Basher Dowsing and iconoclasm in Suffolk

The medieval splendour of Suffolk’s wool churches took a bit of a battering during the Tudor period. By the time Cromwell and Protestant reformers had removed saints from their niches and destroyed assorted altars and rood screens.  Saints were toppled from their niches and altars removed to be replaced by communion tables.  Then came the orders to white wash wall paintings. Everything started to look decidedly monochrome.

Matters deteriorated even further when William Dowsing (who was born about 1596 and pictured at the start of this post)  was appointed by the Earl of Manchester to inspect the parish churches of East Anglia during 1643 and 1644.  He visited something in the region of one hundred and fifty churches in Suffolk. Dowsing was not sympathetic to Armenianism of Archbishop Laud.  He destroyed stained glass, removed brasses from tombs and defaced anything that could have been defined as Papist idolatry.  Altar rails were removed, steps to altars lowered, fonts took a bit of a battering as well and holy water stoups were deemed to be fit only for Papists.  He defaced tombs that requested prayers for the Dead as this was a bit too close to the Catholic idea of purgatory for comfort.  He wasn’t wildly keen on any depiction of the Trinity either.  He also had a thing about angels – in that he didn’t like them one little bit.

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Dowsing was born in Laxfield, Suffolk from farming stock – with a large landholding.  During the 1620s he married Thamar Lea who was a member of a minor gentry family.  Her name is redolent of Puritanism.  She bore him ten children. Her death in 1640 seems to have made William a stricter puritan than ever. As a consequence of his deepening beliefs he let his land and moved to Dedham, a parish noted for its strict Puritanism. He demanded that the region’s churches should become more godly – and ensured that a letter to that effect reached the Earl of Manchester (a religious moderate who let Dowsing get on with it.)  Part of this belief stemmed from the theological argument against graven images – which is where “pictures” whether of glass or paint or stone met with Dowsing’s disapproval.  There was also the fact that Archbishop Laud had been rather busy reintroducing altars and altar rails to prevent the masses from getting up close and personal with the Almighty.

 

Having wrought destruction in Cambridgeshire Dowsing moved into Suffolk in April 1644 and spent the summer smashing up churches.  He charged parishes for the privledge.  We know this from his journal.  This is supported by the evidence of various church accounts – and from the fact that there are lots of defaced churches with missing brasses, plain or Victorian glass, damaged fonts and various chunks of masonry missing their faces.  The journal often also accounts for what was destroyed.

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Dowsing spent a lot of time trying to remove hammer beam angels from their perches.  In Blythburgh church there’s plenty of evidence of Dowsing’s defacement but the angels survived.  It was believed that he had attempted to shoot them down but when the roof was restored it became apparent that the lead shot dated from eighteenth century bird scarers.  By 1663 Blythburgh was in danger of falling into disrepair – no doubt shattered windows didn’t help matters very much.

 

In nearby Southwold he and his men broke down more than one hundred and thirty pictures and four crosses. Today it is possible to see the thirty-five vandalised Rood Screen panels with their faces scratched out ( just be grateful that the screen survives.)  Dowsing also managed to remove twenty angels from the roof – demonstrating that he was nothing if not determined.

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In 1646 in the aftermath of the First English Civil War William Dowsing married for a second time to Mary Cooper and then lived long enough to see the monarchy restored.  He died in 1668 and is know to history as Basher Dowsing.  His journal is available to read online http://www.williamdowsing.org/journal_online.html

 

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Cooper, T. (ed.), The Journal of William Dowsing: Iconoclasm in East Anglia during the English Civil War. Woodbridge, 2001.

http://www.williamdowsing.org/journal_online.html,

J. ‘Dowsing, William (bap. 1596, d. 1668)’, in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: University Press, 2004

 

Anne Plantagenet and the duke of Norfolk

princess anne plantagenet framlinghamAnne was the fifth daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV, born in 1475 had her father not died in April 1483 she would have found herself married to Philip of Burgundy.  However, Edward IV died unexpectedly and the treaty with Burgundy was never ratified.  Had she married Philip she would have gone to live in the court of her aunt Margaret of Burgundy.

