Turn the page
Picturesque England
Turn the page

The Luck of Muncaster Castle and of Eden Hall

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.


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,-

"If that glass either break or fall,
Farewell to the luck of Eden Hall."

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-


Of Edenhall, the youthful lord
Bids sound the festal trumpet's call;
And rises at the banquet board,
And cries, 'mid the drunken revellers all,
"Now bring me the Luck of Edenhall."

The butler hears the words with pain,
The house's oldest seneschal
Takes slow from its silken cloth again
The drinking-cup of crystal tall;
They call it the Luck of Edenhall.

Then said the lord: "This glass to praise,
Fill with red wine from Portugal!"
The grey-beard with trembling hand obeys;
A purple light shines over all,
It beams from the Luck of Edenhall.

Then speaks the lord, and waves it light,
"This glass of flashing crystal tall
Gave to my sires the fountain-sprite;
She wrote in it, 'If this glass do fall,
Farewell! then, O Luck of Edenhall.'"

'Twas right a goblet the Fate should be
Of the joyous race of Edenhall!
Deep draughts drink we right willingly;
And willingly ring, with merry call,
Kling! Klang! to the Luck of Edenhall!"

First rings it deep, and full, and mild,
Like to the sound of a nightingale;
Then like the roar of a torrent wild;
Then mutters at last like thunder's fall,
The glorious Luck of Edenhall.

For its keeper takes a race of might,
The fragile goblet of crystal tall;
It has lasted longer than is right;
Kling! Klang! with a louder blow than all
Will I try the Luck of Edenlhall!"

As the goblet ringing flies apart,
Suddenly cracks the vaulted hall;
And through the rift, the wild flames start;
And the guests in dust are covered all
With the breaking Luck of Edenhall!

In storms the foe, with fire and sword;
He in the night had scaled the wall,
Slain by the sword lies the youthful lord,
But holds in his hand the crystal tall,
The shattered Luck of Edenhall.

On the morrow the butler gropes alone,
The grey-beard in the desert hall,
He seeks his lord's burnt skeleton,
He seeks in the dismal ruin's fall
The shards of the Luck of Edenhall.

"The stone wall," saith he, "doth fall aside,
Down must the stately columns fall;
Glass is this earth's Luck and Pride;
In atoms shall fall this earthly ball,
One day like the Luck of Edenhall!"
Turn the page
Picturesque England
Turn the page
Picturesque England - Matthew Spong 2004