Nunnington Hall – Jacobites, cypher and ghosts.

Picture 170Nunnington Hall in Ryedale is built on land originally owned by St Mary’s Abbey in York. The hall is fifteenth and sixteenth century in origin –so no medieval links to feasting or law should you pause a while in the double height hallway with its baronial fireplace  but its perhaps unsurprising to discover that there was a building here in the thirteenth century.

 

The_Marquess_of_Northampton_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger.jpgThe history of  Nunnington’s owners is lively. It passed into the Parr family when Maud Green married Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal. As the elder of the two co-heresses it was Maud who acquired Nunnington. Maud died in 1532. Her son William inherited the property but unfortunately for him the then Marquess of Northampton became involved in Wyatt’s Rebellion of 1553. The bid to replace mary Tudor with Lady Jane Grey failed. Jane had not plotted but her father the duke of Suffolk had become involved. He, his daughter and his son-in-law were promptly executed. Parr was fortunate to suffer only attainder. Nunnington was forfeit to the Crown.

 

220px-Viscount_prestonNunnington was leased out to various families including Elizabeth I’s physician but in 1655, after the English Civil War, the manor was sold to Ranald Graham. He was succeeded by his nephew Sir Richard Graham of Netherby in Cumbria. He was made Viscount Preston and Baron Esk in 1681. He would also marry into the Howard family when he married the daughter of the earl of Carlisle. He served under Charles II and James II. He even did a turn as English ambassador in France. In 1689 his luck turned when he sided with James II rather than William of Orange and James’ daughter Mary. Graham was captured on his way across the Channel. Even as his escape vessel was boarded he made every attempt to destroy incriminating documents. He was attainted and sentenced to death in 1691. The sentence was never carried out because Queen Mary spared him when his daughter Catherine pleaded for his life- it may also have helped that he did turn evidence against his fellow conspirators- but his lands were parcelled out to, amongst others, the earl of Carlisle. It was just as well that it had all been kept in the family because Richard was allowed home and his son Edward eventually inherited Graham’s estate although it was his daughter Catherine by then Lady Widdrington who ultimately inherited Nunnington when her nephew Charles died – the names give an indication of continued Graham loyalty to the Stuart cause…though how the Jacobites felt about Lord Preston giving evidence against them is another matter entirely.

 

The Graham family maintained their loyalty to the Jacobite cause particularly Richard’s daughter Catherine. Even today if you visit the house you can see a ring which contains a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hair, an Order of the Garter and blue garter ribbon belonging to Prince Charles Edward Stuart and fragments of Jacobite plaid.

The symbolism of the Jacobite cause is hard to ignore and in additon to drinking toasts to the king over the water it turns out that some families advertised their loyalty to the cause by planting Scots’ pine in a prominent position. There is one at Nunnington. There is even a notebook discovered in 2011 filled with cipher which is still unexplained made by Graham and hidden under the floorboards.

 

So there is the Bonnie Prince Charlie link and now for the second of the ghost stories:

It is said that one of Nunnington’s squires being a widower with a young son remarried. The new wife quickly provided a second son for the squire and when the squire died she set about ensuring that her son inherited rather than his elder half-brother.

At first the woman locked her step-son in an attic where he was ill clothed and poorly fed. Orders were given that no one was to have anything to do with the boy. The only person who dared to defy this order was the boy’s younger half-brother. He would take toys, clothes and food up to the attics and spend time there. However, one day he made his accustomed climb up the stairs to find the room deserted and no sign of what had become of the older boy.

It was suggested by some that he had either been sent to sea or run away to sea. Less kind folk hinted that the boy’s step- mother had murdered the lad.

The little boy now inherited Nunnington but he was devastated by the disappearance of his brother and believed that the boy would return. One day he thought he heard his brother, leant to far out of the window and fell to his death. The boy’s mother took to sitting in the panelled room where her son had fallen and it wasn’t long before she too died. It is said that the sound a a rustling silk gown can be heard as the woman searches for ever for her own dead boy.

I’d have to admit that Nunnington Hall is a tad on the draughty side but I spend rather more time trying to photograph the peahen’s chicks than stalk ghosts.

 

 

 

‘Parishes: Nunnington’, in A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1, ed. William Page (London, 1914), pp. 544-548. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/north/vol1/pp544-548 [accessed 17 December 2017].