Instead, Anne’s uncle Richard arranged a betrothal to Thomas Howard who would one day become the 3rd Duke of Norfolk.  Once Richard III was overthrown in 1485 Howard petitioned for the betrothal to stand – meanwhile Anne served her sister Elizabeth of York as a lady-in-waiting. She featured during the baptism of both Arthur and Margaret.  The problem was that the Howards were not supporters of the house of Lancaster.

John Howard, Thomas’s grandfather, served Edward IV and was knighted by him. Richard ennobled John making him the Duke of Norfolk on 28th June 1483 with Thomas’s father another Thomas, becoming the Earl of Surrey at the same time thus ensuring their continued loyalty.  In fact John, the 1st Howard Duke of Norfolk was killed at the Battle of Bosworth as he commanded the vanguard of Richard’s army by an arrow which struck him in the face.  The Earl of Surrey spent the next three years in the Tower until he convinced Henry VII of his loyalty.

3rd duke of norfolk framlinghamMeanwhile Anne married Thomas junior on 3rd February 1495. She was never the Duchess of Norfolk  Anne died in 1510 or 11 depending on the source.  It was only in 1514 that the Earl of Surrey was allowed to inherit his father’s title which had been made forfeit by his attainder following Bosworth.

Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_-_Thomas_Howard,_3rd_Duke_of_Norfolk_(Royal_Collection)As for Anne’s widower depicted above -Thomas junior- he would remarry Lady Elizabeth Stafford but would go down in history as the rather brutal third Duke of Norfolk, uncle of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard and arch-Tudor politician.  Anne had a son who died young but the Howard heirs came from the third duke’s marriage to Elizabeth Stafford (the eldest daughter of the Duke of Buckingham who revolted against Richard III and Eleanor Percy the eldest daughter of the Duke of Northumberland – and thus having more sound Lancastrian credentials.)

Anne was buried originally in Thetford Priory but upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries she was reinterred in Framingham Church.  Thomas Howard 3rd Duke of Norfolk managed to survive both his nieces’ downfalls, topple Thomas Cromwell from power  and generally demonstrated more political wiliness than a cat with nine lives but he was ultimately charged with treason and was sent to the Tower to await his execution.  Henry VIII died the night before he was due to be executed.  He eventually died in 1554 having been freed by Mary Tudor.

His tomb is in Framingham next to Anne who lays on his righthand-side because she, as a princess, is more important than a mere duke.

 

The Church of St Michael Framingham guidebook

 

The man who made priest holes

DSC_0094.jpgYesterday I found myself in the garderobe, sliding into a small space, ducking my head to avoid a low beam and then straightening to find myself in a priest hole.  Fortunately for me no one was going to slam the lid back into place and leave me in total darkness until it was safe for me to emerge or I was discovered and dragged off to the Tower.  I was enjoying a sunny afternoon at Oxborough Hall.

 

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During the reign of Elizabeth I Jesuits priests were feared as enemies of the state and hunted down by pursuivants.  Catholic priests moved from Catholic household to catholic household, often purporting to be cousins or other distant relations.  Wealthy families built hiding places in their homes so that when the priest hunters came calling there was somewhere to hide their illicit guest.

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The most successful priest holes were built by Nicholas Owen – not that he built the hole at Oxborough. Owen, an Oxfordshire man, was born in 1562.  He had three siblings one was a Catholic priest and another printed illegal Catholic books.  The brothers’ father was a carpenter and Nicholas in his turn was apprenticed to a joiner.  By the time he was in his mid twenties he was working for Father Henry Garnet and had become a lay brother in the Jesuit order.  He suffered from ill health including a limp from a poorly set bone and a hernia. Despite his physical frailty he travelled from house to house constructing priest holes.   Most of the people he worked for didn’t know his real name – to them he was Little John.  He worked by night in total secrecy to create his hiding places.  Many of the priest holes were so well concealed that they were only discovered in later centuries when houses underwent renovation.  Unfortunately the occasional hole is still found with its occupant still in situ.

 

Owen’s favoured locations seem to have been behind fireplaces and under stairs.  The pursuivants were men who could judge if an interior wall looked shorter than an exterior wall so Owen had to be very careful as to where he located his priest holes.

