Dalston Hall

Dalston Hall

History taken from their website

The Romans with their passion for organisation appear to have established a community at Carlisle around AD 120 (Luguvalliam). Some historians believed the area around Dalston Hall to have been used by the Romans. After the Romans left during the 5th Century came the Danish invasion of the North, and of course, as always during this time we had our most frequent visitors, the Warrior Scots. In 945 Carlisle was ransacked by the Scots and left in complete ruin for over a century.

It is believed that when Cumberland was ceded to Scotland, David King of the Scots gave the Manor of Little Dalston to his brother. We have it on the authority of a Dalston man himself that there is some evidence to support the theory that the Dalston family begins with a certain Robert de Vallibus, brother of Hubert de Vallibus first Baron of Gilsland by Robert de Meschines, Earl of Cumberland. Who was granted the Manor in 1301. For the next two hundred years the Dalstons appear to have been small landowners taking part in the usual pastimes of the period – fighting the marauding Scots in border raids or undertaking garrison duties at Carlisle Castle. Gradually they managed to increase the family fortunes.

After the death of Henry 1st, Stephen the Usurper gave Cumberland and Carlisle to Scotland as a peace offering. In 1157 the City was retaken and has remained ever since as part of England.

Records describing the building of Dalston Hall refer to the times when the first John Dalston dedicated the Pele Tower to his wife Elizabeth whom he married in 1507. Elizabeth’s father owned the Manors of Kirkbride and Dockerey. An inscription on an outside wall said “John Dalston Elizabeth mi wyf ys byldyng” this has been written in Gothic script, the letters are all in reverse and can be seen to date.

There are also four coats of arms. Two of Dalston (three daws’s heads within a border indented) and two of Kirkbride. At first the tower stood alone. The first floor consisted of the usual vaulted chamber (the Library), originally the cellar to store house, later became a chapel which had the Ten Commandments painted on the walls. The spiral staircase was entered through an Iron door (yatt – which is one of the very few still in existence in the country). The two upper levels were a living room and a camber respectively. Above this was a fighting deck with battlement. From the time of John Dalston onwards the family became of great position in the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland John’s son Thomas Born 1523, increased the land possessions by purchasing from the Crown (HenryVi 11), six Manors and various monastic lands after the dissolution of the monasteries.

As family fortunes increased Dalston Hall was enlarged first with buildings on the East of the Pele Tower and then on the West.

When Thomas died (1550) the family were of some importance in the County for the next 150 years. Thomas’s son SirJohn Dalston was born in 1523 and married Catherine Tolston of Bridekirk. In 1529 when John was six, arrangement for the children to be changed over and brought up in the other family until they were 15 years old and agreeing that if John died, Catherine should marry John’s younger brother, and vice versa, and setting out also the details of their upbringing.

SirJohn was Sheriff in 1568 and 1578 he was also Knight of the Shire in 1556. John’s son, another Sir John Dalston born 1556 to 1633, was knighted by James 1. In 1592 he was commandant of the Citadel of Carlisle, which was a position of great trust. Also in 1592 he appears to have been involved in the local sport of Hanging the Scots, in return for their raids, and he is named in a claim by the Provost and Bailiffs of Kirkcudbright involving £2,000 for 24 horses, etc.

The next Sir George Dalston was Knight of the Shire on several occasions and his court chose him as their representative in parliament for more than 40 years. The family fortunes reached a peak when Sir William Dalston, George’s son not only not only married Anne Boles a considerable heiress but inherited property from his mother. During the Cromwellian wars,

William who took the side of the Royalists was created a Baronet by Charles 1 in 1640/41.

In 1644/45 during the Civil War which began in 1642 events kept troubles away from Carlisle. However in 1644 the Royalist Commander, Sir Thomas Grenham occupied Carlisle with a small force. The Parliment General Leslie came chasing after him, came within sight of the City which was then occupied by Royalist forces and thought his represented an Army which he could perhaps have easily defeated, he drew his men off to Newcastle.

Scandal says that General Leslie knew that Carlisle could have been taken easily, since it was not provisioned for a siege. He and his men draw pay for a much longer period. Having granted them a breathing space, he brought his men up in October 1644 and settled down for the winter, using Dalston Hall as his headquarters. He blocked all the roads and prevented supplies from reaching the City and the siege was on.

