Lyulph’s Tower – from Pele Tower to Shooting Lodge
The Lyulph’s Tower that we can see today was built in the 1780s by Charles Howard, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, as a hunting lodge. The name comes from Lyulph, a Viking settler who is reputed to have given his name to Ulph’s Water which then became Ullswater. The area around Aira Force and Lyulph’s Tower had been a deer park since medieval times, one of a number of deer parks in the Ullswater Valley. Red deer are still frequently seen on both sides of the lake.
The Howards built Lyulph’s Tower on the site of a 13th century pele tower, one of 90 defensive Pele towers built across the north of England by Edward I. Edward wanted to impose English rule on Scotland. To show their opposition the Scots marauded and pillaged across the north of England. The Pele towers were small stone buildings with thick walls designed to withstand sieges. The animals were shut into the windowless ground floor, with kitchen and living space on the two floors above. They had flat roofs with battlements for observing and defence.
The area around Lyulph’s Tower was originally forested but the trees were gradually cleared for farming, charcoal burning and bobbin making. The Howards planted many non-native trees in the 19th Century - a fashionable practice at the time. Many of these are still to be seen at Aira Force, including a giant Sitka spruce and Monkey Puzzle trees. Along with the trees, the Howards built bridges and footpaths to turn the Aira Force area into a pleasure garden.
William Wordsworth did not approve of tampering with nature, including the planting of foreign trees. He was instrumental in bringing many visitors to the lakes both through his fame as a “lake poet” and because he wrote a guide book “Guide through the District of the Lakes.” He played a part in the idea of creating a national park because he regarded the lakes as "a sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy".
Wordsworth was familiar with Lyulph’s tower because he would pass it when travelling to visit his friend Thomas Clarkson who lived at Eusemere in Pooley Bridge. The tower is mentioned at the beginning of Wordsworth’s poem “The Somnambulist”
List ye who pass by Lyulph’s tower
At eve; how softly then
Doth Aira Force, that torrent hoarse
Speak from the woody glen
by Jane Firth, resident of Watermillock.
LYULPH'S TOWER - GRID REF - NY 403 204
Lyulph’s Tower - Courtesy of The Harvard Art Museums