Monday, December 27, 2010

Murray's Monument, Minnigaff, Dumfries and Galloway

Murray's Monument
Dumfries and Galloway

I thought I'd include this monument here seeing as it's so similar to Kendal's Elba and Castle Howe monuments. It's off the beaten track...on a road called the Queen's Way, the A712, that runs from New Galloway at the Northern tip of Loch Ken, South to Newton Stewart, and sandwiched between Wee Doon and Big Doon! The road is such that, if you're driving you'll probably miss it...but if you're lucky enough to be a passenger, the monument can be seen looming ahead of you as you pass by the Wild Goat Park.

Above. The monument from the East.

The monument was erected in 1835 in memory of Alexander Murray (1775 to 1813), a Scottish linguist and professor of oriental languages. Alexander was born very near to the site of the monument, in a cottage called Dunkitterick Cottage, now set up as a memorial to him.

The monument was built by William Hume, James Thomson, and Robert Hume to designs by an eminent Edinburgh lawyer called John Parker. It stands to around eighty feet tall, and its prominent position high up on the hill side gives you great views back down the valley to the East.

Above. A closer, cropped view of the monument.

This has to be one of my favourite drives.....which will have to be done in drier and sunnier weather. There is so much to see along the way, including the Glen of the Bar, the Wild Goat Park, Kenmure Castle, Clatteringshaw's Loch and Bruce's Stone, the Deer Range and miles and miles of rolling hills.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Castle Howe monument, Kendal

Castle Howe monument

The Castle Howe monument stands on the summit of the motte of Castle Howe, Kendal's Norman castle, to the West of the town. The monument was designed by Francis Webster, and bankrolled by William Holme. It was erected to celebrate the 1688 revolution, whereby King James II of England was overthrown by Parliament, and William of Orange, the Dutch Stadtholder, ascended the throne as William III along with his wife Mary II.

Above. The monument from the foot of the motte.

The monument was erected one hundred years after the Glorious Revolution. It's apt that the inscription mentions 'Sacred to Liberty'. The Liberty quoted here relates to religious freedoms slowly beginning to creep into society....and Kendal has a long history of Dissenters....Catholics, Wesleyans (Methodists), Quakers (Friends), Zionists and many others.

Above. The plaque on the East face of the monument.

Above. Another view from the foot of the motte.

The monument wasn't a particularly well liked addition to Kendal's skyline. It was noted in certain circles that the shaft of the monument was too short, and it gained the nickname "Bill Holme's Bodkin" (after the man who bankrolled it)

The base of the monument was also found to be of poor quality, and either from the weather or the idle hands local youths, it started to deteriorate. Unfortunately, repairs that were undertaken gradually erased an engraving that had been placed here, once reading "that no foreign prince or potentate has, or ought to have, any power, civil or ecclesiastical, within these realms".

Above. The monument and the motte and bailey castle from Kendal Castle to the East.

The monument has developed a gentle lean over the years, and this is still evident today. The monument is clearly visible from Kendal Castle to the East, especially during the Autumn and Winter months when the trees are bare.

The Elba Monument, Kendal

The Elba Monument

The Elba monument is to be found about a mile North West of Kendal, on Monument Hill just off the A591. You can see it towering above the fields on your right as you drive out towards Windermere.

Above. The monument from the West.

The monument was bankrolled by James Bateman of nearby Tolson Hall, as a memorial to the exile of Napoleon on the island of Elba. There was meant to be a commemorative plaque when it was originally erected, in 1814, but Napoleon escaped his island exile on the 26th of February 1815. It took one hundred years for James Bateman's intended words to appear on the monument.

Above. The monument from the North East.

The commemorative plaque was placed on the monument in 1914, and was paid for by Charles Cropper of Ellergreen. The original plaque appears to never have been found, though it is thought that it was produced and was ready to install when Napoleon left Elba for France.

Above. The commemorative plaque on the monument.

The monument is almost identical to the one on Castle Howe in the middle of Kendal, and was probably designed by the Webster family of architects.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tolson Hall, Near Kendal

Tolson Hall
Near Kendal
Tolson Hall can be found about a mile West of Burneside on Hollins Lane (just off the A591) It can be seen from the roadside here, through the spectacular gatehouse, shown below. The hall was built in 1638 for Thomas Tolson, a local tobacco merchant. Originally, the hall would have consisted of the central portion of the building perhaps with two wooden wings....however the West wing was altered and extended sometime around 1800, whilst the East wing was altered and partially rebuilt sometime around 1900.

Above. Tolson Hall from Hollins Lane to the South.

The hall contains a room with some 17th century panelling in, with a panel dated 1638, and the initials, T&AT for Thomas and Anne Tolson, the builders of the hall. Just like the Castle Dairy in the middle of Kendal, there is some late early 17th century glass in one of the ground floor windows, with the wording "God by this meanes, has sent what I on this house have spent" together with some illustrations of some tobacco pipes.