William subscribed towards the upkeep of Carlisle Garrison and later in 1655 had to pay £3,000 (the largest amount levies on anyone in the Country) to compound for his estates. One of the estates came to William was Heath Hall in Yorkshire, and from this onward the Dalston family seem to have lived increasingly at Heath Hall rather than at Dalston.

Through many months the citizens of Carlisle were beleaguered, food became scarce and they were reduced to eating the proverbial cats and dogs. Finally, on 25th June 1645 the City was surrendered to General Leslie and it needs but little imagination to conjure up scenes which must have enacted within this hall. Messengers on horseback arriving with news of Royalist and Parliament battles in other parts. Encampments of men dispersed throughout the grounds, seeking shelter in the woods and of their conversation in assessing the line of the siege.

Sir Charles Dalston baptised in 1686, who died in 1723, resided chiefly in Yorkshire was Sheriff of Cumberland in 1741, this was the year of the Hanoverian succession. Sir Charles first married Susan, daughter and coheir of Sir Francis Drake of Whitney.

Sir Charles had one son and six daughters and thus Sir George Dalston baptised 1718 (died 1765) was the last male of his line. Perhaps lacking a male heir, he sold his estates at Dalston in 1761, according to Daniel Defoe, to a Mr Monkhouse Davidson, grocer of London for £5.060.

Dalston Hall had by this time been extended. The large hall for example had been added. Commencing in the latter part of the 15th Century we find extensions and alterations occurring right through to this later period. The more recent modifications are those which probably created much of the interior beauty which we so much admire today. But, older hands and minds created the original proportions and symmetry which acted as a base for making this balanced picture in red sandstone which is seen today.

In 1897 the Hall adjoining estates were purchased by the late Edmund Wright Stead whose more recent restoration of this historic home earned the appreciation of such an antiquarian expert as the late Canon Wilson who wrote “Not one stone of interest was interfered with” and yet the result was “a magnificent mansion surpassing perhaps even its ancient glories”.

In later years Dalston Hall was used as a Youth Training Centre and then in 1971 was converted to a Hotel.

Dalston Hall is very old, built over 600 years ago. At night it the towers are floodlight and the stone an orangey red sandstone – more mellow than the deep red of Penrith sandstone. It is approached up a drive through trees. But look out for the ghost of the Victorian handyman as you drive up at night. He has been seen in the grounds.

The current entrance of Dalston Hall is actually the most modern – dating from 1899 – but this hides a more ancient heart. The door into the hotel leads from bright sunshine to a subdued dimness. All around dark wood panelling makes the place intimate and yet strange. Passing into the hotel from the reception, you go past the stairs and into the Banorial Hall. The hall dates from around 1500. An inscription reads: “Iohn Dalston Elisabet mi wyf mad ys byldyng” – the letters are in Gothic script, and curiously in reverse. Above the manorial hall is a gallery. It is here that the oldest ghost – known to the staff as Lady Jane, can be seen. She appears in Tudor dress and may well be one of the Dalston families who owned the Hall for such a long time.

Off the Banorial Hall, to the left, an old wooden doorway opens onto a staircase. Near the bottom of the stairs is a heavy iron gate, which is almost certainly from the date of the first building. The staircase spirals, up with worn stone steps, into the top of the left tower. As you ascend you can almost imagine footsteps behind you, though if you turn you know no one would be there. The stairs come out in what is now the honeymoon suite with its four-poster bed. The walls are the original stone and the windows cut through stone blocks three feet thick. This was one of the defensive Pele towers of Cumbria from the times of the border skirmishes with the Scots.

This room is not haunted but it is atmospheric enough despite that. It is possible to climb the spiral stairs still further and emerge onto the battlements and even higher to the top turret. From here you can survey the estate and look south to the Lake District fells. Going down again, on the ground floor there is a small library, which serves as a lounge for residents. There is also a cupboard for hanging coats, which when the back panel was removed, revealed a staircase going up to nowhere; it meets a blank wall. From this floor the staff can go down to the extensive cellars that wind like a rabbit warren underneath the hotel and go from century to century revealing modern bricks, Victorian building, medieval stone.

There are storm drains down here from when the rain is exceptionally heavy. More than one of the night porters has heard noises from the cellars when making their rounds in the depths of the night. It has been described as the sound of wooden barrels being rolled around. Wooden barrels have not been used for a long time at Dalston Hall. In 1997, one brave fellow called Richard actually went down to investigate and saw the figure of a man down there. He turned and came back up again, asking the receptionist whom the other fellow was. Of course the receptionist told him that he must be mistaken. There was no one else working down there.