 

Material Culture and Sedition, 1688-1760: Treacherous Objects, Secret Places

By M. Pittock

 

 

 

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Visiting a stately stack in the eighteenth century

brodsworth-conserved.jpgKeeping it short today but there are two links if you would like to find out more.

I have come across a rather interesting article on the British Library Blog.  For those of you who like your Jane Austen you may recall that Lizzie Bennet’s opinion of Fitzwilliam Darcy went a sea change once she clapped eyes on his stately pile in the country.  Sight seeing isn’t a modern phenomenon but what I didn’t realise was the by the eighteenth century many house owners had recourse to guide books.  The British Library cites the example of Burghley House and Duncombe Park.  Sadly there were no references to halls leading me to wonder whether Houses and Parks were deemed to be of greater merit than halls – of course, its an interesting question but sadly not one I have an answer to.

It also turns out that some houses allowed anybody to wander around whilst others only allowed the quality to take a turn around the long gallery. Today of course many halls are in the care of organisations other than the families that originally owned them.. There are exceptions though.  Burton Agnes Hall in EastYorkshire is a Jacobean hall, though like Hardwick Hall the remnants of the earlier medieval hall is close by.   It is still a family home.

Newby Hall, another Yorkshire hall, is also a family home and like the two properties identified above the Adam style gem was built close to the medieval hall which fell into ruin.

The rebuilding of older halls continued into the nineteenth century.   Nidd Hall is an example of the later phase of hall building by a Victorian businessman who was buying it to the idea of the gentry.  Brodsworth Hall, pictured at the start of the post, tells a similar story – leading to the question how many of these rebuilds came about because men with aspirations visited older halls and when the opportunity arose built one of their own?

The next post will be abut Nunnington Hall and Bonnie Prince Charlie…and another Christmas Ghost story.

http://blogs.bl.uk/collectioncare/2014/08/eighteenth-century-country-house-guidebooks-tools-for-interpretation-and-souvenirs.html#

http://patrickbaty.co.uk/2012/12/04/the-entrance-hall-in-the-18th-century/

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Westminster Hall

Westminster-Hall-1764

It’s all looking very festive around here – and dangerous.  The road hasn’t been gritted so it currently looks and feels just like an ice rink.  On the plus side I have finished some writing today.  On the minus side not only am I not going out for a Christmas meal tonight but I shalln’t be following Buckingham’s rebellion tomorrow or killing off the Princes in the Tower – nor for that matter shall I be allowing either one of them to turn into a conspiracy theory.  All of which is very irritating and I can only extend my apologies to any of my students who may be reading this.

Halls – right at the start of December I mentioned the fact that halls were where their owners dispensed justice.  And of course, there’s a hall with a rather long pedigree that has done exactly that over the last nine hundred years or so.  Westminster Hall was built in 1097 by William Rufus – it was the largest hall in Europe at the time, or so Historians think.  Richard II had the hall rebuilt because it was looking somewhat battered by the time he came to the throne. The medieval hammer beam roof was one of his modifications. The hall gradually evolved into the administrative seat for the kingdom. It was here that Henry II crowned his eldest son Henry in Westminster Hall in June 1170.  There was a second coronation in Winchester.

 

It is as a law court though that Westminster Hall echoes down the pages of history. William Wallace was tried here and by the time of the Tudors the hall is knee deep in well-known names from the duke of Buckingham tried for treason in 1522 based on his Plantagenet blood and probably having irritated Cardinal Wolsey. Sir Thomas More was tried here in 1535, so were Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers the following year. Protector Somerset had judgement passed down here and so did the father of Lady Jane Grey for his part in Wyatt’s Rebellion. Jesuits faced english law here during the reign of Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex was tried in Westminster Hall following his rebellion. A few years later Guy Fawkes stood in his place.  Later Charles I was tried for crimes against his own people and following the Restoration the regicides were also tried here.

