History

Spofforth Castle & Half A Ghost, North Yorkshire

In 2016 we made a few trips to Yorkshire, mainly to Harrogate, but we did visit a few places and drove across some of the the moors.  I am sorting through some photos and realised I forgot to post a visit to Spofforth Castle.  This castle was a lovely surprise, we were just driving past what looked like a large grassy field, when I noticed a ruin on the far side of it.  Stop……and stop my dear patient husband did.  It was March, grey and cold, and there was a big padlock on a gate, with a notice from English Heritage saying the castle wasn’t open until the spring.  Really, there were people walking in the field and I noticed that there was another gate that they had used, there were also people at the ruins.  So on we went to explore, well we had come a long way……

Spofforth was owned by the Percys, one of the most powerful Norman families in Northern England.  The first William de Percy who died about 1096, was a favoured companion of William the Conqueror and received large estates in Yorkshire.  Spofforth, originally an Anglo-Saxon manor, was among these. and de Percy made it his family home.

Henry Percy, first Lord Percy 1273 – 1314, was one of Edward I’s leading commanders and was actively involved in the kings Scottish wars.  Percy’s successes brought him estates and influence in the north.  He extended his family house at Spofforth, but soon afterwards, in 1309, he bought Alnwick Castle in Northumberland from the bishop of Durham.  The family’s power base moved north.

During the early 15th century, Spofforth was partly remodelled, probably by the second earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy 1394-1455.  Damaged shortly afterwards, by the 16th century it was largely in ruins.

 

One interesting little thing that I have found out after our visit, the castle is apparently haunted, by half a ghost, a female person throws herself of the castle ramparts, but only the top half, the bottom stays in what ever realm she has come from.  I must admit I didn’t go up some stairs that were covered over, husband had moved on, so did I, I just didn’t like the idea of going on my own, it just felt so cold.  I am sure it was just the weather, but who knows…….

 

 

 

Leatheringsett Water Mill & Sculthorpe Mill, Norfolk

Hope everyone had a good New Years Eve, and now here we are the first day of a new year, and its still raining, so no photos today.  I’m a little put out, as I had a lovely new camera for Christmas, and all I have taken so far, is a few photos of a stormy Solent on the South Coast.  Never mind the weather will change, hopefully for the better.  Luckily last New Year was rain free, well most of the day was, we visited a lot of Round Tower Churches, I have posted some, but more to come and a couple of mills.  

We had passed the sign for Leatheringsett Mill many times, but on this occasion we were not in a hurry, so we went to explore.  I wasn’t quite sure what we would find, and we a little surprised that it was a red brick building, I suppose I was thinking a smaller stone water mill, but even so it looked interesting.  On entering I read that it’s the last working water mill in Norfolk.

Of course it wasn’t working at the time of our visit, but we didn’t expect it to be.  I think if you want to visit and see it working, you need to phone or email asking what day they would be milling.  It’s quite a large space and I should think when it was built in 1802, it would have been working nonstop, and the air full of dust and the noise of four pairs of mill stones grinding together.  The site of the mill is mentioned in the Domesday book and at that time, 580 water mills were recorded in Norfolk, including the one at Letheringsett, but there were no windmills.  By the 19th century there were only about 80 or 90 watermills still able to work.

Its history is quite fascinating and includes at least two fires, a change from being a watermill to an engine mill, when it made animal feed and back again.  There was enough power for four pairs of mill stones, now only two are used.  There is a shop were you can buy flour, some milled on site and other that is sourced elsewhere.  I think looking back, it would have been more interesting to have seen the mill working, but as it took us nearly ten years to visit in the first place, this visit will have to do 🙂

 

The second mill we visited later on on that day, was to ’ which is now an eatery and a very nice at that.  I have posted about this mill before, but those photos were of a lovely sunny day and this was not, so  totally different kind of photos.

A little history…..There were three watermills along Winsum River in 1225, and a new watermill was built in 1757.  Having ground corn for many years, the mill probably ceased working c.1947 and was becoming derelict by the 1950s. It was turned into a country club in 1980’s, but was nearly destroyed by a fire in 2002. It was reopened in 2003, after a refit and is, as you see it now.