 

Nicholas was a man strong in faith.  He was eventually captured in 1606 at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.  It is thought he allowed himself to be captured in order to distract attention from Father Henry Garnet who was hiding nearby.

There were rules about torturing people with disabilities but this didn’t stop Robert Cecil from demanding that Owen be taken to the Tower and taxed about his knowledge by Topcliffe.  He was racked.  This caused his intestines to bulge out through his hernia.  Topcliffe ordered that they be secure by a metal plate. This cut into the hernia and he bled to death in his cell. He died rather than give away his secrets and the lives of the men who depended upon him keeping them.  The State announced that he had committed suicide.

St Nicholas Owen was canonised in 1970 and is the patron saint of illusionists and escape artists.

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Hogge Alice.  God’s Secret Agents

Reynolds, Tony. (2014) St Nicholas Owen: Priest Hole Maker

https://soul-candy.info/2012/03/mar-22-st-nicholas-owen-sj-d-1606-martyr-artist-builder-of-hiding-places-for-priests/

Illegitimate but loyal – the FitzJames family

220px-Arabella_ChurchillArabella Churchill was the mistress of the Duke of York for about ten years as well as being one of Anne Hyde’s ladies-in-waiting.  Arabella had four children by James.

Henrietta was the eldest of the siblings.  She married Henry Waldegrave, the son of a cavalier in 1683.  He was the Comptroller of James’ household.  Unlike her legitimate half-siblings Henrietta was raised as a Catholic and accompanied her father into exile along with Henry Waldegrave who died the following year.  She eventually married for a second time to Piers Butler, Viscount Galmoye but not before she’d had a fling with one of Ireland’s  wild geese. Through her first marriage she is an ancestor of Princess Diana.

Henrietta’s brother James, the most famous of Arabella’s FitzJames children, was raised in France and entered the service of Louis XIV.  He returned to England where he became an officer in the Blues at his father’s instigation.  In fact he was due to replace the protestant Earl of Oxford – an example of James’ strategy of giving key roles to Catholics – a strategy which helped to trigger the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  When men like John Churchill deserted James at Salisbury and went over to William of Orange, James remained loyal to his father and went to Ireland where the fight for the Crown continued before going into exile in France where he rejoined Louis XIV’s army.  His was a complicated life given that he found himself on the opposite side to his uncle, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough.  Henry became a marshal in the french army and counselled his father not to trust John Churchill.  At one point he was captured by another his Churchill uncles and only released when exchanged with a French prisoner.  He became the Duke of Berwick but its a Jacobite title rather than one recognised by the English peerage.  He was killed in 1733, aged 63, by a passing cannon ball having refused to take part in the Jacobite rising of 1715. The Dukedom of Alba continued as a Spanish title.

A second Fitzjames boy, Henry, died in 1702 in France whilst the youngest FitzJames sibling, called Arabella born in 1674 opted to become a nun in Pontoise.  She took the name Ignatia.

Arabella Churchill married Charles Godfrey circa 1674.  She went on to have forty years of happy married life and three more children.  Godfrey was a colonel and a Whig – so anti-Jacobite.  In an already complicated family it is perhaps not surprising to learn that the FitzJames’ stepfather was one of the first men to join with William of Orange.  He would serve in various positions within the royal household as well as becoming an MP. Arabella outlived him by some sixteen years dying at the age of eighty in 1730.

 

John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough – a smooth man

220px-John_Churchill_Marlborough_porträtterad_av_Adriaen_van_der_Werff_(1659-1722)Winston Churchill, from Devon, was a Cavalier – which wasn’t good news for John born in 1650 as Winston had spent the family money on the king.  However, John received an education at St Paul’s before acquiring a job as a page in the household of the Duke of York.  The methodology was very simply – his sister Arabella was one of James’ ladies.  This was despite the fact that she was deemed a rather plain girl who was a baton the thin side.   In fact there were four little FitzJames’ in the family.