The only man who successful escaped the headsman or the noose following a trial for treason during Henry VIII’s reign was also tried at Westminster Hall.  Lord Dacre of the North was found innocent in July 1535. His accusers were described as “mean and provoked Scottish men” – Sir Ralph Fiennes and his co-accuser a man named William Musgrave were not particularly Scottish but there’s nothing like being damned by association.  Dacre’s wife tried to intercede on her husband’s behalf but was told by the monarch to button it until after her husband’s trial.  Apparently Dacre refuted his accusers in a “manly”  and “witty” sort of way for seven hours before being declared innocent.

William Dacre (a.k.a. Baron Greystoke) was married to the earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter and held down a number of responsible border posts such as Deputy Warden of the West March.  This led to a falling out with the earl of Cumberland (Clifford family) who was given a role in 1525 that Dacre believed to be his by right of blood.  Unsurprisingly there was some border high jinks resulting in Cumberland only being able to rule with Dacre at his side. To make matters worse when Dacre did get his hands on the job his counterpart in the East March was given a pay rise whilst he was given the old rate. Its easy to see that hostilities and resentments were not particularly veiled.  Unfortunately for Dacre he did what Border Wardens do – i.e. talk to the Scots. This was in 1534.  He was accused of treason because this conversation took place during a time of hostility. He was hauled off to London where he was put on trial for treason. The chief witness against him was his former servant – William Musgrave.

Dacre was acquitted but as with all things Tudor there is a sting in the tale.  Henry VIII fined him none-the-less. It is perhaps surprising therefore that in 1536 Dacre demonstrated his loyalty to Henry VIII throughout the Pilgrimage of Grace.  His feud with the Musgrave family was not so easily settled and it is known to have continued into the 1550s.

 William Cobbett, David Jardine (1809) Cobbett’s complete collection of state trials and proceedings for high treason and other crimes and misdemeanors from the earliest period to the present time  accessed from https://archive.org/details/acompletecollec03cobbgoog

http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/westminsterhall/architecture/early-history/

Westminster Hall 1097

 

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East Riddlesdon Hall

DSC_0001-19East Riddlesdon Hall near Keighley in West Yorkshire is the site of a medieval hall. It is perhaps not conincidental that archeologists have identified the line of a Roman road crossing the River Aire just below the house. Riddlesdon even got a mention in the Domesday Book as belonging to a Saxon called Gospatrick– so no nouveau riche families trying to making their home older than it actually is here then!   The land and hall came into the ownership of the de Montalt family , was split due to marriages and then passed into the hands of the Paslew family – through the marriage of Maude and Robert.

 

In the 1400s the Paslew family added a farm on the side of the hall. Other families made their extensions and the wealth of the hall ebbed and flowed during the centuries that followed. In the sixteenth century Robert Rishworth brought some of the property and married to acquire the rest. The remodelling continued. East Riddleson was extended and subdivided before becoming a tenanted farm demonstrating that halls do not always follow an upwards trajectory nor do their owners always succeed in leaving the gentry in an upwards direction!

 

East RidlesdonSo the objects for this particular December posting? Seventeenth century spot samplers containing butterflies, beasties and the odd basilisk as well as modern examples of blackwork – a counted embroidery style popularised by Katherine of Aragon. Samplers turn up in the accounts of Elizabeth of York but it isn’t until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that history provides many examples.  Some of them, beautiful intricate examples, are worked by girls as young as eight or nine.  The ones that have never been framed are as vibrant as the day they were finished.  And I must admit that I do love exploring stately stacks where there are plenty of examples of different kinds of needlework.  One of these days I’m going to stitch my own basilisk!

East Riddlesdon

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Blickling Hall and the Boleyns

Queen Anne BoleynThere are rather a lot of halls in England and they aren’t all ancient seats – rather some of them seem to have been given the name hall to hint at an antiquity that didn’t exist. The Telegraph’s list of best stately homes has houses and palaces – the first hall is number ten on the list.  So that is my post for today.  Blickling Hall in Norfolk which definitely  has a pedigree.

Blickling was originally a medieval moated hall of the end described in earlier posts this month. It changed hands several times but this post is particularly interested in its purchase by Sir Geoffrey Bullen.  He was a successful merchant who would become Lord Mayor of London. Not only did he do well financially but he married up when he took the hand of Ann Hoo the daughter of the first Lord Hoo – not bad for the son of a yeoman farmer from Salle.   Geoffrey was knighted by Henry VI and was a friend of Sir John Falstaff of Caistor who was the inspiration for Shakespeare and who left his home to the Pistons causing a feud between the family and the duke of Norfolk.

