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 atFragglefilm 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.
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.
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 🍪 ☕️
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.
I am going back in time now, to places Sophie and I went before BWP (before wordpress) as we can’t go anywhere as yet. But back on a sunny day in August, 2013, we set off to visit Richmond Castle and Easby Abbey just down the road from the castle. My camera was a Nikon D700, a bit of a gorgeous beast, but my treatment of my photo’s was a bit on the bright side, nevermind, we all have to learn and grow!
But first, of course, we must do…
The History Bit 🍪 ☕️ (long post alert!)
Richmond Castle stands overlooking the River Swale in a place originally called ‘Riche Mount’, meaning ‘the strong hill’. We are back in Norman Conquest times now gentle reader so everything gets a bit Frenchyfied. The Castle and subsequently the town of Richmond was built by a chap called Alan Rufus, (Alan the Red) which doesn’t sound very French but rest assured he was one of those Pesky French who played a large part in our history.
Alan was a Nobleman of Breton and companion to William the Conqueror who you may remember from our previous history post concerning Auckland Castle.
Born in 1040 his parents were Eozen Penteur, Count of Pentfiévre and Orguen Kernev known as Agnes of Cornouaille. Eozen was related to Willy Conk’s family and there’s a whole shed load of inter-related and married brothers and sisters, and Dukes this and that of here and there that I think we’ll skip over for sanity’s sake, suffice to say our Alan’s family were well heeled and connected in the upper eschelons of Royal society.
By 1060 our Al had properties in Rouen, and was Lord of Richemont in Upper Normandy prior to 1066. Willy Conk gifted Al a couple of churches therein, St-Ouen de Rouen of the church of Saint-Sauveur and the nearby church of Sainte Croix des Pelletiers. You will have clocked 1066 as the date when The Battle of Hastings happened, when the Pesky French wiped the floor with the English. Now, I don’t want to appear to be a bad loser here, but I’m going to point out that the battle took place on the 14th October, and started at 9am. It’s estimated the Pesky French under Willy Conk, had 10,000 men, cavalry and arches and infantry, whilst good ol’King Harold had 7000, mostly infantry. The English were outmanned and out techied, but held their ground, and by dusk of that day the Pesky French had not been able to break the English battle lines. So what did they do to win? They ran away, pretending to flee in panic, and then turned on their pursuers! It’s just not cricket!!
Anyway I digress. Our Al was with Willy Conk at the Battle, and apparently Al and his Breton men aquitted themselves very well, doing the English ‘great damage’. Later in 1066 Norman cavalry swept into Cambridgeshire and built a castle on the hill north of the river crossing and as Al’s first possessions in England were in Cambridgeshire, he possibly obtained them at this point. King Harold who died at the battle (legend has it he got an arrow through the eye, which is enough to kill most people) was married, (sort of) to a lady known as Edith the Fair, or Edith Swanneck, who held many land titles in Cambridge, and our Al aquired all but one of those. He also aquired Edith and Harold’s daughter Gunhild of Wessex as his mistress who abandoned her life as a nun in Wilton Abbey in order to live with him. She was hoping to marry him but that didn’t happen and after Al’s death she went on to live with his brother Alan Niger (Alan the Black), I suppose one brother is much like the next! Except one’s red and one’s black. Nomenclaturally speaking I mean. I think it was down to hair colour.
In January 1069 the rebellion of York kicked off and Willy Conk got his army together in the latter part of the year, putting down the rebellion and then going on to do the ‘harrying of the north’. As a reward to red Al for his help in the conquest, Willy bestowed what’s known as ‘The Honour of Richmond’ upon him. This ostensibly means a huge swathe of land previously owned by Edwin Earl of Mercia who was part of the rebellion in the North, and was killed trying to escape to Scotland. It was one of the most important fiefdoms in Norman England covering parts of eight English counties. Alan went on to become one of the most important, and wealthy men in England, owning land just about everywhere and being the third richest Baron. But that’s another herd of stuff that isn’t of import to Richmond so there we’ll leave it except to say he had a sudden and unexpected death in either 1089 or 1093, most likely 1093.
Our Al commenced the building of the castle in 1071, and the earliest surviving structures at the castle include long stretches of the stone curtain wall, the great archway in the ground floor of the keep, and Scolland’s Hall. No other castle in England can boast so much surviving 11th-century architecture and it is probably the best-preserved castle of this scale and age in the country. After Al’s death, his brother Al the Black took over and after his death another brother Stephen. By 1136 Stephen’s son, wouldn’t you know it, another Alan Niger (so Al the Black 2nd whomst we will call Alby 2) held the estates.
