Belsay Hall & Castle~Oct 2020~ part 1

As well as doing the 365 project last year, I did manage to get out and about with Sophie, and as I’ve posted over at Fragglefilm a few from our re-visit of Belsay Hall & Castle, I thought I’d do a post with the Fuji photo’s I took the same day. We last visited in February 2019 but haven’t been in Autumn so wanted to rectify that. I’m repeating the history bit for new followers, and forgetful old followers 🤣

The History Bit

Back in days of yore, the first fortification at Belsay was an Iron Age hillfort, set on a hilly spur known as Bantam Hill.  Not a lot of info on that as no records exist of how big it was, or how long it was occupied, but in 1270 Richard de Middleton, Lord Chancellor to King Henry III had a Manor built there. The Manor stayed in the Middleton family until 1317 when Gilbert de Middleton owned it. At this point in history, Robert The Bruce was on the rampage, and having won a great victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 was raiding into England with impunity. Gilbert raised himself a private army to counter the threat of The Bruce, but stupid Gilbert went a bit OTT and ended up raiding  Yorkshire and extorting money from the Bishop of Durham.  It didn’t take long until he was captured, hung, drawn and quartered, and his Manor confiscated. The Belsay estate was passed around a few people but ended up back in the Middleton clan in 1390, when John Middleton extended the manor and built the castle which is still there today. In 1614 the castle was modified by Thomas Middleton who added a Jacobean range on the west side, probably replacing the old manor. A further wing was added round about 1711, and a walled garden in front of the castle. In 1795 the castle passed into the hands of 6th Baronet Sir Charles Miles Lambert Monck who actually had the surname of Middleton but changed his name to that of his maternal grandfather Laurence Monck of Caenby Hall, Lincolnshire who died in 1798, in order to inherit his estate. Because you can never have enough halls and castles. Charlie had traveled to Greece for his honeymoon and became much enamored of Hellenic architecture, so with the help of John Dobson, the North’s most famous architect, he built a  new manor in the grounds of the castle in the Greek Revival style. He and his family moved into the new building in 1817 and just abandoned the castle. Of course, that fell into disrepair and by 1843 parts of the structure were ruinous.

Luckily Sir Arthur Middleton took it on in 1872 and the 1711 wing was demolished and the manorial house was partially rebuilt so it could be used as a dower house ~ a house intended as the residence of a widow, typically one near the main house on her late husband’s estate~whilst the tower itself was restored in 1897. During the 2nd World War, the military used the castle which led to further deterioration, and by 1945 when the Middleton family got it back, they lacked the funds to sort it out. By 1986 Sir Stephen Middleton owned the estate, but moved into a smaller house nearby, leaving the two properties empty. Both of these were transferred into State ownership in 1980 and the site is now in the care of English Heritage.

Although the castle and the manor are great to photograph, our favourite bit is the walk through the quarry that connects the two buildings. We went looking for Autumn colours and were not disappointed, and the weather was kind to us, always welcome!

Firstly though let’s have a look at the manor.

the manor
the Pillar Hall
wallpaper in the 1800s
fireplace tiles
the library
marble fireplace in library room.

It’s a fair walk from the Manor to the Castle, through the lovely landscape and a quarry walk, so next time we’ll start out and see what there is to see.

Stay tooned dear reader!

Easby Abbey

Following on from our trip to Richmond Castle, Sophie and I went a mile and a half down the road to the ruins of Easby Abbey, and as you know, before we get to the pictures, we must first do

The History Bit 🍪 ☕️

Nobby

Easby Abbey, or The Abbey of St.Agatha is one of the best preserved monsteries of the Premonstratensian order. Premonstratensian is a bit of a mouthful, and I’d never heard of it so in case I’m not the only one here’s a quick run down of what it was/is. It’s full title is The Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré, also known as the Norbertines (sounds like a grunge pop group) and in Britain and Ireland the White Canons, on account of the canons wearing white habits.

Founded in 1120 by Norbert of Xanten (which is in Germany). Norbert has nothing to do with Easby Abbey per se, but he’s an interesting chap so lets dig a bit deeper into his history. Nobby’s Dad, Heribert, Count of Gennep, was a member of the high nobility of the Holy Roman Empire and related to the imperial house and also to the House of Lorraine. Because of the family connections, he was ordained as clergy to the church of St. Victor at Xanten, wherein his only job was to chant the Divine Office. Nobby wasn’t up for that so much and paid someone else a small fee to do it for him while he went off to become a councillor to the emperor Henry V in Cologne. The salaries he got from the Xanten church and the royal treasury allowed him to live in the style of the nobility of the times.

He quite liked living high on the hog for not so much work, and managed to avoid ordination as a priest and also turned down the chance to become a Bishop of Cambrai in 1113. But two years later, Nobby had a near death experience whilst riding his horse to Verdun. A thunderbolt from a storm struck near his horses feet, naturally the horse threw him and he lay unconscious for nearly an hour. Nobby saw this as a wake up call, gave up his posh life at court and returned to his church in Xanten to live a life of penance placing himself under the direction of Cono, Abbot of St Sigeberg. In gratitude to Cono Nobby founded the Abbey of Fürstenberg in 1115, endowed it with some of his property and gave it over to Cono and his Benedictine successors, which was jolly nice of him I think.

