Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Bit More of Stalmine Grange

We’ve already covered the mysterious platform jutting out of the hillside at Stalmine Grange in a previous article (the article previous to this one in fact, so if you’re interested you’ll have to scroll down or look back through this board or something because we’re strapped for space here; you know where the links are in the right-hand column, so just try looking under ‘mediaeval history’ if it’s fallen off the bottom…we can’t do everything for you, y’ know?) and we’ve admitted that, as yet, we’ve no idea what it is. (Although we do have a few ideas.) We’ve also said that the grange belonged to Furness Abbey. However, we haven’t said anything about the location of the building itself yet.
Yes…granges were actually buildings. It’s easy to think of them as being fields full of sheep or corn or field mice or what have you, with the occasional monk/lay-brother pottering up and down picking mushrooms and herbs and being investigated for murder by Brother Cadfael. But monks/lay-brothers, of course, needed somewhere to eat and sleep and pray and beat themselves with whips and cut bald patches out of their hair and store their cattle and grain in the winter (and documents record, I should add, that Stalmine Grange, as well as growing wheat, corn and oats, also kept cows) and to do all the other stuff that monks/lay-brothers used to do for reasons best left to themselves. And for all that a sizeable building would have been required. (Incidentally, did you know that the modern word ‘labourer’ is derived from those hard working, tonsure sporting lay-brothers of the mediaeval period? Well you do now.)
Obviously the first place to look for the grange then would be Grange Farm itself, on the off chance that the farmhouse was built from ecclesiastical rubble. The photograph below, therefore, shows the actual building, constructed in 1682 (according to the date stone above the door at any rate) and surrounded by the largest collection of chickens, bantams and peacocks we’ve ever seen. (Although, for some reason, most of them went into hiding the minute I took out the camera.)

We can tell you who was living here when it was first built, if you like. According to the records it was Thomas Smith, who must have owned the house prior to the Stewart rebuild as well, because he’s listed as living at Stalmine Grange as early as 1651. Before then, in 1618 to be precise, Dorothy Pike owned the place. Presumably, shortly after Furness Abbey fell to the dissolution in the mid-Sixteenth Century, some sort of temporary building was erected on the site, more than likely, as previously suggested, using the rubble from the grange itself.
Let’s take a look at that date stone in a bit more detail.

How’s that for a solid old door? (Pity the rest of the building isn’t quite as solid, otherwise we might have been allowed inside.) If you click on the thumbnail and look at the larger version you should be able to make out the initials T.S. (for Thomas Smith, obviously) and the construction date of 1682. The farmhouse, itself, is constructed of Tudor-style bricks with the exception of the cobble-built extension at the rear and a shored up section of one wall that’s also constructed from cobbles and lime mortar. You want a photograph of the cobbled bit? Fair enough…we’re always happy to oblige wherever we can. There we go, part cobblestone, part brick. But which came first? Well, all matters considered (the fact that Thomas Smith was living here thirty odd years previous to the construction of the farmhouse, the original pitch of the roof as seen in the photograph, and the manner in which the bricks at the end of the Stewart section interlace with the cobbles) it seems that originally the building was a typical random-build Fylde longhouse, half-inched from the remains of some monastic building belonging to Furness Abbey. (As we’ve already suggested…twice.) But it wasn’t the grange building itself, because it’s far too small for that. Perhaps a better suggestion for the location of the original grange then would be in front of the aforementioned farmhouse, almost on top of the hill (where you’d expect it to be) now disguised as the barn in the following photograph. It’s about the right size, although, obviously, it isn’t typical of mediaeval construction techniques. Further investigations are obviously required, but because we’ve already sent our one remaining reader to sleep, those’ll have to wait until next time.


Andrew said...

I read it Brian. Am I the only one? It is interesting although not terribly relevant to me, so I keep quiet.

Brian Hughes said...


It wouldn't surprise me if you were the only one reading these postings, although, to be honest, the hit counter keeps on clocking slowly away down there. (Incredibly slowly at must be broken or must be. There are sites about Garibaldi biscuits that get more hits than this one.) I can only assume there are others out there wading their way through this parochial waffle, but I usually only find out about 'em when they send me death threats because I've accidentally naffed 'em off.

Jayne said...

I read it too...I think FB read it but he's too busy taking happy snaps of the post hole and finds he's uncovered in his trench.

So, c'mon Brian, chop chop! Get that Roman road uncovered and find out about the long house and under the barn floor already! :P

Brian Hughes said...


Just waiting on our survey team to finish contouring the Roman road before we can dig it. Unfortunately I've no idea where they've got to. Ivan, if you're reading this, put that mug of coffee down, switch off the telly, telephone Steve, and tell him to get in touch with me as soon as possible, will you? I'm sure we can get this thing done between the scattered showers, footy matches, cricket matches, christenings, barbeques and spontaneous parties.

Bwca said...

1682 ?

far out man.

no buildings of any kind in Australia that year.

I have to wonder
what T.Smith THOUGHT of The World (as he knew it).

Had he been beyond the village?
Did he own a book?
Worry about The Black Death ?
How expansive could the thoughts of a Mr Smith be in 1682 ?

I do wish there were Time Machines.

Brian Hughes said...


T. Smith, according to old documents, was a 'gent' (which more than likely meant he was a farmer with a lot of money.) Therefore, to take a guess at the answers, he probably thought that the world revolved around chickens, sheep and keeping up appearances, had travelled beyond Stalmine as far as Preston once or twice for legal reasons ('gents' indulged themselves in a lot of land disputations and such), owned at least one book (on chicken rearing), worried about the Bubonic Plague whenever it reached as far as the farm next door, but spent most of his time smoking a clay pipe and leaning on the farm gate in contemplation of how stupid the rest of the world was...much like farmers still do to this day.

As for the time machine...I invented one last year and took it to the patents office. Unfortunately somebody else will be inventing one in two years time based on my drawings, only they'll be registering theirs 50 years ago.

Anonymous said...

My great great great grandad worked hear aged 17 as an agricultural labourer and he married Ellen till who was born at ridge cottage

kazbunny said...

My 4th Great Grand Uncle, Matthew Taylor lived here in 1851 with his wife Elizabeth. He was aged 66 at the time and according to the census he was farming 122 acres and employing 4 labourers.
Karen Kristiansen