Both historically and visually Rydal Hall is the key building in Rydal. The important Le Fleming family can be traced back to 1126, and possibly linked with the 1066 Conquest. With Sir Thomas Le Fleming marrying Isabella of the de Lancaster family, a large area near Coniston and Rydal was inherited. Originally the family lived at Coniston Hall, a fine Elizabethan mansion, and later they came to Rydal in 1575 to the “Old Hall” which was built on a knoll beside the present main road. In 1681 it was described as “now in ruins”.
The “New” Hall was built by the first Sir Michael Le Fleming in the 16th century, enlarged in the 17th century, altered and refaced in the 18th century, with the main front dating from the early 19th century. The building is considered architecturally fine and is listed as Grade II along with the terraces, bridges, summerhouses and outbuildings.
In the early 1960s, the building was sold by the Fleming family to the Diocese of Carlisle.
The Parish of Rydal
Rydal was originally contained within the large Grasmere Parish, until it gained parish status in 1826. The name Rydal is derived from Old Norse meaning “valley where rye was grown” and is first mentioned in 1240. Its ancient manor boundary was described in 1274 and the Rydal Park dates from 1277.
The village is sited on a long established trade route from Ambleside to Keswick, via Nook Lane – Low Sweden Bridge – Rydal Hall – below Nab Scar – White Moss – Town End.
Formation of the medieval deer park in the 13th century has had a marked effect on village development as the parkland is devoid of any building or settlement. Trade developed initially with packhorses along the old route and later in the 18th century with the turnpike road which followed the valley bottom land. Between the 16th and 17th centuries Rydal had the following village facilities, albeit scattered rather than in a compact group: Hall, farms and cottages; 3 inns; fulling mill; corn mill; smithy and school.
Nearby Rydal Mount dates from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. It is a Grade 1 listed building mainly due to it being William Wordsworth’s home from 1813 until his death in 1850. Rash Field between the church and Rydal Mount was purchased by Wordsworth and renamed in memory of his daughter Dora.