Abbots of larger monasteries were on a similar social status to a temporal lord – indeed there was every chance that they were the younger sons of the nobility. Their role within local and national society required that they should have quarters fit for entertaining their peers and if Cromwell’s list of misdeeds recorded by his commissioners during their Visitation of 1536 are anything to go by sufficient privacy to entertain numerous ladies of ill-repute.
Sometimes the abbot’s quarters were built into the west range above the cellarium (an undercroft where provisions were stored – think very large pantry). The abbot would have his own chapel, a hall for entertaining and two or three other rooms.
Elsewhere, and as time progressed, the abbot might expect to have his own separate dwelling – sometimes with a private necessarium as at Netley Abbey near Southampton (abbot’s lodging shown at the start of this paragraph). There is no particular rule as to where the lodgings might be. Cistercians tend to put their lodgings to the south of the cloister, though strictly speaking Cistercian abbots had no business being anywhere other than the dormitory with the rest of the monks. As well as a garderobe an abbot’s lodging might reasonably be expected to include a fireplace to warm distinguished guests, in some cases they had their own kitchen and stables. The fireplace shown at the opening at the post can be found at Monk Bretton Priory – the remnants of a Cluniac foundation. In Kirkstall a rather grand staircase led to the abbot’s lodging and at Fountains there was a monastic prison in the basement complete with three cells and means of restraining prisoners. At Fountains the abbot’s ‘modest dwelling’ underwent considerable expansion at the beginning of the sixteenth century on the orders of Abbot Huby who added an office and bay windows.
In Carlisle, which had a bishop so the abbot was technically a prior there was a pele tower where the prior and his officers could flee in the event of marauding Scots.
The abbot’s lodging often survived the dissolution of the monasteries in the guise of a manor house. In York the abbot’s lodging of St Mary’s Abbey was retained by Henry VIII and used during his visit north. It played host to King Charles I and is now part of the University of York.
Sir Francis was born in Oxfordshire in 1511. His father died when he was seven but he gained a position at court thanks to Henry VIII who showed him the same favour with which he’d regarded his father. He is perhaps best known as Mary Queen of Scots gaoler but he appears at keys moments throughout much of the Tudor period. For instance, he was one of the gentlemen who met Anne of Cleves on her arrival in England; he was an MP; a soldier during the Rough Wooing; a friend to Princess Elizabeth and Robert Cecil; husband of Catherine Carey (Elizabeth’s cousin via Mary Boleyn).
There is, of course, the possibility that Catherine Carey was not simply Elizabeth’s cousin but also her half-sister but there is insufficient evidence to draw any satisfactory conclusions. It is however safe to say that Sir Francis was close to Elizabeth. His wife was a good friend of the queen’s as well as being a relation. So close was his relationship that Sir Francis was able to express his belief that keeping the Scottish queen in England was a disaster.
As a determined Protestant his career suffered a severe reverse upon the accession of Mary Tudor. He was such a determined Protestant that he went to Germany rather than live under Catholic rule.
Unsurprisingly his career resumed once Elizabeth ascended the throne. In addition to becoming a privy councillor he also resumed his parliamentary career. He worked for the queen in Ireland and received jobs within the queen’s household such as Treasurer. The image shows Sir Francis holding a white staff showing his role as officer in the queen’s household.
In May 1568 Mary Queen of Scots arrived in England. Knollys was sent north to act as her gaoler. His reputation as puritan made him naturally suspicious of the Scots queen. However, her charisma soon won him over, though he never let down his guard while he had care of her in Carlisle Castle and later in Bolton Castle. In fact he was so worried about security that he sent the plans of Bolton Castle and his security provision to Cecil for approval. He taught the queen English and read the English Prayer Book with her as well as discussing his faith – a matter which caused Elizabeth to write a letter chastising his behaviour.
On January 20th 1569 Knollys received orders to take Mary to Tutbury Castle and hand the royal prisoner over the Earl of Shrewsbury who would take over Knollys’ role of gaoler. Sir Francis remained with Mary until February when his wife died.
Sir Francis died in 1596 after a long and illustrious career as a politician and adviser to the Tudors.
John Halton, or de Halton, was an Augustinian Canon in Carlisle. He was elected the ninth Bishop of Carlisle on 23 April 1292 making him bishop during the reigns of Edward I and then Edward II – and putting him on the front line for the First Scottish War of Independence.
As well as caring for the spiritual concerns of his flock- his Register of the incumbents of the diocese still exists- he was also a busy diplomat and entertainer of royalty. The Magna Britannia records him entertaining the king at Rose Castle (the principle residence until recently of the Bishops of Carlisle) in 1306 from 28 August until 10 September.
He was sent to Scotland in 1294 by the king and was a papal tax collector in Scotland (which possibly didn’t enhance his popularity with the locals and may account for why the Scots burned Rose Castle down at the first available opportunity – though obviously that’s my own personal spin on events). On a more factual level, he was Governor of Carlisle Castle at one point, so had custody of Scottish prisoners and hostages – little did he realise that five hundred years later there would be so many Scottish Jacobite captives in Carlisle that the cathedral would have to be used as a prison.
