BECKSIDE—as the name suggests —always rings with the sound of running water. The stream that gives the house its name also encloses the garden and helps bestow on the whole property a sense of intimacy and enclosure. Set on the edge of Barbon village, Beckside is approached from the side, the main front revealing itself suddenly to the visitor as they walk down the short drive. At a first sight, it answers the popular ideal of a Georgian gentleman’s seat, with a fine symmetrical façade, strikingly handsome without being pretentious. On acquaintance, the house is exactly what it first promises to be, but it proves to be more noteworthy, interesting and complex as well.
The figure who has made it so is the owner, John Martin Robinson, a name familiar to readers of COUNTRY LIFE as a regular contributor to the magazine’s architectural pages for nearly 50 years. He purchased Beckside in 1986, at a time when it was on the verge of dereliction, and has turned it into a physical manifestation of his expertise in—and love for—Georgian architecture.
In the years since, he has not only lovingly restored the historic fabric of the building, replete with an outstanding series of original fittings but enlarged it as well, with wings. These give the house architectural presence and have been so cleverly conceived and executed that they might easily be mistaken for elements of the original design (Fig 1).
Dr Robinson has also researched the history of Beckside and much of what follows is indebted to his work, as well as that of Prof David Watkin, who wrote up Beckside when it looked very different (COUNTRY LIFE, September 10, 1998). One happy product of these expert investigations is a remarkably full picture of the social history of the house and its owners. Such an impression of a building on this relatively modest scale—and in this part of the country—is a rarity. It is a reminder of how rich and fascinating the underlying history of such buildings can be.
A house is first documented on the site of Beckside in the late 17th century, at which time it was owned by a yeoman family, the Garnetts. Some elements of this earlier building may have been preserved within the service range to the west of the present house when it was built by one George Turner and his wife, Anne. No documents relating to the new building are known to survive, but the Turners’ initials—GAT— and the date 1767 appear cut into the lintel of the central window above the front door.
Turner owned six farms, as well as property in nearby Kirby Lonsdale. He must have been prosperous in order to purchase and construct Beckside, but he was not outstandingly rich, so, as did many figures in his situation across the country, he turned to a local builder to create a genteel new house. The figure he chose was probably John Hird of Cartmel, a joiner who came to describe himself as an ‘architect’ and whose documented work bears technical comparison to that at Beckside. In particular, the internal decoration makes repeated use of an unusual St Andrew’s Cross motif that is found on the gate piers of Witherslack Church, Cumbria, which Hird remodeled in 1768.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
‘Believe nothing to be impossible'
‘No harder than dancing the Charleston’, according to Lady Heath, flying planes was all the rage for the women of the 1930s, explains Charles Harris
With a spring in its step
Kathryn Bradley-Hole selects some of the many highlights of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which at long last returns to its traditional May slot
To ring a nightingale
On a cold spring morning, Patrick Galbraith held a nightingale in the palm of his hand. Yet, by the time he has grandchildren, this amazing little bird may have sung its last
Three of a kind
The beautiful North Wessex Downs are the leafy backdrop to three imposing country houses for sale
Lek at me
Managed moorland is the place to observe an extraordinary mating ritual
Glamorous and easy to grow, Japanese tree peonies are the mainstay of Primrose Hall Nursery in Bedfordshire, says Val Bourne
The lions of Trafalgar Square
Britain's greatest masterpieces
Rivers of waste
Simon Cooper traces the history of sewage discharges in British waters and suggests possible solutions
Loopy about lupins
Steven Desmond uncovers the touching story behind the exotic, multi-coloured field of lupins at Terwick in West Sussex
ENGLISH HOMES OLD & NEW
English Home part V Each month of this 125th anniversary year, COUNTRY LIFE illustrates a period in the development of the English great house. In the fifth of this 12-part series, John Goodall looks at developments through an age of revolution
RUPERT HOLMES REPORTS ON INNOVATIVE CRUISERS AND THE LATEST FOILERS
T-track is a versatile product that has many great uses around the shop.
Time to plant spuds
I aimed to make the most of my limited space says Garry
With their flax-like foliage and spurred flowers resembling small toads, linaria or toadflax are easy-going, colourful, sun-loving plants
Best annuals for colour
Sow bold, bright annuals now for a riot of vivid colour throughout the summer, says Hazel Sillver, as she reveals the best plants to grow and how to sow them
It's a dog-eat-dog world
Wildlife will do whatever it takes to survive
Planting for insects
If you want to keep your garden buzzing with a variety of beneficial insects all summer long, plant a range of nectar-rich flowers, says Anne Swithinbank
In this second instalment of her new series, Stephanie Hafferty gets to work in her new garden, creating no-dig beds, setting up her compost bins and mulching
Best plants for a cutting garden
Free up some border space to create a beautiful cutting garden so you can pick vasefuls of beautiful flowers all summer long, says Anne Swithinbank
SHOOTS TO savour
Freshly harvested asparagus is one of those tasty delicacies that heralds the start of the growing season and is one to truly relish. Emma Rawlings offers some tips on growing this special crop