Nobby was 35 years old at this point and soon accepted ordination as a priest and became a great devotee of the Eucharist and Our Lady. He adopted a lifestyle of ascetism, (adopting a frugal lifestyle, characterised by the renunciation of material possessions and physical pleasures, and also spending time fasting while concentrating on the practice of religion or reflection upon spiritual matters.) Unfortunately his ascetism was so fierce it killed his first three disciples. 🙄 He tried to reform the canons of Xanten, but in light of not wanting to starve to death, they declined and denounced him to some council or other, whereupon Nobby resigned his positions, and sold up his properties to give to the poor. Off he went to visit Pope Gelasius II who gave Nobby permission to wander as an itinerate preacher so he trundled around Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France, where he did some unspecified miracles. Along the way, in many settlements he visited he found a demoralised clergy, often lonely chaps, feeling abandoned by the official church, and practicing what’s known as concubinage, which means they were indulging in matters of bodily naughtiness with ladies they could not marry.

He also became acquainted with the Cistercian administrative system that created an international federation of monasteries with a fair amount of centralized power, though local houses had a certain amount of independence. These reforms, written up in their “Charter of Charity” would affect him significantly in his own future work. Nobby gained a lot of acolytes and founded houses of his order all over the shop, firstly in Premontre, as well as becoming the Apostle of Antwerp after combatting a heretical preacher called Tanchelm. He became the Archbishop of Magdeburg where he survived a few assassination attempts whilst reforming the lax discipline of his see. In 1126 and in his last years, he was chancellor and adviser to Lothair II, the Holy Roman Emperor, persuading him to lead an army in 1133 to Rome to restore Innocent to the papacy.

Nobby died in 1134, and initially buried in Magdeburg. The abbot of Strahov in Prague was able to claim the body after a few problems such as Magdeburg turning protestant and military fisticuffs and such like. He is now buried there in a glass fronted tomb and was canonised by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, so is now Saint Nobby.

So back to Easby and it is listed in the Domesday survey of 1086 as ‘Asebi’, which was held by Enisan Murdac, an important local landowner who was a vassal of Alan le Roux or ‘the Red’, Earl of Richmond (c 1040–1093) whomst you may remember from the History Bit re: Richmond Castle.

The abbey of St Agatha at Easby was founded in about 1152 by Roald, constable or principal officer of Richmond. It’s thought he was the son of Hasculfus Musard, lord of Tansor in Northamptonshire and of estates in Oxfordshire. He established Easby as a Premonstratensian monastery, only the third such house to be founded in England. In the process, the existing minster community was probably absorbed into the new abbey.

Roald endowed a modest bit of land to Easby which rose slowly, over the centuries and there are over 100 charters documenting it’s rise. Sheep farming seems to have been their main income. Not much is known about the early buildings of the monstery, but there is a re-used 12th century doorway in the west range of the cloister, and surviving fragments of the abbey church probably dating from 1170 or 80. In the 12th and 13th centuries the monastery prospered, with the increase of more Canons and the replacing of the original buildings on a grand scale. In 1198 Egglestone Abbey in nearby Teesdale was founded as Easby’s only daughter house.

During this time Roald’s descendents kept hold of the constableship of Richmond going all lah-de-dah and styling themselves De Burton or De Richmond, but then in the late 13th and 14th centuries they started to sell off their estates for unknown reasons.

In come the Scropes of Bolton, a family from Wensleydale, and landowners of knightly rank. They made the abbey their buriel place and it’s most likely they paid for an extension to the chancel in the 14th century. In 1392 Sir Richard Scrope the 1st Baron of Bolton granted land to the Abbey and it was substantially enlarged. Sir Richard served King Richard II and also fought in the Battle of Crécy under the Black Prince, (Richard II’s Daddy). He had been made Lord Chancellor in 1378, trying to stop Richard II spending all the treasury dosh on wars against the Pesky French, but resigned in 1380 when the government collapsed after all the military failures in France. He regained the position after the Peasants Revolt that had started then, but was sacked by King Richard for non-cooperation in 1382, so went off back to Bolton and rebuilt his castle there. He had a 4 year long dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor over his armorial bearings for the right for his shield to be emblazoned “Azure, a bend Or.” A court of chivalry decided in his favour, with Geoffrey Chaucer gave evidence in his favour. Although his son William had been executed by King Henry IV for supporting the deposed King Richard, Henry held Sir Richard in high regard and allowed him to keep his lands and titles. He died in 1403 and was buried at Easby Abbey.

A good deal is known about the abbey between 1478 and 1500 when the abbey was subject to inspections on the state of it’s community. Richard Redman the Abbot of Shap and later the Bishop of Ely was the principal of the Premonstratensians in England and he recorded any goings on. In 1482 he discovered a canon called John Nym had run away after being accused of improper bodily naughtiness with a widow, Elizabeth Swales. Redman wanted him found and to face a tribunal, which he was and he did, where he was exonerated. By 1494 he was the Abbot in charge. Redman also observed that although the Abbey was in debt, the buildings were well maintained and food was provided.

In the 16th century little is known about the abbey, but in 1535 the then Abbot, Robert Bampton, drew up a document restating the rights of the Scropes as patrons. Round about this time there were rumours that Englands monasteries would be suppressed and it’s thought he issued this document to obtain the Scropes support for keeping the monastery intact.