Geoffrey’s son William did even better in the matrimonial stakes than his father.  He married Lady Margaret Butler, the daughter of the earl of Ormonde and one of his co-heirs.  It was form here that the Boleyn claim to the earldom of Ormonde stemmed – and which could have changed Anne Boleyn’s fate had she been married off to James Butler in order to resolve an inheritance dispute over the title and lands.   William was created a knight of the Bath by Richard III. He died in 1505.

Blickling was Thomas Boleyn’s residence from 1499 until 1505 when he inherited Hever from his father.  Thomas did even better in matrimonial terms than his father or grandfather in that he married the daughter of a duke – Lady Elizabeth Howard.    It’s thought that both Anne, Mary and their brother George were born there. If Anne was born after 1505 rather than in about 1501 then its more likely that she was born at Hever in Kent.

As with the medieval site there’s not a great deal of Tudor Blickling left as it was rebuilt during the Jacobean period by Sir Henry Hobart in about 1616. The house is worth visiting as one of the most beautiful Jacobean houses in the country but sadly I have no photographs of it as the last time I visited digital cameras were unheard of.

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a good ghost story – so here it is.  Anne Boleyn is said to return to her place of birth on the anniversary of her execution (19th May 1536).  The former queen arrives in a coach,  driven by a headless horseman and pulled by four headless horses, at midnight.  Dressed in white, carrying her own head she descends from the coach to walk the corridors of her childhood home, undeterred by Sir Henry Hobart’s rebuilding of the hall, until the sun rises.

 

If that’s not your cup of tea, Blicking Hall is home to a portrait supposed to be a young Ann Boleyn. There’s also a portrait of her daughter Elizabeth I.

 

 

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Georgian style

fullsizeoutput_11c.jpegThe Georgian Period dates between 1714 with the accession of George I and 1830 when William IV or Sailor Billy as he was known succeeded his brother George IV.

The Regency Period which often dominates popular knowledge because of it influence on culture, fashion and architecture only lasted nine years from February 05 1811 when George III was deemed incapable of ruling and his son became Prince Regent in his stead.George III had suffered from periodic bouts of madness caused, we think, by porphyria that had alarmed Parliament since 1788 but the death of his youngest daughter Princess Amelia aged only 27 in November 1810 sent him spiralling into insanity.  The Prince Regent, “Prinny” or George Augustus Frederick to give him his full name ruled in his father’s stead for the nine years until George III died in Windsor Castle on 29 January 1820.  The Prince Regent then became George IV.

Just to confuse things slightly further the Regency era is usually seen as incorporating the reigns of both George IV and William IV as well coming to an end only with the reign of Queen Victoria.

Essentially Regency Architecture is Neo-Classical.  Its about symmetry, balance, columns, pastel shades animist importantly breaking the rules of proportion.  It associated with Robert Adam amongst others.  I should add that I’ve by-passed the earlier Georgian Palladian Architecture completely.  Palladian Architecture was bound by the rules of proportion as a result tends to look heavier than Neo-Classical buildings – but as with all these things it is probable that you wouldn’t have had one without the other.

Aside from Bath’s famous and very beautiful crescent Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire springs to mind as being very Neo-Classical and its a hall – so that’s where my advent image for today is coming from.  The lion can be found in the Long Walk rather than in the hallway!  He’s a reproduction of a sixteenth century lion in the Villa Medici in Rome. The ball doesn’t not represent the lion’s desire for a game of football but is representative of the Earth.  The lion is about power and, of course, royalty.  Nathanial Curzon commissioned the piece in 1759 – which is somewhat before the Regency Era.

Curzon, like many other men of the period, was influenced by his Grand Tour of Europe – the Seventeen and Eighteenth Century equivalent of a gap year.  Essentially the idea of the Grand Tour was to broaden the mind and apparently to collect classical stuff if half the stately houses I’ve ever been to are anything to go by.  This discovery of ancient architecture and artefacts was one of the things which influenced the Palladian and Neo-Classical styles.  Men wished to emulate the ancient civilisations.

