Category Archives: Legends

I saw five ships…

golden-hindThis post contains not three ships but five.  It’s also rather brief as this event isn’t exactly a niche happening for keen historians its linked to one of England’s most identifiable historic figures!   Today, 13th December, in 1577 Sir Francis Drake set off from Plymouth with fewer than two hundred men on his greatest voyage.  The Pelican was Drake’s vessel.  He was accompanied by the Elizabeth, the Marigold, the Swan and the Benedict. Just to confuse matters the Benedict was also known as the Christopher.  By January the vessels made landfall in what we now know as Argentina and the Pelican was renamed the Golden Hind as it sailed through the Magellan Straits.

If you want to know more about drake and his various voyages then I suggest the Naval Museum in Greenwich link here which will open a new window and a thorough overview as to whether Drake was a hero (oh yes he was!) or a piratical villain -(oh no he wasn’t! Er, actually, he might have been if you were Spanish – he was a licensed privateer after all).

However, one of the first places I remember visiting as a child was Buckland Abbey in Devon, and my father served for a time in the Royal Navy so I grew up on a diet of seafaring heroics and the story of Drake’s drum, a replica of  which can still be seen at Buckland Abbey – although the original does still exist (and I have seen it).   Drake is supposed to have taken the snare drum with him on his momentous journey of 1577-1580.  The story goes that shortly before his death off Panama he ordered the drum to be returned home to Buckland and if England was ever in peril and the drum beaten then Drake would return to defend his country once more. Of course the sound of ghostly drum rolls have been heard at various times in England’s history including the outbreak of World War One and on the surrender of the Imperial German Navy in 1918.  It was also heard echoing during the dark days of the Dunkirk evacuation and during the Plymouth Blitz.  Folklore rather than history but the ‘story’ in history is one of the things that has always made history so fascinating for me. And, there’s that rather stirring poem by Newbolt – looking back I’m impressed that my father knew it so well having been required to learn it at school and even more impressed that it was deemed suitable for a five-year-old  who then demanded to hear it on more than one occasion- so consequentially it seems appropriate that this post: small part fact, large part folk lore and small part narrative poem finish with Newbolt’s words:

Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand miles away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time O’ Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the Island, yarnder lie the ships,
Wi’ sailor lads a-dancing’ heel-an’-toe,
An’ the shore-lights flashin’, an’ the night-tide dashin’,
He sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.

Drake he was a Devon man, an’ ruled the Devon seas,
(Capten, art tha’ sleepin’ there below?)
Roving’ tho’ his death fell, he went wi’ heart at ease,
A’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
“Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
An’ drum them up the Channel as we drumm’d them long ago.”

Drake he’s in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot, listenin’ for the drum,
An’ dreamin arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade’s plyin’ an’ the old flag flyin’
They shall find him ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago!

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Filed under December, Legends, On this day..., Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Pendragon Castle

DSCN0936.jpgPendragon Castle sits on the east bank of the River Eden off the B6259 in the Mallerstang Valley on the way from Yorkshire into Kirkby Stephen.  It’s a square, squat ruin of a tower that was once three storeys tall in a beautiful landscape.  It stands on a platform of earth and its walls, what remain of them, are over four meters thick.

The chap best known for owning Pendragon Castle is Hugh de Morville and he probably occupied it after Henry II’s campaign in Scotland.  The name  de Morville might ring bells.  In addition to being Lord of Westmorland he’s also one of the four knights who helpfully murdered Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 after listening to Henry II ranting about troublesome priests. Instead of the expected reward de Morville found himself kicked out of his properties with a flea in his ear.  Ultimately the castle passed through a couple of families beginning with the de Viponts who were de Morville relations before ending up in Clifford hands through the inheritance of Idonea de Vipont.