The King at this point was King Stephen, known as Stephen Le Blois, who we never hear much about, so I’ll digress a little to tell you he was the grandson of Willy Conk, and when Conk’s son King Henry 1st died leaving the succession to the throne open to challenge, Stephen hot footed it over the channel to England and with the help of Henry, Bishop of Winchester, took the throne, before Henry’s daughter Matilda got her little graspy hands on it. Alby 2 had a mint built in the castle that issued coins in support of King Stephen, as his reign was muchly embattled with rebellions and the like.
Alby 2 had married Bertha, the heiress to the Duke of Brittany and they had a son named Conan, (not the Destroyer, nor the Barbarian) and he eventually inherited the Duchy of Brittany and the Earldom of Richmond, thereby becoming subject to both the King of England and the King of France. He began to assert control over his English lands from 1154 and during the next 10 years spent a lot of time at Richmond, commencing the building of the castle keep, a statement of his vast power and wealth. The 100 feet (30m) high keep was built of honey coloured sandstone and it’s walls were 11 foot (3-4m) thick.
Henry II was our King at this time, and in 1166 after getting help from Henry to put down rebellions in his lands in France Conan betrothed his daughter Constance to Henry’s 4th son Geoffrey ceding the duchy of Brittany to the king as part of the agreement. Constance was only 9 years old when Dad died in 1171 so Henry took control of Richmond castle, and held the guardianship of Brittany until Geoffrey and Constance could marry. Royal accounts list several buildings as objects of repair or new work under Henry II, including the tower and houses of the castle (1171–4) and the ‘king’s house’ (1186–7), probably a reference to Scolland’s Hall.
Although Geoff and Connie did marry in 1181, the castle remained in royal hands until the end of King John’s reign in 1261, though there’s no evidence that he did any building works at the castle.
Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries Alby 2’s combination of the French Duchy of Brittany with the English Earldom of Richmond caused a long running international dynastic dispute. The French and English Kings were often having fisticuffs, so the incumbent at Richmond castle had dual allegiances, never really works that does it? As a result the Honour and castle were confiscated from time to time and held by either the English Crown or a royal favourite. Finally in 1372 the castle was surrendered to the Crown.
The Dukes who intermittently ruled Richmond in this period continued to invest in it. In 1278 Duke John II entered into an agreement with Egglestone Abbey to provide six canons (priests, not implements of war- they have an extra ‘n’) for the castle’s Great Chapel so they could spend their time praying for the soul of his late wife Beatrice. Beatrice must have been really bad to need that many prayers I think. The chapel isn’t standing now, so the prayers probably didn’t work too well.
By the end of the 14th century the castle was not in good nick anymore and surveys in 1538 had it ‘derelict’, and in 1609 ‘decayed’ but parts of the castle were still being used. At some point in the 16th century expensive glass was imported from Europe to refurbish the Robin Hood tower’s chapel, and at another point that was abandoned too.
The castle remained in this condition for another 300 years with ownership passing back to the Dukes of Richmond in 1675. These lot were not the Pesky French but started with the extramarital son of King Charles II, probably better keeping it in the family. Every one of the Dukes was called Charles Lennox, Charles Gordon Lennox, Charles Henry Gordon Lennox or Frederick Charles Gordon Lennox. My eyerolling knows no bounds gentle reader. There are 11 of them and apart from one nephew all are sons of the fathers. At least the 3rd Duke made some repairs to the castle keep, but other than that, it stands a ruin. In the 18th and 19th centuries artists including JMW Turner painted the castle in the landscape which encouraged admiration of the castle as a romantic ruin, and the town became a fashionable place for tourists to visit.
In 1854 the North York Militia leased the castle for it’s headquarters and built a barrack block against the west curtain wall. They adapted the keep as a depot and built a range beside the main castle gate, intended as a reserve armoury for the militia. Then in 1908 it became the headquarters of the Northern Territorial Army commanded by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts until 1910 when the army handed over the historic fabric of the castle to the Ministry of Works, but retained control of the buildings.
