Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Corfe, Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

This has to be one of the most beautiful ruined castles in the UK...a Royal castle with a violent history, still standing guard over a gap in the Purbeck hills between West Hill and Challow Hill. The photos here were all taken in the late 1970s on a number of holidays to Dorset, and incorporate the model village in the village of Corfe.

The hill upon which the castle stands may well have served some defensive purpose for the Romans, who certainly had a presence in the area. Digs in the vicinity of the village have revealed Roman villas and communities.

The first castle built here, probably constructed of wood, may have been erected in the 970s, around the time that Edward the Martyr (King of the English between 975 and 978)was assassinated. Post holes belonging to a large Saxon building have been excavated and are believed to have been the first building to occupy this prominent position.

After the 1066 invasion by William and his forces from Normandy, Corfe was one of a number of South coast castles to be built to enable William to establish a power base from which his authority could be maintained. It is thought that the castle was partially constructed of stone, possibly indicating its high status.

Above. Corfe Castle with the model in the foreground.

During the reign of Henry I, the keep was developed (over a ten year period) until it stood to around the height of the ruins we see today. Purbeck limestone, quarried a number of miles away from Corfe, was used for the building, and by 1105, the keep was completed. By 1135, the castle was a formidable fortress, with an inner court surrounded by a high curtain wall with wall walks and a strong gatehouse.

During 1139, the castle was besieged by King Stephen who was attempting to wrestle back his kingdom from Empress Matilda during what is sometimes called The Anarchy. Stephen based his siege from an area to the South West of the castle, on a site now known as The Rings. To all intents and purposes this structure now looks like a small motte and bailey castle. Unfortunately for Stephen, the castle proved impregnable and he was forced to abandon his siege

Above. View of one of the curtain wall towers from the bottom of the earthworks.

For the next 45 years the castle was not developed or rebuilt in any major way, and Royal records show that only basic maintenance was carried out on the structure. In contrast, the Pipe Rolls produced between 1201 and 1204, show that over £750 was spent on rebuilding the West bailey's defences. Between 1212 and 1214, a further £500 was spent on improving the defences of the outer bailey. All in all, King John probably spent in total, somewhere in the region of £1400 improving and rebuilding the castle's defences.

Above. Corfe Castle from the village of Corfe.

In 1235 and 1236, Henry III spent around £1300 on the castle, with a large amount of this sum concentrated on improving the keep. Whilst this was being carried out, a small settlement grew outside the confines of the castle, housing all of the craftsmen and the work force employed in carrying out Henry's improvements. Such was the size of this new settlement, that it was eventually granted the rights to hold markets and fairs in 1247. At this time, the keep was white washed, and must have presented a magnificent edifice to those approaching Corfe.

Above. Another view of the model and real castles.

Corfe remained an important Royal castle until it was sold by Elizabeth I in 1572, to the Lord Chancellor Sir Christopher Hatton. During this time, detailed plans of the castle were produced by Ralph Treswell (the castle's Steward), and these documents are the earliest known plans of the castle's layout. Corfe was eventually purchased by Sir John Bankes, who was the Attorney General to Charles I, in 1635. When the civil war broke out in 1642, Dorset was a predominantly Parliamentarian county. Corfe castle however, was held proudly for the King. Lady Mary Bankes kept Corfe as her main residence, and she was initially successful in holding the castle against a long Parliamentarian siege, which lasted for six weeks. The besiegers numbered around six hundred men, whilst the garrison within the castle was little more than 80. By the time a Royalist force had reached Corfe to see of the Parliamentarian forces, around one hundred men had died outside the castle walls, whilst Lady Bankes lost only two men.

Above. The writer (in earlier years!!) 

Unfortunately for Corfe, the Royalist cause did not fare well in the following year, and by 1645, it was one of a handful of castles still held for the King. The castle came under siege again in 1645, this time with a handful of Parliamentarian men managing to sneak within the walls. When the siege began for real, those soldiers hiding within the castle attacked the defending Royalist soldiers, causing the gates to be opened for the attacking forced. Corfe castle had fallen. Lady Bankes was taken prisoner and the garrison were allowed to leave unharmed. The same fate would not be granted to the castle itself, as Parliament ordered that the defences be slighted. The castle had been so well constructed though, that demolition proved an almost impossible the walls, towers and gatehouse were blown up until they were in ruins.

Above. The writer at the model village.

Upon the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the Bankes family were granted their former lands and properties. Corfe was, by now, in such a poor state that it would have been impracticable to rebuild it, so the family built a new pile at Kingston Lacey near Wimborne. 