It was Halton together with the Archbishop of York who excommunicated Robert Bruce in 1305 after the killing of John Comyn and in 1306 he absolved everyone of their offences against the King’s enemies in Scotland which must have pleased the English borderers no end as they could then steal and kill with neither fear of hellfire and damnation nor, at the very least, a long time in Purgatory. For his pains he was involved in the Seige of Carlisle in 1314 when Edward Bruce attempted to take the city. He fled the border for large chunks of time enjoying the peace and quiet of Lincolnshire. He was one of the king’s representatives in the treaty signed between England and Scotland in 1320.
The following year he turned up at a meeting held by Thomas of Lancaster which was the first indication of the barons uprising against Edward II. There’s no evidence that Halton was involved any further but trouble and the bishop seemed to have gone hand in hand. He died in 1324 having lived through some turbulent times on the border.
Andrew de Harcla or Harclay was knighted in 1303 by Thomas of Lancaster. As the fourth of six sons he would have to make his own way in the world and by 1312 he was on his journey to success. He was sent to Parliament as a knight for Cumberland. It wasn’t long before he became the ‘custos’ for Carlisle and the castle. He started to hold other castles for the king, including Pendragon Castle. Following the death of Robert de Clifford in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn he also found himself responsible for Appleby and Brougham Castle while Roger de Clifford was deemed too young to hold the castles in his own name.
De Harcla found himself responsible for the security of the north at a difficult time. Robert Bruce seeing the difficulties that Edward II managed to get himself into with his assorted favourites and bolshy barons (the Lord Ordainers) decided to snaffle some territory. The lifestyle of raiding and warfare was on its way to being endemic by the end of the period. Prior to Bannockburn in the year 1313 Edward Bruce raided the land around Carlisle and following Bannockburn de Harcla found himself besieged for some ten or elven days in 1315 by the Scots with siege engines. Only the rumour that the Earl of Pembroke was on his way with a relieving army and that Edward Bruce had been killed in Ireland sent the Scots on their merry way once more. This initial letter from the Carlisle Charter shows Sir Andrew defending the castle.
King Edward II initially recognised the importance of de Harcla as a stabilising force in the north of the country. In 1320 he gave de Harcla the right to help conserve a recently made truce with the Scots. This meant that there was a degree of interchange between the two sides to ensure that justice was met according to the treaty. This was reinforced in 1322 when Edward gave Sir Andrew power to treat with the Scots – again, initially this seemed to be of benefit to the King. Letters from Thomas of Lancaster to the Scots revealed that the king’s cousin was fermenting rebellion.
In 1322 de Harcla found himself taking the field against Thomas of Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Thomas knew that he had to cross the river but when he arrived at the bridge it was held by the king’s men. After a ferocious battle the two leaders made terms. Lancaster tried to remind de Harcla that he owed his knighthood to him and that if he joined the rebellion against Edward II he would be further rewarded. Andrew said no and the two armies settled down for a sleepless night – although unusually it was de Harcla who spent the night out in the cold guarding the bridge while Lancaster and his men were billeted in Boroughbridge. Lancaster is said to have cursed de Harcla saying he would die a traitor’s death within the year.
At first this seemed unlikely, Edward loaded Sir Andrew with rewards for his service including making him the first Earl of Carlisle. Unfortunately de Harcla was not left in peace to enjoy his new title. Before long the Scots were on the march. They laid siege to Norham Castle in the East and pushed south to Byland where an English army were soundly beaten. Edward II did what he did best – he ran away. The Scots plundered Ripon and did nasty things to Beverley.
It was the final straw for de Harcla, despite the fact that his permission to make treaties with the Scots had probably expired by that point he had a cosy little chat in Lochmaben Castle about the possibility of recognising King Robert Bruce and bringing the war to an end. The Lanercost Chronicle roundly denounces de Harcla as a traitor- as indeed did the king- but at least the Chronicle makes the point that the ordinary people would have been very grateful for a bit of law and order and the chance to grow things without the Scots coming along and causing chaos.
Edward had de Harcla arrested in the great hall of Carlisle Castle by Sir Anthony de Lucy. De Lucy was probably quite gleeful about this as he’d had a bit of a land dispute with de Harcla and now got all the property that he wanted…think Monopoly but a bit more dangerous. Sir Andrew was stripped of his earldom and his knighthood and then he was taken out to the gallows at Harraby Hill where he was hung, drawn and quartered and all without the benefit of a trial beforehand. His decapitated head was, apparently, taken to Knaresborough Castle for Edward to inspect before it was placed on a spike with a nice view over London Bridge.
Eventually de Harcla’s sister was allowed to collect up the scattered body parts from their various locations – Carlisle, Newcastle and London to name but three and his remains were interred in the church at Kirkby Stephen.