That was a vain hope in the end, as the year after Easby Abbey was closed. Their were only 11 canons left by then, so the abbey and it’s lands were let to Lord Scrope of Bolton for £300. Also by this time Richmond was taking a major part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, whereby the north rose up in support of the monasteries. That went tit’s up and by Springtime 1537 the leaders of the uprising had missed the opportunity to defeat the Crown’s forces. It was, of course, Henry VIII in charge at this time, and he was well miffed about the uprising. His pal the Duke of Norfolk was tasked with crushing the rebels, and Henry wrote to him saying “at your repair to … St Agatha and such other places as have made resistance … you shall without pity or circumstance … cause the monks to be tied up [hanged] without further delay. Vengeance was a thing with Henry.

The Abbey was returned to the Scropes but by 1538 most of the buildings had been demolished and the lead roofing stripped. The Scropes gave up the lease in 1550 and the abbey and estates went through several pairs of hands before another Lord Scrope, Henry, bought it back in 1579. There’s no evidence of any repairs being done to the Abbey between the 16th and 18th centuries and an engraving of it in 1721 sees it not much different from it’s present state.

The Scropes passed it on through the family until the death of Lord Emmanuel Scrope in 1630. His daughter Annabel married John Grubham Howe and so the estate passed into the Howe family. In 1700 Sir Scrope Howe (way to go combining the names!) sold it to Bartholomew Burton and then it passed through several different hands until 1816 when Robert Jaques bought it.

Late 18th century and 19th the abbey became known for being a romantic ruin and was painted by several artists including JMW Turner between 1816-18. Then in the 19th century it became the plaything of antiquarians, and Sir William St John Hope partially excavated it in 1885-6. It was still owned by the Jaques family up until 1930 when it was taken over by the Ministry of Works.

And some pictures I took of it to finish up with.

The graveyard

refs:-

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/easby-abbey/history/

https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/yorkshire/abbeys/easby.htm

St. Wilfred’s Church & Kirkharle ~ Dec 2019 ~Part 2

Part 1 HERE is where you’ll find the history of the church and Kirkharle.

The church itself is quite small but has some interesting features.

Stones with mason’s marks

mason’s marks

Windows with reticulated tracery (the stonework fills the head of the arch with repeated forms creating the appearance of a net-like pattern- wiki) which you can see at in this shot of the interior taken from the entrance.

The font of course, which we originally came looking for, originally from All Saints church in Newcastle, it dates from late 15th or early 16th century, and was installed at St.Wilfreds by George Anderson in 1884 after the church’s restoration. It is eight sided and decorated with the shields of arms of old Newcastle families, including the Andersons.

There are several monuments/gravestones for the Lorain family, I liked this one but it came out a bit blurry sorry.

“Here lies the body of Richard Loraine esq. who was a proper handsome man, of good sense and behaviour; he dy’d a Batchelor of an Appoplexy walking in a green field, near London, October 26th 1738 in the 38th year of his age.”

There is a triple sedilia (seats, usually made of stone, found on the liturgical south side of an altar, often in the chancel, for use during Mass for the officiating priest and his assistants, the deacon and sub-deacon. The seat is often set back into the main wall of the church itself – wiki).

Always good to find medieval grave slabs in good condition

and some pretty non-reticulated windows, thanks Clare 😘

all pictures embiggenable with a click,

full album of photographs HERE

That was our last outing in 2019, but we still did a few more before the Corona virus hit, so stay tooned for our next adventure!

Crook House & Gardens~Nov 2019~part 2

Part 1 HERE

In spite of the weather being meh, we had a wander around the gardens. Not many flowers at that time of year, but nice to see some garden features,foliage & berries.

Ivy Urn
red berries
Not sure about him!
Showing off lady
Pampas grass
Baby ENT
Weepy Elephant
Needs a good rub down
An Imp
Up to his neck in it!
In the meadow
Not in the chip shop any more.

So, a nice day out, the pictures as always are embiggenable with a click, and there are more photo’s of Crook House HERE

Stay home, stay well, stay frosty and stay tooned for our next adventure!

Crook House & Gardens~ November 2019

On a rather miserable showery day, Sophie and I went off to Framwellgate in County Durham, to visit Crook Hall. As always, I will edumacate you firstly with….

The History Bit ☕️ 🍪

Crook Hall was built around 1217 and is one of the oldest inhabited houses in Durham City. The oldest part is an open hall, built in sandstone and with a Welsh slate roof. In the 17th Century the hall was extended forming a Jacobean manor house, and in the 18th Century a large brick Georgian house was appended to the Jacobean part. A fair hotchpotch that.

Originally known as the Manor of Sydgate it was initially granted to the Archdeacon of Durham’s son Aimery, who, in 1286 passed it on to Peter del Croke, hence it’s new name, Crook Hall. (Not much difference between Croke and Crook I suppose). Peter died in 1320 when the hall passed to his son, also called Peter who died in 1343 and passed it to his son Richard. Here we are going to do a little shimmy and a side step because during Richard’s tenure, a chap called John de Coupland stayed at the hall, where he met and fell in love with Richard’s daughter Joan, whomst he later married.

John was a squire from Northumberland, and on his way to fight in the Battle of Neville’s Cross. Now, the Battle of Neville’s Cross was part of the 2nd Scottish Wars of Independence, (they still have not given up on that!) and on 17th October 1346, the Scottish King, David II brought his army of 12,000 pesky Scots half a mile to the west of Durham where they got absolutely mullered by 6-7,000 English chaps led by Lord Neville, Ralph to his pals. The Scots made their stand on a hill where stood an Anglo-Saxon stone cross, and after the battle Ralph paid to have a new one erected.