When World War 1 happened the Northern Non-Combatent Corps occupied the building. They were a military unit of chaps who had asked to be exempt from going to war but would contribute to the war effort in some other way. However there were a few chaps who didn’t want anything to do with the war at all as it was against their fundamental beliefs and in 1916 some of them were detained in cells at the castle. The tiny rooms where they were held still have the graffiti on the walls that the objectors drew.
Some of these conscientious objectors, who became known as the Richmond Sixteen, were sent to France in May 1916, where they were court martialled for refusing to obey orders. They were given a death sentence, but it was commuted to 10 years penal servitude. Their transportation to France, trial and sentencing have become notorious in the history of conscientious objection.
After the war, from 1920-28 the barracks were used by Richmond Council to help alleviate the shortage of housing in the town and the block was demolished in 1931. In the 2nd World War the roof of the keep was used as a lookout post against enemy activity, and the keep was used as a daylight air raid shelter. In 1940 the cell block was once again used to detain prisoners, although these were soldiers rather than conscientious objectors. Many of them also pencilled drawings and inscriptions on the cell walls.
In 1987 English Heritage became the guardians of the Castle, and now we are bang up to date! That was a long read and I salute you gentle reader for staying to the end, you are still my favourite 🙂 .
So let’s have a look at the castle.
Built by John Yorke as a feature in the park surrounding his mansion, The Green, which was demolished in the 1820s in the 19th century it was known as the Cumberland Tower, or Temple. It was built on, or close to, the site of an earlier peel tower but an exact date has not yet been discovered. It must however be between 1732 – as it bears the arms of Anne Darcy who Yorke married in that year – and 1749 when it is described as a ‘Gothick Tower on an eminence’. The Culloden Tower fell into disrepair in the 1970s and was rescued by The Landmark Trust which completed an exemplary restoration in 1982.
Well that will do for today, you must have finished your cuppa tea by now, but stay tooned, next week we’ll have a look at the town and the river.
All the pictures are embiggenable with a click if you like.
This was Sophie’s and my last outing this year, just after the keep 2 meters apart advice and just prior to the total lockdown. Because we couldn’t go anywhere in the car, we met up near where Sophie lives, at the Bishopwearmouth Cemetary. A quite appropriate visit for the time, as we will see in
The History Bit. ☕️ 🍪
Between 1817 and 1860 the world had 3 cholera pandemics, but for our purposes we are looking at the 2nd one. After dying down by 1824, historians believe the first pandemic hung about in Indonesia and the Phillipines having started out along the Ganges Delta in India. From there it spread along trade routes and reached China by 1828, with Iran being overtaken with it from it’s route through Afghanistan in 1829. Also in ’29 it reached the Ural Mountains, and the first case in Orenburg, Russia. There were 3500 cases including 865 fatal ones in Orenburg province.
By 1831, the epidemic had infiltrated Russia’s main cities and towns. 250,000 cases of cholera and 100,000 deaths were reported in Russia. Russian soldiers then took the disease to Poland during the Polish-Russian war (1830-1831). Between 16 May and 20 August 1831 4,734 people fell ill and 2,524 died in Warsaw alone. The epidemic reached Great Britain in 1831 when a passenger ship from the Baltic brought it to Sunderland, then Gateshead, Newcastle, and on to London where the first cases occurred on the river, mostly on colliers from the Tyne. On it went to Paris, 20,000 died (out of a population of 650,000), with about 100,000 deaths in all of France. By 1832 it had reached Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia in Canada and Detroit and New York City in the USA, getting to the Pacific coast by 1834.
The British Government had issued quarantine orders for ships sailing from Russia to British ports and issued orders recommending the burning of “decayed articles, such as rags, cordage, papers, old clothes, hangings…filth of every description removed, clothing and furniture should be submitted to copious effusions of water, and boiled in a strong ley (lye); drains and privies thoroughly cleansed by streams of water and chloride of lime…free and continued admission of fresh air to all parts of the house and furniture should be enjoined for at least a week” as preventive action. However the ship arriving at Sunderland was allowed to dock because the port authorities objected to, and therefore ignored, instructions from the government. Well that’s Mackem’s for you.
Bishopwearmouth Cemetery was built as a direct result of the epidemic, as the subsequent overcrowding in churchyards became untenable. It opened at the same time as another new cemetary,Mere Knowles(which you may remember from a previous post, but probably not! 🙂 ) in 1856. Bishopwearmouth Cemetery soon became Sunderland’s main buriel site and separate areas were allocated for all religious denominations. It has been extended a couple of times and now covers 80 acres.
