A recent walk around Whitby presented me with the following two views of what looks like some sand stone masonry hidden amongst the vegetation of the pub gardens. It looks as if the rendering has been removed at some point, possibly indicating that this piece of stone work continues both to the left and to the right. What it represents though, I've no idea, though there are faint indications of some sort of decoration.
Is this further proof perhaps that a much older building still remains hidden beneath the current building?
A number of churches in Cumbria and the surrounding counties (North Yorkshire and Lancashire) have very well preserved draw bars remaining in their main (Southern) doorways. The reason behind the existence of these structural characteristics is a bit of a mystery (except where St Cuthberts in Great Salkeld is concerned) and will take a little explaining. It's probable that I won't be able to explain their existence in these few buildings, but I'll make an attempt anyway.
This is a beautiful church. Not only does it retain much of its medieval architecture and character, it also retains its 14th century fortified tower, 'implanted' into the skeleton of a 12th century church. The draw bar in the tower doorway, leading into the chancel, is only a single part of the defences employed here. The walls of the tower are around four feet thick, there are no original windows at ground floor level, the yett (a door of oak and iron) is sturdy enough to stand all but fire. The draw bar slots here are specifically designed to secure the door from within the tower, excepting entry from the chancel. This means that the rest of the church was not included in the defensive plans of those who built the tower. This building is, in essence, different from the two others included here. We know that the church tower was specifically built with defence in mind. It has the thick walls, stone floors at all levels, the yett doorway as a single entrance into the tower, and fireplace on the first floor, indicating that it was also intended as a place of habitude, or refuge. I love this building. It gives me not only a beautiful medieval church full of fascinating history, but an incredibly well preserved 'pele' tower which has retained all its defining characteristics.
Above. The yett, made of solid oak with iron bands to provide additional strength.
Above. The tower with the door open into the Chancel. The thickness of the walls can be clearly seen here.
Above. The slot into which the iron draw bar slots into.
The draw bar at St Marys is so much more difficult to explain away. Sure there are local legends about the church being burned by the Scots, but it's difficult to tell what purpose this level of security would provide against a well organised campaigning army! The draw bar here at Kirkby Lonsdale is built into a 14th century wall. It is deep and would be able to house an impressive piece of timber. One has to remember though, that architectural features can be moved from one part of a building to another and embedded into earlier or later walls. They can be rebuilt elsewhere so that their original meaning or intent is lost.....so it's difficult to tell really what they were intended for. A draw bar slot, by its very definition, is there to provide security. And this is where the problem lies.....does security necessarily also mean defence? I'd never really thought about the difference (if any) between security and defence, until forced to do so by Philip Davis of the gatehouse website.
Above. Looking into the draw bar slot.
Above. Another view of the draw bar slot.
Above. The door in the Southern wall.
Above. Another view of the draw bar slot.
The draw bar slot at St Wilfrid's in Melling, is, again, in the Southern wall of the church. The walls in which it is embedded date from the 15th century. Local legend tells us that St Wilfrid's was also burned by the Scots, though the wall in which the draw bar is built into is too late to have been affected by this incursion.
Above. The receiving end of the draw bar slot.
Above. A view of the Southern door.
Above. The deepest end of the draw bar slot.
This is a much altered church, with parts rebuilt and radically changed over the years. The draw bar slot here, impressive as it is, doesn't really offer us any clues as to its true age.
All in all, these enigmatic elements of these church's fabric just to seem to pose questions with no answers. My conclusions are therefore as follows:
Locks for large doors must have been very expensive in the middle ages.....so only the Priest's doors would have been fitted with these pricey items. The larger, Southern entrances to our churches, were therefore secured from the inside using sturdy pieces of timber fitted into the draw bar slots built into the thickness of the walls.
Security (not defence) was an important element of a church's fabric. Many churches, being the only stone building in a village, would have been used to store important documents in their large wooden chests, some of which still survive today, not unlike banks storing property deeds for customers.
Good old fashioned security therefore seems to be the order of the day. With some churches built in areas where the crime rate was undoubtedly higher, a sturdy draw bar slot securing the main 'public' entrance way was the sensible thing to build into your church, it really does seem that it was a simple as that. Many thanks to Philip Davis for pointing me in the right direction.
Kirkland fort lies about half a mile to the East of Kirkcudbright and just off the B727. It's only really discernable once identified on the ordnance survey map, and blends in with the surrounding countryside.
Above. Kirkland Fort looking South East.
The above photo shows a South Easterly view of the fort, with the scooped 20 foot summit laying hidden beneath the gorse bushes ( left hand side of the photo) The second part of the scarped summit can be seen just to the right, again covered in gorse. The gorse bushes grow around the rim of the top of the fort, measuring around 90 by 85 feet. Aerial photos show the full extent of the layout of the fort, neatly outlined by the gorse.
Above. The summit of Kirkland Fort looking North East.
Above. Another view of the fort looking South East.
The gap in the gorse bushes would appear to be an entrance way into the fort, about 20 feet wide. Ditches and banks still survive only on the Southern side of the fort. This is not considered a good example of a rock cut fort owing to its position with higher ground on nearly every side.
It may be small, but it's perfectly formed....Stable Isle (also known as Rough Isle) lies at the Southern end of the now drained Loch Fergus, less than a mile North West of Kirkcudbright. This small island was part of a larger, lake bound, complex that was once the seat of the Lords Galloway. The site as a whole, including Palace Isle ( to the North) was the site of Castle Fergus.
Above. Stable Isle from the North.
