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Traditional building materials in High and Low Furness include slate, limestone and sandstone. Structures range from simple pack-horse bridges, through traditional farmsteads and mills to grand ecclesiastical buildings like Furness Abbey and Cartmel Priory. Older buildings are often described as being built of rubble i.e. any undressed local stone that was available
RUSLAND CHURCH. Dating from 1745 (although only the lower part of the tower is now original) St. Paul's church occupies a secluded site on a knoll with a commanding view down the Rusland valley. In the SE corner, under a Corsican pine, is the gravestone of Arthur Ransome and his Russian (second) wife Evgenia. Electricity didn't arrive here until 1965 so Rusland Church got its first light bulb a mere 87 years after its invention!
RUSLAND TANNERY. Dating from about 1750 the tannery has recently been restored by the LDNP. Hides from local farms and oak bark from the woods were the main resource required. Note the interesting curved front wall - this is an unusual feature and allowed horses to walk in a circle inside the building while turning the grinding stone that powdered the oak bark that was needed to make solutions of tannin in which the hides were soaked.
FORMER ALE HOUSE, PENNY BRIDGE. This steep hill descending to Penny Bridge was part of the 1763 turnpike road from Kendal to Ireleth via Newby Bridge, Bouth and Ulverston - the Greenodd crossing of the Crake wasn't built until about 1820. The bridge (now much widened as can be seen by looking underneath!) and this house are probably late Elizabethan. The mullion windows at the near front of the house were uncovered during renovations in the late 1980's. It was a welcome refreshment stop for the stage coaches and waggons known as Ann Hodson's beer house.The horses would need some sustenance too to tackle the steep hill up to Tottlebank! On the roadside at the end of the garden wall is a milestone which faintly reads " 17 ' ". This marks the seventeen miles to Kendal.
SCHNEIDER SQUARE & TOWN HALL, BARROW-IN-FURNESS. Barrow nearly didn't happen! Henry Schneider (statue) came to Furness in search of iron ore. In 1850, after prospecting at Park he was running out of money. His miners thought they were close to finding a good seam and agreed to work for a week for nothing....and then discovered what became the largest mine (and hole) in the area and provided the profit on which Schneider built the town of Barrow (then just a small village on the coast). He also founded the steelworks (now closed) and the shipyard. The imposing Victorian sandstone town hall is built in a Gothic style.
GRAYTHWAITE HALL.. The ancestral home of the Sandys family is located at the centre of their 6000 acre estate on the west shore of Windermere, south of Hawkshead. The centre part of the building dates from around 1660 with later additions in the 18th and 19th centuries. St. Bees sandstone was used to reface the building in 1890 and Thomas Mawson asked to relay the grounds in 1896 - they are open to the public in summer. For the full story of the role played by the family in the history of Furness click here
MARKET PLACE, ULVERSTON. Ulverston has had a Market Charter since 1280. The old chemist's shop was a private residence in the late 18th century but was later converted to a shop as the area became commercialised. The centre of Market Place has at various times been occupied by a stone obelisk, stocks, whipping post, fish slabs, gas lights and, since 1921, the war memorial.
CONISTON HALL. The Hall was built in 1580 by the le Fleming family (who were granted much land in Furness just after the Norman Conquest). It fell into disuse in the early 18th century and later became a farmhouse. Since 1971 it has been owned by the National Trust. In addition to the tall cylinder chimneys ("the most beautiful shape in which a chimney is ever seen" according to Wordsworth), it has a ramp into a barn which was once the Great Hall of Tudor times. This ramp is the oldest dated example of this bank style barn - the foundation stone for it was laid in 1688, by which time the Flemings had moved to Rydal Hall and used Coniston Hall as a hunting lodge..
CHAPMAN HOUSE This gorgeous old-style Lakeland farm building is situated on the road between Finsthwaite and the delightfully named Tulip Tree House (at least on the O.S. map although the current owners seem to prefer Jolliver Tree House). Every implement is neatly arranged to hand and all the door entrances white-washed!
DEVIL'S BRIDGE, HARLOCK HILL. This very old pack horse bridge stands alongside the road at Harlock Hill, just north of Ulverston. This is an ancient pack horse route as, in 1318, William de Pennington granted Furness Abbey “a certain way of the breadth of 15 feet” across the moor to make a track that ran from Marton to Lowick Bridge by way of the pack-horse bridge. It was used to take the Abbey’s iron ore to the bloomeries at Cunsey on Windermere and via Nibthwaite to those on Coniston Water (where the Abbey had the right to use one boat!). The modern road follows the same route and is a delight, offering stunning views in places back across Barrow and the Duddon and forwards to Coniston Water and the Fells.
NEWBY BRIDGE - Crossing the River Leven shortly after it leaves Lake Windermere this 16th century bridge was built with V-shaped bays to allow pedestrians to dodge horse-drawn vehicles. Seen here the River Leven has over-flowed it's banks after almost 5 inches of rain in one day.
BACKBARROW COTTON MILL - This old slate building was put up in the late 18th century as a cotton mill and achieved notoriety because children as young as 7, from places like Liverpool and London, worked as apprentices from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week, with just two half -hour breaks. From the turn of the century until the 1970's the building would have been covered in blue powder (and was often surrounded by a smell of bad eggs) as it was then used to make dolly-blue (whitening for clothes). Now it is an upmarket time-share complex and hotel. The bridge over the Leven has been in use as a crossing for centuries; the stone pack-horse brige has been widened three times. The river is only a few metres wide here but must be tremendously deep to accommodate the volume of water.
CARTMEL PRIORY - Built of grey sandstone and started at the end of the 12th century, Cartmel Priory has a mixture of Norman, Early English and Perpendicular styles. Much of it was all but destroyed after Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, including the stained glass of the Perpendicular style east window, which now has much plain glass in its place. The 15th century carvings on the screen, choir stalls and misericords remain as a notable feature.
GSK FACTORY & ULVERSTON CANAL - This major pharmaceutical complex occupies the site of the old steel making plant next to the Ulverston Canal. Reputed at the time to be the shortest, widest, deepest and straightest canal in the world, it took hundreds of navvies to dig it out before it opened in 1795. It carried its last ship in 1916, but in truth its time was over when the railway opened in1857 (not least because the six arches of the railway bridge crossed it and stopped ships getting to the head of the canal!). In its heyday, up to 40 vessels per day travelled its length and it spawned numerous businesses on land along its sides and head (no less than nine shipyards for example), employing hundreds if not thousands of people. Now the towpath is a pleasant place to walk with the possibility of seeing Kingfishers and more recently an otter!