Thursday, September 30, 2010

Plumpton Hall, Plumpton, Near Ulverston

Plumpton Hall
Near Ulverston

Plumpton Hall lies about two miles off the A590, East of Ulverston. This tiny collection of houses that makes up Plumpton, overlooks Plumpton Bight, a shallow bay to the North West of Cartmel Sands. From the shore line here, Grange can be seen across the estuary, with the Leven Viaduct spanning the width of the sands and less than a quarter of a mile to the South, the Eastern end of Ulverston Canal enters the bay.

Above. Looking East towards the older part of the hall (at the left of the photo)

Plumpton Hall sits on the last few hundred yards of tarmac road eventually leading down to the shore of the bay. There are essentially two buildings here, a Western wing, consisting of an H plan building...a central hall with two wings to the North and South, and an Eastern portion (shown below) consisting of a single two story building.

Above. The newer hall, looking roughly North.

It is thought that there has been a 'manor' house on this site since the mid 1500's, but it's unlikely that anything of this earlier original building remains. The oldest parts of the hall(s) are the central hall and two wings of the Western building, probably dating from the 17th century. As with a number of buildings from this period in this particular area, I would say Westmorland, but the peninsula was part of Lancashire up until 1974, there are good examples of Westmorland chimneys here.

The second part of the hall, is the two story building that faces South with gardens set out about its front. This building was most likely built towards the end of the 1780's and some accounts state that it was originally a three storey house. I'm not sure at what point the third storey was removed.

Above. Looking at the rear of the older part of the hall, with its beautiful Westmorland chimney.

After 1554, the 'manor' of Plumpton fell under the ownership of the Sawrey family, the most notable member of the family being John Sawrey, a puritan advocate who bitterly opposed the Quaker, George Fox. He was drowned whilst attempting to cross the Leven sands in 1665.

Above. A closer view of the rear of the older part of the hall.

A local legend tells of a 'haunted' brass lantern, kept at the hall, and endowed with miraculous powers that enabled it to find its way home if it was ever removed from Plumpton Hall. Check this link for a photo of the lantern.

Denis R. Perriam and John Robinson write very briefly in their excellent book "The Medieval fortified buildings of Cumbria" about Plumpton Hall...but with no discussion or decision on whether this building ever constituted a defensive manor. There seems to be no mention of towers that have been demolished here, or towers that have been swallowed by the later additions to the site. Still....a beautiful building in a beautiful location.

Monday, September 20, 2010

York Roman remains

Roman remains in York

There are few Roman remains left in York....but what is still visible gives us a tantalising look back into the pre-Norman conquest history of the city. There is apparently even more of Roman York that remains buried beneath buildings and roads that will probably never see the light of we'll have to make do with the 'odds and ends' that are dotted around the city's streets.

The Roman fort of Eboracum sits on land where the rivers Foss and Ouse meet, making an effective defensive plateau (even thought it dramatically floods from time to time) Eboracum sits at the centre of a very effective network of roads, forts and towns, and would have enabled the occupying Roman army to maintain control of the unruly Northern areas of Britain. The fort enclosed an area of around fifty acres, not including the vast town town that grew up outside the fort's walls. The fort had four gates in the centre of each wall, and its vast defences consisted of earth and clay ramparts topped with a wooden palisades, and outer ditches and berms providing additional defence.

Above. A surviving portion of the fortress wall at Exhibition Square.

It's thought that this small portion of exposed wall, represents part of the fortress wall, possibly linking up with the Multangular tower in the Museum's certainly on the same alignment.

Above. A side view of the wall at Exhibition Square, showing how thick it was.

This bit of wall is about fifteen feet long, and about four feet wide. If you look carefully in the distance, between the building on the left and the building on the right, the medieval wall can be seen on top of its earthen rampart. It's interesting to note, that this fragment of Roman wall appears to be on exactly the same axis as the medieval wall.

Above. A view along Chapter House Street near York Minister.

According to a sign on the wall this street follows the course of the Via Decumana, a Roman road running from the headquarters of the fort here at York, to the North East gate.

Above. Roman interval tower remains below the wall along St Maurice's Road.

