Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chester Cathedral Gatehouse, Chester

Chester Cathedral Gatehouse

The imposing gatehouse at Chester Cathedral is a stunning building situated on Northgate and facing directly down Princess Street. The gatehouse is Grade I listed, and probably dates from the 1300's, when it was the secure entrance into the precincts of St Werbergh's Abbey. The photo below shows the main vehicular archway, with the smaller pedestrian archway to the right hand side. On each side of the entrance on the external wall, are two blind niches, possibly originally containing statues of saints. The upper part of the building dates from around 1800, and is accessible via staircases to the left and right of the road through the gatehouse.

This link shows an engraving of the gatehouse, showing how it looked in the 1830's. The only difference really are the buildings and walls either side of the gatehouse. A licence to crenellate was granted in 1377, the wording of which reads as follows "Licence for the abbot and convent of St. Werburgh's, Chester, to crenellate their abbey. (abbatiam)" (with thanks to Philip Davis)

The photo above, shows the gatehouse from within the precincts of the abbey grounds. There is no pedestrian archway at this side of the gatehouse....only a larger archway through which all traffic passed. The small arched doorway to the left of the arch houses a stairway that leads to the upper floors of the gatehouse.

Bridge Gate, Chester

Lower Bridge Street

The last of the gates at Chester that was missing from my collection, Bridgegate, is situated at the Southern end of the city, at the end of Lower Bridge Street. The road here leads straight onto the old medieval Handbridge over the River Dee. Designed by Joseph Turner, and opened in 1782, the Bridgegate replaced a long line of gatehouses and buildings on this site.

It is thought that the original, defensive gatehouse on or very near to this site, was already in existence by the 1120's, as the post of Office Sergeant was recorded at this time. It was, at this time, known as the Welshgate, as all traffic from Wales had to pass through this gate to enter the city. The gatehouse, in whatever form it took, was replaced or rebuilt in the 14th century, at the same time that the bridge was rebuilt, to enable traders to enter the city. By the end of the 15th century, the gate consisted of a single Gothic arch with a tower at each side. In 1600, a square tower was added, called John Tyrer's Water Tower, which housed machinery for taking water from the River Dee and lifting it into the city. This building was destroyed when Parliamentarian forces laid siege to the city. The present gate way, is similar to the other 18th and 19th century gates into the city of Chester.

The Flag Tower, Chester Castle, Chester

The Flag Tower
Chester Castle

The Flag Tower is situated behind the Western wall of the Inner Ward...hidden from view when walking the walls of the city of Chester. The photo below shows a view of the inside of the wall, with a gun port visible to the left of the tower. The Flag Tower can be seen with a rectangular door or opening, and an arched door or opening. Its flat roof is level with the top of the wall.

It is thought that the Flag Tower may have been one of the original parts of the Norman tower, and would have stood at the summit of the motte, almost in the centre, possibly surrounded by a wooden palisade. When the palisade, along with most of the wooden defences at the castle, was replaced with stone walls, the wall was built in line with the Western wall of the Flag Tower making it invisible externally. The tower would originally have been much taller, but the top floors have been removed at some point in the past, possibly when the castle was turned into an artillery fort.

The photo above shows a view of the castle's wall looking from Castle Drive. The Flag tower has been reduced in height so that it is indistinguishable from the castle wall from the exterior. The colour portion of the photo shows where the tower is.

Agricola Tower, Chester Castle, Chester

Agricola Tower
Chester Castle

I've at last managed to bag some photos of the last parts of Chester's fortifications that I wasn't able to photograph on my visit to Chester in 2008. These last three sets of photos are of the Agricola Tower at Chester Castle, shown below, the Cathedral gatehouse and the Bridge Gate. The Agricola Tower lays at the Eastern side of the castle. The inner ward, to the South East and West of the tower is still walled, but these walls were mostly rebuilt and\or refaced during the 18th and 19th centuries. There were originally three towers built within the inner ward, overlooking the wall...but these have long since been demolished. These three square towers would have been accompanied by a round bastion and a twin towered gatehouse. The Agricola tower is the sole surviving tower here, measuring some nine metres square and three storeys tall.