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DSC_0006We know that Robert de Clifford was given permission to crenellate Pendragon Castle in 1309 but he didn’t have long to enjoy it because he got himself killed at Bannockburn in June 1314. The reign of Edward II was not a comfortable one for the English.  In addition to the Scots gaining the upper hand in the Scottish Wars of Independence there was also the small matter of several rebellions against Edward II in England.  Robert’s son Roger was executed after the Battle of Boroughbridge. (Click on the image in this paragraph to open a new window for my post on the Battle of Boroughbridge) Ultimately it came back into the Clifford possessions but turned to a pile of rubble after an unfortunate accident with a band of Scots  and a blazing torch in 1341.

It was 1660 when Lady Anne Clifford turned her attention to rebuilding Pendragon castle “at great cost and charges.” She noted in her diary that she stayed in Pendragon for three nights on 14 october 1661.  She went on to renovate Mallerstang Chapel as well as ensuring that Pendragon had all the amenities including a brewhouse and a wash house. Spence records that the hearth returns reveal that there were twelve fire places in Pendragon and that Lady Anne Clifford wrote her will whilst she stayed there.DSCN0941.jpg

After Lady Anne Clifford’s time it returned to ruin and even in the seventeenth century during her time it had acquired the tradition of belonging to Uther Pendragon – in one version he died there when the Saxons took the castle.  But just so we’re quite clear the ruins on display today were definitely built in the twelfth century as Mallerstang Castle although Westwood and Simpson observe that the de Cliffords might have renamed it during the reign of Edward I when there was a fashion of all things Arthurian.

Cope, Jean (1991) Castles in Cumbria. Milnthorpe: Cicerone Press

Salter, Mike. (2002) The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria. Malvern: Folly Publications

Spence, Richard T, (1997) Lady Anne Clifford. Stroud: Sutton Publishing

Westwood and Simpson. (2005) The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends. London: Penguin

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Castles, Fifteenth Century, Legends, Twelfth Century, Wars of the Roses

Henry VII – king of ‘spin’?

henryviiHenry VII’s claim to the throne was weak – and that’s putting it mildly. There was only the thinnest of Plantagenet threads running through his blood. Even that had to be legitimised in 1397 by Richard II who issued Letters Patent to that fact when the children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford (they’d finally married the previous year) were bought into Parliament along with their parents to stand beneath a canopy of State. Pope Boniface IX had already issued a papal dispensation legitimising the Beaufort clan. However, Henry IV added a note into the legal record in 1407 stating that the Beauforts were not to inherit the throne. It might not have been strictly legal but it weakened Henry’s already weak claim.  In addition to which England did not have a salic law prohibiting women from the crown so technically the aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth should have seen the crowning of Queen Margaret.

 

Henry was able to make a play for the throne simply because by 1483 there weren’t many Lancaster sprigs left – the Wars of the Roses took a terrible toll on the aristocratic male population who counted themselves as having direct male descent from Edward III whether they were for York or for Lancaster. George, Duke of Clarence’s son, Edward – the young Earl of Warwick, was a child. The Duke of Buckingham claimed Plantagenet blood but like Henry Tudor’s it came from the Beaufort line and a junior one to Henry’s. There were others descended from female lines including the de la Poles who would be regarded as a key threat to the Tudors.  After Henry came to the throne as well as demonstrating prudent fiscal policy Henry also demonstrated a dab hand at pruning the Plantagenet branches still further – as did his son, to ensure that the Tudor dynasty continued.

 

DSCF2105.JPGWhatever one might think of the twists and turns of the Battle of Bosworth on 22 August 1485, not to mention the Stanley turncoats, the fact is that Richard III’s army gave way to Henry’s and Richard lost his life. Henry became king of England on the battlefield by conquest and thus by God’s will – Divine Right – working on the principle that God had given Henry the power to overcome Richard III. Yes, I know that some of the readers of this post are going to mutter about treachery but the view is a valid one when one takes account of the medieval/early modern mind set. The badge to the left of this paragraph is in the keeping of the British Library and it reflects this fact.  Henry wasn’t shy about reminding people.

bosworth-windows.jpgThere were also ballads entitled ‘Bosworth Field’ and the ‘Ballad of Lady Bessie”.  The earliest printed version (well – a summary) dates from the sixteenth century and there is some question as to whether these ballads are pure fiction, their reliability is questionable. However, it is not unreasonable to assume that Henry would have encouraged ballads like this in order that ordinary people heard about the fact that someone who was really very obscure had taken the crown on the battle field.  According to the ballad – in a king on king struggle to the death Henry was personally victorious…history is after all the winners version and does not necessarily take all the facts into consideration. Double click on the image on the right to open a new window linking to the American branch of the Richard III society and a version of the ballad.