King David was badly wounded, having had two arrows to the face, and hid under a bridge over the River Browney, but his reflection in the water was noticed by a detachment of English soldiers, lead by our John, who promptly took the king prisoner. Mind you, the king knocked John’s teeth out in the process, he probably felt better for that. Edward III who was the English King at that time, ordered John to hand over King David, which he did, and was rewarded with a Knighthood and a yearly sum of £500 for life! £470,000 per year in 2020 terms, I’d give up a few teeth for that!

John continued in King Edwards service and became Constable of Roxburgh Castle and Sherriff of Roxburgshire, his other posts were Custodian of Berwick-on-Tweed from 1357-1362 with an interruption in 1362, then Escheater (someone who collects the assets of dead people who don’t have relatives) for the county of Northumberland 1354 & 1356, Sherriff of Northumberland in 1350, 1351, 1353, 1354, 1356 and had custody of David, who was imprisoned in England for 11 years, in 1351, 1352, 1353 and 1356 and Deputy Warden of East March-1359. There were gaps in his service, for unknown transgressions, but he was never publicly disgraced. After the war he had married Joan and lived at Crook House until about 1360. John was ruthless and ambitious in his aquisition of land, revenues and power in the North and made many enemies through being so inclined. In 1362 he was ambushed and killed while crossing Boldon Moor by nine lance holding chaps and eleven archers, and whilst the King had his murder investigated and found out who the perpetrators were, by then they’d scarpered over the border to Scotland and couldn’t be arrested.

So on to 1372. The Hall at this time had been owned by John de Coxhoe, the nephew of Joan De Coupland, having been given it by his dad William. A family called Billingham, descended from a man called John De Cowhird, lived at Billingham and had taken their surname from the place.  De Coxhoe granted them posession of the hall, and in they moved. Alan and Agnes were the first of a family that lived there for nearly 300 years, and passed through many generations. In 1426 Thomas Billingham was the first man to give Durham Market Place a water supply from a well on the Hall’s ground.

Then came Cuthbert Billingham who was a highly strung chap with a bad temper, often quarelling with his Mum and his sister, and he decided to cut off the water supply that Thomas had sorted, and redirected it to supply his own mill. Needless to say the fine citizens of Durham were in uproar, had him arrested and put in prison until he promised to put it back to rights! Apparently there is a ghost at the Hall, The White Lady, a neice of Cuthberts who, it is rumoured, he killed in a temper tantrum, but who knows? 🙂

The next family to take posession was the Mickletons. Christopher Mickleton (1612-1669), was attorney at law, of Mickleton, Yorkshire and had a flourishing practice in Durham. He moved into the hall in 1657 and was undersheriff and clerk of the peace. He was briefly deprived of his posts but was reinstated and became prothonotary of the Durham court of common pleas and deputy registrar of the Durham chancery court. After moving in he suffered again under the parliamentarian regime, becoming only deputy to his old post of prothonotary at the Restoration, and even that post he soon lost. However, his posts had given him access to many legal records and he began the family tradition of manuscript collecting. These manuscripts are from the later 13th century to 18th century, mostly later 17th century. Original manuscripts and transcripts relating particularly to the history of North-East England, with much of national interest, from the Middle Ages to the early 18th century. The collection includes substantial 17th century correspondence, and much material on the administration of the palatinate of Durham and the working of the palatinate courts. There are 103 volumes & 3 rolls in Latin and English, with occasional French and Greek held at Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections. Christopher passed the hall on to his son James as a wedding gift to him and his wife Francis, and it is they who built the Jacobean part in 1671. By 1720 it was in the hands of John Mickleton who had to sell the place to pay for his debts.

The Hopper family of Shincliffe took over the building in 1736, and added the Georgian west wing. Between 1834 and 1858 they leased the property to Canon James Raine, an antiquary and topographer. He married Margaret, the daughter of Reverend Thomas Peacock, in 1828 and they had three daughters and one son; a Reverend of the same name. James Raine the son was most famous for his controversial account of the excavations of 1827 of St. Cuthbert’s Shrine in Durham Cathedral (J. Raine, St. Cuthbert: with an account of the state in which his remains were found upon the opening of his tomb in Durham Cathedral, in the year 1827  (Durham, 1828)). He was frequently visited by the romantic poet Wordsworth and his wife, and also by John Ruskin,  a leading art critic, patron, draughtsman, watercolourist and philanthropist. James Raine died at Crook Hall in 1858.

In 1859 the Hall was lived in by James Fowler, his wife Mary and their children Hannah, Anne, Elizabeth, James, John and Matthew. He originally worked for his brother James as a sales representative, but after Mary died in 1862 John began his own business as an ale and porter merchant. As well as his flourishing beer bottling service he also had an additional venture selling animal feed in the Market. He did his beer bottling in the medieval hall, after knocking a hole in the north wall so the carts could deliver beer straight to the room. He died in 1888 and the house then went to Matthew as all the other kids had left home by then.