It is thought that the huge archway in the South West face of the tower, shown above, was once either the inner arch of a former gatehouse, or the chancel arch of a chapel. The chapel would have been housed within the tower, whilst the nave would have possibly been a timber framed building, extending to the South West. The tower may have been built sometime during the 12th century, judging by the 'clasping' buttresses, but on the whole the tower has a 13th or 14th century look about it. The tower contains a rib vaulted floor to the first floor, probably inserted after a fire in 1302 seriously damaged the building. The southern buttress contains a spiral staircase providing access to the other floors within the tower. The middle storey contains the chapel of St Mary de Castro with an altar recess built into the North East wall. The halls and chambers shown on early maps and plans of the Inner ward have all been demolished and replaced with other buildings. Wall paintings were discovered in the chapel, possibly dating from the 1220's, when the white washed walls were 're-decorated' in the 1980s....demonstrating the age of the tower.

These days, the tower appears to be out of bounds. One of the gentlemen manning the gates told me that the inner ward area of the castle had become a haunt for local drug users and homeless people, and was therefore kept locked and inaccessible. He was kind enough to give me five minutes to take some photos to add the collection though. The tower is only just visible from the river side, and only if the trees are not in full leaf....from other angles it is all but these are welcome additions to the Chester collection.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Austwick Hall, Nr Settle

Austwick Hall
Nr Settle
North Yorkshire

Austwick lays about seven miles North West of Settle, just off the A65 (about ten miles South East of Ingleton) Austwick appears in the Domesday book, mentioned as Oustewic, but appears in records predating the Norman account of England as Austwick held by the Saxon Lord, Torfin, who also held lands encompassing Warton near Carnforth and Claughton, home of the modern day brick works. The lands around Austwick came into the possession of the Lancaster family, who held castles at Kendal and at Mourholme (near Borwick) The Grade II listed hall at Austwick is situated at the head of the village, and is reputed to have begun life as a pele tower, built sometime in the 16th century. Check the Images of England web site for some more information.

The Hall is built on an L plan, with the hall to the North East of the site, and the alleged tower to the South West (the left of the above photo) The Austwick Hall web site tells us that the tower was originally built in 1180....but the present day building definitely only dates from the 16th the earliest. There may well have been a hall or manor house on this site...but what we see today is not it. We are also told that the only remains of the pele tower are the six foot thick walls separating the entrance hall and the drawing room...a situation present in many other pele towers and tower houses throughout the county. It is a beautiful house, but as far as its history as a defensive tower is concerned, there is little evidence.
This is the hall's official web site.

Lawkland Hall, Lawkland nr Settle

Lawkland Hall
Nr Settle
North Yorkshire

Lawkland Hall was a revelation...I had no idea such a huge and beautiful country house was hidden away so close to Settle. This is a Grade I listed building, and although the photos here don't really do it justice, the grading is well deserved. Lawkland is a loose collection of houses and farms situated on Graystonber old road that pre-dates the A65, running from the South of Austwick into Giggleswick some eight miles to the South East. The hall possesses huge ornamental gardens, set about the grounds to the rear (South) of the property.

Above. Detail of an old postcard showing the front facade of the hall close up.

The above photo shows a view of the hall from the road, looking directly South. There is a central hall block, with two towers either side. The left one can be seen in this photo, and the right hand one can be seen in the last photo on this posting. The tower shown above, and the central hall block, are thought to date from the late 16th or early 17th century, indeed there is a date stone in the hall showing a date of 1679. Check the link out for a photo.