John rose under the patronage of James, then Duke of York but was still short of cash.  This was remedied by a distant relation of his – Barbara Villiers – who also happened to be one of Charles II’s ladies.  Now, Barbara was not what be described as monogamous.  In 1667 when she became pregnant Charles denied paternity as he claimed that he hadn’t been anywhere near the lady at the required time.  Anyway, John was apparently rather a good looking young man and apparently Barbara wasn’t expecting a royal visit so retired for the evening with John only for the king to come a knocking on her door – yes, its the classic lover under the bed story.  Only in this instance to save the lady’s “honour” and possibly his own hide John made a rather daring leap from a first floor window.  Barbara very gratefully handed over £5000.  There is another version of the story that sent John scurrying for a handy cupboard where the king discovered him.. John threw himself to his knees.  Charles is said to have called John a “rascal” but pardoned him his actions because he knew the young man only did it for his “bread.”  Choose the version you prefer.  It is true that Barbara was generous with her young men.

For John though advancement came through his soldiering and his bride.  Young Sarah Jennings came from St Albans.  She came to court when she was about thirteen and living as she did in the household of the Duke of York came into contact with John who fell head over heels in love with the striking red head.  There was a secret marriage – his family required him to marry an heiress but Sarah’s family was not only large it had also been impoverished during the civil war.  The pair only confessed their marriage when Sarah became obviously pregnant.

Meanwhile Sarah had shown Princess Anne kindness during the Earl of Mulgrave scandal and Anne known for her somewhat obsessive friendships drew closer to Sarah.  Sarah’s influence together with Churchill’s victories during the Spanish War of Succession made the couple the wealthiest ex-commoners in the land.  When Sarah Churchill was finally banished from court in 1710 they were drawing an enormous £64,000 from the public purse and their total income was somewhere in the region of £94,000.

Holmes, Richard. (2009)  Marlborough:  Britain’s Greatest General: England’s Fragile Genius

The scandalous earl, a leaky boat and a Stuart princess

buffsjohnsheffield.jpgJohn Sheffield, the 3rd Earl of Mulgrave was born on the 7th April 1648.  He inherited his title when he was a child.  When he was eighteen he joined the fleet to fight against the Dutch in the Second Anglo Dutch war.  He went on to command his own ship, the Royal Katherine, and was also made an infantry colonel having raised a regiment of foot.  In 1680 he was sent to relieve the garrison of Tangiers.

All of which sounds like the usual “blah” until you realise that history says that he was sent off in a leaky boat to Tangiers for having looked a bit too closely at Charles II’s mistresses or else for having the audacity to look to marry James of York’s youngest daughter (it depends on the source but it was more likely the mistress than the princess given the date of his commission to relieve Tangiers which was before the princess scandal.)  Samuel Johnson mentions “some resentful jealousy of the king,” he also comments that since Mulgrave resumed his duties at court as a courtier on his return that perhaps Charles II had never been angry at all – making the whole story a Stuart red herring.

On his return from Tangiers Mulgrave became noted for his support of James of York. He was one of the men who helped to bring about the disgrace of the Earl of Monmouth (Charles II’s illegitimate but protestant son.) Not unreasonably Mulgrave may have expected a little gratitude from Monmouth’s uncle James, Duke of York.

 

fe6f287740b51454df7a553b40e9e0ae.jpgHowever, his desired reward was not forthcoming!  In 1682 Mulgrave was sent away from court for putting himself forward as a prospective groom for seventeen-year-old Princess Anne – the gossip mongers claimed that he’d progressed rather further with his courting than either James of Charles II liked. Mulgrave was thirty five at the time and had a reputation as a rake (hence the leaky Tangiers bound boat.) He was quick to report that he was “only ogling” the princess (charming) but at the time it was understood that he had written letters to the princess that were rather too personal.  When he was banished from court in November 1682 speculation about Anne’s possible seduction was rife. There were plenty of risqué songs on the subject in London’s taverns.