The interval tower shown above, was excavated in 1926 and the heavily consolidated walls left exposed for us to see.

Above. Roman East angle tower remains below the wall along St Maurice's Road

The angle tower shown above, was excavated in 1926 and the resulting walls were left uncovered. Heavily consolidated, these walls have been dug out to a depth of around two metres. Also to be seen here, although not from this angle (high up on the wall) is a portion of the curved fortress wall, appearing from the medieval walkway above it.

Roman shrine to Minerva, St Edgar's Field, Chester

Roman shrine to Minerva
St Edgar's Field

According to Chesterwiki this the the last surviving rock-cut Roman shrine still standing in its original location in the whole of Western Europe. The shrine was dedicated to Minerva, the ancient Roman goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts and magic, often associated with the Greek goddess Athena.

The shrine is thought to date from the rule of Vespasian, sometime around 79AD, and may have been positioned for travellers both entering and exiting the city of Chester to pay their respects for a good days travelling or trading.

Above. The Eastern side of the shrine, with the carved image of Minerva.

The carving is very badly weathered, but it is surprising that it has actually survived this long, considering both the effects of the weather and vandalism. One theory has it that the image of Minerva was thought to be that of the Virgin Mary, and was therefore saved from any religious vandalism.

Roman Quay, Chester

Roman Quay

The remains of a Roman quay can be found hidden away at the foot of the medieval walls along Nun's Road, to the East of the race course. The quay lies at the point that Black Friars road intersects Nun's Road. The remains consist of an earth covered mound of cut red sandstone, and represent the last remnants of a riverside quay that would have been used to load and unload ships as they sailed up the River Dee to this point. The river would have lapped the foot of the wall here, some four or five metres below the current ground level, providing a good deep, navigable river for the Romans to use. The river silted up over the course of about two thousand years, and receded away to the West. The medieval walls were built on top of the Roman remains, and the race course now occupies the old flood plain.

Above. Looking along the wall towards the scant remains of the quay.

There's not really much to see, but it's interesting to know that it's there as you walk along the walls above it.

South East angle tower, Chester

South East angle tower

One of 26 towers built around the Roman city of Deva Victrix can be found at the junctions of Newgate Street, Pepper Street and Souters Lane. The tower most likely dates from the end of the 1st century AD or the very early 2nd century AD. 

Above. View of the foundations of the tower from Pepper Street.

The tower was constructed on the inside of the walls rather than projecting beyond the walls. This would have afforded it all the protection that the stone walls could provide, whilst still giving the Roman guards stationed there, great views out over the lands beyond the city. For added defensive protection, there was a twenty foot wide and nine feet deep ditch in front of the walls. 

Above. View of the foundations from the Medieval walls.

The tower is seemingly contemporary with the walls, as both structures are bound together with no difference in building materials or breaks in build. Chester was some 20% larger than any other Roman fort in Britain, even larger than York and London. Some historians have suggested that this could point to Roman intentions to make this their British capital. The nearby amphitheatre is the largest military amphitheatre in Britain. 

Roman Amphitheatre, Chester

Roman Amphitheatre

The Roman Amphitheatre at Chester, lies just North of the River Dee, sandwiched between Souter's Lane and Little John Street. On its Eastern boundary sits the Norman church of St John the Baptist, and on its Western boundary the city walls run.

Above. Looking West towards the Newgate.

Above. Looking East towards the church of St John the Baptist.

Above. The temple of Nemesis.

Above. A view from within the Amphitheatre looking towards the Newgate.

Above. Looking into the Amphitheatre from the East.

Above. The entrance into the Amphitheatre.

Above. Another view looking West across the Amphitheatre.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Interior shots of Clifford's Tower, York

Interior photos of Clifford's Tower

I thought I'd include some of the photos of the interior of Clifford's tower in York. These were taken during my May 2010 visit, and until now, haven't been used on the web site.

Above. Looking South East over the gatehouse tower, towards the University of York.