Room 4 is said to be haunted by a poor maid who threw herself from the Pele tower above. It has an original fireplace with inglenooks to either side. One of the staff and her partner stayed there one night and both tossed and turned. She told me that she had a strong feeling of a presence in the right hand inglenook – as if someone were carefully watching her as she slept.

One guest came down in the morning and asked to be moved from Room 4. She said that she woke up to hear her dog growling at the door. He kept growling on and off all night though there was no one to be seen there. She said that she herself had felt a presence in the room.

Room 12 is perhaps the most interesting. It has half a bathroom. It is difficult to see this from inside, but if you go outside the Hall and look into the bathroom window, you will see that the room has been cut in half with a false wall. The other half of the bathroom, in faded decor is visible from outside, but there is no way to get to it without knocking a hole in the new wall. Room 12 has a lovely view of the gardens, perhaps the best view of any room in the hotel. It also has a four-poster bed. People who have slept in the room – not everyone but a significant number over the years have complained of being woken by girls voices whispering. It is said that they are completely benevolent – as if they are just having a giggly time. The trouble is – there is nobody actually there.

A Report into Psychic Investigations of Ghosts at Dalston Hall between 28 March and 1 April 2001

Mr Fingernails in the Cellar

There have been various stories of barrels moving in the cellar and sightings of workmen, even ghostly workmen handing tools to real workmen, but these can be put down to The Handyman below. Two psychics have independently described an entity that is non-human and appears to them as a black fog. It appears to have something protruding from its forehead, which has been described by one psychic as a hat, though the other disagreed. They did agree that it could move fast, move through floors, and had long fingers with long weird fingernails and liked to loom over people to scare them. In fact it turned out to be a big bully and though it got a kick out of scaring people, couldn’t really harm them.

The Handyman

The Handyman lives in the cellar with Mr Fingernails, though whether they get on is unknown. He is described as having tweed or check trousers, being big and physical. He enjoyed his job with the barrels so much he never wanted to leave. It is a physical job but he’s proud of being the breadwinner and a real man. Or was he?. He has a significant armband on his right arm which is to do with his job – maybe a badge of rank. He also has a horse with long hair on its fetlocks so I guess he’s some kind of drayman.

Girl Being Dragged By Hair

This poor girl who is described as having a pale face, possibly powdered was seen being dragged by her hair, beaten up, raped and possibly thrown out of the window to her death, by a burly man dressed in leather. We have no idea of period for this but it could be 1500s. The psychics felt she was a courtesan or ‘floozie’. This scene happened in the corridor outside Rooms 4,5 and 6.

Sad Emily

This poor girl stands by the window in Room 4 gazing south. Three psychics have independently felt great sadness here and two of them reported the sensation that the girl had looked out of the window thousands of times. She is described as having a headdress, like a bonnet, but more in the style of a headband? With flowers and frills in white cotton. It holds her head back. Her waist is drawn in tightly as if by stays. She has a ring on her finger, which she fingers. It is felt that perhaps she is pining for a man who never returned. An older lady comes in to check if she is all right.

The Dogs and Party

There is a party going on in the Baronial Hall, there are fat dogs and people and high-pitched pipe music. Possibly medieval? A woman also haunts the grille at the bottom of the tower that leads into the hall, and there are strong feelings that there is a void under the hall floor (now bricked up) and Mr Fingernails comes up from this. The party may be the same one from which the girl dragged by her hair (above) was taken.

Three Women and a Young Girl

On the stairs, there are three young women and a small blonde girl. They watch people going up and down, but what they are really doing, and why is it a mystery?


 First Broadcast: 29th March 2005

3 thoughts on “Dalston Hall”

  1. I stayed at Dalston Hall in 1961 whilst doing a teaching practice at Brook Street School when I was a student at Durham. We (my fellow students and I) stayed at the hall for 3 weeks and were taken to our respecrive schools by bus in the morning and brought back in the evening. During those 3 weeks I can honestly say that there was absolutely no sign of spooks of any kind. Perhaps Bede College students put the frighteners up them, and they were afraid to show themselves. Very sensible of them!

  2. I stayed at Dalston Hall last night 27/04/12.
    I had no idea of the history of ghosts etc
    I sayed in room 7 and was woken in the night by a presence in my room , it scared me to death !
    I had posted on Facebook I was staying there and a friend told me about the haunting, scary !!


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