 

Henry was equally swift to ensure that the written word reflected not only the Tudor right to rule but how much better they were than their immediate predecessors.  Polydore Vergil arrived in England in 1502 to collect Peter’s Pence but as a humanist scholar Henry VII was keen to have him on board.  It is thought that he began writing the Anglica Historia in 1505, although it wasn’t published until 1534. Double click on the title to open a new window and the online version of Vergil’s unashamedly pro-Tudor writing.  In this excerpt we see Vergil extol Henry’s virtues as he took up the reigns of office:

 

His chief care was to regulate well affairs of state and, in order that the people of England should not be further torn by rival factions, he publically proclaimed that (as he had already promised) he would take for his wife Elizabeth daughter of King Edward and that he would give complete pardon and forgiveness to all those who swore obedience to his name. Then at length, having won the good-will of all men and at the instigation of the both nobles and people, he was made king at Westminster on 31 October and called Henry, seventh of that name. These events took place in the year 1486 after the birth of Our Saviour.

 

There were other contemporary chronicles, principally The Great Chronicle of London and the Chronicle of Calais as well as later chroniclers including Edward Hall who wrote The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke, more commonly known as Hall’s Chronicle – Hall was born in 1497.  Sir Thomas More wrote about the reign of Richard  III – he was four in 1485. And, of course, there was Holinshed’s Chronicle which heavily influenced Shakespeare. It made its first appearance in 1577. All of them were vehicles for the Tudor State one way or another.

gold medal.jpgBack to Henry – having driven home the message that he was king by Divine Right and because he was better (yes, I know its Tudor spin) than his predecessors because he paid attention to the country and didn’t murder small boys he also needed to make it clear that the Tudor dynasty was a fresh start. The pope had been so glad that the English had stopped slaughtering one another that he didn’t hesitate in signing the dispensation that allowed Henry to marry Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York. He  was swift to honour his pledge to marry her, once the stain of illegitimacy had been revoked by Parliament. A medal was struck commemorating the marriage in 1486. This rare survivor is in the hands of the British Museum.  Double click on the image to open a new page with information about the medal. Elizabeth wasn’t crowned until the Tudor dynasty looked like becoming a certainty. Henry did not want to be seen as Elizabeth’s consort. He wanted it to be understood that he was king in his own right.

marriagebed + henry tudorBizarrely Henry VII’s marriage-bed came to end up in a car park in Chester.  However, since it’s identity has been verified the magnificent carvings can be used to tell the story that Henry wanted to tell in his union with Elizabeth of York Double click on the image to open a window and find out more.

 

DSC_0002Which – brings us back to the dodgy bloodline.   Henry got around the problem by simply using a much older legacy. He claimed that he was descended from the ancient British hero Cadwallader, and produced pedigrees to prove it.  He fought under the red dragon at Bosworth and a red dragon was swiftly added to the permitted armorial supporters before his coronation. Cadwallader was reflected on his coat of arms as shown in the first image in this post. The white greyhound is the Richmond greyhound but the red dragon, which flew on Henry’s banner as he marched through Wales from Pembroke belonged to the ancient king. Other images show Henry’s coat of arms also bearing a portcullis. This came from the Beaufort armorial bearings.

Penn’s acclaimed book about Henry VII demonstrates the lengths that Henry went to in order to secure his kingdom and his dynasty.  An article published in The Guardian in 2012 notes that Henry didn’t just use the red dragon he also made use of the red rose of Lancaster – a somewhat obscure symbol at that time- which was then united with the white rose of York to create the Tudor Rose signifying the union of the two houses and the end of the thirty years of conflict.  He then proceeded to plant his roses everywhere: on architecture, on pre-existing manuscripts and on new documents. Double click on the image of Henry’s banner to open a new page with the full article.