 

A description of the attempted disposal of Mulgrave by his dispatch to Tangiers can be found in an anonymous source in Cibber-Shiels, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) 3:285-300. Which may be accessed from http://spenserians.cath.vt.edu/BiographyRecord.php?action=GET&bioid=35802

This account is more probably true, than the former when it is considered, that by sending the earl to Tangier, a scheme was laid for destroying him, and all the crew aboard the same vessel. For the ship which was appointed to carry the general of the forces, was in such a condition, that the captain of her declared, he was afraid to make the voyage. Upon this representation, lord Mulgrave applied both to the lord admiral, and the king himself: The first said, the ship was safe enough, and no other could be then procured. The king answered him coldly, that he hoped it would do, and that he should give himself no trouble about it. His lordship was reduced to the extremity either of going in a leaky ship, or absolutely refusing; which he knew his enemies would impute to cowardice, and as he abhorred the imputation, he resolved, in opposition to the advice of his friends, to hazard all; but at the same time advised several volunteers of quality, not to accompany him in the expedition, as their honour was not so much engaged as his; some of whom wisely took his advice, but the earl of Plymouth, natural son of the king, piqued himself in running the same danger with a man who went to serve his father, and yet was used so strangely by the ill-offices of his ministers.

Providence, however defeated the ministerial scheme of assassination, by giving them the finest weather during the voyage, which held three weeks, and by pumping all the time, they landed safe at last at Tangier, where they met with admiral Herbert, afterwards earl of Torrington, who could not but express his admiration, at their having performed such a voyage in a ship he had sent home as unfit for service; but such was the undisturbed tranquility and native firmness of the earl of Mulgrave’s mind, that in this hazardous voyage, he composed (a) poem.

The poem I should add is described by Johnson as licentious.

 

Mulgrave remained in England after  King James II fled in 1688.  He even protected the Spanish ambassador from the London mob. His political career nose dived during the reign of William and Mary.

He remained on very good terms with Anne. He became the Lord Privy Seal after she became queen  and in 1703 was created Duke of Buckingham and Normanby. When in London he lived in Buckingham House which overlooked the Mall. He was furiously Tory in his sympathies throughout his life which was a bit of a problem whilst Sarah Churchill held the queen’s ear as she was a Whig.  It’s somewhat ironic that Sarah Churchill met Anne when they were children but it was only after the Mulgrave scandal that the two became close.

 

Just a reminder –  the final short summer class in Derby entitled Queen Anne- fact and fiction- starts on Tuesday 25th June.  There are still spaces.  Follow the link to find out more. https://thehistoryjar.com/derby-classes/

 

The Butler did it!

Paxton House.jpgPaxton House in Berwickshire, pictured here from the gardens to the rear of the property, is a Regency delight stuffed with Chippendale furniture.  It was built by Patrick Home who had to pay for the design of the house by John Adam (younger brother of Robert), the quarrying, dressing and building of his delightfully symmetrical home a few miles from Berwick.  Ironically having built it he never actually lived in it.

The Homes are an ancient – and somewhat unlucky- border family. This is perhaps testified by the fact that between 1413 and 1576 every eldest son of the Home family died either in battle or as a prisoner in English hands.  The house even boasts a section of the so-called Flodden Banner that covered the bodies of Lord Home and his oldest son.   Though of course Paxton House hadn’t been built at that point.  In fact it wouldn’t be started until 1755.

The Home family managed to get itself into even deeper trouble in 1715 when it supported the Jacobite cause. Sir George Home of Wedderburn, his brother and his son managed to get caught at the Battle of Preston. Although George’s life was spared he was still guilty of treason so lost the family estate.  However, a cousin called Ninian was able to demonstrate that George owed him so much money that the estate was effectively mortgaged to him – resulting in its return to the family.  As these things tend to be, inheritance proved complicated.  Ninian had returned the property to George but none of George’s sons had legitimate heirs.  There were daughters.  Ninian intended that his son should marry George’s daughter Margaret but the son preferred Margaret’s younger sister.  Ninian having been widowed married Margaret himself…with me so far?  He was approximately thirty years older than his bride but that didn’t stop him fathering a second rather large family of whom the builder of Paxton House – Patrick- was the eldest surviving son.

Ninian died.  Margaret became responsible for her family’s upbringing.  Patrick was to be a lawyer. She sent him to be educated in Leipzig.  From there he went to Frederick the Great’s court, fell in love and was ordered to take the grand tour by his mother principally because the only way for Patrick to marry the girl he loved was to settle in Germany and Margaret did not want the family money to leave the country.

