calvert’s loyalty to King and Country landed him with a knighthood. In 1619 he had the honor of becoming Secretary of State to James I, and the same year he was granted substantial lands in Ireland and purchased 800 acres at Kiplin.
George Calvert had become a trusted servant of the Crown and was charged with expanding Britain’s influence abroad. His first foreign expedition saw him investing heavily in a colony in Newfoundland, which he named Avalon. Sadly his wife died in 1622, and having declared himself a Catholic and retired from Court in 1625, he moved out to Avalon with his second wife Joan.
Calvert’s venture in Avalon did not work out. This was largely due to a local opposition to his religion, and he thus petitioned Charles I to endorse a further mission to a more agreeable North Virginia. The King eventually agreed in 1632, and Calvert set about founding his new colony which he named Maryland. Sadly, he died the same year and it was his son Cecil – the new Lord Baltimore – who was charged with getting Maryland up and running.
Calvert’s Jacobean Mansion
The house that currently stands at Kiplin was built for George Calvert shortly after his first wife died in around 1622. Looking at the house you would be forgiven for mistaking it for a much later property. The striking red brick construction, and tall symmetrical towers give the house a rather contemporary look. But, Kiplin Hall is largely Jacobean at its core, and whilst designed in the fashionable style, the design is one of a kind.
Kiplin Hall is tall and narrow, and features four striking towers. Rather than sitting at the corners however, the towers sit within within the middle of the four walls, making for a very unique and interesting design. The house is thus shaped like a cross, and this seemingly deliberate design could have been a mark of intent for Calvert’s subsequent coming out as a Catholic.
Kiplin Hall through the ages
Kiplin Hall remained in the hands of the Calvert family until 1722 when the 5th Lord Baltimore, Charles Calvert, sold it to his mother’s second husband Christopher Crowe. The Hall then passed to the last Crowe, Sarah, in 1818. Sarah was married to the 4th Earl of Tyrconnel, John Delaval Carpenter, and it was they who commissioned the large Victorian extension we see today.
In 1868 the Hall passed to Captain Walter Cecil Talbot who was a cousin of the Earl. As part of the inheritance it was agreed that the Captain (later Admiral) would change his name to Carpenter. When he died in 1904 however, his daughter Sarah Talbot inherited most of the estate. This was the beginning of a period of decline for Kiplin, with both Sarah and her cousin Bridget Talbot trying desperately to secure a future for Kiplin. Bridget actually became the last owner of Kiplin, and following her death in 1971 left it in the care of the Kiplin Hall Trust which she had set up in 1968.
Today Kiplin Hall remains in the care of the Kiplin Hall Trust, and with grants from English Heritage, Maryland Historical Society and the Heritage Lottery Fund, have done a remarkable job in turning round what was likely to destined for destruction, into one of the finest historic houses of its type in England.
What to see at Kiplin Hall
Having entered Kiplin Hall for the first time, I was immediately struck by how warm and homely it felt. It doesn’t quite have the flamboyance of some other country houses, but it certainly feels like a grand family home. We were a bit early on our visit, so having stood around for a few minutes waiting for the clock to strike 10, we showed our Historic Houses membership cards and were given some background information on house by the friendly volunteers.
The Hall and Tea Room
The reception desk is situated within the Tea Room, and so this is the first room you enter from the foyer. This is a pretty impressive space, and with good reason: This room previously served as the the Great Hall. Whilst the decoration may seem befitting of a Jacobean House, it seems older than it actually is. This is largely due to the dark Oak paneling and the plaster ceiling. This choice of decoration was made by Admiral Walter Carpenter who had the work done in 1875. Today the walls are adorned by pictures of owners and family members from days gone by.
The Hall now serves as a spectacular setting for the Tea Room. This is certainly one of those places you could sit with a cup of coffee and lose yourself in the house’s history. We had a quick glance at the menu and were pleased to find the usual selection of fresh sandwiches and soups making an appearance.
From the Reception area, visitors are ushered clockwise through a self guided tour of the ground floor. The first room you enter is the Drawing Room. This largely Georgian themed space features Georgian furniture, china, and family paintings.
The beautiful Library
By far my favorite room was the impressive Library. This occupies the Victorian extension, and originally served as a Gothic Drawing Room. It was the then owner Walter Carpenter who in 1892, transformed it into a stunning Jacobean inspired Drawing Room. The decoration is quite exquisite, but yet somewhat restrained. A beautiful ornate plaster ceiling is complimented by decorative stained glass windows, and a magnificent fireplace takes center stage at the heart of the room.
Of interest, is a wooden library chair which transforms into steps. This is believed to have belonged to Lord Nelson and came from HMS Victory following the Admiral’s death.
The last room to explore on the Ground floor is the dining room. A key feature here is a Flemish late Sixteenth Century tapestry which depicts a scene from the old testament. The Dining Room is furnished with Oak and Mahogany furniture and a stunning ornate plaster frame sits above the fireplace. This houses a painting by Joachim Beuckelaer which dates back to 1568.