Matthew. 🙄 Sigh. Like any typical 28 year old unmarried male with a substantial inheritance, he partied and drank himself daft, and though he did take over Dad’s business, he lost more money than he made. Took him 2 years to drink himself to death. Matthew’s older brother James returned to Crook Hall with his family, and gave up Dad’s (ruined) business and instead dealt in milk and farming with his other brother, John. James lived there until 1922, when at the age of 68, he died, and his family couldn’t maintain the business, so The Fowlers left Crook Hall.

The Hall changed hands a good few times after the Fowlers left, there were The Pereiras in 1926 who levelled part of the garden to make it a tennis court, then the Hollidays in 1930 who sold it to John Cassells and his wife who developed a lot of the gardens. Then in 1976 Colin and Suzanne Redpath came along and modernised the Georgian wing.

In 1979 major restorations were carried out when  John and Mary Hawgood bought Crook Hall, and it was brought back to it’s former glory. Ian Curry, the Consultant Architect for Durham Cathedral, along with his associate Christopher Downs, directed the restoration of the medieval and Jacobean parts of the house with the work being carried out by Brian Nelson. The main work was to the medieval hall, and windows were restored and the north wall was rebuilt. The Jacobean part was returned to it’s original arrangement, and a new staircase was built in keeping with its medieval and Jacobean surroundings, whilst a turret was constructed to allow the old wooden stairs to be exhibited as a feature. The old Coach House was also restored and converted into a self-catering holiday flat in 1985.  English Heritage donated towards the costs of the restorations.

In 1995 Keith and Maggie Bell bought the Hall and still live there today. A year later they renovated the coach house, to use as their office, and also in 2018 the Coach House Appartment to rent out as a self catering holiday let. They bought the meadow next to it in 1996 and created a maze as a central feature of the gardens, and opened it up to the public. It’s been a great success and in 2015 added a new entrance and a cafe.

You reached the end of the history lesson, well done!! You really are my favourite visitor! 😘

Now on with the pictures!

First, the Hall

Entrance to the hall

We went in the medieval part first, it was cold in there!

From the hall you can see into the Jacobean part across a corridor

It was warmer and very cosy, the original staircase is on the right.

there was real fire on the go, it smelled lovely!

there are little details everywhere,

and a view of Durham Cathedral.

one of the Georgian Dining rooms next

We went upstairs to the Attic room

it had a great view of the Cathedral and overlooked the front garden.

Also upstairs is the Minstrels Gallery which overlooks the medieval hall

On the table we found one of Mrs.Bells scrapbook diaries, lovely to see and read.

So that’s all I got in the hall, next time we’ll have a look around the gardens, so stay tooned!

refs:-

http://crookhallgardens.co.uk/history/

Blood, Sweat and Scones: Two Decades at Crook Hallhttps://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QlY1DwAAQBAJ&pg=PA187&lpg=PA187&dq=Alan+and+AGnes+Billingham&source=bl&ots=n86XXnehzt&sig=ACfU3U2fTA5pOB6sWZxfd8C_RcjxkdlnaA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi2ovWeyuXoAhWhQhUIHf1gD2AQ6AEwAXoECAoQKQ#v=onepage&q=Alan%20and%20AGnes%20Billingham&f=false

Durham University Library Special Collections Catalogue

http://reed.dur.ac.uk/xtf/view?docId=ark/32150_s1w37636792.xml#node.1.4.3.1

https://web.archive.org/web/20121009000019/http://www.crookhallgardens.co.uk/pages/history.htm

 

Tynemouth Castle & Priory ~ November 2019

A cold but sunny day had Sophie and I opt for a short outing nearby to Tynemouth Priory.

Get your cuppa ready, here comes

The History Bit. *Long post alert* skimmers and those of you with short attention spans should move right along to the pictures 🙂

Firstly, as fabulous as I am, condensing 2000 years of convoluted Northumbrian history in one blog post is not an easy task, so bear with me and a potted version will have to suffice.

The Priory stands on a headland known by ancient Britains as Pen Bal Crag, the literal translation of that is, unsurprisingly ‘The head of the rampart on the rock’. It overlooks the North Sea and the River Tyne, and combined with Tynemouth Castle was once one of the largest fortified areas in England. The moated castle towers, gatehouse and keep are incorporated into the ruins of a Benedictine priory, where the early Kings of Northumbria were buried. Note for my Colonial brethren, before we were a United Kingdom, we were a few small kingdoms, a bit like Game of Thrones. Without the Dragons, although maybe…. but that’s a story for another day! Onwards McDuff….

Not much is known about it’s early origins, although some Roman stones were found at the site, there’s no other evidence to say they were in occupation there. So we have to start in the 7th century when Edwin of Northumbria possibly founded the priory.

Britain peoples circa 600

Edwin, (586 – 12 October 632/633) was King of Deira and Bernicia which you can see on the map there. They later became Northumbria, which still exists though the borders are different now, and the Priory is now in Tyne & Wear. He was King from 616 until he was killed by Penda, King of Mercia, and Cadwallon ap Cadfan, the pesky Welsh King of Gwynedd, in the Battle of Hatfield Chase, after which Edwin was venerated as a saint. He had converted to Christianity and was baptised in 627. He’s an interesting chap, but it’s only possible he founded the priory, so we’ll leave him there.