 

Another well used symbol locating Henry’s right to be king in conquest is the image of that crown perched on a wild rose bush. This was a reminder that Henry had won his crown on the battlefield. In an age of low literacy it was important for there to be symbolism that people understood. Henry was a master of propaganda, right down to the Tudor livery of green and white. White symbolised purity whilst green represented renewal.

DSCF2103Henry also looked to the legend of King Arthur.  Unsurprisingly Henry simply claimed him as an ancestor and reminded folk of Merlin’s prophecy that Arthur would return with the union of the red king and the white queen.  It probably isn’t co-incidence that Malory’s Morte d’Arthur was one of the first books off Caxton’s printing press in England. Elizabeth of York went to Winchester which Malory claimed was Camelot in order to have her first child.  Prince Arthur was duly born and baptised in Winchester.  The Italian humanist, Petrus Carmelianus wrote a poem to celebrate the birth and the end of the civil war.  One of the illustrated pages shows the royal coat of arms being supported by two angels (back to Divine Right). It might also be worth noting that Petrus went on to become Henry VII’s Latin secretary and chaplain.  Double click on Petrus Carmelianus to open a new page with an illustration of one of the pages from his poem. Henry also reinstated Winchester’s round table which dates from the reign of Edward III.  This together with a small number of King Arthur related tapestries and images, according to the article on the subject by Starkey, is all that remains of Henry’s arthurian public image strategy – one which he’d borrowed, it should be added from earlier Plantagenet kings including Edward III and Edward IV.roundtable.jpg

In other respects Henry simply took up long established traditions such as being portrayed in manuscripts as a king, including one where he was depicted as a classical hero and issuing coinage which showed a very lifelike looking Henry.

The most easily accessible online image in a manuscript of Henry as king can be found in the British Library. The book called Henry VII’s book of Astrology shows him sitting on his throne in royal regalia receiving the book of astrology as a gift. Obviously Fate and the stars were on Henry’s side when he became king. Double click on the image from the manuscript to open a British Library article about the imagery in the text.  The manuscript itself has been digitised and pages can be viewed on the British Library website Astrology was a ‘proper’ science. All the Tudors had court astrologers – the most famous being Dr John Dee during the reign of Elizabeth I.

henry vii receiving book.jpgHenry VII’s astrologers appear not to have been a particularly able bunch.  One predicted that Elizabeth of York would live until she was eighty whilst William Parron’s 1503 manuscript predicted that young Prince Henry would grow up to be a good son of the Catholic Church. Parron had originally found favour by predicting that all of Henry VII’s enemies would die…

 

 

 

 

 

Doran, Susan. The Tudor Chronicles. London:Quercus

Penn, Thomas. (2012) Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England. London:Penguin

Starkey, David, “King Henry and King Arthur,” in Arthurian Literature XVI, ed. James Patrick Carley, 171-196. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D.S. Brewer, 1998.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, Legends, The Plantagenets, The Tudors, Wars of the Roses

Kendal – Jacobites, an angel and a missing purse

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On the 25 July 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart, a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Charlie, the grandson of James II and Mary of Modena arrived in Scotland.  By September Edinburgh was his and by November he’d arrived in Carlisle.  On the 22nd he set off South stopping at Kendal on the 23rd before marching via Lancaster and Preston to Derby.  The country was in turmoil but the Jacobites hadn’t received the support they’d expected so on the 5th of December they turned north once more leaving the House of Hanover to unpack their crown jewels and heave a huge sigh of relief.

The Jacobites arrived back in Kendal.  Bonnie Prince Charlie settled down for the night in a house belonging to a local JP on Strickland Gate little knowing that the following night the Duke of Cumberland would rest his weary head in exactly the same bed (lets hope there was a change of bed-linen!).

