Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cunswick Hall, Nr Kendal

Cunswick Hall
Cunswick Fell near Kendal

It will still be a while before I manage to get a photo of the only remaining part of the fortifications here at Cunswick....the gatehouse is the last vestige of any medieval defences here, the tower having been demolished over four hundred years ago.

Above. A view of the hall from the top of Scout Scar to the South.

The hall lies about two miles West of Kendal, well and truly off the beaten track, but accessible and viewable from the public footpath that runs to the East of the property. From here, unfortunately, only the more modern house can be seen....the gatehouse is hidden within the farm yard and shielded from view by other outbuildings.

The gatehouse is situated in the building just in front of the modern house in the photo shown here. It consists of a two storey building with a low arched thoroughfare, which, some records show, may have been rebuilt or remodelled. At any cost, the gatehouse probably dates from the late 15th or early 16th century, and possesses a Tudor coat of arms above the external (southern) arch. The Grade II listed status of the gatehouse, states that the possible remains of a garderobe or a stair case can be seen in the thickness of the wall. Dennis R. Periam and John Robinson, in their excellent The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria, have this as a stair case, built into the South wall. The gatehouse can only be viewed from within the farm yard, and as this is private property I've not been able (or brave enough) to get any photos.

Above. Floorplan of the gatehouse.

The pele tower that is said to have sat behind the gatehouse and probably within a walled courtyard, was demolished in 1582, probably to make way for a more comfortable and larger hall. This building too has been demolished, to make way for the more modern building seen today, which is reputed to still have some original medieval glass in one of the windows...locally said to be the oldest glass in Westmorland (the Southern part of modern day Cumbria)

The original hall, tower, courtyard and gatehouse were built by the de Leybourne family, and would have been the seat of the family. Indeed, the Leybournes were living here up until 1715, when the hall and the Leybourne estates passed to the crown as forfeiture for their backing of the Jacobite rising. The estates then became the property of Thomas Crowle in 1721, before finally falling into the vast Lowther estates thereafter.

The hall originally sat at the Southern end of a large parked area, existing up until the late 1500's. This park would have included the tarn to the North East, and a small number of rabbit warrens to the North. These are still visible on aerial photos, albeit faintly.

Above. Memorial to the last of the Leybournes, hanging in Kendal Parish church.

The memorial shown above, commemorates John Leybourne, the last of the Leybourne family in these parts of Westmorland. It is to be found just outside the Bellingham Chapel in the Parish church in Kendal, underneath Robert Phillipson's sword and helmet. The Leybourne family suffered as a result of their continued support of the Stewart claim to the throne. They were fined on many occasions and even had lands and estates removed in 1715. In 1583, James Leybourne was executed at Lancaster after refusing to acknowledge the rule of Queen Elizabeth I. It may have been as a consequence of this, that the pele tower was demolished (1582) They Leybourne family were also resident at Skelsmergh Hall to the North of Kendal, another fortified manor with a tower.

The walk that leads you past the farm, can be accessed from a number of places. It can be accessed from the North, from the B5284, Kendal to Windermere road, about five hundred yards from Plumgarth's farm shop, or from the Underbarrow road which runs from the West of Kendal. Both footpaths are signposted Cunswick Scar, and offer great views out over Lyth Valley and the surrounding fells.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Tower E, Bootham, York

Tower E

Tower E can be found about two hundred feet East of Tower D. It is partially obscured by modern buildings, but where there is a gap between two of the street side buildings, about half of the tower is visible together with some of its connecting wall.

Again, this tower was most likely built in 1266. Like Tower D, it still possesses most of its crenelations and parapet walk.

Tower D, Bootham, York

Tower D

Tower D is situated on Bootham, at the Northern extremes of the abbey precincts. The tower would have formed part of the abbey defences, linking with the city walls at Bootham.

Above. Tower D looking South East.

