UNCASTER Castle is picturesquely situated on a hill amidst fine
woods, and commanding magnificent views over beautiful Eskdale. Only the
keep of the ancient castle remains, but there is a fine modern mansion, and
an extensive park; the grounds are lovely, and from the terrace the finest
view in Cumberland can be obtained. There is some excellent wood carving
in the castle, a sculptured marble chimneypiece, and some good pictures.
After the battle of Hexham, the fugitive King Henry VI. was wandering in
Eskdale, when he met some shepherds who, seeing a nobleman, as they thought,
in distress, conducted him to the ever-hospitable castle of Muncaster. Here
he was loyally entertained; and when he left its shelter he presented Sir
John Pennington with an enamelled glass vase, called the Luck of Muncaster.
According to tradition, as long as the glass remains unbroken the family
will never lack a male heir. There is a legend that an enemy of the house
once violently threw down the casket containing the vase, and for a long
time the mother of the little lord did not dare open it, sure that she would
see only their shattered Luck. But when her son was of age, it was opened,
and the vase was found unhurt and entire.
The Penningtons took their name from the village of Pennington,
in Furness, where they resided till 1242.
The church in the park, with its ivyadorned walls, is very picturesque.
It has a mass bell in a small turret, on the gable of the east end of the
nave, that rang at the elevation of the host, so that the people who could
not attend church, might kneel and pray at its sound. The bell is gone,
but the turret remains. There are many tablets on the walls in memory of
the Penningtons; and a monument erected to Sir John Pennington, Lord High
Admiral, 1646, has the following honourable testimony to his worth:-
"The Parliament strongly invited him to enter into their service,
but he never could be prevailed on to serve against the king."
There is an ancient cross in the south of the churchyard.
THE LUCK of EDEN HALL.
In Sandford's account of Cumberland, in 1670, he speaks thus of
the old Eden Hall, now replaced by a mansion built in 1824:-
"Upon the bank of this famous river (the Eden) stands the fair,
fine, and beautiful palace, called Eden Hall, orchards, and gardens, and
none better for all fruit; delicate and pleasant with walks as fine as Chelsea
fields; the fair river Eden gliding like the Thames along."
At the present day there is, at the end of the lawn, a public walk,
called the Ladies' Walk, extending along the banks of the river for more
than a mile.
There are some fine paintings in the mansion. But Eden Hall is chiefly
celebrated for an old enamelled drinking-glass, called the Luck of Eden
Hall, which is very carefully preserved by the family - the Musgraves.
The legend about the glass is that a butler of the house, in the
days long ago, going to the well to draw water, came suddenly on a group
of fairies dancing. They hurried off, but he seized a glass that they had
left on the brink of the well; they endeavoured to get it from him, but he
grasped it tightly, and at last, seeing that they could not recover it, they
flew away singing,-
It is a beautiful enamelled glass - a rare specimen of Eastern workmanship
- and is kept in a leather case of the time of Henry IV. or V. The Duke
of Wharton used to throw it up into the air and catch it again, and wrote
a ballad on it. Longfellow has translated one by Uhland, the German poet,
on the glass. It is called-