A Brief History of Lowbyer Manor
The Lowbyer Estate was owned by the Radcliffe family, Earls of Derwentwater, whose ancestral home was Dilston Hall in Northumberland. The history of the Royal House of Stuart, the Jacobite cause and the tragic fate of the Radcliffes, related by marriage to the Stuarts, is key to this blood-soaked part of England. When Charles II's brother, James II, succeeded Charles to the throne in 1685 he was determined to restore Roman Catholicism as England's official religion. His attempts led to his dethronement three years later (the "Glorious Revolution"). The search for a safe "Crown" led Parliament to invite James' Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange to sit on the throne..Meanwhile, James II's son ~ James Stuart (the Old Pretender ) ~ brooded in exile at the French court.
William and Mary failed to produce an heir and were succeeded by Mary's sister, Anne, James II's youngest daughter and also a Protestant. The Stuart heir and his supporters watched and plotted. In 1714, Anne died without heirs. Parliament, again shopping for a king, looked to the Elector of Hanover in Germany, a great-grandson of James I, and George I now ascended the British throne.
Now the Jacobites saw their chance. James Stuart ("James III" to the Jacobites) returned from France and the powerful landowners of Scotland and the north of England launched the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. James Radcliffe, the third and last Earl of Derwentwater, being a Roman Catholic, took up arms in support of his cousin. The subsequent rebellion failed..
The Old Pretender fled back to Europe, and James Radcliffe was executed at the Tower of London on the 24th February 1716. The Crown arraigned the Derwentwater title and impounded the estates. Dilston Hall was eventually demolished. The Hall's clock can today be viewed in St Augustine's church here in Alston.
This wasn't quite the end of the story. In 1745, nearly 20 years into the reign of George II, the Jacobites had one last push and took up arms on behalf of Charles James Stuart ~ the Old Pretender's son (Bonnie Prince Charlie). James Radcliffe's younger brother Charles, who had escaped from prison after the 1715 rebellion to live and work in France as a secret agent for the Stuarts, took up arms again. The Jacobites' defeat at Culloden, was merciless and bloody. Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped and lived out the rest of his life in Italy. His supporters here suffered a worse fate. Charles Radcliffe went the same way as his brother and lost his head in 1746.
Meanwhile, back in Cumberland..
Having impounded the Radcliffe estates in Northumberland and Cumberland, the Crown had done nothing with them until the 1730s, when they were given to the Greenwich Hospital Trustees, along with the lead mining rights on the moors. In 1778, the Greenwich Hospital built Lowbyer Manor as a coaching inn. In fact around 1858 it was known as The Anchor Inn, to reflect the association with Greenwich Hospital for Sailors. In 1861 Lowbyer Manor became the home to Mr Joseph Paull, the overseer of the mines. For several years until 1894, the Manor was a Ladies College run by Frances, Florence and Elizabeth Walton - spinsters of this parish. The 1881 census shows the Waltons had three boarders – Margaret Dodd, Rebecca Wardle and Sophie Kilburn. The household was completed by Elizabeth Fenwick, a servant and the governess, Sarah Caddick. The Manor remained in the hands of the Walton family, the local Justices’s of the Peace until the early twentieth century. In 1934 Lowbyer Manor was converted from a private residence to a hotel. In 1964 Greenwich Hospital sold several assets in the area, including Lowbyer Manor, to the Catholic Trust.
Things to note around the Manor..
The Coachhouse (Our private residence) was originally a barn and stabling. The bricked up farm door and hayloft can still be seen from the drive. The building now used as a garage (Stable) still has its original roof and the old brick stable flooring. The pig sty behind the garage has remained unchanged and is no longer occupied.
Important visitors to the Manor would alight from their carriages by the gate at the bottom of the sweeping gravel path up to the front door and the carriages would drive round to the main entrance for vehicles; which is where the bar is now. The steps and railings at the front entrance to the Manor (overlooking the garden) are original, as are the old stone walls. Riders (and tradesman) would have continued round to the rear entrance, now the main hotel entrance; where outside the front door you will see the original hitching hooks for reins. The steps at the end of the boundary wall on the left hand side are mounting blocks.
Inside the house, most of the shutters and window seats in the library and drawing room (and most of the bedrooms) are all original. The shutters have been nailed up for years and we are in process of restoring them. Unfortunately the shutters in some of the bedrooms are too short for the windows. The windows look old, but look closely at the proportions. The Victorians replaced some of the upper windows, but the builders didn't bother to alter the shutters, which are now "half mast" for the windows. A photograph taken around 1910, complete with modernised upstairs windows, can be seen in the hall next to the main entrance.
In Georgian times the Manor was a private girls' school run by Frances, Florence and Elizabeth Walton - spinsters of this parish. The census of 1881 shows the Waltons had three student boarders, Margaret Dodd, Rebecca Wardle and Sophie Kilburn. The governess, Sarah Caddick lived in, and the household was completed by Elizabeth Fenwick, the servant.
The Sequoia tree (known in England as a "Wellingtonian") outside the front door, was falsely believed to have been placed as a commemorative tree to celebrate victory at Waterloo in 1815. However the seed of the Giant Sequoia did not arrive in this country until 1853 from the West Coast of America. Whatever its exact age, and despite its attempts to lean away from the winds off the fells, don't worry. Our tree surgeon assures us, the tree is deep rooted and not going anywhere.
The name Lowbyer is believed to come from a corruption of law byer – as in by-law - the local law court; though byre also comes from Viking for farm or estate. Up to 1964, every year on Lady Day (25th March) the manor court of Alston Moor and rent payment sessions were held in this house since it was first built. The open air moot court was probably held on this site – which is high, open ground, hundreds of years before the first Jacobite blood was spilt. But our researches continue, and we will keep you posted. Lastly, the question we are often asked, is the manor haunted? Depends on what you believe. But the house has a lovely warm and loving feel to it, so if previous occupants do still keep a watching brief, we would like to feel that they approve of life here at Lowbyer.
The present owners, Laura and Richard Elston, hope that you will find your stay at Lowbyer Manor an enjoyable, peaceful, and refreshing experience.