DiCamillo Companion

Bolton Abbey Hall (Bolton Priory Hall)

  • Earlier Houses: The ruins of an Augustinian priory, founded in 1154, sits near the current house.

    House & Family History: The land at Bolton was granted to the Augustinian Canons in 1154 by Lady Alice de Rumilly. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 the nave of Bolton Priory was allowed to continue as a parish church, while the other priory buildings were stripped of their lead roofs and the stone from their walls, the latter of which ended up in buildings throughout the Wharfe Valley. The house today called Bolton Abbey Hall started out as the gatehouse of the Augustinian priory; after the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was converted into a small shooting house, and later subsequently enlarged, primarily by the 6th Duke of Devonshire. The estate came to the Cavendish family (dukes of Devonshire) in the 18th century, when Baroness Clifford married the 4th Duke of Devonshire.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: Perched on the banks of the river Wharfe, 10 miles outside of Skipton on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the ruins of the 12th century priory are the focal point of the Bolton Abbey Estate. Owned by the Chatsworth Settlement Trustees, the estate consists of 30,000 acres and provides over 80 miles of footpaths covering a diverse range of terrain. Parking is available, in the village or within the estate on the grassy banks of the river Wharfe. On a recent visit, I parked in the village and from here walked the short distance past the rather grand residence of the Duke and duchess of Devonshire (largely rebuilt by the 6th Duke of Devonshire) to the majestic ruins of the old priory standing on the banks of the river. Dating to the 12th century, most of the priory now stands in a ruinous state, however part of the building has been restored and remains a place of community worship. Legend has it that the priory is haunted by the ghost of a monk; unfortunately, he was nowhere to be seen during my recent visit. First opened in 1810 by clergyman William Carr, Strid Wood contains such a diverse range of animal and plant life that the area is now protected as a site of Special Scientific Interest. Several color-coded trails wind their way through the woods taking you upstream approximately 1.5 miles to an area known as "The Strid"; a deceptively dangerous part of the river due to it's great depth and strong undercurrents. Originally, the water here would have run over the rocks in a waterfall, but erosion over the years has led to a deep and narrow chasm producing lethal undercurrents. Many have met a watery end in the Strid; most recently, a couple on their honeymoon disappeared at the Strid. Their bodies were found several days later. So, be warned, and don't fall into the trap of thinking that it looks narrow enough to jump across. It is possible to walk beyond the Strid and up to Barden Tower; another imposing ruin which was once the principal hunting lodge in the forest of Barden. The tower was rebuilt in the 15th century as a fortified dwelling, and the adjacent Priest's House is now home to a restaurant and tea terrace. From Barden Tower, it is normally possible to cross over the river and make your way back down the other side, crossing back across the river at either the Cavendish Pavilion (at the entrance to Strid Wood), or at the Priory. The Cavendish Pavilion, which houses a rather nice tea room, complete with roaring log fire (on the day I visited) makes a good stopping off point for tea and cakes. The Pavilion also contains a restaurant (which I haven't sampled). Before leaving, it's well worth taking a walk through the tiny, picturesque village of Bolton Abbey. Here you will find a rare and second-hand book shop, together with an antique country furniture store and yet more tea rooms. Just a little further down the road from the center of the village is the luxurious, four star Devonshire Arms Hotel, which, as the name suggests, is owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. You might need to take out a bank loan to stay there, but if you're looking for somewhere special, you'd be hard pressed to find somewhere nicer. (This history of the Bolton Abbey Estate grounds kindly provided by Samantha Lord).

  • Architect: Joseph Paxton

    Date: Mid-19th century
    Designed: Additions to House

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    Architect: Peter Atkinson

    Date: Circa 1814
    Designed: South range for 6th Duke of Devonshire

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  • John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. I, p. 41, 1852.

  • Title: Chatsworth Visitor Guide
    Author: Duchess of Devonshire
    Year Published: 1997
    Publisher: Derbyshire: Derbyshire Countryside Ltd
    ISBN: 0851001181
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Hardwick Hall Guidebook
    Author: Girouard, Mark
    Year Published: 1996
    Publisher: London: The National Trust
    ISBN: 0707800986
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Grade II*

    Park Listed: Not Listed

  • "This Sporting Life" (1963). "Treasure Hunt" (1986 - TV game show, episode 4.10, "North Yorkshire: Wharfedale"). "Possession" (2002 - priory ruins). "Antiques Roadshow" (2008 - BBC TV documentary series, episode 31.1, on the lawns in front of the hall). "1920" (2008 - Indian production).
  • Current Seat / Home of: Peregrine Andrew Morny Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire; Cavendish family here since 1748.

    Past Seat / Home of: Robert de Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford, 1310-14; Clifford family here from the 14th century until 1748. William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, 1748-64; William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, 1764-1811; William George Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, 1811-58; William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire, 1858-91; Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire, 1891-1908; Victor Christian William Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire, 1908-38; Edward William Spencer Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire, 1938-50; Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, 1950-2004.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

    Ownership Details: Owned by Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement; the Yorkshire residence of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

  • House Open to Public: Grounds Only

    Phone: 01756-718-009

    Fax: 01756-710-535

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: http://www.boltonabbey.com

    Historic Houses Member: No