This is my favourite view from the wall walk high up on the tops of the tower's walls. The gatehouse can be seen in the centre of the photo, with its tiled and steepled cap. The gatehouse contains a staircase to the upper floors, built into the thickness of the walls, and there are two more spiral staircases to the left and right, again, each built into the thickness of the walls. These provide access to the passages and rooms built within the walls, and also the wall walk three storeys above.

Above. Looking down into the interior of the tower.

Looking down from the wall walk high above, the interior of the tower appears to be an empty void. Originally however, the area shown in the photo above, and those below, would have been under a roof, and would have contained rooms...kitchens, living quarters, a hall and store rooms. Now all we see as proof of this long lost collection of domestic rooms, is a single octagonal column base, which would probably have provided a central strong point for floors and roofs.

Above. Looking at the Northern part of the interior of the tower.

All the interior masonry has now gone, and drawings and etchings from the early 1800's, show that the interior of the tower has been empty for some time. Of course, much of the central building would have been constructed of wood as well, and as there have been a number of fires here at the castle, it's hardly surprising that there is now a huge void between the tower's walls.

Above. A view at ground floor level towards the North West of the tower.

The walls over the gatehouse house a small chapel, with arcading set into the walls. Such were the cramped confines of this relatively small castle, that when the portcullis was raised, it was projected into the chapel, and would have obscured the decorative wall.

Above. A view at ground floor level towards the gatehouse.

The entire interior of the tower is accessible for a small fee, and the climb to the summit of the motte is well worth the effort. Make sure you take the time to walk around the wall walk, as the views out across York are fantastic.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brough Castle, Brough

Brough Castle

You'll hopefully forgive me for the number and size of images in this set of photos.....Brough just seems to be one of those sites that requires lots of photos from lots of different angles to do it justice. I need to pay a few return visits to make sure that this castle gets the coverage it's a beautiful building an a fantastic location....added to which is an interesting and varied history.

Above. Looking North towards the gatehouse (left) and Clifford's Tower (far right)

Brough village lies about six miles North of Kirkby Stephen, and sits astride the A66. The village possesses a beautiful medieval church (St Michael) with Norman remains incorporated into its fabric, a huge Roman fort, and, built over the top of these earthworks, Brough castle. The castle lies at the Northern end of the earthworks surrounding the ancient Roman fort of Verteris. The castle stands on a natural steep slope, protected by Swindall Beck which runs beneath the North walls of the castle. The oldest parts of Brough Castle date from around 1100. At around this time, Northern England had been annexed from the Scots by William Rufus. The castle was built to safeguard routes from the North across the Pennines into Yorkshire and South into Westmorland and Lancashire. Excavations in the 1920’s showed that the castle had always been built from stone, and that the present keep rests on the foundations of the original Norman tower. Similar stonework exists in some portions of the curtain wall.

Above. A closer view of the gatehouse (left) and Clifford's Tower (right)

It’s likely that the layout as seen today, is the same as it was from the castle’s earliest days. The castle was built in an area that was continually fought over by Scottish and English monarchs. This seems to have been the case in 1173 and 1174. William the Lion invaded the North of England in 1173. He blockaded Carlisle, and marched his army South. Appleby was quickly overrun, then Brough was attacked. It is alleged that the castle was defended by six knights, each of whom would have had a large following. The bailey was overrun, and the defenders sought refuge in the keep. The attacking army set fire to the keep, which probably had a stone base and wooden superstructure. Some of the knights surrendered at this point, except one. He however, soon followed suit. The keep was all but destroyed, with the stone masonry remains the only surviving part of the castle. The remains provided the base for the new keep, the one that can be seen today. It was built in the late 12th century, and would have been the focal point of the castle as a whole.

Above. Looking East onto the foundations of the stables.

In 1203, King John gave the castle at Brough, along with the castle at Appleby and the lordship of Westmorland to Robert de Vieuxpont, the builder of Brougham castle. Vieuxpont built much of the castle at Brough as well. The gatehouse is attributed to him, as is the hall across the South end of the courtyard. However, Vieuxpont’s immediate relatives neglected the castle, and in 1254 it was described as being ‘decayed’.

Above. Looking at the North face of the keep.