The tower was most likely built around 1266, and may represent the original form that Tower A and Tower B may taken. It probably stands to its full original height, and still retains its crenelations and a narrow parapet walk.

Above. Tower D from Bootham road side.

This is a really well preserved tower, and easily viewable from the road side.

Tower C, Marygate, York

Tower C

Tower C lays about about four hundred feet North of Tower B, and is a totally different structure. The early 13th century towers were simpler round towers, whilst this tower is square, open to the rear, and a much later addition to the abbey's precinct defences.

Above. Tower C looking North towards Bootham.

Comparing this tower with others elsewhere on the City walls, it's possible to date it to around 1318. The huge arrow slits, three in total, fit into this time frame.

Above. A close up view of Tower C looking South down Marygate.

Above. Another view of Tower C looking down Marygate.

The tower projects about ten feet from the face of the wall. Unfortunately the tower backs onto private property, so it wasn't possible to inspect the interior. The tower was restored in 1952.

Tower B, Marygate, York

Tower B

Tower B is a 19th century reconstruction of a tower that was previously demolished. We know that there was an original tower in this position, as it is shown on maps from as late as 1682. It does not appear on maps dated 1700, so must have been demolished sometime after the late 1680's.

Above. Tower B looking North up Marygate.

Tower B lies about two hundred feet North of Tower A, is slightly taller than its sibling and projects an identical five feet from the face of the wall.

Above. Tower B looking South down Marygate.

If the 19th century reconstruction of the tower is correct, and Tower B was the same as Tower A, the original would have been built around 1266. It is not known why the original was demolished, or even if it collapsed due to neglect or siege damage.

Tower A, Marygate, York

Tower A

Tower A lays less than a hundred feet North of the Water tower on Marygate, and is now little more than an empty stone shell of its former self.

Above. The tower looking North up Marygate.

This tiny tower was probably built in 1266, and altered over the course of the next hundred years or so. It is now a semi-circular structure, about ten feet in diameter and hollow on the inside. The tower projects about five feet beyond the front face of the wall.

Above. The tower looking South towards the River Ouse.

The above photo shows the tower looking towards the river. The Water tower is hidden below the brown stone wall visible at the end of the road. It's likely that much stone has been removed from the top of both the wall and the tower here, as both are no more than six feet high now.

The Water Tower, York

The Water Tower

The water tower lays at the South Western corner of the abbey precincts, and marks the end of the Marygate walls at the river's edge. The tower is thought to have been built sometime between 1318 and 1324.

Above. A view of the Water tower from the Yorkshire Eye across the river Ouse.

The tower is circular in plan, with a hexagonal interior. There are five arrow slits in the thick walls, and a door to the rear.

Above. The tower from the river side showing one of the huge arrow slits.

The small postern attached to the tower, shown above, is of no great antiquity. The tower is thought to have originally been crenelated, although the top portion of the structure is now missing, and was also two storey high.

Above. Another view of the Water tower from the river side.

The tower is accessible from the footpath that runs West along the river from Lendal Bridge. Marygate is then directly accessible from this point....just in case you want to continue your walk around the walls!

Marygate walls, York

Marygate walls

The abbey of St Mary is surrounded by a lightly defensible precinct wall, incorporating towers and gates. The portion that runs down Marygate, from Bootham to the North banks of the River Ouse is almost completely intact, and includes five towers.

Above. St Mary's tower at the Northern corner of the abbey precinct defences.

Built sometime between 1318 and 1324 by Stephen de Austewyk, St Mary's tower has changed much over the years. It is a two storey structure, around thirty four feet in diameter, with an octagonal interior. It was badly damaged during the 1644 siege of York, and subsequently rebuilt. The tower was mined by Parliamentarian forces during the attack, with an explosion beneath its foundations almost totally destroying it. The subsequent breach in the walls enabled Cromwell's army to gain access to the city, fighting their way to the King's Manor. However the attack was soon repelled with many injured and killed. The tower was rather crudely rebuilt, with much thinner walls, and some rather inexplicable external faults...still visible today.

