Charles I raises royal standard and declares war.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36On August 22nd1642 King Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham Castle.  Whilst times had been increasingly discordant this act effectively marked the start of the First English Civil War which lasted until 1646.

 

On August 12th 1642, Charles issued a proclamation to all his subjects living on the north side of the Trent and within twenty miles south of the river, to assemble at Nottingham on the 22nd of August, “where we intend to erect our Standard Royal, in our just and necessary defence, and whence we resolve to advance forward for the suppression of the said Rebellion, and the protection of our good subjects among them, from the burthen of the slavery and insolence under which they cannot hut groan until they be relieved by us.”

The banner that was raised bore the legend ” Religio Protestans Leges Angliae Libertas Parliamenti,” – Many of Charles’ subjects had doubts about his religious affiliations having taken exception to his attempts to impose conformity on Laudian principles with their emphasis on ritual and ceremony – that smacked strongly to Puritans of popery. English law and a free Parliament were also something that many observers might have questioned given Charles’ strategy of levying taxes by drawing upon ancient feudal dues and having ruled for the better part of twelve years without his parliament.

Charles’ call for all men to support him did not meet with the popular out pouring of loyalty that he hoped.  Parliament took the opportunity to announce that until such time as he retracted his proclamation then he couldn’t be trusted.

 

mad madgeMeanwhile in Colchester the house of ‘Mad Madge’ Cavendish’s parents’ was sacked by Puritans on the 22nd August 1642. Mad Madge had not yet acquired that name nor had she yet entered the service of Queen Henrietta Maria or married the royalist Duke of Newcastle.  She was still the youngest of eight children sired by Sir John Lucas. Madge’s father was a prominent royalist in the area.  The relationship between him and the citizens of Colchester had deteriorated over the years.  It probably didn’t help that East Anglia had strong Puritan sympathies and Lucas was suspected of being a Papist.  This event was not a one off though.  The Stour valley had become increasingly restless during 1642.  Unemployment was high.  Rumours became wilder and anti-popery became more rife.  The Countess of Rivers, for instance, found herself under siege by the people of Melford.  Melford Hall was partially destroyed as a consequence.  Parliament did not condone the harassment of the widowed countess – though how they may have felt when she spent her wealth on supporting the Crown is another matter entirely.  She would eventually find herself in a debtor’s prison as a consequence of her loyalty.

 

The first battle of the English Civil War would not take place until September 25that Powick Bridge near Worcester.

 

 

 

Howden Minster

DSC_0225.jpgToday Howden is a sleepy little town between Doncaster and York. The ancient county of Howdenshire under the jurisdiction of the Prince Bishops of Durham no longer exists as an administrative entity but in the medieval period Howden lay at the center of a thriving hub. It was a residence for the Prince Bishops of Durham to provide a headquarters in the south (I know – for those of you who think the Watford Gap is in the north, it is a concept that may be difficult to compute but Northumbrians and Cumbrians will no doubt be nodding approvingly).

As well as providing a residence well away from the turbulent Scottish border it also allowed the canons who lived in the minster precincts to administer the bishop’s lands. They set up a grammar school in about 1265 to teach Latin and song to the choristers. The school remained in use until 1925.

 

Before the Norman Conquest the church belonged to the monks of Peterborough Abbey but in 1080 it was gifted by Wiliam the Conqueror to Wiliam of Calais who was the Bishop of Durham at the time. Howdenshire also came under the jurisdiction of Durham. William of Calais initially aimed at creating a monastic foundation but it did not thrive so the way Howden was staffed had to be changed – more on that in a moment.

 

All that remains of Howden Minster today is its west end which now serves as Howden’s parish church. The Oxford Dictionary defines a minster as a large or important church. It may have cathedral status but not always. Probably the best-known minster with cathedral status in the country is York Minster. The ruins of the larger medieval foundation at Howden are cared for by English Heritage.  Double click on the image at the start of this post to open its webpage in a new window.