So on with some pictures!
Martini Maccomo has been recorded as coming from Angola, or the West Indies, or Liverpool, and was also described as a Zulu! His age is also not set in stone. Whatever, it is known that he joined William Manders’ Grand National Mammoth Menagerie in late 1857 at the Greenwich Fair in South East London. Maccomo was advertised as ‘the African Wild Beast Tamer’, ‘Angola’s Mighty Czar of All Lion Tamers’, ‘the Black Diamond of Manders’ Menagerie’,’the Dark Pearl of Great Price’, ‘the most talented and renowned Sable Artiste in Christendom’ and ‘The Hero of a Thousand Combats’. For all those great sobriquets I am not sure he was actually very good at his job! In 1860, at a performance in Great Yarmouth a lion attacked Maccomo and his pistol was accidentally fired into the audience, resulting in a piece of wadding becoming lodged in the eye of a local carpenter named Gillings. In the resulting case of Gillings v. Manders, the plaintiff was awarded £150 in damages. Then in Liverpool in 1861 he got his hand stuck in the mouth of a Bengal Tigress, who wouldn’t let go until an assistant pressed a hot iron bar against her teeth. The following year in Norwich a lion bit his hand and dragged him along the floor, and he lost part of a finger. Finally, in Sunderland in 1869 a lion called Wallace had had enough of him and also attacked him, apparently Maccomo used whips, pistols and knuckledusters during his act. Maccomo contracted rheumatic fever and died in the Palatine Hotel in 1871, where he was staying. Four years later Wallace died too, and is now displayed to this day in Sunderland Museum. Mackem’s I tell you! 🙄
Cheery little epitaph, and I was disappointed the gravestone didn’t have a carved lion on it!
Thomas Scott Turnbull, the son of saddler John Turnbull, was born in Newcastle on October 28, 1825. After being educated at St Mary’s School, Newcastle, he went to work for “Dunn and Bainbridge” – then the largest drapery firm in Newcastle. Turnbull soon rose to a high position, later gaining further experience of the trade by working in several large commercial houses in London before moving to Sunderland in 1850 and starting his own business. He was extremely forward-thinking, introducing a system of “small profits and quick returns” at a time when established drapers gave long credit. From humble beginnings, he built up his Sunderland-based business “Albion House” into one of the largest drapery houses in Northern England. At his death, it occupied 122-126 High Street West, Sunderland, and the premises included sleeping and dining accommodation for 160 assistants, plus a library of nearly 2,500 volumes for their use. He went into politics as a Liberal and became Mayor of Sunderland in November 1880, but died of Typhoid Fever the following year.
I found a few graves with mosaic inlays, so I had to do them of course!
This one intrigued me as it has an ornate carved panel, which I think must have been of brass, bronze or copper, as it was covered in verdigris
This is the detail shot, would be nice to know the story behind it.
The cemetery is nicely looked after, lots of daffodils lining the paths,
There are memorials on trees, and you can see there is a section for commonwealth war graves behind this one.
and a section for children’s graves, always sad.
The chapels are cordoned off for safety and. haven’t been in use for a long time.
So that is the last outing for Sophie and me, who knows when the next one will be. Still, Sunday history lessons will continue, so stay tooned! 🙂
A cold yet sunny day out in February had Sophie and I visiting the newly refurbished castle at Bishop Auckland, so get your ☕️ and 🍪 and we’ll do
The History Bit *LONG POST ALERT*
There’s 1,134 years to get through, and a lot of Bishops,so this will be a potted history (again) and here we go!
In 886 King Alfred (last seen forgiving Uhtred in The Last Kingdomseries 4 🙂 )created the See (area of a bishop’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction) of Durham when he gifts “all the lands between the Were and the Tine to Saint Cuthbert, and to those who should minister in his church, for ever, by which they may have enough to live upon, and not be forced to struggle with want and necessity.” In 1000, St. Cuthbert is laid to rest in Durham. Bishop Aldhun, previously known as the Bishop of Lindisfarne, becomes the first Bishop of Durham.
1020~1021 Bishop Eadmund is the first Bishop of Durham to live on the site of Auckland Castle.
1071 WIlliam the Conqueror appoints William Walcher the first non-Englishman to hold that See, being a Norman. Walcher increases his power by purchasing the Earldom of Northumbria in 1076. He is known as the first of the Prince Bishops but was murdered in 1080, which led William to send an army into Northumbria to harry the region again. He’d already harried the North once. We’re always harried up here.