Prince Charlie may have been exhausted from his journey, including an assignation attempt at Preston, but his slumbers will hardly have been restful since the folk of Kendal didn’t give him a warm welcome.  The local militia greeted his arrival with a volley of shots and in the ensuring skirmish it is said that a Jacobite and a local farmer were shot. At least that’s what the Kendal Civic Society plaque proclaims.

Enter an angel…there used to be an inn in Kendal called The Angel.  Apparently the inhabitants of the inn didn’t much like the sound of the approaching Jacobite army so hid themselves out of sight – such was their hurry that they neglected to hide their child – Findler’s Legends of Lakeland makes no reference to the age or gender of the aforementioned child- it simply states that the child was left playing in the parlour while the rest of the family skiddaldled.  Apparently the Scots arrived and were about to grab hold of the child when an angel turned up, did what angels do in those circumstances, and drove the startled rabble from the house.  Okay, so its not history but I do like the way legends evolve from events.

Perhaps it was one of the highlanders who’d had a nasty shock to his sensibilities who lost his purse as he fled Kendal the following morning.  It can now be seen in Kendal’s Museum as can assorted coinage left lying around by Romans, Vikings, Tudors and Eighteenth Century types hoping to hide their savings from the soldiery – of either army.

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A tale of Alice two Earls, kidnap, murder and the Elland by-pass

sirjohn ellandThomas, Earl of Lancaster is  most often known in history as the earl who was executed at Pontefract Castle for treason in 1322. He was led to a hill outside the castle, turned to face Scotland because his treachery came not only from his rebellion against his cousin Edward II but also from the fact that he had made a pact with the Scots.

 

His wife was Alice de Lacy. She was the daughter of the Earl of Lincoln and was espoused to Thomas when she was just twelve years old. The marriage was not a happy one. She spent much of her time at Pickering Castle. In 1317 she was kidnapped by John de Warren, Earl of Surrey. There is no evidence as to Alice’s view of the matter but historians speculate that she was agreeable to the idea – hardly surprising given Lancaster’s reputation as a womaniser. Lancaster did eventually divorce her but Alice did not find happiness with Surrey who already had a wife. Alice later married Eubolo Lestrange but not before she’d had an unpleasant encounter with Edward II’s favourite Hugh Despencer, who like the other powerful men in her life were more interested in her estates than in her.

 

So far so good – or not, as the case may be. The conflict rapidly escalated beyond Alice’s marital relations and into West Yorkshire. Lancaster and de Warren were sworn enemies; hence the kidnap. The ensuing fisticuffs was not something that was readily resolved and it involved many households who owed their allegiance to one or other of the parties. In Elland, tragic events unfolded and were even recorded in a ballad running to one hundred and twenty four verses  first written down in the Tudor period but which, it is agreed by some historians, date from much earlier.  As with the way of these things while some historians regard the ballad as authentic others have their doubts.

Sir John Eland of Eland was de Warren’s steward for the Manor of Wakefield and Sheriff of Yorkshire. He wanted vengeance from Robert Beaumont who was held accountable for the death of another of Warren’s men – possibly Sir John’s nephew. Beaumont owed his fealty to Lancaster. Robert Beaumont was shielding the real culprit of the murder, a man called Exley. As was the way of the time it also appears that compensation was paid for the death of Sir John’s kinsman. The matter should have ended there. The blood money having paid the debt.

 

However, Sir John was in no mood for forgiveness.  There was also much unrest in the county as a result of Edward II’s incapacity to rule and the greed of his favourites – the Despencers.  Sir John and his henchmen took the opportunity to kill Robert Beaumont in his own home, Crossland Hall near Huddersfield, then sat down to breakfast in the dead man’s stead. He forced Robert’s sons to partake of the meal. The eldest boy, Adam, refused and was threatened by Sir John.

 

Sir John had good reason to be hungry. He’d been up most of the night committing murder. On the way to Crosland Hall he’d stopped off at Quarmby Hall where he’d killed Sir Hugh de Quarmby before detouring to Lockwood Hall where he’d finished off John de Lockwood. Lockwood is recorded in the Wakefield Court Rolls as being found guilty of evicting an innocent man from his home.