The hall and the early tower, were built by Peter York of Middlesmoor. He was the Governor of Lieth in Scotland during the reign of Edward VI (reigned 1547 to 1553) Peter York married the daughter of Sir William Ingleby of Ripley Castle....and the manor of Lawkland and its associated lands were eventually sold to John Ingleby of Ripley. This is thought to have taken place some time around 1572, at which time it is thought there was probably a hall house of some description here at Lawkland. Whether there was a defensive tower on the site isn't known. The Ingleby family gradually began to buy up land and properties in the surrounding villages, adding land in Clapham to their property portfolio, including the manor house at Clapdale, described as "a great old castle joyning on Clapham ". This building....castle or not....features heavily in local history and legend. The Ingleby family are also connected with Austwick Hall, reputedly using this property as the manorial centre for Austwick and the surrounding farm lands. The Ingleby family were of the Catholic faith and so kept a low profile...possibly the reason that there is so little information regarding the family. The hall at Lawkland is alleged to have a priest hole, hidden within the line of chimneys visible on the last photo of this post. By the mid 1600's, the Ingleby family were spread across three manor Austwick, at Lawkland and at Clapdale Castle. Some research needs to be done on where Clapdale Castle was....and if there are any remains left.

The hall at Lawkland was rebuilt in 1679....the works being described as a "thorough rebuilding" so it's safe to assume that many changes were wrought on the fabric of the hall. At this time, continuing through the 1700's, the hall became the centre for Catholic worship, providing a safe haven for 'Papist's' especially with the construction of a second floor chapel. The Inglebys continued to own the hall right throughout the 1700's, rebuilding and adding onto the hall and providing us with the 'mish-mash' of building stlyes that we see today. In 1846, the Ingleby family relinquished their hold over Lawkland Hall, with the death of Margaret Ingleby. The Fosters occupied the hall from this point on, until it passed to the Watkins, possibly after the death of John William Foster. In 1914, the hall passed into the hands of John Ambler, a cloth manufacturer from Bradford. In 1937, the Amblers rented the hall to James Southworth who bought the hall and the surrounding lands in 1939 for £8500. His money brought him Lawkland Hall, Lawkland Hall Farm (a few hundred yards up the road)and Lawkland Green which consisted of 225 acres. By the 1950's the hall had once again been sold, this time to the Bowring family, who still reside at the hall.

Whether the hall contains the remains of some sort of light fortification, or is built on the site of an earlier fortified building is extremely difficult to tell....the building is of so many different periods, each with their own characteristics that it is almost impossible to pick through the melee of towers and wings. If any further information comes to light regarding Lawkland Hall's possible fortified history, it will be posted here.

Images of England details.

Historic Houses Association

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stokesay Castle, Stokesay

Stokesay Castle
Craven Arms

The very picturesque castle at Stokesay lays in the village of Craven Arms, on the A49 11 miles to the North of Ludlow, and about 15 miles South of Church Stretton in Shropshire. The castle consists of a large tower at the North of the site, with a projecting central section and timber built gallery, a large banqueting hall built along the Western side of the castle's wall, a Tower built at the Southern end of the West wall, an open courtyard, a now dry moat and a fine, well preserved gatehouse, timber built and not of any great defensive qualities.

The above photo, shows the Great Hall\banqueting hall from outside the castle's walls. The hall is around fifty feet long, and sits between the castle's two towers. The hall possesses an unusual open fire hearth in the centre of the huge room, instead of the normal fire place in the wall. It seems that there was never a vent in the castle's roof for the smoke to disperse through...the blackened roof timbers bear witness to this. A small part of the hall, at the South end, by Lawrence de Ludlow, as a private 'withdrawing chamber' with squints in the walls through which he could spy on his guests.

The photo above, shows the North tower with it's well preserved timber gallery. The tower possibly dates from the 1140's, making it most likely the oldest structure surviving today. The five sided tower overlooks the yard of the church of St John the Baptist...the moat can just be seen, laying beyond the fence posts. These days the moat has been infilled, and serves as a walk around the outside of the castle walls.

The photo above, shows the castle viewed from the East. The South tower can be seen to the left of the photo, and the gatehouse can be seen in the foreground to the right. The North tower can just be seen to the right of the gate house. The South tower, probably dating from 1291, was built by Lawrence de Ludlow, and was erected after he gained a license to crenellate on October the 19th, 1291. The exact wording of the licence is: "to strengthen with a wall of lime and stone, and crenellate his mansion [mansum] at Stoke-say". (thanks to Philip Davis) The tower represents the heaviest defences here at Stokesay, with its thick walls and multi faceted exterior....affording the occupiers of the castle good views to the South West, the South and the South East. The curtain wall was built as a result of the license, but only one portion still stands to the original height, between the South tower and the Great Hall. The rest of the wall has been much reduced in height, and now resembles a simple field wall.