Whilst Patrick was touring Europe the family butler decided to relieve the family of the rent which was kept in a locked cabinet beneath Lady Home’s bed in her home at Linthill near Eyemouth.  The cabinet is now at Paxton House. Patrick’s mother was in the habit of carefully locking her chamber door before retiring to bed.  She also kept the keys to the cabinet under her pillow.

The butler, a man by the name of Norman Ross, knew how the tumbler mechanism for the lock to her bedroom worked.  He let himself in having stopped the lock by choking it with cherry stones, hid until Lady Home retired for the night and waited until she was asleep.  There was then the small matter of retrieving the keys from beneath her pillow.

Martin, David, 1737-1797; Margaret Home (d.1751), Lady BillieUnfortunately Margaret pictured above (image accessed from https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/margaret-home-d-1751-lady-billie-210935)  awoke.  The butler panicked and stabbed his employer with a knife – that he either had about him or which was upon the night stand depending on the source.  Margaret managed to summon help and survived long enough to name her murderer who had escaped through a window as the servants arrived on the scene.  She died on August 16 1751- the attack having happened on the night of the 12th.  Other accounts suggest that Margaret survived only two days.  In either event the murder is deemed to have occurred on the 12th.

Ross was arrested the following day and conveyed to Edinburgh where he was tried.  Prior to his execution he had his right hand chopped off.  He was also hanged in chains – one of the last men to suffer this fate.  Essentially his body was tarred and hanged in a cage where it was left to decompose. The severed hand was placed on top of the gallows.  Scottish law and English law differed in the treatment of Ross.  Under English law he would have been found guilty of petty treason but under Scottish law it was murder plain and simple.  The additional punishment reflected the fact that bond between servant and employer had been broken.  Ross was a trusted member of the household and is described in texts of the time as Margaret Home’s “confidential servant.”

It was probably as a consequence his dramatic return home that Patrick forgot to empty his travelling chest – a large and ornate piece of furniture.  It eventually languished in Paxton House for the next two hundred  and fifty years – consequentially the house has some very fine mid eighteenth century gentlemen’s costumes on display.

In 1755 Patrick began to build the house with a view to marrying the young woman he’d fallen in love with when he was twenty-two.  Unfortunately Sophie de Brandt, his sweetheart, died before the house was finished.  Patrick never furnished the house – that task fell to his cousin, another Ninian Home, when Patrick sold him the house in 1773 having inherited Wedderburn Castle from his uncle.

I loved Paxton House – a hidden gem. It’s part of the Historic Houses Association and entry to the house is by tour.  I’d have to say as much as I enjoyed the history I also enjoyed spotting the appropriately regency clad teddy bears that are part of the children’s trail! There’s no image of the Flodden Banner as photography is not permitted in the house.

 

The Scots Magazine   – Volume 13 – Page 405

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YoE4AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA355&lpg=PA355&dq=murder+of+margaret+Home,+Lady+Billie+1751&source=bl&ots=WLN4vs7WI0&sig=ACfU3U0WxBupL5x7hwUG_E4yhfc5OQ8Klg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD89us1eniAhW5XRUIHUHPDpE4ChDoATABegQICRAB#v=onepage&q=murder%20of%20margaret%20Home%2C%20Lady%20Billie%201751&f=false

Preston Tower and it’s builder – from murderer to warden of the east march

preston towerIn 1415 there were about 78 peel or pele towers in Northumberland.  These towers were essentially private fortifications for protection in the event of Scottish raids – or neighbours you  didn’t necessarily agree with.  The idea was that you could secure your family and portable valuables until it was safe to emerge or help arrived – beacons were kept on the top of the towers which could be lit to summon help and to worn the surrounding countryside of danger. Preston tower 1

Peel towers were an architecture that resulted from the Scottish Wars of Independence.  Some of the peel towers were not ordinarily used as dwellings – rather they should be considered refuges in times of trouble whilst at the other end of the spectrum places like Aydon Castle near Hexham resemble castles.

Preston Tower was built by Sir Robert Harbottle at the end of the fourteenth century.  Sir Robert was a man of his time.  He was part of the affinity of Sir Mathew Radmayne of Levens and rose in Redmayne’s service.  When Harbottle murdered a man in Methley in Yorkshire in 1392 it was Redmayne and his successor who secured Harbottle’s pardon.