In 634 Oswald, son of the Bernician and later Deiran King Æthelfrith, came to the throne, and united the two into Northumbria after defeating Cadwallon in battle at Heavenfield near Hexam. He was also a Christian convert, and was according to Bede a good and saintly King. Unfortunatley his downfall came about at the hands of the pagan King of Mercia, Penda, who, in 642 defeated and killed Oswald at the Battle of Maserfield in Oswestry, where his body was dismembered and his head and limbs were placed on stakes. He’s a saint too now.

Oswine was next up, his Dad Osric was a cousin of Edwin and a King of Diera, and Oswine’s succession in 644 split Northumbria and they became Diera and Bernicia yet again, with Oswiu, son of Æthelfrith, becoming King in Bernicia. There were 7 years of peace between them, then Oswiu declared war on Oswine. Oswine didn’t want a fight so he scarpered off to his pal Earl Humwald who lived in North Yorkshire, but Humwald betrayed him and gave him over to Oswiu’s soldiers, who promptly killed him. Oswine was buried at Tynemouth, with his relics later being transferred to the Priory. And guess what, he’s another Saint! (In 1103 the Bishop of Durham, Ralph Flambard took the remains from the Priory chapel, which was in disrepair, and interred them in St.Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire. A long way from home).

Onwards to 789-790 when Osred II was King in Northumbria but for a very short time. He was deposed in favour of Æthelred and exiled to the Isle of Man. For some reason he returned in 792 when the Anglo Saxon Chronicle reports that he was “apprehended and slain on the eighteenth day before the calends ( 1st day of every month) of October. His body was deposited at Tynemouth Priory.

Cracking on to 800 and the pesky Danes plundered the Priory, after which the monks there fortified the place enough to deter the Danes next visit in 832. But 3 years later, back they came and massacred the Nuns of St.Hildas who had gone there for safety, and destroyed the church and monastery. They plundered the Priory again in 870, and destroyed it in 875, leaving only the small parish church of St.Marys.

On to the reign of King Edward the Confessor who ruled from 1042 – 1066 when Tostig Godwinson, Earl of Northumberland made Tynemouth his fortress. The priory by now was abandoned, and St. Oswine’s buriel place was forgotten. Now St.Oswine was fed up of being forgotten so he appeared to a hermit novice monk living at the priory and showed him where to find his tomb, so he was re-discovered in 1065. Tostig decided to re-found the Priory, but got himself killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 so that idea went tits up.

The third King to be buried at the Priory was Malcolm III, King of Scotland from  1058 to 1093.. After ravaging Northumberland in 1093, due to a dispute with King William Rufus ( “the Red”, king of the English (1087–1100) he was ambushed on his way back North by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria, who was mightily naffed off that Malcolm had devastated his lands. The ambush occurred near Alnwick, on 13th November 1093, and Malcolm was slain by Arkil Morel, steward of Bambrough Castle. This became known as the Battle of Alnwick. Malcolm’s body was buried at Tynemouth Priory, but later sent North to Dunfermline Abbey when his son Alexander reigned. Shakespear based Malcolm in Macbeth on this King Malcolm.

Two years later and Robert de Mowbray took refuge in Tynemouth Castle after rebelling against King William II. The King beseiged it and Mowbray was dragged from there and imprisoned for life for treason. In 1110 a new church was completed on the site. It is thought that a castle consisting of earthen ramparts and a wooden stockade was already in place by 1095. The stone building we can see now didn’t happen until 1296 when the Prior applied for and was granted royal permission to surround the monastery with walls of stone, with a gatehouse and barbican being added on the landward side in 1390.

A little before then in 1312 King Edward II and his pet sycophant and possible boyfriend Piers Gaveston took refuge in the castle before fleeing to Scarborough Castle by sea. His  illegitimate son Adam Fitzroy was buried at the Priory on 30th September 1322.

Then along came Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries. Tynemouth Priory copped it in 1538 when a chap called Robert Blakeney would be the last Prior. There were 15 monks and 3 novices living there as well, but the Priory and it’s lands were taken over by Henry and gifted to Sir Thomas Hilton. The monastery was dismantled but the Prior’s house was left standing. Henry kept the castle though and in 1545 new artillery fortifications commenced with the advice from Sir Richard Lee, Henry’s military engineer, and two Italian engineers, Gian Tommaso Scala and Antonio da Bergamo. Gunports were put in place in the castle walls.

In 1564 when his father was guardian of the castle, Henry Percy, the 9th Earl of Northumberland was born in the castle. His Dad, the 8th Earl, was responsible for maintaining the navigation light, a coal fired brazier on top of one of the castle turrets. It’s not known when that practice began but is mentioned in a source in 1582. The Earl and his successors in that office were entitled to receive dues from passing ships in return. Unfortunately the stairs up to the turret collapsed in 1559 preventing the fire from being lit, so in 1665 the then Governor, Colonel Villiers obtained a grant of 1s toll from every English ship and 3s from every foreign ship for the maintenance of the light, and built a new lighthouse at the north-east corner of the Castle promontory. It was rebuilt in 1775 and by 1807 had upgraded from coal fire to a revolving red light via an oil fired argand light in 1802. It was demolished in 1898 having been superceded by St.Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay to the north.

So modern times now, we’re nearly at the end. (yay!) At the end of the 19th century new buildings and barracks had been added to the castle though many were removed after a fire in 1936. In WW2 it was used as a coastal defence installation to guard the mouth of the Tyne. Restored sections are open to the public. More recently the modern buildings of Her Majesty’s Coastguard were on site and opened by Prince Charles in 1990. The coastguard station was closed in 2001, being replaced by digital equipment at a Bridlington station that can monitor the sea from Berwick to the Humber Estuary. New technology sweeping away the past, but it was always thus.