The gatehouse, along with the jettied portion of the North Tower, is one of the most recognisable features of Stokesay Castle, with its yellow plaster work and dark timbers. As far as defensible\impregnable gatehouses go, this 16th century building would not stand up to any form of it's most likely that it was built as a status symbol\prestige building by the then owners, the Baldwyn family. It's thought that this building replaced an earlier, possibly more defensive gatehouse. The Baldwyn's were in possession of Stokesay castle during the Civil war, and in 1645, when nearby Shrewsbury fell to Cromwell's Parliamentarian forces, the defenders at Stokesay didn't take long to decide to surrender to his forces after a very short siege. The order was given for the castle to be slighted...but the orders were only carried out on the curtain wall, which was reduced in height two years later. The castle remained inhabited for the rest of the 1600's, until it was finally deserted in around 1706. It was used by local farmers for storing grain for the next 150 years or so.

Sometime in the early 19th century, the 13th century buildings were recognised for their architectural and historical importance. The castle was purchased by John Darby Allcroft in 1869, and he immediately set about restoring the buildings. The castle was opened to the public by the Allcroft family in 1908, and ran it as a tourist attraction until 1992 when it passed into the care of English Heritage, who run the castle now.

The following link takes you to some fantastic photos of the castle.
Castle Wales Web Site

The following link takes you to an excellent plan of the castle.
Wikipedia plan

Photos courtesy of Martin Russell

Caerlaverock Castle Gatehouse, Caerlaverock

Caerlaverock Gatehouse
Caerlaverock Castle
Nr Dumfries
Dumfries and Galloway

I forgot that I had photos of the gatehouse at Caerlaverock here they are. The remains of the North East entrance fortification can be found at the head of a rectangular courtyard, surrounded by the remains of ditches and much worn. The photo below, appears to show machicolations at the top of the gatehouse, although it's likely that the remains only represent a tiny portion of the original building.

The walls are probably around four foot thick, and as shown in the photo below, contain two large draw bar tunnels. I wonder if there would have been a smaller door, set within the main door....if you look at the top larger draw bar tunnel....there is a smaller one, possibly for allowing visitors on foot, entrance to the courtyard. A single hinge now survives, still embedded within the stone work.

Any sources I checked when researching these remains, neglected to date the gatehouse....though when I visited back in August, the greeter at the castle stated that he thought the gatehouse probably dates from the 17th century.

Excavations in 2000, uncovered the footings of a large number of buildings with cobbled pathways between them. The lack of any roof tiles or roof materials, seems to suggest that these cobbled enclosures may have been for safe-guarding life stock. The bank was found to have red sandstone footings on its top surface, indicating that it would one have been substantially higher than it is today. The gatehouse doesn't get much attention from visitors, and it's fairly difficult to find any information regarding its builder or any information that would enable me to date it.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Craignish Castle, Loch Beag

Craighnish Castle
Loch Beag
Argyll and Bute

This very well hidden tower house sits at the head of Loch Beag, about five miles East of the Northern tip of the isle of Jura. Built on private land, and hidden from prying eyes by a screen of trees from the loch, it would appear that this is a very difficult tower to photograph properly.

Craignish Castle was originally the home of the Campbell's of Craignish, and for many years was also the home to the Lairds of Craignish. Dugall Maul Campbell, was the first Laird, and it was his descendants that built the castle here. During the early 1500's, the castle was in the hands of Ranald MacCallum....the hereditary keeper of the castle. The site is thought to have been home to a castle from as early as the 12th century, but the castle seen here today probably only dates from sometime during the 16th century. It started out as a simple keep, measuring some 50 by 32 feet over walls nearly seven and a half feet thick. The tower has since been absorbed into a modern mansion house, built sometime around 1832. It is built on a rocky outcrop, possesses a vaulted ground floor and has a dungeon, hewn from the bedrock beneath it.  This link shows a great photo of the mansion with the tower house built into it. These days, the closest you can get to see the castle, seems to be from the waters of the loch.