You’d have thought that Harbottle would have kept his head down but it wasn’t long before he came to the attention of the law once again when he took part in a raid on the Yorkshire property of Isabel Fauconberg stealing her property as well as the property of her tenants.   A commission was set up to investigate but somehow or other Harbottle escaped the consequence of his crimes once more.

Henry IV,  having taken the crown from his cousin Richard II, made him constable of Dunstanburgh Castle in 1399 – clearly not having read his cv beforehand.  He even managed to acquire one of the wardenship of the east march – essentially turning Harbottle into the law.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that since he did so well from the Red Rose monarchs that Harbottle was loyal to both Henry IV and Henry V even when the Percy family rebelled against them.  Having bagged himself an heiress in the form of Isabel Monbourcher,  Harbottle had risen from henchman to man of wealth and influence.  When Hotspur rebelled against Henry IV, Harbottle was able to claim a better share of his wife’s inheritance  – so it would appear that luck was on his side as well.

In between times Harbottle had served in Henry IV’s army in 1400 against the Scots and became a member for parliament.  In short he had become part of the gentry in the north and had a good stout peel tower to prove it.

Preston Tower has walls which are over two metres thick, is three storeys high and has rooms off the main chamber at each level.  It was described by Pevsner as one of the best bits of medieval architecture in the country.

 

https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/harbottle-robert-1419

Caroline of Ansbach – how to get your husband to do what you want him to do!

Caroline of Ansbach

I came across an old Jean Plaidy novel – I haven’t read one for years but, unusually, being short of a book I started reading and am hooked – I may even start to take a more lively interest in the Hanoverians so long as I don’t get mired in Whigs and Tories.

Caroline was George II’s wife.   The thing that’s impossible to escape in the fictional account is that Caroline spends a lot of time pretending to be rather dim whilst actually manipulating her husband, George II, in terms of political decision making.

Inevitably I’ve gone off to the history books to find out more. George I and George, then Prince of Wales, had an almighty row and as a consequence George and Caroline were sent away from court.  Even worse Caroline was separated from her daughters.  She’d already had to leave her son Frederick in Hanover when the family came to England in 1714.

George I died in 1727  at which point George II became king. Caroline formed an alliance with Walpole who held a substantial majority in Parliament.  Initially they formed an alliance about the amount that the civil list would pay.  During the rest of her life  they persuaded the king to do what Walpole wanted.  This meant that Caroline had some sort of say in what happened in England.  Lord Hervey, Walpole’s political opponent cultivated the king’s mistress and discovered that it didn’t get him very far at all.

Caroline arrived in England as Princess of Wales when George, Elector of Hanover became king of England in 1714.  She immediately became the most important woman at court because George I was short of a queen.  George I had locked his wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, (who was also George’s first cousin)  in Ahlden Castle.  She’d been there since 1694  on account of her affair with  Count von Königsmarck.  The count was rather more unfortunate – his body was apparently disposed of in a river. Sophia Dorothea died in 1726.  George did bring his half sister and his mistress with him but they hardly counted in terms of the court scene, even though they did gain the names of the Elephant and the Maypole based on their looks.

Initially her court was almost separate from that of her husband – this wasn’t unusually what was different was that she filled it with intellectuals.  This must have come as a bit of a surprise after Queens Mary and Anne who weren’t known for their brains.  She  deliberately sought out Sir Issac Newton and was friends with Jonathan Swift.  She also set about trying to improve the lives of the people of England. In 1722 she had all of her children inoculated against small pox – using a cow pox vaccine making the whole thing wildly fashionable.  I’m less sure how warmly I feel about the fact that she had all the foundlings in London’s Foundling hospital inoculated before her own children.

Lucy Worsley says that she was the cleverest queen consort to sit on the throne.  Walpole commented that he’d taken the “right sow by the ear” when he chose to work with her.  Certainly when George went back to Hanover he trusted her sufficiently for her to rule as regent, during which time she wanted a closer look at the penal code of the time.  She was liberal in thought and behaviour and demonstrated compassion not only to the country’s imprisoned masses but also tried to plead leniency for the Jacobites in 1715.