 

The Beaumont family and the sons of Lockwood and de Quarmby fled to Lancashire but returned fifteen years later to exact their revenge. They stayed with a branch of the Lacy family while they plotted and awaited their opportunity. They killed John Eland on his way home from court in Brighouse in 1354.  Again, that might have been the end of the matter but for the fact that Sir John Eland’s son, another Sir John petitioned the king to pursue his father’s killers. Quarmby, Beaumont and Lockwood decided that their safety rested upon the end of Eland’s plans. The following year they killed Sir John’s son and grandson.   Only Isabel Eland remained and she married Sir John Savile. Eland’s home, Eland Hall overlooking Eland Bridge remained until 1976 when it was torn down to make way for the Elland By-pass according to the Halifax Courier.

 

The three vengeful sons fled the scene. They were followed and there was a fight in Ainley Wood. Quarmby was killed. Adam de Beaumont was able to flee the country. He reached Rhodes where he joined the Knights Hospitaller. Lockwood remained in the area because he was in love. His location was betrayed and he was killed by the under sheriff. According to the ballad he was betrayed by the lady he loved.

Sir John Eland’s home, Elland Hall overlooking Elland Bridge remained until 1976 when it was demolished to make way for Elland By-pass.

 

Click on the picture to open the Midgley Webpage to find out more about the Elland Feud.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fourteenth Century, Legends, The Plantagenets, Uncategorized

Edwin’s Place

KSCN0001King Edwin’s kingdom stretched from Edinburgh – Edwin’s Town- to the River Trent.   This was the Kingdom of Northumbria He was accepted as the High King or Bretwalda.  Following his marriage to Ethelburga of Kent (daughter of Ethelbert) in AD 627 he became Britain’s second Christian king. Bede described Edwin  as more powerful than any earlier king and as time passed he extended his kingdom to the Isle of Man and Anglesey.

His invasion of North Wales resulted in Cadwallada of Wales and Penda of Mercia forming an alliance against him and invading his kingdom in 633.  He and two of his sons were killed at the Battle of Heathfield  which could be near Cuckney or alternatively at Hatfield near Doncaster – though it would be unlikely for the next part of the story to be true if this were the case.

Edwin’s comrades carried his body from the scene of the battle and buried it in the forest.  They carried his head back to St Peter’s in York., though another version has Cadwallada displaying Edwin’s head on the ramparts of York’s city walls following a veritable  Saxon-killing spree.  In either event the battle was bloody and decisive.

 

Eventually it was decided that Edwin’s body should be buried in Whitby Abbey where his niece St Hilda was abbess.  By that time people were calling him a saint.  The spot where his body had been buried was deemed a holy place and a wooden chapel built on the site.  This became known as the ‘place of Edwin’ or Edwinstowe.

Edwinstowe was part of the royal manor of  Mansfield in 1066.  Inevitably, given the Norman kings love of hunting the land around Mansfield and Edwinstowe became part of a royal forest.  The Domesday Book of 1086 records the church, a priest and four bordars – these were essentially slaves working the priest’s land.  Twenty years later there was even less land being cultivated.

 

In later times King John, who had a hunting lodge at Ollerton, paid a priest to live in a nearby chantry to say prayers for his soul and for the souls of the people he had wronged.

The local people probably felt they ought to have been included in the number as they were bound by the strict forest laws that protected the timber and the game of royal forests.   Those caught breaking the law were taken before the Forest Court or Eyre which was held every six or seven weeks.  More serious offences were tried at the Nottingham Eyre.

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Filed under Dark Ages, Eleventh Century, Kings of England, Legends

Kirkby Stephen

DSC_0020At Kirkby Stephen I am hard on the trail of Sir Andrew de Harcla, First Earl of Carlisle – hero and traitor.  I’ve posted elsewhere about his treaty with Robert Bruce that left Edward II so enraged that he had Sir Andrew arrested, stripped of his titles and sent to a traitor’s death on Harraby Hill in 1325 despite the fact that Edward owed his crown to Sir Andrew.  Various bits of Sir Andrew’s anatomy were nailed to various city gates but eventually his sister was allowed to gather his remains together and bury him near his childhood home- Hartley Castle- which is just down the road from Kirkby Stephen.

