View of Leighton Hall from Summerhouse Hill
People have been admiring the view from Summerhouse Hill for at least 3,000 years. A Bronze Age kerbed cairn on the south eastern edge was excavated in the 1780’s . Archaeologists are still debating whether the limestone blocks on the hill’s summit are the remains of a massive stone circle. A grass-covered limestone plinth is all that survives from the Georgian Summerhouse which gave the hill its modern name. The hill-top was until recently the village cricket pitch.
Leighton Hall has been home to the major landowners in the parish since the thirteenth century. Its current ‘gothick’ façade was constructed in the 1820’s when the celebrated Lancaster furniture makers, the Gillows, took over the estate. Their descendants are still in residence.
Yealand Conyers is almost over-endowed with grand houses. Yealand Manor – originally called Morecambe Lodge – was built in 1815. During the Second World War the Quakers used it as a school for evacuees. The celebrated children’s writer, Elfrida Vipont, author of ‘The Elephant and the Bad Baby’, was headmistress, and lived in the village for many years.
Another Georgian mansion, Beechfield, was once home to Lancaster’s Conservative MP, Sir Fitzroy Maclean . A friend to Sir Winston Churchill and a founder member of the SAS, he is said to have been the model for Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
The village boasts two churches: St Mary’s Catholic Church, built by Squire Richard Thomas Gillow in the 1850’s, and the C of E’s St John’s, which also dates from the nineteenth century. The oldest place of worship –- leaving aside the possible stone circle – belongs to the Quakers. The Yealands figured prominently in the formation of the movement. Their founder George Fox preached here in the 1650’s when local toughs – thought to be from Borwick Hall – threatened to break up a meeting. Early gatherings were held in Quaker cottages in the village, before the present Meeting House was built in 1692. The Old School next door was started by local Quakers in 1709 and closed in 1920. A clock and plaque on its outside wall commemorates the Quaker Martyr Richard Hubberthorne, from neighbouring Yealand Redmayne, who was imprisoned for his beliefs and died in Newgate jail in 1662.
Until about 1860 the building at the top of the village now called the Coach House and its adjacent cottages formed part of a busy flax weaving shed. For many years the village was a mix of gentleman’s residences, farms and cottages. Today only one working farm survives.
The New Inn dates from the 1680’s and is currently closed for restoration work. Fine plasterwork above the fireplace in the bar is a reminder of the Jacobite rebellions of the eighteenth century. Rediscovered by former landlady Mrs Bernie Taylor during restoration work, the plaster is dated 1727 and is decorated with stags heads and acorns: the symbols of the Stuart dynasty.
Old Hall, the elegant seventeenth century farmhouse opposite, was previously home to the late Colonel Robin Hartley, whose family owned the pub. He visited the New Inn every day to test first-hand the quality of the Hartley’s XB bitter.
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