1081 and Willy Conqueror bestows the Bishopery on a Norman monk, William de St-Calais. Too many Williams I think meself. He worked very closely with Willy Conk, going on important missions and suchlike. When Will Conk’s son William Rufus acceded to the throne, St-Calais was given special powers (not like Captain America or Superman etc) and becomes a political and military, as well as religious, leader. He can raise taxes, mint coins and hold his own parliaments. These royal privileges allow the Bishop to govern the north on behalf of the king.
1093 ~ Building work starts on Durham Cathedral, which is still on my list to visit! The building is at the cutting edge of Norman technology and pioneers many new building techniques and architectural features and was completed in 40 years.
1153 and we have Bishop Hugh de Puiset, or Pudsey as he was known, a nephew to King Stephen of England and Henry of Blois. He was chief Justiciar (roughly equivalent to Prime Minister) under King Richard 1st and when Dick began his reign in 1189, Pudsey bought the offices of Earl of Northumbria and Sheriff of Northumberland. In 1183 he commissions a survey of all his holdings, known as the Boldon Buke (Buke is a days of Yore word for ‘Book’) similar to the Domesday Book, detailing all the revenues and obligations owed to him, and showing how rich and powerful he was. Pudsey is known as a builder, working on the Cathedral and building a bridge in Durham, and in 1195 builds a great banqueting hall complete with minstrel’s gallery at Auckland. He also owns hunting rights across his vast estates, a unique privilege only belonging to the king elsewhere. Pudsey’s impressive hall allows him to lavishly entertain his retinue and court following the hunt. (Mmmm banquets!) It is the oldest surviving part of the Castle, now St. Peter’s Chapel.
In 1283, Prince Edward, son of Henry III has Anthony Bek esconced as Bishop of Durham. Beks comes from a family of knights, and is noticed by Edward through his eclesiatical work. When Edward goes off on a crusade in 1270, Beks goes with him, and continues to work for him in high office on their return. In 1298 he rides off with Edward to fight in the Battle of Falkirk against the Pesky Scots, led by William Wallace (last seen in Braveheart, with half his face painted blue and an Ozzie accent). They win, and in 1308 Beks pays Galfrid, the Bailiff of Auckland, £148 to “….sumptuously build and incastellate the ancient mannor place of Auckland.” A great Throne Room is constructed and a four storey lodging block, as well as a magnificent two story chapel.
Moving on to 1346, and Edward III is on the throne, and off to Crécy to fight the Pesky French, and Bishop Thomas Hatfield is with him, last of the warring Bishops. In the meantime, the Scottish King David II takes advantage of their absence and Descends upon Durham. 6-7,000 English troops led by the Northern Dukes muster in the Deer Park at Auckland Castle before marching to Durham. They defeat the Scottish troops and capture the Scottish king in the battle of Neville’s Cross. (Which you may remember from this post about Crook House)
In 1530 the Bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall, was ordained as the Bishop of Durham, succeding Cardinal Wolsey, by papal decree. Henry VIII is our King now, and suspects Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall of treason, largely due to the bishop’s role as advisor to Catherine of Aragon during her divorce trials. Henry had Thomas Cromwell raid Auckland Castle for incriminating evidence against the Bish, but Cuthbert had been forwarned that was going to happen and no treasonable doohickies were found. Tunstall goes on to survive as Prince Bishop through four turbulent Tudor monarchies.
James Pilkington was the first protestant Bishop of Durham, serving from 1561 until his death in 1576. He is also the first married Bishop when in 1564 he marries Alice Kingsmill. The marriage was carried out privately as Queen Elizabeth is rumoured to dislike married clergy.
From 1642-6 the English Civil War kicked off, the middle part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, In 1646 when this bit was over and Cromwell and his New Model Army had had won and locked up King Charles 1st, the Bishops are stripped of their power and their lands and estates seized. Auckland Castle is sold to Sir Arthur Haselrig, who in spite of being a 2nd Baron, was a parliamentarian who supported Cromwell and became his northern governor, in 1648. Haselrig and his son brought a large amount of property in the north east which included the manor of Bishop Auckland. Haselrig destroyed the medieval Chapel built by Bishop Bek, reputedly with gunpowder, and re-used the stone to begin building his own manor on the site, which never got finished.
