Tuesday, November 07, 2017

London Wall, London

London Wall

The Roman walls of London formed a defensive circuit around the city from as early as 200AD. The circuit stretched for around two miles, and was built after the city's fort was constructed in 120AD. In places, the fort walls were doubled in thickness and increased in height, forming an inpenetrable barrier around the Roman fort and city. The fort and its walls were developed for a further 250 years or so, until around 410, when the Romans finally left Britain. There were a number of gates in the wall, five in total, each aligning with Roman built roads leading to other areas of Britain. The gates were Ludgate, Newgate, Cripplegate, Bishopgate, Aldgate, and most were incorporated into Medieval London's later defences.

The construction of London Wall was a high profile project for the Romans, along with Hadrian's wall to the North. It meant that the economic capital of the Western reaches of the Roman empire were defended and secured against any uprising both by British patriots, and Roman rebels. 

The walls and gates were constructed of Kentish ragstone, brought from Maidstone in Kent. The walls in the most part, stood to around six metres tall and two and a half metres thick, with ditches in front of the walls for added protection. This ditch was around two metres deep and some five metres wide adding a formidable obstacle. There were around twenty towers spread all around the wall, spaced some sixty five meters apart on the Eastern portion of the wall's circuit. With continued raids by Saxon raiders during the late third century, an additional wall was added on the riverside around 280AD. 

Above. Tower Hill postern gate.

Situated just outside Tower Hill tube station, and built into the side of the moat of the Tower of London, this is in fact a medieval structure, widely believed to be built on the site of a Roman gate. The medieval gatehouse collapsed in 1440 due to substandard materials and a lack of decent foundations, and was hence hidden from view until its excavation in 1979. The rest of the photos (below) are of the remains found in and around Tower Hill.

The remains at Tower Hill are some of the highest surviving fragments of the Roman defences.  However, what can be seen here is not all Roman, but a combination of Roman and medieval stonework. Some four metres from the floor up (and buried to some considerable depth) is Roman, whilst the remaining height (up to ten metres) is medieval. Such was the strategic importance of the Roman fort, and the sturdiness of the Roman foundations, that the medieval builders saw fit to incorporate surviving Roman masonry into the walls of London in later years. 

The original Roman wall would have stood to around six metres high. As mentioned above, the wall was also strengthened by the addition of the deep ditch and large number of towers. 

We're quite lucky to have even these sections of Roman wall to marvel at today. Photos of old London show buildings utilising the Roman walls, with the ancient masonry forming parts of houses and wharehouses. After the 'modern' buildings were demolished, the Roman masonry remains were consolidated and preserved. There are some great photos of the Roman walls here A London Inheritance.

Above. Reproduction of Roman inscriptions found near the site at Tower Hill. 

To be honest, finding the remaining portions of Roman wall was more satisfying that visiting the well trodden tourist attraction of the Tower of London. It's amazing to think that these relics were here during the earliest and violent days of Roman Britain, and have survived being battered and dug up, incorporated into houses and other buildings, have witnessed their neighbours being demolished, and have withstood the constant development and change that has swamped London for the past thousand years. My next visit to London will undoubtedly incorporate a further walk around the other areas of the Roman wall.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Borgue Motte, Boreland of Borgue, Nr Kirkcudbright

Borgue Motte
Nr Kirkcudbright

A trip out to Kirroughtree Forest this week took me past Borgue motte again....a dramatic motte and bailey castle dating from sometime before 1160.

Both photos were taken from the B727 to the East of the motte.

Palace Isle and Stable Isle, Loch Fergus, Kirkcudbright

Palace Isle and Stable Isle
Loch Fergus
Nr Kirkcudbright
Dumfries and Galloway

Five years since my first visit to this enigmatic complex of earthworks remains, and I've finally managed to bag myself some decent photos....and here they are!

Above. View of Palace Isle from the North. 

Above. View of Palace Isle from the North. 

Above. View of Palace Isle from the West, showing the Southern extension of the motte. 

Above. View of Palace Isle from the North. 

Above. Stable Isle from the West.

Above. Close up of Stable Island from the West.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Kendal, The Dun Horse\The Gate of Kendal

The Dun Horse\The Gate of Kendal

Another of Kendal's old inns has been redeveloped, and comparing today's photo with one taken in 2006 (below) it's more than just a cosmetic face lift!! John Speed's map of 1611, shows the site of the Dun Horse with a building there already, but unfortunately for us, he doesn't indicate if the building was being used as an inn or not. 

176 years later, in 1787, John Todd took it upon himself to map the town....his map shows a building the same shape as the present day inn, but once again, it's not named and there's no indication that this is an inn or not.

Above. The newly rejuvenated The Gate of Kendal.

Finally, in 1833, John Wood named the building on this site as the Dun Horse Inn....so we know that the Dun Horse has been here from at least 1833....possibly earlier though, as Parson and White's Directory of 1829, names George Clark as the inn keeper at the Dun Horse. His wife Jane joined him as landlady in 1830. They stayed on at the inn until 1834.

Above. The Dun Horse as it was in 2006. 