If you’re feeling grieved by the fact that the only hall aspect of this post is the name Kedleston Hall all I can do is offer you some examples of Neo-Classical staircases such as the one in Somerset House or the impressive spiralling staircase in the Greenwich Naval College.

 

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Chatsworth – a Baroque stair-hall

Mr Toad.jpg

Toad at Chatsworth 

Houses gradually changed their style throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries until we arrive at the Baroque Period. In England the Baroque is roughly dated from the reign of Charles II to the end of the Stewart period in 1714. The chap who put Baroque on the English map was Sir Christopher Wren in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London in 1666.  St Paul’s is a Baroque masterpiece.

The Italians, who were masters of the Baroque had a thing about stairs – so halls changed once again to accommodate the aforementioned stair cases and the word stair-hall was coined. There are some extremely impressive stair halls at Versailles. They were meant to intimidate visiting ambassadors. The key elements of a Baroque stair hall are marble, niches, with illusory scenes and a sense of airiness created by trompe l’oeil as well as ceiling lights.  It’s all very big and dramatic and screams money and power at you.  It’s supposed to scream learning and appreciation of the arts as well…the one thing it doesn’t do is whisper understated refinement.

 

The most impressive Baroque stair hall I can think of is the one at Chatsworth House. Bess of Hardwick’s building project was given an overhaul in 1687 by the 4th earl of Devonshire (he went on to become the 1st duke). The Painted Hall as it is known was designed by William Talman – it has heaps of marble, sculpture, art and a richly decorated ceiling. The Devonshires appear to have a gene that demands the occasional spot of building work but although the hall has been modified across the centuries the Baroque splendour remains stunning.
fullsizeoutput_2c01I must admit that there are a several of things that I love about Chatsworth aside from the stunning backdrop and the Emperor Fuuntain – always interesting when the art exhibition is in residence; the hunting dogs situated in the Elizabethan courtyard (though they’ve shifted during renovation work), the intricate carvings of Grinling Gibbons, artifacts belonging to Mary Queen of Scots and a delightful portrait of Magdalena de Vos painted by her father Cornelius.chatsowrthhounds

 

However, given that it’s Christmas I thought that today’s advent is Chatsworth decked for Christmas. This year there’s a Dickensian theme but the last time I went the theme was Wind in the Willows and what could be better than a Baroque stair-hall and Mr Toad?  And let me assure you that there’s nothing quite so wonderful as the sight of stoats and weasels having a riot on a table fit for a queen!

 

 

John Templer The Staircase: History and Theories, Volume 1

 

 

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Tudor dolls

Arbella Stuart

Up until the fourteenth century the great hall doubled as a place to sleep for all but the wealthiest. As the decades progressed vernacular building styles changed and more people could afford their own private chambers. For instance chimneys replaced open hearths.   This meant that the hall could now be a ground floor space with a first floor above it rather than being open to the roof. Ultimately the wealthy dined in private rooms and the servants were relegated to the servant’s hall. Once food was removed from the hall it changed into a grand entrance way. As times became more peaceful the hall could be extended into part of a winged building. The great hall disappeared altogether where builders began from scratch.

Hardwick-Hall-plan-1024x621

 

So – Renaissance halls were much less functionally important than their medieval predecessors but still an important statement of wealth and ostentation. Four times married Bess of Hardwick poured her wealth into her building projects from her home at Chatsworth, via Buxton Old Hall and alms houses in Derby to Hardwick. Hardwick Hall is famously “more glass than wall” and it has a great hall style space which lays at its very heart  as shown in the plan above– but no staircase in that particular location! England’s first official architect Robert Smythson who was also responsible for Longleat built it.

 

However, there’s plenty of information about Hardwick available on-line so my third advent for 2017 is this image of Arbella Stuart. Bess of Hardwick forged strong marriage alliances for her off-spring but over-stepped herself when she arranged a marriage between her daughter Elizabeth Cavendish and Lord Darnley’s younger brother Charles Stuart. Lord Darnley was, of course, Henry Stuart the murdered spouse of Bess’s” house guest” Mary Queen of Scots. It happened that Bess was friends with Margaret, Countess of Lennox – the mother of the Stuart boys. And, of course Margaret’s mother was Henry VII’s eldest daughter Margaret Tudor. Bess of Hardwick became grandmother to a contender for the throne. No wonder she described Arbella as “my jewel.”