The magnificent Staircase
Moving from the Ground to the First Floor is an experience in itself, as you get to appreciate the spectacular cantilevered Staircase. According to the guidebook, the staircases used to be situated within the North and South towers. It wasn’t until after 1722 that the fine staircase we see today was inserted, and this required rooms on all three floors to be restructured to make way for it.
On the first floor a huge painting of George Calvert hangs above the stairwell. This is actually a modern day copy, with the original hanging within the State House at Annapolis, Maryland.
The Admiral’s Study and Lady Waterford Room
From the landing then, visitors continue their tour through Admiral Carpenter’s study and into the Lady Waterford Room next door. Prior to the Eighteenth Century there was no partition separating these two rooms, and this large space would have been occupied by a bedroom. The narrow space that now forms the Admiral’s Study would have been used as a Dressing room, with the room next door serving as the Bedroom.
Today however, the Bedroom is set out in honour of Lady Waterford – an aunt of Admiral Carpenter. The Marchioness was somewhat of a creative, and around 50 of her watercolor paintings are on show.
From Lady Waterford’s Room, visitors can then explore the Green Bedroom, Upper Drawing Room, Second World War Kitchen, Yellow Bathroom and the Travelers’ Bedroom. I was particularly taken aback by the latter with its decorative bed. This stunning Eighteenth Century Italian bed features images of Mythological figures, and the coat of arms of the Medici family.
Second Word War Kitchen
I wish to mention the Second World War Kitchen as this represents another interesting period in Kiplin’s past. Like many other County Estates in England, Kiplin was requisitioned by the army as part of the war effort, and served as No 224 Maintenance Unit. In June 1940 Kiplin actually served as a refuge for men returning from Dunkirk, and later the first and second floors of the house were transformed into flats for RAF officers. Sadly, the Army did not leave Kiplin in good order, although unlike many other Country Houses, Kiplin was saved from being demolished in the post war decades.
The Long Gallery
Moving up to the Second Floor, the most impressive feature here is the 70 ft long, Long Gallery. This spans the entire length of the house and is reckoned to be a later alteration. Such spaces were designed to allow for indoor exercise, and also served as portrait galleries for the owner’s family. Kiplin is no different, and here we see beautiful paintings and furniture that dates back to the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Just off the Long Gallery is a small room which is dedicated to George Calvert and his founding of Maryland.
The first floor also contains a family activity room, and an exhibition room. The former is very well stocked with toys and costumes to keep the little ones happy, and the Exhibition Room showcases particular periods of Kiplin’s past.
On our visit the grounds were a little damp, and having spent most of our time chasing my daughter around the house, we didn’t realy get the opportunity to fully explore what the grounds had to offer.
We did however spend a bit of time exploring the gardens situated in the immediate vicinity of the house. As we attended in Spring the gardens were not yet in bloom, but we were lucky enough to see Spring flowers bursting into life all around, and the house looked absolutely stunning as a backdrop.
The grounds and gardens have very much evolved over the centuries, and you can read a lot more about this in the guide book. In fact, Kiplin Hall has an additional guidebook dedicated to them! A period of neglect in the Twentieth Century led to a massive restoration of the gardens in 2007, and this resulted in a Rose garden being planted and the Walled Garden being brought back to life.
The gardens are slowly evolving with the help of the head gardener and a plethora of keen volunteers, and formal garden spaces around the house are beginning to take shape. One such garden is the Arts and Crafts inspired White Garden.
There are also plenty of outdoors areas for the kids to let off steam. These include a ship inspired play park, a Bog Garden and an archeology trail.
One of the most striking features of the extended grounds is a massive lake. This is a very modern addition however. When the last owner Bridget Talbot died in 1971, she had the foresight to create a charitable trust. One of the biggest decisions the new trust had to make was to sacrifice part of the parkland to a gravel quarry. This was obviously a difficult decision to make, but was absolutely necessary to secure a new revenue stream for the house, and secure its long term future. The upshot however was that the quarry was flooded when its gravel supplies had been exhausted, and the beautiful lake we see today was created.
Although today the grounds are only a quarter of their original size, there is so much to see and do. With extensive woodlands to get lost in, and lakeside paths to burn off that lunch, Kiplin Hall is perfect for those of us who enjoy being outdoors.
I hadn’t know what to expect with Kiplin Hall, and I am so happy we took the decision to visit. Kiplin Hall is absolutely steeped in history and is integral to the story of how Maryland in America came to be. This beautiful red brick house offers a really unique visitor experience, and there are few places in the UK quite like it. For families looking for things to do in Yorkshire, or for history enthusiasts looking for something a little different, Kiplin Hall represents a fantastic day out for all.
I would absolutely recommend you visit Kiplin yourself, and suggest you dedicate most of a day to exploring the lovely house and grounds. Kiplin Hall is owned and managed by a charitable Trust, and as such your visit will absolutely help in securing a future for the house. As mentioned previously, Kiplin Hall is currently part of Historic Houses Association, so if you are a member then you get in for free. Prices for non members are reasonable however, with adults paying just £12, Concession’s £10 and children £6 (under 5’s are free). You can also purchase a family ticket for £32.
I have only just scratched the surface of Kiplin’s history within this article, so if you want to find out more I highly recommend you purchase the guidebook when you visit.
Thanks for reading!