1660 and the monarchy has been restored. Charles II is on the throne and makes John Cosin Bishop of Durham. A loyal Royalist, Cosin had been exiled to France with the court of Queen Henrietta Maria during the English Civil War. Cosin believes that beautiful music, objects and architecture can lead people to God, which leads to accusations of popery, but he was muchly anti the Roman Catholics in his writings. On his arrival at Auckland he sets about repairing what he describes as ‘the ravenous sacrilege of Haselrig.’ He transforms Pudsey’s banqueting hall into St.Peter’s Chapel, (hmm, banqueting or praying, I know which one I’d be doing!) by raising the floor, and replacing the roof. He added the clerestory and screen and commissioned a set of magnificent silver-gilt altar plate (the Auckland Plate), new richly bound copies of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, and a tapestry depicting Solomon’s meeting with the Queen of Sheba to be used in worship. (Not a banquet though is it?).
On to 1674 and here comes Bishop Nathaniel Lord Crewe. His tenure as Bishop of Durham saw the first two new parishes to be erected in England since the Reformation, Stockton-on-Tees and Sunderland in 1712. The Church of the Holy Trinity in Sunderland, now redundant, was the base for responsible local government in the growing port town for the first time since the Borough of Sunderland, created by the Bishops of Durham, was crushed by Cromwell. Bishop Crewe installed the organ, which was built by Father Smith, a German Master Organ maker who had emigrated to England in 1667. It is still in the chapel now.
1771 and we have Bishop Trevor in da house. He buys Jacob and his Twelve Sons, a series of paintings of the Jewish patriarchs by Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán at auction in London for just over £124. He is outbid for the painting of Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest son. Instead he commissions a copy of the painting from Arthur Pond. The Bishop hangs the paintings in his newly re-furbished dining room at Auckland Castle. Bish Trevor is a busy boy, as he also spends a fortune remodelling Auckland Castle and the Deer Park, including a new clock tower to the design of Sir Thomas Robinson of Rokeby. Trevor employs Jeremiah Dixon of Cockfield (of Mason-Dixon line fame) to lay out the park. Trevor also builds a new bridge over the River Gaunless and the Park’s deerhouse.
Shute was the son of a 1st Viscount Barrington, and rose up the ranks of religious roles to be ordained as Bishop of Durham in 1791. He employs celebrated architect James Wyatt to remodel Auckland Castle in the fashionable Gothic style, and Wyatt creates an impressive processional route from the State Entrance to the Throne Room. The Bishop’s secretary William Emm records the work, noting that ‘no expense has been spared or thought too great to render it comfortable and fit for the residence of a Bishop of Durham.’ These remodelled rooms are used for social occasions, allowing the Bishop to entertain and influence his wide circle of acquaintances. (Mucho banqueting for this chap I think!)
William van Mildert was the last of the Prince-Bishops. ( there are still Bishops, just not Princey ones.) As part of the University of Durham’s foundation, behind which he was the driving force, he gave Durham Castle to the university, where it became the home of University College. That left Auckland Castle the sole residence of the Bishop of Durham. He was often described as a ‘stormy petrel’ on account of his outspoken expression of his views. In 1831 he naffed off Reformists by leading Bishops in the House of Lords to vote down the Reform Bill. He believed reform would cause ‘strife and disunion, envy and discontent…seditions and heresies, the spirit of insubordination and contempt of all lawful authority.’ For these views the bishops were declared enemies of the people and the people of Durham burnt an effigy of him at the gates of Auckland Castle.
1875 Sees J.B Lightfoot in the post, he was mostly a scholar and theologian and wrote lots and lots of books and articles on religious stuff. He is also responsible for adding stained glass windows and a carved oak altarpiece depicting the lives of the region’s most significant saints, including St Cuthbert and St Hilda.
1891 and Brooke Foss Westcott is ordained as the Bishop of Durham. A man with a social conscience he brokers a meeting in Auckland Castle between the mine owners and the union leaders which ends a bitter three month miners’ strike. Calling it the happiest day of his life, he is subsequently the first Bishop of Durham to be invited to address the Durham Miners’ Gala, a tradition continued by many later Bishops.