 

1746 The Battlefield of Culloden, Scotland

About this time last year 2016, we walked the Culloden Battlefield Trail, we were late arriving, but we did have the whole site to ourselves, apart from the end when two dog walkers passed by.  I am not going to go into great details about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion just a few facts to accompany my photos.  The battlefield had been on my list to visit for a long time, but I wasn’t too sure if visiting the site would be a let down, had it become too commercialised.  I should imagine it could be quite busy in the summer, but the week before Christmas and arriving in the late afternoon, with the light fading, was perfect.  It was so quiet and the feeling of the past was really quite over whelming, I felt a great sadness, but I will let the photos take you on the walk.

On 16th April 1746 the most ferocious hand-to-hand fighting took place at the height of the battle.  Historians believe that about 700 Jacobite soldiers were killed or wounded here in just a few minutes of fighting.  The Jacobites’ charge had broken the government front line but they were then forced back, which catastrophic consequences.  Today, Archaeologists have found many items, hacked muskets parts, pistol balls and ripped off buttons.  All these are clear evidence of a desperate close range fight.

In the years after Culloden, interest in the story of the battle continued to grow.  The memorial cairn and grave marker of clans were raised in 1881 by Duncan Forbes, the local landowner.

Leach Cottage – After charging, the Jacobites clashed fiercely with the government’s left wing.  The government second line move around the buildings here in support, forcing the Jacobites to retreat.  The cottage that stands here now was built on the site of the farm buildings shown on almost every contemporary battle map of Culloden.  A cannon ball is said to have been recovered from the turf wall of the building more than a hundred years old.

 

 

 

Huntingdon Castle Hills, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

I am in castle mode at the moment, I am trying to post what castles I have left in my archives, it’s amazing how many are left, I did think I had caught up with them all…….but no, they just seem to grow on their own.  Anyway you do need to have some imagination for this castle, but I have added the notice board, because I needed help with this one when we visited the site back in 2015.  Unfortunately the board was not in very good condition at the time, so I copied the details for the post.  

We are looking at what was Huntingdon Castle, built in 1068 on the orders of William the Conqueror after the Norman invasion.  He needed castles to help him keep military an political control of England.  The inhabitants of Huntingdon may have had to come to the castle to pay taxes to William’s representative.  The Domesday Book states that 20 dwellings were demolished to make way for the castle.  The layout of the surviving earthworks confirms that the castle was a motte an daily type.  It would have been built quickly by soldiers and local forced labour, using wood instead of stone. 

The site is surrounded by a large defensive ditch on three sides and the river on the fourth.  On top of the mott, or mound where the pine trees now stand, would have been a tower and the bailey below you would have been protected by earthen ramparts with wooden palisades on top.  There would also have been a gatehouse to the castle with a drawbridge.  Motte and bailey castles acted as forts during war, but in peacetime served as home for the powerful.  The bailey would have contained the dwellings of those who worked for the castle, barns and pens for animal and storehouses for food.

The castle played an important role in the rebellion against King Henry II in 1174.  At that time it was owed by William I, King of Scotland, who was also the Earl of Huntingdon and who sided with the rebels.  Henry II himself came to Huntingdon, besieged the castle for a month, and then ordered it to be destroyed.

At some point a windmill was built on the top of the motte, where it stood until the end of the 19th century.  The cart track that led up to it, is clearly visible.  Part of the castle grounds then became the garden of Castle Hiull House an some landscaping took place.  Part of the castle site was destroyed when the first railway line was built in 1847.

All the details are from the notice board on site – 28th December 2015

Brougham Castle, Nr Penrith, Cumbria

Adding another castle to my collection, is this castle, one that we pass on every trip to Scotland, while towing our caravan, and of course its a little difficult to park up with a big van.  Last year we got lucky and had two holidays in Scotland 2016, and one was without the caravan, so course we stopped on the way back and explored Brougham Castle, two miles south-east of Penrith in Cumbria, in North West England.

We were lucky, the weather was perfect for castle exploring and we had the whole site to ourselves.  The castle is in a very picturesque setting beside the crossing of the River Eamont in Cumbria, and looking out over the Eden Valley, it was founded in the early 13th century.  The great keep largely survives, amid many later buildings, including the unusual double gatehouse.