We know of several other landlords and landladies that called time at the Dun Horse. In 1849, Thomas Bradley was named as the landlord. In 1866, his wife, un-named, succeeded him. In 1869, John Ward was named as the landlord, staying at the Dun Horse for 23 years.

 Above. The Dun Horse's sign in 2006.

The Kendal Borough Police returns report, dated 1892, lists Scott and Son, a brewing company from Skipton in North Yorkshire, as the owners, employing Septimus Longmire as the inn keeper. The Dun Horse provided its customers with a choice of three drinking rooms, five bedrooms, a large dining room with seating for 67 diners, and stabling that would easily provide accommodation for 14 horses.

In 1904, Whitwell and Mark, a brewing house based in Kendal, took over the Dun Horse, remaining owners well into the 1940s. They applied for planning permission to change the use of the stabling to that of 'tea room and service area' in 1935, possibly incorporating the building now occupied by the Joshua Tree bistro just down the alley to the side of the the Bellingham's town house that used to house Henry Robert's book shop.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kendal, Coney Beds\High Graves

Coney Beds\High Graves
Nr Kendal

W.G.Collingwood mentions Coney Beds in his 1907 article "Three more ancient castles of Kendal". His comments "Another site, Coney Beds on Hayfell, was not visited on this occasion, but should be added to the list of Kendal castles" obviously point to the importance of this now vanished earthwork, a site that has long since mysteriously been erased from the historical landscape of the surrounding fells of Kendal. Unfortunately, all we have to illustrate this site now, are some maps and a single diagram of some of the features that were once visible within the confines of the earth ramparts that surrounded it.

Above. Aerial photo of Kendal and fells, showing location of Coney Beds.

Travelling West out of Kendal on the B6254, and then turning onto Hayclose Lane at the Station Inn, and heading North, will take you onto Hayfellside, East facing fells, overlooking Kendal out towards Scout Scar and eventually Morecambe Bay. About half a mile along Hayclose Lane, on the West side (left) of the road, the open fields between Hayfellside Barn and a house hidden by a screen of trees the site of Coney Beds can be found. These days the fields are criss-crossed with boundary walls and are grazed by sheep and cows. There's no indication of the earthwork that once stood here. 

Maps, over the years, appear to show the earthworks as fairly substantial, until 1971's map shows an empty field with no earthworks, only the name Coney Beds. It is thought that the earthworks at Coney Beds were destroyed when the common land above Kendal was Enclosed during an 'inclosure of 1815' whereby common land and open fields were walled and removed from public ownership. A trench was dug in the area soon after the destruction, but nothing was reported from these archaeological explorations.

Above. Map of 1868.

Above. Map of 1898.

Above. Map of 1914.

Above. Map of 1971.

By 1971, the earthworks appear to have gone, and only a 'place name' indicates the location. Coney Beds has alternatively been known in the past as Coney Heads and High Graves. My best guess is that there may once have been some rabbit warrens here, as at Mallerstang near Lammerside Tower. As these warrens are often referred to as the Giant's Graves, it's not a huge stretch of the imagination to suggest that in the past, the warrens here may have been thought to have been giant's graves. 

Above. Aerial view of the Giant's Graves at Mallerstang.

The word 'Coney' is an alternative name for an adult rabbit.....Coney Beds could well have been a collection of rabbit warrens, perhaps not a fortified site after all. This suggestion is provided with a little weight when a sketch of some features once found inside the enclosure is seen.

Above. Sketch of features found inside Coney Beds earthwork, taken from the Annals of Kendal by Cornelius Nicholson.

The oblong features look to me just like the rabbit warrens found at Lammerside....long lozenge shaped earthworks, used to farm rabbits for fur and meat. These warrens would have been protected with earthwork ramparts and fences, and would normally have been associated with high status houses....a licence was normally required to build and maintain warrens. It is interesting to note that the maps shown above, dating from 1914 and 1971, show the area to the North and West of the earthworks as "Deer Park", and the area generally to the West as "The Park". If this label denotes a deer park as would have been found in the Middle Ages, an assumption can be made in that the rabbit warrens were part and parcel of this emparked landscape. Another bold assumption could be made, that the land was emparked for the then owners of Benson Hall, only a two and a half mile drive North along Paddy Lane. 

There are other important hall houses in the local area, all connected with families of means and land, noted in historical records from the mid 1200s to the early 1600s, all of which may have been responsible for the emparkment of this area above Kendal. Skelsmergh parish, with its hall house and pele tower, belonged to William of Skelsmergh during the mid 13th century. Between 1230 and 1246 the land was granted to Robert de Leyburne, and his son, Nicholas de Leyburne was granted 'free warren' in 1301. Perhaps the earthworks at Coney Heads were part and parcel of Nicholas' development of his Skelsmergh estates. 

Cornelius Nicholson in his the Annals of Kendal, mentions Coney Beds at length:


Another exploratory fort, or encampment, called Coney- beds, is situated on Hay Fell, on the east side of Kendal, in the field immediately above the house called High Park, belonging to Wm. Wilson, Esq. It is nearly on the summit of the hill, and overlooks the vale of Kendal. Before the inclosure in 1814, its vallum and fosse were very perfect, inclosing a bell-shaped area, the upper end of which was 128 feet in breadth, its sides 208, and the southern end, which was semi-circular, 224 feet in diameter. 