Above. Looking South along Marygate.

The walls along Marygate stretch from St Mary's tower right down to the River Ouse, some four hundred and fifty meters in total. For most of the way down Marygate, the walls still stand to between fifteen and twenty feet tall.

Above. Looking North along Marygate towards St Mary's tower on Bootham.

The wall appears to be quite thin along this stretch of wall (shown below)....whether this is a more recent state, or whether it has always been this way I'm not sure. There were buildings and houses built right up against the wall (on the grass strip shown above) up until the early part of the 20th century, but they were removed at some point, leaving us with the views we can see today.

Above. Looking South along Marygate with one of the walls towers visible.

The walls along Marygate were built around 1266, with a license to crenellate granted some considerable time later. The wording of the license is as follows "Licence for the abbot and convent of St. Mary's, York, to crenellate their abbey, which is without the city of York, but is contiguous thereto, provided that the wall to be constructed between the abbey and the wall of the city shall not exceed 16 feet in height and shall not be crenellated." (Many thanks to Philip Davis and the Gatehouse web site)

Above. A gun loop in the wall along Marygate.

The gun loop shown above would probably have been added during the run up to the 1644 siege of York. Many changes and repairs would most likely have taken place during the civil war, as the defending Royalist garrison realised that Cromwell would send his army against the city. Gun loops would have been added to various parts of the city's walls, to enable the defenders to deploy muskets to aid the city's defence. There is another loop a few yards away from this one.

Above. Looking North towards the River Ouse on Marygate.

The walls around St Mary's Abbey appear to differ from the major walls of the city in one important way, in that they did not possess a stone walkway behind the crenellations. There may have been a wooden walkway for any patrolling of the precinct walls, but this has obviously not survived. It may be that the walls here were more of a symbolic protection, visibly separating the grounds of the abbey from the rest of the city of York.

The walls are visible from Marygate, from Bootham down to the river. From the gateway near the church of St Olave, the interior of the lower stretch of the wall is also visible.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

St Olave's gatehouse, York

St Olave's gatehouse

It would appear from some internet sources, that the roof of St Olave was used as a gun platform during the siege of York in 1644. Between June the 3rd and June the 16th, Parliamentarian forces pounded York from a number of positions around the city, including the gun emplacement built on the roof of the church. As a result, it would seem that the Royalist forces within the city walls returned fire, badly damaging the church and its attendant buildings. Rebuilding didn't really take place until the early 18th century, when all the damage was finally made good using stone from the now ruined St Mary's Abbey next door. This has echoes of St John the Baptist in Chester, and that particular church's use in the siege of that city.

Above. Looking North East up Marygate.

The walls that run along Marygate suddenly end half way along the nave of the church of St Olave. I think this small portion of wall was probably dismantled when the church was rebuilt and extended in around 1466. For some reason it seems to have been deemed safe for the North wall of the Nave to replace the otherwise sturdily built defensive city walls.

Above. The interior North East wall of the gatehouse.

The gatehouse would originally have been a fully covered structure, with gates at the street end (Marygate) and at the other end. As with gatehouses at other great monastic sites, such as Furness and Shap, the gatehouse would have been used for security rather than defence, and would have enabled the administrators of St Olaves to control the flow of traffic to and from the abbey precincts. Gatehouses for these religious houses would most likely have also provided them with a certain degree of autonomy from the city of York's administrative bodies, essentially separating the abbey from the city....emphasising their place in the social structure of the time.

Above. The interior South West wall of the gatehouse.

From what I can gather, the gatehouse was probably built during the 15th century, although parts of the external walls attached to the archway are thought to be 12th century, probably indicating that there was an earlier structure on this site. The lodge attached to the gatehouse would have been used as accommodation for important guests.

Above. Looking onto Marygate.