Above. A closer view of the South face of the hall.

Another window has the inscription "All prayse unto his name that gave the meanes to build the same."
Above. Sketches of two of the windows at Tolson Hall (taken from A History and Guide of Kendal, from personal collection)

There are other smaller windows with various coats of arms represented in them. It is thought that Thomas Tolson built Tolson hall from the profits he accrued from selling tobacco he imported from Virginia to Westmorland. The window with the inscription "God by this meanes, has sent what I on this house have spent" probably relates to the tobacco profits used to fund his lifestyle and his home.

Above. Tolson Hall's gatehouse from Hollins Lane.

The gatehouse on Hollins Lane was built sometime around 1800, and has towers with turrets and arrow slits. It is of course, nothing more than a folly.

Above. Tolson Hall's gatehouse from the South.

It is rumoured that, built into the thickness of one portion of particularly thick wall...some six feet thick, a small room was discovered. As is the norm with local legends, it is suggested that this may at one time have been used as a priest hide a Catholic priest in when Protestant administrators came visiting.

The hall later passed to the Bateman family, specifically James Bateman, who was responsible for commissioning the so called Elba monument in the field a few hundred yards away.
Tolson Hall can be viewed from the side of the road.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dalton Old Hall pele tower, Dalton Nr Burton in Kendal

Dalton Old Hall and pele tower
Near Burton In Kendal

A long tortuous walk through fields and woods looking for the public footpath markers that all seemed to have vanished, eventually saw me bagging one of the last South Lakes pele towers missing from my collection.

The old hall here, dates from the 17th century, evidenced by a surviving dated lintel with 1666 carved into it, but the real interest are the consolidated rubble remains to the North West of the farm house. 

Above. The West side of Dalton old Hall.

Some historians tell us that these rubble remains are all that now exists of a tower house that once stood next to the hall, and may at some point even have been part and parcel of the same at Burneside, Cowmire and other sites throughout the South Lakes area.

Above. Dalton Old Hall from the footpath to the North.

At first sight, the remains seem to be just a raised rubble filled area, measuring around 25 feet by 40 feet. The walls stand to around 6 feet tall, with a stepped entrance on the South....original or's very difficult to tell. There also appears to be a bricked up window or door in the West wall of this structure.

Above. Dalton Old Hall from the remains of the pele tower.

The interior of the remains appear to be divided by a thin (12 inch) cross wall, but it's nearly impossible to tell if this is an original feature, if it's been inserted at some point when it's been used for other purposes, or if it's an ornamental feature....the farmer told me that the top had, at some point in the past, been used as a children's garden.

Above. Looking into the two rooms in the last remains of the pele tower.

Looking from the West of the farm house, the structure is almost invisible behind its cover of ivy and other shrubs. If these remains are the last vestiges of a tower house, they are scant remains of what may at some point, have been an impressive defensive dwelling.  

Above. The hidden remains of the pele tower, behind the ivy.

Above. The pele tower with a bricked up window or door to the left.

Many towers and peles are built on a plinth of boulders, but it is impossible to tell if this is the case here due to the landscaping that has taken place around the base of the walls. It's also impossible to tell if the stepped entrance is in the place of an original doorway, and if, as shown above, the bricked up portion of the wall represents an old window or another doorway. There is obviously a huge amount of rubble now filling the interior of the structure nearly to the top of the wall. 

Above. Close up of the surviving West wall of the pele tower.
Above. The only surviving two walls of the pele tower.

Above. An original entrance into the pele tower?

I've scoured the internet and various texts for any additional information regarding the remains here at Dalton Old Hall...but to date, there seems to be nothing of any note that points to this definitely being a pele tower or tower house of any type. Still...I'm happy that I've been able to add it to my collection of sites.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Whether Fold, Kentmere Valley

Whether Fold
Kentmere Valley
Near Kendal

The River Kent begins its decent into Morecambe Bay from Lingmell End, flowing into Kentmere Reservoir, and then South through the Kentmere valley, into Kentmere tarn, and then onto Kendal. On its way, it passes through beautiful countryside scarred by years of slate mining, past pre-historic settlements, and runs along side the remains of more recent human activity. The following two photos show Whether Fold....a sheep fold about hundred yards from the reservoir's damn.

I have no idea how old this structure is...when it was built, or when it was last used.

Constructed of lime stone blocks and in a similar fashion to the dry stone walls that line the valley walls, it's a surprise that it's still standing. The river here is known to rise at an alarming rate when the rains cause the reservoir to overflow, and the fold is right in the path of the river. It doesn't seem to be a listed structure, but does seem to have had some consolidation work done on it over the years.

Townend, Troutbeck


Townend House stands about three miles east of Ambleside, in what must be one of the most beautiful parts of the Lake District. The village of Troutbeck stretches along the Eastern side of the valley from Wansfell Pike, and consists of a number of traditionally built Lake District slate houses. Townend is said to be an excellent example of a virtually unchanged early 17th century 'yeoman's' house, and, owned by English Heritage, is open to explore.