 

The story goes that Margaret was travelling with her son Charles from London to their lands in Yorkshire. They stopped off at Rufford Abbey – one of Bess’s residences purchased by husband number two, William Cavendish, at the dissolution of the monasteries. Bess arrived with her daughter Elizabeth in tow. Margaret promptly became unwell and what was Bess to do but nurse her poor friend, leaving their children to get to know one another better. It all sounds very romantic but the two women had been plotting for the better part of a year to arrange the match. Bess’s husband the earl of Shrewsbury was not amused when he heard the news. The marriage into the Tudor family line and the arrival of little Arbella were nails in the coffin of Bess’s final marriage.

 

Arbella was born in 1575 – probably at Lennox House in Hackney. Charles died the following year and the title that should have been Arbella’s went back to Scotland. It is significant that the portrait identifies Arbella as the countess of Lennox. It would be a claimed that she pursued intermittently for the rest of her life.

 

bartholomews babyThis portrait was painted by an unknown artist in about 1577 and one of the things I love about it is the doll. Dolls as toys have been around for a very long time. There’s a Roman ragdoll in the British Museum for instance. There are other sixteenth century portraits of children with dolls but this one is done up to the nines – so its more of a fashion doll for an adult rather than a child’s toy. It suggests that the infant Arbella was much cossetted.

Dolls were sometimes called Bartholomew babies according to information I once read at Knebworth House because they were often purchased at St Bartholomew’s Fair in London. These dolls were carved from wood. They had a head and a torso but no arms or legs. The wooden shape could then be painted and dressed. The British Museum has another kind of doll in its Complete-pewter-doll-bluecollection dating from Tudor times and also thought to be sold at fairs like St Bartholomew’s. It was found in the Thames and is a rare survival made from lead alloy.

By 1582 there was a tax on foreign made dolls though they weren’t known as dolls until the eighteenth century.

 

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Medieval Halls

DSC_0204Until about 1600 halls were large official rooms rather than private spaces.  Gainsborough Old Hall is the advent for December 2nd.  It’s a wonderful building constructed from timber frame and brick.  It was built by Thomas Burgh who inherited the manor of Gainsborough in 1455 – so just as the Wars of the Roses was kicking off.  Thomas’s father had done rather well from the Hundred Years War and had married into the Percy family to improve their social standing.  It was his marriage into the Party family that bought Gainsborough into the Burgh’s possession.

Historians believe that the hall and kitchen were built first from timber in the traditional manner with a cruck frame and wattle and daub. The brick was added later when the Burgh family wanted new ways of showing off their wealth.  The great hall is constructed from huge oak beams.  Originally there would have been a central fire.  The smoke escaped through a louvred frame in the roof – so more kippering.  The raised dais where the lord and his family sat was at the opposite end of the room from the cooking  and service areas which were accessed through three doors.  Evidence of the screen hiding these doors can still be seen in the wall above the door frames.

IMG_9865

 

 

 

Thomas was a Yorkist so found that his position in society was further established.  He became Sheriff of Lincoln as well as one of the Esquires to the Body of Edward IV.    He celebrated his new position by marrying a wealthy widow.

Thomas continued to be loyal to Edward in 1469 when the Earl of Warwick rebelled against Edward’s lordship and then during the so-called Re-Adaptation of Henry VI.  In fact it was Thomas who was one of the Yorkists who helped Edward escape his foes in 1471.

Richard III  visited the hall on the way from York to London on October 10th 1483.  The owner of the time Sir Thomas Burgh  was the same chap who’d commissioned the building in the first place and who had demonstrated his loyalty to the Yorkist cause throughout the period.  A week previously Henry Tudor had attempted to sail from Brittany with a fleet to invade at his mother’s behest.  He was forced to turn back leaving the duke of Buckingham to rise in rebellion agains this former friend Richard III.  Buckingham would be executed in Salisbury at the beginning of November and Edward V’s coronation postponed for the last time.

However, something went seriously awry between the House of York and the Burgh family because Thomas turned his coat and by 1485 was a supporter of Henry Tudor. As a result of his support of the Tudors, Thomas was elevated once again becoming Baron Gainsborough.