This Medieval building was built in the early 13th century, by Robert De Vieuxpont.  The Vieuxponts were a powerful land-owning family in North West England, and also owned the castles of Appleby and Brough.  In 1264, Robert de Vieuxpont’s grandson, also named Robert, was declared a traitor and his property was confiscated by Henry III.  Brougham Castle and the other estates were eventually returned to the Vieuxpont family, and stayed in their possession until 1269 when the estates passed to the Clifford family through marriage.

With the outbreak of the Wars of Scottish Independence in 1296, Brougham became an important military base for Robert Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford.  He began refortifying the castle, the wooden outer defences were replaced with stronger, more impressive stone walls, and the large stone gatehouse was added.  The importance of Brougham and Roger Clifford was such that in 1300 he hosted Edward I at the castle.  The second Roger Clifford was executed as a traitor in 1322, and the family estates passed into the possession of Edward II, although they were returned once Edward III became king. The region was often at risk from the Scots, and in 1388 the castle was captured and sacked.

After the sacking of the castle, the Cliffords spent more time at their other castles, especially Skipton Castle in Yorkshire.  By 1592 the castle was in a bad state of disrepair, it was briefly restored in the 17th century and James I was entertained there in 1617 .  In 1643 Lady Anne Clifford inherited this castle and also the castles of Appleby and Brough.  At the age of 60, she moved north and set about restoring the castles, plus many churches.  Brougham Castle was kept in good condition for a short time after Lady Anne’s death in 1676, she died at the castle, in the room where her father had been born.  Later The Earl of Thanet who next inherited the castle, sold the furnishings in 1714 and the empty shell was left to decay, as it cost too much to maintain.  The castle then became a romantic ruin and inspired many painters and poets.

 

The castle was left to the Ministry of Works in the 1930s and is today maintained by its successor, English Heritage.

The Norman Cathedral of Rochester, Kent

 

After we had visited Rochester Castle in 2016, we made our way to the beautiful Norman Cathedral, which is thought to be the second oldest in England.  It was a very hot day and the interior of the building was wonderfully cool.  

Some history ……..Rochester was founded in around 604 by Ethelbert, King of Kent.  After the Norman Conquest Gundulf, the first Norman, was chosen as Bishop. Gundulf of Bec was the chief castle builder for William the Conqueror and was responsible for the construction of the Tower of London. Gundulf rebuilt the Cathedral, improved the surrounding monastic buildings and replaced the secular canons with monks of the Benedictine Order. The nave and the restored west front are mainly twelfth century.  In 1201 a pilgrim was murdered outside the cathedral and was raised to a Saint and known St. William of Perth. Pilgrims flocked to the cathedral and the increased income provided money to rebuild many parts including the presbytery, transepts and choir.

It is traditionally thought that King Henry VIII met Anne of Cleves in the cloisters of Rochester Cathedral. Unfortunately, in the 1800’s Rochester had became one of the poorest Dioceses in the country.  It was robbed of its treasures by unruly soldiers.

Unbelievably, the Cathedral became a place of ill repute, where often gambling and drinking took place. Samuel Pepys described it as a ‘Shabby place.’ Through the 1800’s, the Cathedral had gone through a number of restoration processes, and finally in 1880, Gilbert Scott restored the Cathedral to its present day appearance……So glad he did, as you can see from the photos of the amazing restoration work that took place.  

BT Tower, London

To me the BT Tower will always be the Post Office Tower, mainly because an uncle took myself and my younger brother up in the lift to the top in 1966, just after it opened in October 1965.  This really was quite scary, the lift went from the top to the bottom and then bounced back up two levels and then back down with a thud…….have never felt the same about lifts since.  But I have always thought it was an amazing building, and still is.   There is to me, something very space like about it, like a rocket about to take off. 

I took some photos in 2016 and forgot about them, but while sorting I have just come across them, and thought that I would look a little into the history.  The BT Tower, formerly known as the Post Office Tower, was opened to the public in 1966, despite construction having been completed in July 1964.

The British Telecom Communication Tower in London’s West End was the first purpose-built tower to transmit high frequency radio waves, and it serves as a functional telecommunications centre designed to relay broadcast, Internet and telephone information around the world.

Costing £2 million to construct, the 189m (620ft) cylindrical tall tower is made from 13,000 tonnes of concrete, steel and glass, and at the time of opening was the tallest building in London. It’s shape was designed to reduce wind resistance and gave it stability and style.