Hartley Castle lies beneath the Eighteenth/Nineteenth Century house that stands on the castle’s outer court.  On Sir Andrew’s death all his property was forfeit to the crown.  It passed from Harcla or Hartley hands into those of Ralph Neville of Raby.  He sold it on to Thomas de Musgrave. The stones from Hartley Castle were used by the Musgraves to build a manor house at Edenhall.

There are two memorials to the Musgraves in Kirkby Stephen Church and until I read the notes in the church I assumed the knightly effigy in the Hartley Chapel belonged to Sir Andrew.  It turns out that the knightly chap is Sir Richard de Musgrave- a good century later than the earl (note to self revisit medieval costume)- while the humble red sandstone slab next to the altar belongs to Sir Andrew.  It makes sense because this is, after all, the position with most honour attached to it.

The church really is well worth a visit. The Norman church stands on the site of an earlier Saxon church.  This in itself sums up Kirkby Stephen.  It’s knee-deep in history  going back to the Stone Age and Bronze Age.  But back to the church.  You enter the church precincts through a cloistered area built in 1810.  Once inside the church, known as ‘the Cathedral of the Dales,’ as well as the mellow smell of wax and polish there’s plenty of evidence of generations of worshippers.  There’re eighteenth century shelves for bread to be given as alms to the poor.

And a Loki stone.  There are only two Loki stones in the whole of Europe and one of them is in Kirkby Stephen.  Loki was the Norse god of mischief.  The other Norse gods chained him up because he was a very naughty god…or words to that effect.  Kirkby Stephen’s Loki stone has been Christianised as he comes from the shaft of a tenth century Anglo-Danish cross shaft.  Loki has been transformed into the devil in chains.

After all that excitement it was time to brave the rain once again and go in search of tea and scones – all of which, I think you will find, are essential to most acts of historical research.

The sun had come out by the time we’d had a nice cup of tea and I was able to explore the town.  It was once on the borders and the inhabitants built it so that the streets were deliberately narrow.  They’ve been widened but it is easy to see how the people of Kirkby Stephen set about protecting themselves from the Scots.

There  was also a fascinating leaflet in the tourist information office about Kirkby Stephen’s secret tunnels.  One of the suggestions made is that there is a tunnel leading to Hartley Castle as part of the defences against the aforementioned Scots- having said that the leaflet also suggests tax avoidance, plague tombs and links with Pendragon Castle which is just down the road.  And yes, Pendragon Castle does have links with King Arthur.  He gets everywhere.

On a more historically viable basis I discovered that Kirkby Stephen was heavily involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536/7 which was the North’s response to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.  James I managed to irritate the citizens of the town when he tried to confiscate some of their land and perhaps unsurprisingly in the light of the previous two facts the town supported Parliament during the English Civil War.  They even managed to get themselves involved with a plot against Charles II in 1663.  The Kaber Rigg Plot failed and its leaders were hung in Appleby.  Who would have thought that such a tranquil little place could have so much fascinating history?

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Border Reivers, Kings of England, Legends

The Tower of London and its Ravens

I learned about the Tower of London ravens as a small child.  Should they ever leave the Tower something terrible would befall the nation.  I’ve always wanted to see them and this week I had my chance.  Even better the sun shone.  On my return home I dug out my London Lore by Steve Roud – an excellent book I might add- and got ready to research this blog post.  To my horror I discovered that the ‘fact’ that I’ve known for as long as I’ve known about the Tower is in actual fact a tall story put around by the Victorians.  I don’t suppose I should grumble too much .  They did considerable restoration work on the tower and launched it as a tourist attraction.

So – I thought they’d been in residence for the last nine hundred or so years.  Certainly, that’s what the nice Beefeater, sorry – Yeoman of the Guard- told the group of assorted tourists during his very entertaining talk. Roud, by contrast, reveals that it may have been Charles II who handed the first pair over into the care of the yeoman raven master but that it is more than likely that there were no ravens in the tower prior to the nineteenth century.

