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Thomas Wilkinson of Yanwath, friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge

Hilton Kelliher


AT the very northernmost border of Westmorland, a couple of miles before the train enters Penrith station from the south, the observant traveller will be struck by the appearance, immediately to the left of the embankment, of a large farmhouse dominated by a fine fourteenth-century peel-tower, built in the traditional red sandstone that prevails in the flat plain of the Eden, below the western Pennines. This splendid building is Yanwath (pronounced Yan'ath) Hall; and during the last century its reprieve simultaneously from imminent collapse and unhandsome restoration was the work of a Westmorland 'statesman', or small landowner, called Thomas Wilkinson (1751-1836), a task undertaken at the instance of his friend and neighbour William Lowther, 2nd Earl of Lonsdale. Though mercifully not the case in their day, the railway-line now separates the Hall from Wilkinson's own much more modest house, known as The Grotto, that he himself had built in 1773 and that stands hard by the track a little to the south. At that time among the principal features of his forty acres were the walks that he had shaped along a small horseshoe of the River Eamont that formed their boundary.

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