Stable Isle is the smaller of the two islands, and seems to be linked with Palace Isle by an earthen causeway. The aerial shots of both Stable and Palace Isles on both Multimap and Googlemaps are excellent, and show the islands themselves, the surrounding ramparts and the remains of causeways. A number of historical documents seem to have the two islands names mixed up....which is possibly the reason that only Stable Island appears as a named entity on the Ordnance Survey maps.
For such an unassuming site, this is really a very important part of Southern Scottish history. Palace Isle (along with Stable Isle) once housed Castle Fergus, the seat of the Lords Galloway, and reputedly the first Norman castle in Scotland. It was built by the first Lord of Galloway, Fergus, who held sway over much of South Western Scotland in what is now modern day Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire. Fergus was a great patron of the Scottish church, and enjoyed good relations with the Scottish King, enabling him and his family to remain in power and rule relatively peacefully until the death of King David I.
Above. Palace Isle looking South.
Palace isle is nearly 240 metres long from North to South, and roughly 105 metres wide (at it's widest point) from West to East. There are earthen remains of a causeway at the North Eastern side, though I'm not sure if this is contemporary with the castle or is a more recent addition.
Above. Looking towards the remains of the causeway.
Palace Isle is split roughly into two parts. The Northern most portion is roughly circular, and is surrounded by banks and ditches that must have added the defensive qualities of the site when surrounded by water. To the South, is a longer and narrower raised platform, separated by a ditch running West to East. There is no evidence of an earthen causeway linking the two islands together....perhaps there was a wooden causeway or bridge here.
Above. Panoramic shot of the fort looking South.
This must have been an impressive site in its heyday....a large island in the middle of the loch, suitably protected by the surrounding waters and with whatever buildings that may have existed here. This would indeed have been a palace suitable for a Lord with dynastic ambitions.
Above. Another Southerly view of the fort.
Above. Looking South East.
Above. The earthworks from the West.
Above. Close up view of the banks and ditches at the West side of the fort.
Above. The fort looking East.
Above. Another Southerly view of the earthworks.
The Old Kirkcudbright website tells us that the 'castle' that existed here, was of a Norman design, with towers at each corner and high walls....though no other accounts of the time describe the fortifications as such, or indeed in any way.
Upon Fergus' death, he was succeeded by his youngest son, Uchtred, who is reputed to also have taken up residence in the castle or palace at Fergus. Uchtred jointly ruled Galloway with his brother Gilbert (Gille Brigte) but their relationship was one of typical brothers....they fought about everything, and when the Scottish King William was captured by the English at the battle of Alnwick in 1174, Gilbert accused Uchtred of being a traitor and being responsible for the King's capture. Gilbert followed Uchtred back to Castle Fergus and murdered him there, mutilating his body in the process. Gilbert took complete and sole control of the Galloway lands from this moment on, choosing to reside at Castle Fergus as his brother and father had done before him. Gilbert eventually died in 1185, but only after killing and driving out as many Norman settlers as he possibly could, building up a predominantly Gaelic following and therefore alienating himself and Galloway from both the Scottish and English Kings. He was succeeded by Uchtred's son, Roland, who set about making his Lordship secure against both the English and the Scottish, by building many fortresses around the Kirkcubrightshire area, including Buittle, Kenmure and Motte Brae in Kirkcubright.
There appears to be no evidence that Roland, or his successor, his son Alan, resided at Castle Fergus, and the site slowly slips from historical record. It's possible that it was dismantled along with many other fortifications in Scotland, when King Robert the Bruce regained control of huge swathes of land from the English. Whatever buildings were still standing, were burned down by Thomas Huthinson in 1499. In 1570, some stone walls were still standing, and were subsequently quarried and removed by the MacLellan family to provide stone for the castle in the middle of Kirkcudbright.
The site is easily accessible from the roadside and there are a few places to park safely.
I know this is only a fairly distant shot of this castle, but the sheer beauty of the surroundings mean it duly earns it’s place on the web site. Canna is the Westernmost island in the small chain of The Small Isles in the Scottish Inner Hebrides off the West coast of Scotland. It is linked to a tiny island, off it’s South Eastern tip, by a tidal sand bank, called Sanday. The island is littered with the remains of iron-age forts, standing stones and small settlements.
The castle lies at the Eastern end of Canna, on a stone stack that projects out into the sea. The photo shown here shows a view of the castle from Canna Harbour, peering past the headland that houses the modern ferry pier. All that remains, are the lower portions of a tower, built into the naturally occurring stone stack. Although records exist stating that this stone stack was used as a place of refuge between 1577 and 1595 no building was referred to. It is therefore thought that the ruins seen today, probably date from the late 1600’s. This was a small fortification rather than a larger traditional castle, built into the rocks of Coroghan Mor, has walls under a metre thick, and measures around 3 metres by 2 metres internally. Entrance to the tower is by a doorway set in the East wall at the end of a steep sloping footpath. It’s possible that there would have been other buildings on the summit of the stack, providing further accommodation and protection.
Situated just a few yards to the North of Catterlen Hall, the site of the original late 12th century hall can be still be seen in the field.
All that remains now though, is a rectangular 30 by 20 metre grass covered platform with huge boulder foundations protruding through the turf.
The platform survives to a height of around 1 metre above the surrounding field.
The large hollow, shown above, possibly represents the remains of a cellar or basement. It is edged with stones half buried in the turf.
The Pastscape website tells us that there are also faint traces of foundations of a South wing and cross hall in the field adjacent to the tower's platform, though at ground level it was impossible to see these earthwork remains. Alleged to have been built sometime around 1170, it was later replaced, in 1460, by the tower and hall to the South.