1920 and the controversial Bishop Hensley Henson takes over the dioscese of Durham. A chap not backwards in coming forward, and at Oxford when he was studying he was nicknamed Coxley Cocksure. He was a good guy though, and in 1938 publically criticises the British government for their appeasement of dictators Hitler and Mussolini. He is one of the few public figures brave enough to condemn prime minister Neville Chamberlain for what he terms ‘doing business with a gang of murderers.’ Throughout the 1930s Henson continues to raise awareness of the plight of Jews in Germany.
Dr Ian Ramsey was a clever chap. He came to Durham as Bishop in 1966 having been a Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at Oxford University. In spite of that he becomes known as ‘the people’s Bishop’ as he is prone to going out into local communities and engaging with people from all walks of life. His speeches in the House of Lords form a significant contribution to the rapidly changing social and political life of Britain in the 1960s, and he speechificates on many topics from advances in medical science to rising hemlines. He is featured in ITV documentary ‘A World of my Own’ in 1969.
Another controversial Bishop, David Jenkins is ordained in 1984, under great scrutiny. He had done an interview for the ‘Credo’ tv programme, and the press were reporting he denied the existence of Jesus. The press misrepresented him there, no surprise. He said in an interview: “I wouldn’t put it past God to arrange a virgin birth if he wanted. But I don’t think he did.” He also naffed off Margaret Thatcher by speaking out about the miners strike, asking for compromise and condemning government policies which are ‘indifferent to poverty and powerlessness.’ Thatcher refers to him as ‘cuckoo’.
In the ‘there’s always one’ category, in 1994 Bishop Michael Turnbull was the man in the hot seat. Just before he was enthroned as Bishop, (they still call it that even when. being non-princey) he was asked to give his thoughts on homosexuality in the clergy, and he said it was incompatible withfull-time clergy. Then the News of The World reported Turnbull had previously, in 1968 been convicted of an act of gross indecency with a Yorkshire Farmer. Anyways he was sorry, so he still got the job, and did good works. Brenda, his wife, is the first to develop the castle as a venue, with an exhibition space and facilities for conferences, weddings and other occasions.
Back in 1948 a new Church Commission was set up, and took over the ownership of Auckland Castle, it’s fixtures and fittings. In 1997 they decided to sell the Zurbarán paintings bought by Bishop Trevor which have hung in the Castle since the 1750s. This is vigorously resisted in a fourteen year campaign led by Bishop Auckland Civic Society. The Commissioners don’t stop trying though and again in 2010 they intend to put the paintings up for auction at Sotheby’s for an estimated £15 million.
Luckily in 2012, financier and philanthropist Jonathon Ruffer decided to invest in County Durham. He donated £1 million to the Durham Foundation and in 2013 he donated £15 million to preserve Auckland Castle through the Auckland Castle Trust, which he is the chairman of, this included the preservation of the 12 paintings. He donated £18 million to restore the Bishop’s Palace and created a museum on the history of Christianity and faith in Britain.
I think that’s enough for this week, but we’ll continue having a look at Bishop Auckland next time, so stay tooned!
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
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!
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.
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.
Sophie and I decided to visit Wynyard Gardens even though the flower season was over, we thought we’d do a recce and return in spring if we thought it worthwhile.
The gardens are part of the Wynyard Hall estate, currently owned by Sir John Hall, a North East property developer ( and life president of Newcastle United Football Club). We only saw the hall from a distance as it is a very nice hotel now, but the gardens are open to the public all year round.
The history bit . ( Cup of tea time 🙂 )
We’ll begin by having a look at Charles William Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. He was born Charles William Stewart in 1778 and was an Irish soldier in the British army, a politician, and a nobleman. As a soldier he fought in the French Revolutionary Wars, in the suppression of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and in the Napoleonic Wars. He was adjutant general to Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) who sacked him in spite of his valour and generally excellent soldiery, as he judged him a “sad brouillon (French for being a knob) and mischief-maker” among his staff. After Charles had finished with all the fighting stuff, his half-brother, Lord Castlereagh (the 2nd Marquess) helped him get into a diplomatic career. He went off to Berlin in 1813, then went off to be the Ambassador to Austria where Lord Castlereagh was the head honcho on behalf of the British Gov’t at the Congress of Vienna. There our Charlie proved his knobbishness with his loutish behaviour, was apparently rather often inebriated, and frequented prostitutes quite openly. He earned himself the nickname of Lord Pumpernickel after a loutish character in a play in fashion.
