If you wish to combine a visit to the world's largest topiary garden and some excellent steam engines while touring England, make certain you see Levens Hall.
These are British engines, in immaculate condition and a delight to behold. We'll discuss the gardens at the end of this story.
Charles Henry Bagot, who lives with his wife Susan Elizabeth and their family in this massive hall which dates back to the 13th century, is a chartered surveyor and runs the estate from his office. He is obviously mechanically inclined, having directed essential repairs in recent years, and keeping a close watch on maintenance.
His mechanical interest is shown in the collection of engines which is housed in a special room open to visitors. Purpose of the exhibition is to show the development of steam power from 1820 to 1920.
On view are beam engines, table engines, horizontal engines which include a highly developed and efficient Corliss, and several hot air engines. The engines are powered by steam, provided by a gas-fired boiler. Exhaust steam is used to pre-heat the feed water.
The brochure of the hall notes: 'All controls are automatic, but a safety-valve is included in case of failure. Lubrication of all running engines is also automatic.'
Several full-size steam engines can be seen and inspected by visitors. One of these is 'Bertha,' a good example of a Fowler showman's road locomotive, dated 1920. Also shown are a 1925 Foden steam wagon with a three-way tipping body, and a Locke (locomobile type) steam car of 1901. These engines are in steam on Sundays and holiday Mondays.
A half-sized model traction engine named 'Little Gem,' which was completed in 1974, is of special interest to children. It is used to give the youngsters rides around the extensive grounds.
The topiary garden was planted in 1692. It is filled with trees and bushes which have been clipped into fanciful shapes; it is really statuary in green. The garden is extensive; you can walk a half-hour in it without seeing the same piece of topiary twice.
The home is outstanding. It is located at Kendal in Cumbria, in the famous Lake Country. We recommend it.