Despite this rather disappointing discovery, a half hour watching a raven who knows how important he- or possibly she- is can only be described as a joy.  This one, having dissected a privet hedge and strutted his- or her- stuff for an admiring audience lavished time and care on a bath in the sunshine.

 

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Roud, Steven. (2008).  London Lore. London:Random House

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Dick Whittington

DSC_0089DSC_0089Just exactly what, you might be asking, is a pantomime character doing in a history blog?  Except of course, that  Sir Richard Whittington really was the Mayor of London – not once, twice or even thrice but four times…okay three and a half if you’re being picky about it.  He first became mayor in 1397 having been asked by Richard II to fill in for a defunct mayor (hence the half prior to the election), 1406 and 1419.  He even went on to become one of London’s members of Parliament. So far so good.

However, he was not a penniless orphan. He was the son of a Gloucestershire knight born in 1350.  When Richard’s father died, young Dick – who was by way of the spare in the phrase an heir and a spare- was apprenticed to Ivo Fitzwarren, a wealthy mercer.

In reality Richard did marry Alice Fitzwarren and he did become a wealthy and influential man though that’s about as far historically as anyone can go.  There is no historical record of worldly goods being tied up in a red handkerchief, no historical record of informative city bells and no account of the cat which helped secure his fortune. Though one does feature in the window of St Michael Paternoster church on College Hill which Whittington helped to fund. Oh yes – and when excavation work was carried out in the church in 1949 a mummified cat was discovered during a search for Dick’s missing tomb- not really surprising given the amount of demolition work and rebuilding that the church has experienced over the centuries. The idea of a real cat is rather more intriguing and definitely more appealing than the suggestion that the cat originated like a game of chinese whispers from the more merchantish preoccupation with ‘achats’ or purchases.

Cat owner or not,  in reality Richard Whittington was a canny and influential mercer who sold his cloth to the royal court and lent Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V money.  In 1399 for example, Richard II owed Dick Whittington £1000. It was Richard II who chose Whittington to be mayor when the mayor at the time died, very inconveniently, mid way through his term of office. He also appears to have been able to export cloth without paying taxes – a perk of lending money to kings.

Dick died, childless, in 1423.  Alice was already dead.  He was buried by her side.  He left most of his money to charity including for St Bartholomew’s Hospital.  It should be added at this point that the original St Michael Paternoster Church burned down during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren (the last of his London churches).  The new church didn’t fare too well during World War Two.  Trouble arrived in the form of a flying bomb which left the church a derelict shell.  It was rebuilt in the 1960s.

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Thirlwall Castle.

The name means ‘gap in the wall’ and the wall is Hadrian’s Wall.  Edward I stayed on the site in 1306 but he didn’t actually stay in this castle although he may well have paused to admire the wall that the Romans built.  John Thirlwall began building his castle in 1330 on a rocky outcrop next to the Tipalt Burn with the handily placed dressed stone that some one had conveniently left laying around.  It was just as well he did.  The Scottish Wars of Independence were ongoing but battles were turning into raids.  The riding times of the border reivers had begun.  Having a good stout stone wall along with a thick oak door protected by an iron yett were handy things to have and as a consequence the Thirlwalls did well.  When Lancelot or Lionel Thirlwell died in 1582 he left his widow and eight children comfortably off.  Of course, after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 there was less need to live in a cold and isolated castle and by the 1660s the Thirlwalls had taken themselves off to Hexham.  Not that this stopped the Scottish Parliamentarian army sleighting it during the 1640s.

All that remains today is a ruin and a legend.  According to the story there was a rather alarming raid in the offing and the Thirlwall’s needed to hide their possession from the thieving Scots.  They happened to have a particularly fine jewel-laden gold table (don’t we all) which a servant hid down a well where it remains hidden to this day.  Depending on which version of the story you read, the servants still there as well!

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Border Reivers, Castles, Legends