Built in 1626, possibly on the site of an earlier house, some of the walls are exceptionally thick, suggesting that this may have been a fortified house at some time.....or the walls could just be thick to support the five huge Westmorland chimneys!!

It was built by George Browne as a family home, and surprisingly has survived pretty much intact and unchanged for the past 384 years. It seems that this incredible survival has given this family home a second lease of life with English Heritage. The North and South West wings probably date from the latter part of the 17th George Browne's house would have been slightly smaller than we see today.

Over the other side of the road is the Grade II listed barn, probably dating from 1666 (or so a date panel would inform us) The barn is probably overlooked by most people, making their way to check out Townend House, but I would recommend a good look at this mid 17th century building.

It consists of two wings either side of a central two storey section. There are shippons below and lofts above, with a beautiful, probably original, wooden gallery at the front.

Apparently the interior has an original queen post roof, consisting of a simple horizontal beam laid from wall to wall, with two vertical beams then supporting a higher horizontal beam, upon which the sloped roof sits.

The village of Troutbeck is certainly worth a visit, and the nearby Jesus church is a must.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Kirfitt Hall, near Kirkby Lonsdale

Kirfitt Hall
Near Kirkby Lonsdale

A beautiful Autumnal day out in Kirkby Lonsdale, and I thought I'd add a couple of new photos of the hall and its tower.

Above. Looking North West towards the tower with Casterton Park in the background.

Above. Close up of the hall and the camera...better zoom lens!!

Check the link for additional information on the hall.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vicarage Drive Motte number 2

Vicarage Drive Motte number 2

This low mound of earth lies to the South of Vicarage Drive. It consists of a low mound with trees to the West and South West. It is overlooked by slightly higher ground to the North West, so probably wouldn't be a good candidate for a motte and bailey castle.

Above. Motte number 1 looking West.

From this angle (above) the mound is quite visible against the tree line. There doesn't seem to be any sign of a bailey area, ditches or earthworks...though if there had been any of these features, they would most likely have been destroyed when the school was built.

Above. A view of the mound from the North.

The photo above shows how the mound is overlooked from the West. I don't think this is a very good candidate for a motte and bailey castle, or even any sort of 'pre-conquest administrative centre. Early maps of the area don't show any features in this area, named or otherwise, and local historical documents make no mention of a site at this end of town.

Vicarage Drive Motte number 1

Vicarage Drive Motte number 1

This mound lies to the South of Vicarage drive, and consists of two areas of rising ground. The last two photos show a preliminary mound, rising to around fifteen feet in height. The second mound is hidden by the tree cover, shown below. This mound was found to be around forty to fifty feet high.

Above. A view of motte number 1 from Vicarage Drive.

There was no trace of any ditches within the wooded area, although it was in such an overgrown state it would have been extremely difficult to see any last remains of any type of defensive infilled ditch.

Above. Motte number 1 looking East.

The photos above and below show the lower, fifteen to twenty foot bank that runs around the Southern and Western sides of the mound. Could this have been an additional bank thrown up to provide additional defences to this site....or does it represent the remains of a bailey area?

Above. Motte number 1 looking North.

I would say, that of the two Vicarage Drive mounds, this would be the most likely to represent any form of motte and bailey castle or 'pre-conquest administrative centre'.....though again, early maps show nothing of any note in this area, and local historical documents don't mention anything at this end of town. I would have thought, that had there been an important site here, perhaps John Speed would have noted it on his map of 1620, but there is nothing here at all. Both of these mounds are intriguing sites...but it is hard to find any persuasive argument for these mounds being anything other than glacial mounds.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Peel Castle, Isle of Man

Peel Castle
St Patrick's Isle
Isle of Man

Peel lays on the West coast of the Isle of Man, about eleven miles West of Douglas. The town of Peel lays in the shadow of Corrins Hill, a long land mass that separates the town from the Irish Sea. The castle is built on St Patrick's Isle, a small island separated from the mainland, and accessible via a relatively modern causeway. Aerial views of the castle show a collection of roofless buildings, earthworks, curtain walls and a number of towers.

Above. A view from East Quay, looking North towards the ruined castle and cathedral.

Dating from the 11th century, the castle was built by King Magnus Barelegs, King of Norway from 1093 until 1103, King of Mann and the Isles from 1099 until 1102 and King of Dublin from 1102 until his death in 1103. The castle was built of wood at this point, and was built around the existing stone built monastic buildings that occupied the small island at this time. The ruined castle still incorporates the remains of the old cathedral of St German, which can be seen over the 14th century, red sand stone walls. It was used by the church as the administrative centre for the see of Sodor Diocese, until it was abandoned in the 18th century.

The castle on the other hands was maintained right up until 1860, when it was updated and re-fortified to prepare for a possible French invasion. The castle is owned by Manx National Heritage, and is open to the public from April until October.

Photo courtesy of Martin Russell

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.