 

Just to confuse the issue still further Howden Minster used to be a collegiate church meaning that it was the residence of canons or a college of priests with the word college simply meaning an organized group with rights and duties. It was founded by Robert, Bishop of Durham, in 1266, for Secular clerks, and dedicated to St. Peter and St. Cuthbert. “There were originally five prebends, to which a sixth was subsequently added.” The canons were all priests despite the description of them as being “secular.” All the phrase means is that they weren’t Augustinian, i.e. they didn’t take monastic vows, although presumably the Bishop of Durham would have taken a dim view if they hadn’t lived a fairly monastic life with all the usual eschewing of women and wealth. Thus, very loosely, the foundation at Howden was not monastic like an abbey it was more of an administrative part of the bishop’s diocese with the canons as administrators.  They were led by a dean rather than an abbot or prior.

 

The community of priests was not self-supporting in the way that an abbey or a priory was self-supporting although it was self governing – hence the existence of a chapter house. The Bishop of Durham elected to use the prebendary system which sounds complicated but simply means that the canons received an income or stipend from a nearby parish church; in this case Barnby, Howden, Saltmarsh, Skelton, Skipwith and Thorpe.

 

Nowhere is this better demonstrated that the canons of Howden were not part of a monastic foundation than by the fact that whilst England’s monasteries were dissolved in the reign of Henry VIII it wasn’t until 1548, in the reign of Edward VI, that collegiate churches, including the one at Howden, were abolished. Thomas Cromwell’s monastic visitors did come to Howden because the record of their findings still exists. In 1535 the value of the college is given as £96 8s. 10½d. gross, and net £61 2s. 10½d. Had it purely been a monastic foundation it would have fallen well within the limits set for the identification of smaller monasteries of £200 a year or less and been dissolved in 1536.

 

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The current building was erected in the thirteenth century  in a geometric style and it is thought that masons who worked on the Notre Dame de Paris and then on the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey during the reign of Henry III (King John’s son) came north to work on Howden Minster reflecting its importance at that time.   By the fifteenth century a chapter house had been added. Another feature of the medieval minster were its chantries including one with an altar dedicated to St Cuthbert.

The income of the minster was also helped by the existence of a shrine where John of Howden was buried.  He was Eleanor of Provence’s (Henry III’s wife) confessor and gained a reputation as a saint although he was never canonised.  His death and burial in 1275 added an extra stream of income for the canons. He’d started building a new quire during his lifetime and prophesied that he would achieve his goal after his death if not before.  After his death, miracles occurred at his tomb, including one on his own funeral when he was seen to raise his arms out of his coffin.  His tomb was visited by royalty including Edward I and Henry V.

 

It will come as no surprise to followers of English Civil War history that Parliamentarians stabled their horses in Howden Minster or that they broke up the organ and used the pipes as whistles. In addition to Roundheads the weather wasn’t particularly kind to the minster and in 1929 arson destroyed its tower and the choir stalls which were replaced by Robert Thomson of Kilburn, the famous Kilburn Mouseman on account of the wooden mice than can be found lurking on his creations. Howden Minster is famous for the number of mice that can be spotted on its furniture and woodwork. Apparently there are nearly forty of them in residence.

 

DSC_0243.jpgAmazingly there are some medieval survivals in Howden including three statues, one of which is thought to present the Virgin Mary. Not everyone is in agreement as to who the lady might be but one thing is for sure she is a stunning survival and one which must have been carefully protected across the centuries.

 

 

 

Hoveringham – Hoxton’, in A Topographical Dictionary of England, ed. Samuel Lewis (London, 1848), pp. 566-569. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-dict/england/pp566-569 [accessed 10 October 2016].

 

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Lichfield Cathedral: a prince and duchess and rather a lot of gunpowder

DSC_0049Lichfield Cathedral was besieged not once, not twice but thrice during the English Civil War.