And that’s the lot, it’s now managed by English Heritage.

Well done whoever got to the end, you are my very favourite visitor 😘

So here we go walking up to the site, and there’s the castle and walls directly ahead, looks imposing. Well I was imposed anyhoo.

Into the keep where there’s a little side room you get your ticket, or show your card if you’re a English Heritage member (I am).

A tantalising view of the Priory before you go through the iron gate

it looks so chunky and indestructable, even though it’s destructed!

then you go through the arch and to the left

to the right

and then through the arch you come to the KAPOW view, which I just had to do in B&W

there’s a little archway and door you can see at the bottom there

which leads to the 15th Century Oratory of St.Mary, or the Percy Chapel. It has a ceiling decorated with numerous coats of arms and other symbols, stained-glass side windows, and a small rose window in the east wall, above the altar.

This is the view of it looking back, you can see the little chapel all intact.

Interesting details on the boards around the monastery.

That will do I think, but there are more photo’s of the Priory HERE and this includes the restored gun battery and cannon.

All pics are embiggenable with a click.

refs:- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tynemouth_Castle_and_Priory

https://www.twsitelines.info/SMR/730

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tynemouth-priory-and-castle/

Preston Tower ~ October 2019

The history bit.

Built in 1392, Preston Tower was built in a time of warfare between England and Scotland. By the time of Agincourt in 1415, it was one of 78 Pele Towers and Tower Houses in the county. One of its owners, Sir Guiscard Harbottle was killed in hand to hand combat with King James IV at the battle of Flodden in 1513.

The Battle of Flodden, Flodden Field, or occasionally Branxton (Brainston Moor) was a battle fought on 9 September 1513 during the War of the League of Cambrai between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland, resulting in an English victory. The battle was fought in Branxton in the county of Northumberland in northern England, between an invading Scots army under King James IV, who had taken advantage of the fact that Henry VIII was on a jolly in France, and an English army commanded by the Earl of Surrey. In terms of troop numbers, it was the largest battle fought between the two kingdoms. James IV was killed in the battle, becoming the last monarch from the British Isles to die in battle.

Although the rest of England enjoyed peace and prosperity in the 16th century, the border lands between the two countries were constantly under attack by raiders known as Reivers. So instead of comfortable Tudor manor houses, the seats of the Border families still had to have 7 foot thick walls and tunnel-vaulted rooms to defend their people and livestock. The main entrance was usually on the first floor in order to make it harder for the pesky Scots to break down the door. Eventually in 1603 the Union of Scotland and England came about under James I, and peace finally came to the Borders.

At this time half the tower was pulled down and the stone used for farm buildings on the estate, but the present Tower is the original structure. Now owned by GJ Baker Cresswell, the property is uninhabited but furnished as might have been in the 14th century. A later addition is a clock with two faces & an hourly strike audible from afar, with mechanism on view.

So on with the pictures! It was a lovely autmn day, with a crisp blue sky when we visited.

Preston Tower

As you enter, the guard room and prison is on the left

Going up to the next floor, you can see the thickness of the stone walls

One of the windows on the 2nd floor, they don’t let arrows in!

The south window of the main hall, only 6 inches wide. If a man climbed up to it he couldn’t get in. If the raiders built a fire next to the tower wall to smoke out the residents (this was called ‘scumfishing’) the small window could easily be blocked.

Bedroom and living room on the first floor, furnished as they might have been around 1400

On the second floor there is the Flodden room, which is just an empty room with interesting extracts from border history fastened to the walls. For any medieval geeks reading this I’ll leave a link to the full album at the end of the posts so you can see them.

One can go up to the top of the tower, which is 200ft above sea level and there are magnificent views over the countryside.

Compass to show what you can see from the roof top.

So that’s the Tower, but stay tooned as next time we’ll have a look at the house and grounds.

Newcastle Upon Tyne ~ September 2019 ~ 1

We actually had a sunny day back in September last year, and Sophie wanted to go to an open day at All Saints Church in Newcastle. So off we went on the metro, but before we get to the pictures, we must do

The History Bit.

The current All Saints Church stands on the site of a previous medieval church called All Hallows, founded between 1150 and 1190. It is the only elliptical church building in England, a Grade 1 listed building, and the third tallest religious building in Newcastle.  The original church was pulled down at the end of the 18th century after architects had reviewed the old church and found “That this decayed building cannot be repaired but at as much expense as building a new one. If one part is taken down the rest will follow. The south wall was in danger of falling by the pressure of the roof; one of the pillars of the steeple had considerably shrunk, and the steeple itself inclined to the south. The stone of the groined arches under the bells was decayed, the timber and bells in great danger of falling in, the stone in several windows decayed, the walls were rotten, and the lime had lost its cement and become almost dust”.  David Stephenson, a renowned North East architect designed the new building, and after a couple of adaptations, the new building was completed in 1796, having cost £27,000.  Unfortunately in demolishing the old church most of its old monuments, windows, and other interesting relics were not preserved; they either perished or were carried away during the operations.  