Brough passed to the Cliffords in 1268. Robert Clifford began to carry out some major rebuilding works. He built a new hall on the same site of Vieuxpont’s hall. At the South end of the castle, he built a semi-circular tower known as ‘Clifford’s Tower’. This was the residence occupied by him and his family. He also undertook the restoration of the now decaying curtain wall. This was necessary work considering that the Scots were still a threat. The village of Brough was devastated by Scottish raids in 1314 and then again in 1319. In the early 1320’s, the castle garrison consisted of 15 men at arms and 20 Hobelers, light and heavy cavalry.

Above. Looking East towards the inner range of ruined buildings.

More building work was carried out at the castle in the late 14th century, during Roger Clifford’s ownership. The earlier hall was replaced as happened at Brougham, by a first floor hall set over a basement. The new hall was placed against the South curtain wall between Clifford’s Tower and the gatehouse. Brough castle escaped capture in the Scottish invasion of 1388, in which both Brougham and Appleby succumbed. Brough was usually the chosen place for the Cliffords to stay when they visited Westmorland. Roger’s hall was also added to, with buildings extending along the North side of the castle. The front of the gatehouse was also refaced. Most of this work was probably conducted by Thomas Clifford, who was later to die at the battle of St Albans in 1455 whilst fighting for Henry VI.

Above. Looking East towards the site of the kitchens and the 12th century hall block.

The castle was seriously burnt in 1521, after a great Christmas feast. All the wooden features of the castle appeared to have been destroyed in the fire, including floors, doors and windows, leaving the castle uninhabited until Lady Anne Clifford assumed ownership. Work began in 1659 to rebuild the castle. Lady Anne made a brief visit the same year, so work must have been at an advanced stage. An inscription commemorating her restoration work at the castle was put up at the end of 1663. Work on the castle was therefore probably finished by this date. In 1664, Lady Anne spent eight days in the newly refurbished castle, although it wasn’t until 1663 that she spent a longer time at the castle. She arrived on the 10th of November, and didn’t leave again until the 19th of April the following year. She visited for longer stays another three times, each time taking over the top floor of Clifford’s Tower.

Above. A view from inside the Southern inner range of buildings.

Lady Anne continued to make alterations to the castle, as well as building some stable blocks between the gatehouse and the keep, and a row of service buildings at the East end of the North curtain wall. After Lady Anne died, Brough fell into disrepair just like Brougham. Minor repairs to the roofs were made for a few years after her death, but these soon stopped in 1714. The following year, most of the roofs and fittings were sold for around £155. The stables along with parts of the gatehouse and hall were exempted from this sale, as Lord Thanet had plans to convert these buildings into a court room complex for the manor of Brough. There seems to be no record of how long these buildings served this purpose. And engraving dated 1739 shows that the stables had disappeared, and by 1763, a large portion of Clifford’s tower had been destroyed\dismantled to provide stone for the building of Brough Mill.

Above. A vaulted cellar beneath the site of the 14th century hall.

No effort seems to have been made thereafter to preserve the castle in any way. A report of 1919, states that extensive stone robbing had taken place, including the removal of moulded stones, lintels, staircase treads and pavements.

Above. A view of the first floor of the Southern range of buildings.

In 1920, the South West corner of the keep fell down, the remains of this collapse still visible today. The masonry still remains halfway down the steep earthworks, and a great open crack can be seen in the keep walls. Soon after the remains were consolidated, probably stopping any further decay.

Above. Panoramic view of the courtyard looking West towards the keep.

The gatehouse as seen today is very much mutilated and ruinous. It would have originally been three storeys tall. In the 17th century, and probably earlier, the top floor would have been used as a guest chamber. The first and second floors each had external windows, and the commemorative slab that Lady Anne had mounted on the gateway arch stone would have been mounted here. The engraved slab was reputedly put under the water wheel at Brough Mill.

Above. A view along the Northern curtain wall towards the keep.

On either side of the entrance to the gatehouse, were pyramidal shaped buttresses, probably ornamental, although the gatehouse was designed to resist attack. There would have been a nail studded door at the gatehouse, and in earlier times there is the possibility that there would have been a portcullis and drawbridge.