Ironically Edward was eventually forced to recognise King Robert of Scotland – in part because he’d had his best commander in the north executed for trying to protect Edward’s subjects.
Castle building began with the Normans – motte and bailey affairs – or in straight forward terms a huge pile of earth topped off with a wooden crown of wall and keep. The aim was to dominate the landscape and afford themselves protection (keeping their fingers firmly crossed that no one turned up with the equivalent of an early medieval box of matches).
The key to Cumberland is Carlisle Castle which was begun by William Rufus during the eleventh century. It’s history reflects the political upheavals of the medieval period as well as the fact that the border between England and Scotland was sometimes apt to shift quite dramatically!
In 1122 Henry I ordered that it should be strengthened with stone. By the time of his death it was still unfinished and making the most of the civil war between Stephen and Matilda, King David of Scotland moved into Carlisle and finished the building. He died in Carlisle Castle in 1135. Carlisle was regained by the English.
Henry II commanded that there should be further strengthening which was just as well because William the Lion of Scotland attacked Carlisle twice with a large force in an attempt to regain the territory that his brother had lost.
King John stayed in the castle on several different occasions reflecting the fact that having lost his continental possessions he was the first Plantagenet king who really turned his attention to the north and the northern English barons – it wasn’t a happy relationship leading as it did to rebellion and for a time Carlisle ending up in the hands of the Scottish again – the town made no resistance to Alexander III but the castle garrison did. It fell to the Scottish because miners sapped the south curtain wall. The Scots also bombarded it with missiles but when John died in 1216 the Scots withdrew. The fact that the roof of the castle needed repair by the mid thirteenth century demonstrates that the borders did undergo a period of peace.
That all changed with the death of Alexander III. Edward I visited Carlisle many times, eventually dying at Burgh-By-Sands on his way to yet another campaign against the Scots. The next two hundred and fifty years were pretty turbulent if you happened to live on the border and this is reflected once again in the Castle’s history.
July 1315 – Robert Bruce besieges Carlisle but it is ably defended by Sir Andrew Harclay who tried to establish peace but got himself hung, drawn and quartered for his efforts.
It was during this period of increased militarization that Hexham Goal was built and also Thirlwall Castle which used dressed stone from a rather large nearby wall… It is situated near the Tyne-Irthing Gap a way used by Scottish raiders so its strategic position is immediately obvious. Some miles down the road, Aydon Castle turned from being a manor house into a fortified manor with its own barmkin wall.
In fact, those who could fortify their dwellings did so on both sides of the borders. Peles or peel towers dot the border region and the Eden Valley. They were not built to stop raiders they were built to keep families and their livestock safe during incursions. They tend to be rectangular with a barrel-vaulted basement and two further stories above including a roof with a beacon to summon help. The Vicar at Corbridge had his own pele tower and there’s one in the grounds of Carlisle Cathedral. In other locations churches included fortified protection for local villagers in their design creating a landscape of romantic looking ruins today but which reflect the difficulties of living on the border until the two kingdoms came under the rule of one monarch.
Bastle Houses are very similar to peels but built on a smaller scale – they tended to be owned by better off tenant farmers. Most of them were built in the Sixteenth Century and lie within 15 miles of the border.
In 1092 William Rufus (William II) established a motte and bailey fortress in Carlisle. The castle was strengthened with stone during the reign of Henry I but fell into Scottish hands during the reign of King Stephen. He was somewhat occupied in a nineteen year-long civil war with his cousin the Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I and heir nominated by him. These years were the years of the nineteen long winters.
King David I of Scotland came into the war on his niece’s side- he knighted Matilda’s son, the future Henry II in Carlisle. The Scots strengthened the city’s defences as well as those of the castle. He died in Carlisle Castle in 1153 and was succeeded by his grandson, Malcolm (known as Malcolm the Maiden), who lacked the strength to hold the Cumbrian and Northumbrian lands that he grandfather had maintained.
Scottish claims to the castle didn’t die with David though even though they signed the Treaty of York in 1237 giving up their claims to Cumberland and Northumberland.
1174 William the Lion crossed into England with up to 80,000 men and besieged the castle for three months. Thanks to his grandfather’s building work, the castle remained in English hands.
1216 King Alexander II of Scotland took Carlisle from King John who was having problems with his barons at the time. Upon the accession of Henry III, Alexander gave the castle back once he had been suitably compensated. Carlisle castle has remained in English hands there after with one or two slight hiccoughs.
In 1596 Kinmont Willie Armstrong, a notorious border reiver, was rescued by the Bold Buccleuch much to Queen Elizabeth I’s irritation.
Following the fall of Carlisle in 1645 after a year-long siege during the English Civil War the city and castle were occupied by a Parliamentarian force led by General Leslie and his Scots.There was also a brief occupation in 1745 by Bonnie Prince Charlie.