In 1804 Charlie had married Lady Catherine Bligh, who died in Ireland in 1812, but he found another Missis, Lady Frances Anne Vane, a rich heiress, whom he married in 1819. WTF she saw in him is beyond me but hey ho, different times folks. He changed his surname to hers, and became Charles William Vane, under Royal Licence, as her father had stipulated in his will.
In 1822, his half bro Lord Castlereigh started suffering from paranoia and mental instability, he was possibly affected by syphillis, and possibly being blackmailed for homosexuality, although that may just have been the paranoia talking, either way he wasn’t in a good place, and although friends and family were vigilant, he managed to find a small knife and cut his own throat.
This left Charles to be the 3rd Marquess, and he didn’t do himself any favours during the Irish Famine of 1840 when he and his wife gave only £30 to the local relief committee but spent £150,000 (£13.6 million as of 2020) renovating Mount Stewart their Irish home. Also he led the opposition to the Mines & Colliery act of 1842 in the House of Lords. He is reported to have raged madly against any attempt to deny the collieries the use of child labour. Speaking on behalf of the Yorkshire Coal-Owners Association, Londonderry said “With respect to the age at which males should be admitted into mines, the members of this association have unanimously agreed to fix it at eight years… In the thin coal mines it is more especially requisite that boys, varying in age from eight to fourteen, should be employed; as the underground roads could not be made of sufficient height for taller persons without incurring an outlay so great as to render the working of such mines unprofitable”.
Once married into the Vane family, he used their immense wealth to acquire the Seaham Hall estate in County Durham with a view to developing the coalfields there. He also built the harbour at Seaham, to rival nearby Sunderland. He commissioned Benjamin Wyatt to build the Hall at Wynyard, and it started in 1822 and in 1828 was completed by Ben’s brother Philip Wyatt. Charlie spent £130,000 on it, (£11,824,000 in todays money) and just as it was completed a fire broke out and gutted it!
It was later restored and remodelled by the wonderfully named Ignatius Bonomi. The estate remained in the Londonderry family right up until 1987, though had been let out as a training school for teachers between 1945 and 1960. During this time it lost most of its original contents through sales and breakages.
1987 is when Sir John Hall bought it spending £4,000,000 to restore the house, and hiring Rupert Lord to oversee the restoration . He later moved his company headquarters, as well as his home, into the mansion. The estate, comprising the house and 780 acres of parkland, was listed for sale in July 2002 for £8,000,000. It is now a four-star hotel owned by the Hall family, continuing to occupy a small portion of land.
Garden designer, William Sawrey Gilpin created the initial gardens when the house was first built and instilled gently curved flowerbeds, raised terrace walks, irregularly shaped shrubberies and winding paths to create beautiful images within the landscape. In 1912 Lady Theresa Londonderry recreated the gardens, and kept a garden album which records in great detail the series of gardens she transformed. She created a series of ornamental gardens, including a rose garden, a lily garden, a thyme walk and a herbaceous broad walk, 270 yards long, bounded by a high yew hedge. A wild garden presented a range of shrubs, plants and bulbs in a natural setting, with grass paths, known as ‘the garden river’.
At the turn of the 20th century, visitors flocked to the gardens, which were open to the public three days a week for a considerable part of the year however they closed shortly before the war. In 1987, as well as embarking on major restoration work in the house, Sir John Hall turned his attention to the grounds. Consultants suggested the restoration of the Walled Garden and Italianate Gardens, plans which are now coming to fruition.
Well done if you didn’t give up and skip to the pictures!
We decided to do the woodland walk first. It was a beautiful crisp autumn day, the sky was blue, the sun was out, our favourite time of year.
We went down the stairs to get to the woodland walk,
there are some beautiful trees along the way
We came to a little folly, and two little girls ran in to it while I was photographing it
I do like monkey puzzle trees
We came across a little bridge where you could stand and look at the river, Brierly Beck, and I liked the two eagle type statues either side of it
a bit further on we came to what we assumed was an area for kiddies
so many patches of mushrooms along the way
it’s a circular walk and at the point of turning you get to the Hall, which Sophie and I named Riverrun.
you can see an obelisk in the background which was put up to commemorate the Duke of Wellington when he came to visit Charles Vane and was inscribed WELLINGTON FRIEND OF LONDONDERRY, but the Duke didn’t give Charles a place in the government’s cabinet so in 1828 it was altered to ‘WELLINGTON”.
Stay tooned for the return journey and the cultivated gardens.
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.
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!
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.