Sir Thomas’s heir, Edward was loyal to the Tudors as well but suffered from inherited mental health problems meaning that a younger son also called Thomas became the head of the family.  This particular Lord Burgh was Anne Boleyn’s chamberlain and sat as part of the jury at her trial. His son, another Edward, was Katherine Parr’s first husband. They married in 1529 but by 1533 he was dead.

Katherine Howard.jpg Henry VIII visited the hall with wife number five- the ill fated Katherine Howard.

It’s unusual to find an untampered medieval hall simply because later owners added extensions and made alterations to suit their own needs. I must admit that I rather liked the Henry VIII and his wife dolls scattered around the hall – a couple of whom are pictured here and its not often you can trot around corridors that cover such a fascinating period of history from start to finish.

Katherine Parr Henry VIII

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Deck the Halls – where do halls originate?

anglo-saxon-christmas-bayeux-feast-300x222.jpg“Deck the Halls”  is a Victorian favourite but the refraining Fa la la-ing goes back to earlier ballad forms.  It may even be medieval in origin.

My interest isn’t in the origin of the tune or even in the boughs of holly interesting as they both may be.  This year’s History Jar advent is all about the hall – and there are a lot of them one way another – some of them are still family homes whilst others are ruins.  I shall be having a look at  Arbella Stuart whose residence was Hardwick Hall and some Jaocbite artefacts on display in Nunnington Hall if you want a taster of what’s coming. Today though I am exploring the origin of  the hall which will in its turn involve feasting – hence the image at the start of the post from the Bayeaux Tapestry involving Anglo Saxons enjoying a feast.

Healls first made their appearance in England in the fifth century at a point when the country was still under the influence of the Romans. So when we go in and out of our hallways at home without a second thought we are using a word with an Old English etymology.  The root of the word is Germanic and it simply means a spacious, covered place – we’ve arrived at Angles, Saxons and Jutes – as described by the Venerable Bede in the eighth century.

Halls were not places where children deposited coats and bag on bannisters. Nor were there the natural collecting ground of junk mail, plastic bags and stray shoes; oh no!  Halls were rectangular buildings owned by nobility  and monarchs, built out of wood, wattle and daub and covered in thatch.  Windows hadn’t taken off (windows are a compound word meaning the eye of the wind) so they weren’t what you might describe as light and airy.  There would be a large central fire.  The smoke from the fire would work its way out through the aforementioned thatch – ensuring that the inhabitants of the hall were nicely kippered but probably weren’t overly bothered by biting insects.  These kinds of halls are a little outside my period of interest (and well outside my preferred comfort zone) but there are people who go and spend their spare time re-enacting Saxon and Norse lifestyles.

For those of you who like your Saxon Halls a shade older there’re archeological excavations which yield post holes and other clues (such as animal bones and stray coins) about what the Saxons got up to in their rectangular halls.  Lyminge in Kent has hosted a party of archeologists on the trail of Kentish royalty since 2011. The site yielded evidence of three halls built in  succession to one another dating from AD600.  The hall wasn’t somewhere that the Kentish king lived – it was somewhere that he went to entertain his guests and for official duties.  The hall was part of a complex of buildings and when a large space was required then the mead hall was opened up and the party started.  It was a place for feasting, storytelling and drinking – which is why halls are sometimes prefixed by the word “mead” because that was the drink of choice.

There are archeological remains of mead halls in Yeavering (Northumberland), Bamburgh (Northumberland),  Rendlesham (Suffolk), Sutton Courtenay (Oxon),  and another in Hampshire.  Of course, there are probably many more than that lurking beneath the ground just waiting to be discovered but it is interesting in the case of Rendlsham that the location of the hall matches with one of six royal locations identified by Bede.

The next set of invaders also used halls – Scandinavians – added to our understanding of halls with the story of Beowulf and Grendel. In the tale, King Hrothgar had a mead hall which he called Heorot which translates are “hart”.  As well as demonstrating Hrothgar’s importance the hall was also a symbol of his wealth and a place for his warriors to come and relax, show off their ill gotten gains and boast about their martial prowess.  It also doubled up as an extra large guest bedroom where the aforementioned doughty warriors could sleep off their mead and ale induced hangovers.

So all that remains for me to do today is offer you a Saxon toast to good health – “waes hael!

wassail

 

 

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