The castle underwent it's first archaeological survey in 1883, and was further explored in the 1950s, and then again between 1986 and 1997.  Ralphe Bankes bequeathed the castle to the National Trust in the 1980s, and between  2006 and 2008, the most precarious parts of the castle were consolidated so that visitors to the site could explore the whole of the castle. 

Check this link out for some interesting information on Corfe Castle and Corfe village.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Whittington, Whittington Hall

Whittington Hall

The current building, obliquely photographed and shown below, was built in 1831. Its listed building status (Grade II) states that "a pele tower rises above the roofs, with octagonal turret, perhaps partly original." It's quite likely that this building, constructed from designs by George Webster, famous Kendalian architect, for Thomas Greene MP, was built around an earlier building, but we'll never know for sure what form this building took....whether it had any characteristics that would have enabled us to label it as a tower or a fortified manor. In 1887, Lancaster based firm Paley and Austin were employed to make some changes and additions to the hall.

Above. Oblique view of Whittington Hall from the church yard.

General consensus seems to be that there may have been several Whittington Halls, in terms of the manor hall for the Whittington estates, located in various places in and around the village of Whittington. Before 1066, the village of Whittington was important enough to have been the caput of a large estate, incorporating Newton, Arkholme, Gressingham, Hutton Roof, Cantsfield, Ireby, Burrow, Leck, Burton-in-Lonsdale, Barnoldswick, Ingleton, Casterton, Barbon, Sedbergh and Thirnby. Some of these estate holdings ended up with their own Norman centres of administration in the form of motte and bailey earthwork castles, namely, Whittington itself, Arkholme, Burton-in-Lonsdale and Sedbergh. As with many areas in this part of the North West, Whittington and its estates were originally part of the Saxon Earl Tostig's holdings....but after William the Conqueror's invasion in 1066, the lands soon passed to the crown.

The hall is now pretty impossible to see from any public right of way. Even from West Hall Lane, which runs to the West and to the North of the hall, clever use of trees and woodland has managed to hide the hall from prying eyes. The only view of any of the buildings I could find, were from the church yard looking West.

Whittington's village website is well worth a look.

Ireby, Over Hall

Over Hall
Near Ingleton
North Yorkshire

The tiny village of Ireby lies about half a mile North of the A65, and about 2 and a half miles East of Ingleton. At the North of the village, Over Hall can be found, nestled beneath Ireby Fell, and expanse of common land that formed part of the Whittington estates of Earl Tostig before 1066. The lands were held in conjunction with nearby Tatham, Tunstall, Melling and Wennington, a huge swathe of lands that stretched across modern day Lancashire. The Knights Hospitallers are known to have held lands in and around Ireby, as well as paying for a chantry chapel at Tunstall church.

Above. Oblique view of Over Hall from the village.

The manor of Ireby seems to have ceased sometime after the early 1600s when the Cook family died out. During the late 14th century, and through the 15th and 16th centuries, the hall was known by a number of names: Tottersgill, Fothergill Hall and Nether Hall, and today, Over Hall.

Above. View of Over Hall from the public footpath.

No historical documents I can find make any mention of a tower here at Ireby, the only connection with a fortified residence being that it was originally held as the place where the Lord of the manor resided. The hall was most likely built in 1687, and may well have replaced or incorporated an earlier building of some sort. The tower probably only dates from the 19th century, with the central hall block dating from the late 1600s (a date stone states 1687 above the door) Other aspects of the hall are all reliably dated from the 17th century.

Above. Old postcard view of Over Hall (from personal collection)

The hall is best viewed from the public footpath that runs to the South and East of the hall, though some large trees in the garden now block some of the view.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

London, the Tower of London

The Tower of London

Above. Traitor's Gate leading onto the Thames.

The photo above shows Traitor's Gate in the foreground, with the Bloody Tower Gate behind it. The tower with the six light window is the Wakefield Tower, built between 1238 and 1272 by Henry III and designed to be the Eastern entry to the castle. Attached to the Wakefield Tower would have been the Great Hall, where Anne Boleyn was tried in May 1536, answering charges of incest, adultery and treason. The Great Hall was demolished during Cromwell's Commonwealth. Traitor's Gate was built during the reign of Edward I with the initial purpose of providing a river entry to the castle complex, simply for the comings and goings of the Royal family, giving them easy access to the Royal lodgings. From around 1544, the gate was referred to as the Traitor's Gate, where many prisoners were brought into the castle for trial and execution.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Breaking news: Gleaston Castle to be surveyed from the air

Breaking News!!