About half way down the area, and on its eastern side, were two interior entrenchments, having a sort of bending street between them, and each of them having the southern end semi-circular. The less of the two which adjoined the east vallum was 42 feet on the north, 70 on the east and west sides, and 70 across the south. The other was 64 feet on the east and west sides, and 80 on the north, and across the south. Both of them had pits unequally dispersed (as is represented in the engraving), all of which, except the central one, which was round, were of irregular shape. The remaining part of the great area was smooth. This encampment overlooked the fort on Helm, and commanded a view of several hills in Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire ; of the estuary of the Kent ; and, in clear weather, extended even to the mountains above Beaumaris, in Wales. This station was trenched after the inclbsure, but nothing was discovered to lead to its history. From its form it must have been made in the latter period of the Roman empire ; and probably was a place of temporary- retreat for the garrison at Water Crook. 

In the time of the plague which desolated the kingdom in 1597-8, provisions were brought to this spot by the country people, and deposited for the inhabitants of Kendal, which was their only intercourse during that destructive period, when, according to the following inscription from a stone in the Church of Penrith, 2,500 of the inhabitants of Kendal were swept away."

Typically of many Victorian antiquarians, a large number of earthworks seems to have been associated with the Roman occupation of the British Isles....Cornelius Nicholson doesn't fail us in this instance, and puts Coney Beds firmly into the category of Roman. My gut instinct is that this was an area used to farm rabbits, purely and simply....both of the place names suggest this....High Graves and Coney Beds, and even the sketch provide for us in the Annals of Kendal seems to suggest earthworks similar to those found at Lammerside in Mallerstang. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Motte and bailey castles in the Northwest of England.

Motte and bailey castles of the Northwest of England

Mary Higham's short piece, "The Mottes of North Lancashire, Lonsdale and South Cumbria", from 1991, is an interesting read, and throws up a number of sites that have since been questioned.

The list of earthwork castles that Mary details (as shown in the map below) is as follows:

Bothelford (Bodelforde)
Old Tebay
Kirkby Lonsdale
Burton in Lonsdale

Above. Mary Higham's map of the North West showing mottes and castles.


Above. The church of Holy Trinity at Millom.

Both the church of Holy Trinity and the medieval castle at Millom are thought to sit on top of an original motte, thought to occupy the site before either church or castle were ever built. Whilst the view shown above clearly shows both church and castle within the confines of a shallow raised platform, it's not clear if there was a motte here before the building of either structures. Indeed many castles in the area are reputed to have started off as motte and bailey castles....claims that in many cases are simply not substantiated with any historical evidence. In this instance, Mike Salter in his "The castles and tower houses of Cumbria" states that "the motte with a ditch to the East and South on which the castle stands, may go back to when Godard de Boyville was granted the manor in 1134".


Castle Hill at Pennington was probably never actually a motte and bailey style castle, but rather a ring work, some would say a more primitive medieval fortification utilising banks and ditches as opposed to a motte and banks and ditches. The fortified enclosure is ideally situated for defence, making good use of the lie of the land here. To the West and the South, the site sits high above the surrounding countryside, with Pennington Beck providing another obstacle for any would be interlopers.

 Above. A view of the interior of Pennington Castle

Above. Sketch plan of Pennington Castle.

Traditionally held by the Penningtons up until around 1318, the family may have already moved to nearby Muncaster by 1242, later establishing a fortified site that later developed into the sprawling castle we see today.  


Above. Aldingham castle from a distance. 

Above. Sketch plan of Aldingham castle.

Kendal Castle Howe:

Above. Kendal Castle Howe from Bowling Green Fell

Bothelford (Bodelforde):

Above. Bothelford motte, also known as Hawesbridge motte. 

Above. The alleged site of Bothelford DMV

Old Tebay:

Above. Panoramic view of Castle Howe at Tebay

Above. Sketch plan of Castle Howe at Tebay




Above. View of the motte at Sedbergh

Above. Sketch plan of Castlehaugh at Sedbergh

Kirkby Lonsdale:

Above. View of the damaged motte at Kirkby Lonsdale

Above. Kirkby Lonsdale motte, also known as the Cockpit

Above. Map of Kirkby Lonsdale


Above. The indistinct motte at Whittington


Above. Classic motte and bailey at Arkholme

Above. Sketch plan of Castle Hill at Arkholme


Above. The beautiful motte at Melling

Above. Sketch plan of Melling Motte

Burton in Lonsdale:

Above. View of the motte from Bentham Moor Road to the South

Above. View of the motte and the second bailey at Burton in Lonsdale
Above. Sketch plan of the motte with its two bailey areas


Above. The spectacular motte at Hornby

Above. Sketch plan of one of the most perfect mottes in the North West


Above. The motte at Halton
Above. Sketch plan of the motte at Halton



Above. Gisburn castle from the South
Above. Sketch plan of the castle on the banks of the River Ribble