Interesting factoid (1):- During the Civil Wars (1642–1651) when the Scots captured Newcastle, they commenced, in their fanatical zeal against Popery, to deface the religious monuments. They began at ST.Johns church and destroyed the font there, as fonts tend to be the first thing you come across in a church, and on seeing this, Cuthbert Maxwell a stonemason of Newcastle, got to both All Saints, and St.Nicholas and hid both the fonts before the Scots could get to them, replacing them after The Restoration. The one in St Nicholas is still there, but when the old All Saints Church was demolished the font there was given to given to Alderman Hugh Hornby, an enthusiastic collector of antiquities. It is now housed in St.Wilfreds church in Keilder. Will be going to photograph that at some point I think.

In January 1802, a 30 yard section of the churchyard wall collapsed. Coffins and their contents fell into Silver Street. Repairs to the wall and a nearby house cost £249, 12s and 1d (just over £8000). The church went through restorations in 1881, and remained a church until 1961, when it was deconsecrated.

Interesting factoid (2):-  In July 1854, John Alderson, the Beadle of the church, was found guilty of opening graves and stealing the lead from the coffins. According to the Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury, Alderson broke open “no less than five vaults”, reporting that “nine leaden coffins enclosing shells in which dead bodies were deposited had been forcibly removed”. Alderson, along with his wife and mother, faced 18 months imprisonment. His bell-ringer and accomplice, Hewison Marshall, received 12 months. Alderson became known as “Jack, the bad Beadle”. (thanks to Icy Sedgewick)

In 1983-84 it was turned into offices/auditorium as the Town Teacher initiative. Following that, it was used by the Royal Northern Sinfonia before their move to The Sage, Gateshead in 2004. The Church of Saint Willibrord with All Saints used it for a while and it has also hosted musical events. Over the winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 flood damage was caused by blocked roof drains leaving the building in a state of semi-disrepair. In 2015 it was placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register. In 2019, the local congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales signed a 150-year lease for All Saints. After a comprehensive restoration project, worship services as All Saints Presbyterian Church began in October, 2019.

When we arrived at the heritage open day in September we were, or at least Sophie was,  thinking we would see the restoration complete, and would have a tour of the whole place. But it didn’t happen that way. We got there and waited for the first group to be taken round, and then a gentleman gathered those of us waiting our turn and off we went. The outside of the building had a lot of scaffolding and fencing around it, not very photogenic so I took a picture of this couple waiting with us instead

Inappropriate shoes!!

and the young church people helping out.

Sensible shoes!

Inside we stood in the main auditorium and were talked to by one of the Presbyterian people about what they were doing. I took some pictures of the interior.

Think there’s an altar table under the cloth.

Marble floor tiles being laid.

Tantalising glimpse of the upstairs and lovely woodwork at the rear exit.

Next group being talked to.

And that was that. Had the talk, walked through the lower part and shown out the rear exit. Quite disappointing really. It must be all finished now as they started doing services the following month.

refs:-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints%27_Church,_Newcastle_upon_Tyne
http://www.icysedgwick.com/all-saints/
https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/newcastle-historical-account/pp302-322

So onwards ever onwards, Sophie had spotted an interesting building roof whilst travelling on a train at some point and we went off to find it, it couldn’t be far she thought. We’ll pause here, but stay tooned for our intrepid travels through Newcastle next time.

Bamburgh Castle Revisted ~ August 2019 ~ 2

Part 1 HERE

After a good wander around the grounds we went to visit the museums. The first museum we got to was the Armstrong & Aviation museum, which houses some of the stuff that Armstrong produced for WW2, and some stuff from WW1.

Big Gun

Mangled Aircraft Engines

I’m sorry to say I didn’t take notes or many photo’s in this museum, I’m not sure why it didn’t float my boat,  however there was a really nice vintage car that I liked.

Armstrong Siddeley 1936

We also visited the Archaeology Museum and saw some nice bling that they had dug up. The pieces were incredibly small, but beautifully decorated, and they were covered by a magnifying glass so you could see the detail. Not easy to shoot through 2 layers of glass so not the best shots ever, but you can see what I mean.

These date between 10th and 12th century A.D. It’s possible that metal work or scrap recycling was going on in the vicinity of where they were found, so could be dated earlier than the layer in which they were found.

The top piece was discovered in 1971 and has been named the Bambugh Beast. It is believed to date from AD 600-AD 700 and is reminiscent of Anglo-Celtic illuminated manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels. The lower piece was discovered in 2011, it is sheet gold, edged with beaded wire and decorated with small balls of gold.

There is also a Stones museum which we looked into.

The information sign says: “This carved panel displays two ‘Celtic’ heads carved into the front face with long, drooping moustaches. Carved heads are common in Western Europe from the Iron Age to Medieval date. These figures are more suggestive of Irish or French origin than the north of England and will be the subject of further research.”

An anglo-saxon well can also be seen there.

The Victorian Well head on the well dug in Anglo Saxon times. First described by Simeon of Durham in 774, there was originally a church on top of this hill with a spring which was “sweet to the taste and most pure … that has been excavated with astonishing labour.” The well is 44 metres deep and 2 metres in diameter and is located in the bottom of the keep of the castle.

Of course the castle rooms are all home to interesting bits of history

 

17th century Flemish Crossbow

There’s a nice little keepsake of Queen Mary’s signature from a vist she made there in 1924

Stay tooned for part 3 when we visit the state rooms.