The North West Evening Mail website has reported that Gleaston Castle, placed on the 'At Risk Register' (compiled by English Heritage) and in a serious state of disrepair, is to be surveyed from the air. This survey has been made possible by the Castle Studies Trust, who have kindly granted £5000 towards the aerial photographic survey. 

Above. The keep, part of the curtain wall and a corner tower.

Gleaston Castle, a Grade I listed structure, is in such a poor state of repair that the public have been banned from the remains for a number of years due to the unsafe nature of the major parts of the castle still standing. The survey will be carried out by the Morecambe Bay Partnership, who were established to bring jobs to the area, celebrate heritage and to care for special places.

The brief news story can be found here.

The supporting text for the £5000 grant can be found here. The Castle Studies Trust hope that the grant will enable the castle to be properly surveyed from the air, and aid in creating a 3d model of the castle, which will enable us to better understand this ruined castle, and to help in the future conservation of the ruins. 

The Castle Studies Trust was created to assist in increasing the knowledge of castles in the UK and abroad.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Soulby Hall

Soulby Hall

Photographed by accident (if that's possible!!) on a visit to Soulby to photograph St Lukes (now flats) it's fortuitous that I did managed to grab this distant snap of the hall. Listed in Denis R. Perriam's and John Robinson's Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria as a "Hall site" it's probably not the case that there was a fortified building here, even before the house shown here. 

There are no ruins within the grounds of the present hall, no earthworks and sign of a moat (infilled or other) It is however a handsome addition to this collection of old buildings, displaying a reset date stone of 1682 above the door.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Morland, St Lawrence

St Lawrence

This is Cumbria's only surviving Saxon church tower, and as such is a unique addition to this collection. Built sometime during the 11th century, and therefore pre-conquest (imagine that!!) it represents a unique survivor of a period before the Normans invaded the British Isles when Saxon rule was dominant over much of the country. The lower two thirds of the tower are of original Saxon construction, whilst the upper third was added around 1588. The Saxon walls are around a meter and a half thick with small round headed windows well above ground level, in each wall.

Above. Looking at the West wall of the tower. Note the lack of a door in this wall.

The tower is thought to have been a free standing structure originally, and must have held some local importance as it was incorporated into the early Norman church that was built here. Michael Shapland (St Mary’s, Broughton, Lincolnshire: A Thegnly Tower–Nave in the Late Anglo-Saxon Landscape, 2009) sees the Church of St Lawrence at Morland as a surviving example of a Saxon tower nave....a high status structure that served both as a personal chapel and as the residence of a Saxon lord. As such, it's both possible and likely that these types of building would have contained elements of defence and security, being built of stone, with thick walls and small windows, representing a high status residence for someone of local importance.


Above. The tall narrow door into the tower, which characterises Saxon and early Norman church towers.

Although not seen when I visited the church, the doorway from the Nave into the Tower contains a good set of draw bar slots within the jambs. These features, if contemporaneous with the tower, could further suggest that the tower was built with elements of security (or defence) in mind. I have to be careful here as Philip Davis of the Gatehouse will no doubt question my reasoning...with good intentions of course!!!

Above. Ground plan of the church, showing the many periods of building that have taken place.

Upon the Norman invasion, the lands and parish were ceded to Ivo de Tailbois, who in turn granted the church to St Mary in York. Michael Shapland quite rightly states that the tower\church is not prominent in the stands neither on raised ground or amongst earthworks, but would have been visible from any approaches from North, South, East or West.

Oxford, St Michael at the North Gate

St Michael at the North Gate

The Saxon tower of St Michael at the North Gate is most likely Oxford's oldest building, rivalled perhaps by the tower of St George which is part of the castle complex. Whilst the church that was originally attached to the tower was built sometime between 1000 and 1050, the tower is thought to have been built about 1040. It's presence here on the Cumbrian Castle Listing, is owed to the fact that the tower and church originally formed part of Oxford's walls, and the North Gate (hence its full name) and also owing to recent research on Saxon church towers and their high status use as personal chapels and dwellings all housed within a tower of sufficiently thick walls as to offer an element of defence.

Above. The Saxon tower of St Michael.

Above. Sketch based on archaeological evidence.

The sketch shown above, shows the nave to the South of the tower and situated on Ship Street, with the tower forming part of the gateway into Oxford. The Saxon city wall (built to protect the ancient Saxon Burgh) ran to the North of the church. As far as I'm aware this is a unique arrangement where the presence of a sturdy church tower has been incorporated into the city's defensive ring of walls and ditches. It has been suggested that there may have been another tower to its West, though no archaeological evidence has yet been found of this additional building.