History of Brougham Hall
There's been a fortified residence at Brougham since around the 14th Century. Since this time the Hall has had many owners. Originally a Medieval Manor House built under the shadow of Brougham Castle. Initially owned by the de Burgham family, a possible forerunner to the Brougham name. Ownership of the house got divided into three in the 13th Century and remained this way until 1676. Lady Anne Clifford had trusted James Bird as her agent as she restored her many castles, including the near by Brougham Castle, and estates in the north. On her death her part-share was sold to James Bird, giving him full ownership of the hall.
James Bird was responsible for extensive building work and oversaw the greatest expansion of work for the Hall. Although the Broughams had owned part of the Hall prior to James Bird, it wasn't until the prosperous Commissioner, John Brougham of Scales, bought the estate in 1726 that the hall was returned to full Brougham ownership.
The First Lord Brougham, through birthright acquired the Hall in 1810. Under the stewardship of his younger brother, William, the House went through a good period of improvement and renaissance. Lord Henry Peter spent most of his influential career in London; his fame provided not only the finances but also the reason for good stewardship of the family estate. Lord Brougham's, reluctant and forced, retirement from Westminster saw him spend more time at the Hall and at his property in Cannes. He entertained King Louise-Phillippe and many other important people. He got involved in local life and promoted the Eden Valley Railway which ran partly over Brougham land. His design of the Brougham, 4 wheeled carriage, resulted in the reshaping of roads around the Hall.
The house stayed with the Lord Brougham's for 4 generation's.
Henry Charles, 3rd Lord Brougham, loved the Hall and Estate - enjoying the life style of an English Gentleman in the Country. Henry Charles entertained many at the Hall, including in 1905 Edward VII. The hall was nicknamed 'The Windsor of the North', it being on route to Balmoral Castle in Scotland so played host to Royalty on a number of occasions.
Sadly though, it was his successor, Victor Henry Peter, 4th Lord Brougham, who was responsible for the demise of Brougham Hall. He acquired the Hall at an early age, and his worldly inexperience and early wealth saw his spendthrift lifestyle and professional gambling mount up debts leading eventually to the sale of it's treasures and ultimately the Hall itself. Neighbour, Major Cowper, who had a grudge to bear against the Brougham's, took advantage of Victor's mismanagement and bought the Hall and estate in 1934. He revengefully presided over the stripping and sad demolition of Brougham Hall. Between the two great wars, many grand British houses went the same way, as costs escalated, and the landed gentry came to terms with a new social order.
The Hall became a disused shell. Two companies bought it during the next 50 years with the intention of making commercial gain from the land. Fortunately Christopher Terry, a London banker committed to conservation, fell in love with the dilapidated Hall during the 1960's. Eventually after hearing of plans to build on the land, he acquired the Hall in 1985. In 1986, the Brougham Hall Charitable Trust was founded and the Hall is today the subject of a major renovation project.
The Hall has a restored Tudor block, brewery and stable buildings. It now houses small community business ranging from smoked meats to ironmongery. Brougham Hall is a popular Cumbrian tourist location and offers corporate and wedding facilities in the summer. It provides a fascinating insight into history from medieval, Cromwellian, to the ostentatious splendour of the ruling 19th and early 20th Century landed gentry.
Churchill's secret weapon
The Canal Defence Light (CDL) was a secret weapon devised between the two great wars. WWII saw a greater urgency placed on CDL and a development and testing site was set up in and around Brougham Hall, which became home to many hundreds of soldiers between 1941 and 1945.
Essentially the CDL shone a strobe like light, which flickered faster than the human pupil, causing temporary blindness allowing troops to advance unhindered. Winston Churchill, showing his commitment and interest in the project, visited on 5th May 1942 and in December, later the same year, to see the trials of the secret weapon.
The first actual deployment came in March 1945 when the 738th Tank Battalion illuminated the Rhine after capturing the bridge at Remagen. In reality CDL was rarely used in battle and naturally led to major criticism of Churchill for the £20m invested in the
After the war, the crisis for homes for 'displaced persons' was critical and the ex-army huts at Brougham were used until the early 1950s.
A plaque was unveiled at Brougham Hall by Brigadier Ewan Morrison on 16th July 1992. This was the 50th anniversary of the arrival at Brougham Hall of the 79th Armoured Division as a memorial to those that worked on the project.
Visiting Brougham Hall
Brougham Hall is open to visitors all year round - see the official Brougham Hall website for further information. The Hall has lots to offer, not just its history, but has many small craft businesses, including a forge, pottery, jewellery, photo gallery and a lovely cafe. Brougham Hall is very close to Brougham Castle, both venues can easily be explored on the same day. Great for a day out with the children and it's dog friendly.