Above. The inner range of buildings built against the Southern curtain wall.

The courtyard today is largely empty. The keep stands at the West end of the complex, with Clifford’s Tower at the South East corner. The stables were built along the inside of the South curtain wall, with the Great Hall and the inner range also along the inside of the South curtain wall, but between the gatehouse and Clifford’s Tower. The gatehouse was also in the South wall. The kitchen and the bake house were both built against the inside of the North curtain wall, along with the brew house and the latrines (which can still be seen) The site of the 12th century hall was against the inside of the East curtain wall.

Above. A view of the gatehouse from within the courtyard.

Most of the rough sand stone cobbling in the courtyard is probably medieval. Along the North curtain wall, to the left of the brew house, a latrine survives, which would have discharged into Swindale Beck below.

Above. An oblique view of the interior of the gatehouse.

The first building to your left as you enter the castle’s courtyard would have been the stables. The large size of the stables indicates that the castle would have been home a large number of people.

Above. Earthworks at the foot of Clifford's Tower, looking East towards Brough village.

The keep would originally have had four corner turrets. There may be the remains of pigeon coups on the South and East side of the keep….providing some food for the residents. As at Brougham, the entrance to the keep would have been at the first floor, accessed by a flight of stone steps in Lady Anne’s time. The doorway to which these stairs would have led has long since vanished, as has most of the East wall of the keep. The base of the staircase can still be seen though.

Above. The gatehouse and outer range of buildings.

The basement of the keep acted as a store for the upper floors. It would have been entered by stairs from the floor above. The door in the North wall was made by Lady Anne. There are still remains of white plaster on the walls. This would have been done to increase the light in the dim rooms.

Above. Earthworks outside the Southern curtain wall, and current inhabitants!

Originally the keep would have had only two storeys over the basement, connected by a spiral staircase in the North East corner with a steeply gabled roof over the top. The outline of this roof can still be seen. This was later replaced with a higher roof, which allowed for another floor to be added to the keep. This additional floor was used as guest housing in Lady Anne’s time.

Above. The keep from outside the curtain wall, looking North West.

The steeply gabled roof of this portion of the keep was an ingenious addition to this part of the castle. Brough lacks a well, so the roof allowed for rainwater to be drained away from the roof and collected in an indentation in the middle. Thomas Machell does show a well attached to the castle, although this is sited outside the gatehouse.

Above. Looking East towards Brough village.

These three buildings lay in the North East corner of the courtyard, against the inside of the curtain wall. All were built by Lady Anne Clifford as part of the refurbishment of the castle. A coal hole was also built at this time, in 1669, although this has long since vanished. The castle would have paid hearth tax on 24 chimneys at this time. These buildings were one storey tall, and would have had a continuous slate roof.

Above. Earthworks at the foot of the keep on its South side.

This room was situated on the ground floor of Clifford’s Tower in the late 17th century. The square windows that can still be seen were put in by Lady Anne when she rebuilt large sections of the castle after the fire of 1521.

Above. Looking East towards the gatehouse.

These buildings, in the South East corner of the courtyard area mish-mash of two ranges of buildings. They consist of some late 14th century buildings built against some mid 15th century buildings. Two windows can be seen mid way up the wall….these would have lit the hall, as like at Brougham, the hall was on the first floor.

Above. My favourite view of the castle, from the West.

From the hall, a staircase would have led up to the Great Chamber on the top floor of Clifford’s Tower. This room would have served as a dining room for senior members of Lady Anne’s family. Her own chambers would have been reached by walking through this room. There were also chambers for her steward and her secretary and for a butler. An ‘evidence’ room also existed here, where valuables and papers were kept.

Above. A view of the earthworks to the West of the castle's keep.

Above. A view of the keep and Northern curtain wall from within the deep moat. Note the two chutes from the latrines built into the thickness of the curtain wall.

Above. A view of the North East side of Clifford's Tower from within the deep moat.

Above. Looking towards the North East side of Clifford's Tower from the adjacent earthworks.

Above. Clifford's Tower from the South East.