Most important of all was that she was able to soothe George’s ruffled feathers, make him believe her words were his ideas and withstand his rudeness to her in public.  Whilst she had her husband fooled the public weren’t so easily hoodwinked:

You may strut, dapper George but ’twill all be in vain:

We know ’tis Queen Carline, not you, that reign.

The truth was that everyone apart from her husband knew that she was an intelligent and able consort.

Was she a successful queen?  The terms by which queen consorts are judged are not by their capacity to manipulate their spouses but by the children they produce.  Caroline was pregnant on at least ten occasions and had eight children. She’d already had a son and three daughters by the time she became Princess of Wales.  Her favourite son was William whom history calls Butcher Cumberland.  Together with her husband she didn’t much like her eldest son Frederick and was horrible to both him and his wife continuing a Hanoverian traction that would be maintained throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Caroline who had become rather overweight in later years died in November 1737 from a strangulated bowel  that was in part the product of poor treatment after the birth of her youngest child.  She underwent several rather unpleasant operations without any painkillers, although she did apparently find the fact that her surgeon managed to set his wig on fire with a candle rather amusing. She finally died  whilst holding her husband’s hand.

 

George II announced that no other woman he knew was fit to buckle her shoe – though that hadn’t stopped him from having many mistresses during their marriage or telling Caroline that she should love one mistress because the mistress loved him.

Dennison, Mathew. The First Iron Lady

http://www.lucyworsley.com/poor-queen-caroline-and-her-horrible-death/

 

Arson, poison murder plot, secret agents and a hat pin.

Breadsall 1There may have been a  church on the site of  All Saints in Breadsall since Saxon times – certainly the stones at the bottom of the tower suggest as much.  The Normans rebuilt  and there were further changes in the thirteenth century to create a place of worship in the Early English style. Succeeding generations placed their mark on the building. It even boasted a set of chained medieval books and an Elizabethan altar until the night of 4th June 1914 when the whole lot went up in smoke.

At 11.30 pm the alarm was raised by Mr Hopkins who saw the light in the church from his cottage.  He alerted the verger who in turn summoned the rector and the church wardens.  Before long local inhabitants were through buckets of water on the fire with little or no effect.  Meanwhile the motorised fire engine in Derby needed permission before it could attend the fire so that by the time it arrived the Norman tower was an inferno.

Reverend Whitaker told journalists that suffragettes were responsible.  The aged cleric was adamant.  Witnesses spoke of an explosion suggesting arson.  The church had no electricity or gas to have caused the effect. His worst fears were confirmed when Alice Wheeldon confessed to having done so, though not to the police.

CRIwheeldonH2.jpgThe problem with this neat scenario is that aside from Alice’s confession (seated on the far left of the picture next to her two daughters and a prison warder) the only evidence of suffragette involvement were three letters which arrived after the event  and some graffiti on a wall a mile away – in other cases letters were left at the scene at the time of the arson rather than arriving afterwards. The only other evidence was a woman sized hole in a window and a hat pin which was found nearby.

Other suffragettes were available nearby (Nottingham) as were some members of the Boys Brigade (camping) -who might presumably  have fitted through a “woman-sized” hole  – though presumably they might not have required a hat pin to fix their headgear!  hough its not beyond the realms of possibility that the hat pin was simply an example of lost property.  In any event no one has ever been arrested for the destruction of All Saints.

Just when it couldn’t have got much stranger Alice was arrested on 30 January 1917,  with two of her daughters, and charged with conspiracy to murder both the Liberal Prime Minister Lloyd George and Labour Party Minister Arthur Henderson.

Alice was sentenced to 10 years in prison and was sent to Aylesbury Prison where she went on hunger strike.  From there she was sent to Holloway.  However, Lloyd George requested her release  from prison.  This happened, on licence, on 31 December 1917.  The family had always maintained that their arrests were the result of an elaborate set up, Alice was radical in her opposition to the war.  Alice, her health damaged by the hunger strike, died in 1919 but was cleared of the charges in 2013.

Meanwhile All Saints underwent restoration at a cost of £11,000.

https://www.historytoday.com/archive/losing-plot-trial-alice-wheeldon