History of Hutton-in-the-Forest brought to life

Date: Thursday 11th June 2009

RON Davy welcomed members and friends of Caldbeck and Hesket-new-Market Local History Society to Caldbeck village hall, reminding them of the outing next month to Hutton-in-the-Forest, and introduced Edward Thomson, who had spent many years working there, to give some background information.

His intention was to tell of what is known of the owners of this stately home and how the building developed. He started, however, with legend. If Carlisle was Camelot, then Hutton was the Castle of the Green Knight.


In the Middle Ages, a de Hutton (or Hotton) was warden of the southern section of the royal hunting forest of Inglewood and lived there. High End guarded the middle and Dalston Hall the northern section. A man trap and a trip gun survive from those times.

The central portion of the building at Hutton-in-the-forest was the pele tower dating from the 1350s and this was surrounded by a moat which had disappeared by 1604 when Sir Richard Fletcher, from Cockermouth Hall, took possession of the property, possibly by foreclosure.

He started to build the long gallery over the cloisters and his son, Sir Henry, completed this before he was killed in 1645 fighting for King Charles.

Sir Henry’s son, Sir George, was educated at Oxford and added a classical frontage across the pele tower, and the new hall he added beside it. He became Carlisle’s Member of Parliament and instigated a good road to Carlisle and the enclosures.

The villages were deep in the forest, trying to pretend they weren’t there, since they were illegal, he said.

The last of the Fletchers, Sir Henry, entered a monastery in 1700. In 1712 his sister married a Vane and Henry Vane Fletcher built the walled garden in the 1730s. He also planted many hardwood trees and designed the Cupid room, overlooking the garden. Like most of the local landowners (perhaps not the Lowthers) he went along with Prince Charles.

In 1761, his brother, Sir Walter, who had been a merchant in Holland, inherited. Walter’s son, Sir Lyonel, dropped the Fletcher part of the name. His wife brought a Welsh dower chest to Hutton with her. Lyonel’s son, Sir Frederick Fletcher Vane, lived at Armathwaite Hall, where he invited John Peel to hunt and to dine. He inherited in 1786 but was an absentee landlord, letting the building decay.

In 1832 Frederick’s son, Sir Francis Fletcher Vane, inherited and employed the architect Salvin to refurbish the house. Salvin had restored Greystoke after its fire and he also worked on other castles, including Windsor.


Sir Henry Vane was only 10 when he inherited in 1842. His marriage brought his wife’s collection of the Arts and Crafts period to Hutton. He planted the specimen conifers and the topiary features. The yew hedges still provide clippings to pharmaceutical firms to make Taxol, a cancer-inhibiting drug. sir Henry died childless in 1908 and the estate was run by trustees for a cousin who came of age in 1931.

It was 1945 before Sir William Vane could go to live there. He became a Member of Parliament for Westmorland and minister of agriculture and moved to the Lords as Lord Inglewood.

His son, Richard, inherited in 1989. He was minister of culture and tourism under John Major, and a Member of the European Parliament for Cumbria and then for the North West. He is in the Lords as a hereditary peer and chairs the art exporting committee.

After some questions, Ron Davy thanked Mr. Thomson, marvelling that so much information could be supplied from a simple crib sheet of dates. Everyone then enjoyed the refreshments provided by Evelyn Tickle and her helpers.