On the first occasion in March 1643 the Royalists found themselves holed up in the cathedral surrounded by a parliamentarian force. Lord Brooke, Parliamentarian in charge of dislodging them went to take a look at the close and was shot and killed by a sniper firing from the central spire of the cathedral – a remarkable feat of marksmanship by John “Dumb” Dyott – so called because he was deaf and dumb. It was remarkably unlucky for Brooke who had only recently arrived in Lichfield.  Depending on your viewpoint Brooke died, shot through the eye,  either at the hands of a thoroughly bad lot or expired still spouting hatred with his last breath.  The event is recorded on a plaque on Dam Street.

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The Parliamentarians were reinforced by Derbyshire men led by Sir John Gell of Hopton Hall near Wirksworth in Derbyshire. In addition artillery arrived and in a decidedly dastardly gesture the Parliamentarians used the relations of the Royalists as a human shield. The first siege came to a close when the royalists negotiated surrender. Their leader the Earl of Chesterfield found himself in the Tower whilst his men, although disarmed, were free to go and find themselves another army.

 

It was at this point that the Parliamentarians demonstrated their thuggish tendencies by destroying much of DSCF2382.jpgthe stained glass, defacing the sculpture and destroying much Lichfield Cathedral’s library. Together with the destruction of the third siege in 1646 the only text that remains of the original cathedral library is one volume of the eighth century Lichfield Gospels which was either found or given into the care of Frances, Duchess of Somerset who owned property in the area (her father was Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and former favourite of Elizabeth I executed for treason in 1601. Her mother was Frances Walsingham daughter of Francis Walsingham.) She returned the gospels along with a further thousand books from her husband’s collection.  Today the gospels are on display in the Chapter House together with the Lichfield Angel, a wonderful piece of eighth century carving.

 

If I had been describing a football match I would describe the lull after the first siege as a half time interval with a change of ends. The Parliamentarians made the most of their time when not breaking glass and sharpening their swords on centuries old grotesques to strengthen their defences and make good some of the holes in cathedral’s medieval close walls.

 

The match resumed on 7 April 1643 with the arrival of Prince Rupert of the Rhine. The Parliamentarians withdrew from the town of Lichfield to the cathedral and the close. Rupert and his men bounced cannonballs from the cathedral, attempted to scale the walls with ladders and then mined the fortified close. The cannon weren’t really up to the job and it can’t have helped Rupert’s temper when the commander of the Parliamentarians offered to lend him a barrel of powder. Rupert is described as “bellowing at the defenders like a lion” (Gaunt: 138). The prince turned to his mining tactics and the Parliamentarians counter-mined.  A tower in the wall collapsed.  The defenders ultimately negotiated terms and marched off into the sunset leaving a rather sadly battered Lichfield Cathedral in the hands of the royalists for the next three years.

 

In March 1646 that all changed. The war wasn’t going well for the royalists who prepared for a siege. The parliamentarians duly arrived along with their artillery and duly blew up the central spire that fell into the nave and the choir. The garrison didn’t surrender until July when they received a letter from the king telling them to make what terms they could.

The Royalists marched out with their heads held high but the cathedral was in, what can only be described as, a right state.  The local Roundheads decided that the best use for the building was as a pigpen, a calf was baptised and Parliament decided that the best thing to do was to demolish the cathedral given that it was so badly damaged.  It was suggested that if the lead was removed from the roof it wouldn’t take long for the whole structure to collapse (Spraggon: 197).  It was the eighteenth century before the cathedral was restored.

 

Gaunt, Peter. (2014) The English Civil War: A Military History. London: Tauris & Co

Spraggon, Julie. (2003) Puritan Iconoclasm During the English Civil War. Woodbridge: Boydell Press

Double click on the picture below for a new window and a much more detail insight to the three sieges of Lichfield Cathedral as well as the people who were involved with events.

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Greystoke Church Stained-Glass

GreystokeThe parish church of St Andrews in Greystoke had seen some difficult times by the seventeenth century.  It was first built in stone in 1255.  Its key feature was a defensible tower where villagers could take shelter when the Scots came raiding.  It’s ironic that the name St Andrew is a reminder that in 1066 this part of Cumbria was in Scotland where it remained until the reign of William Rufus.  A wooden church may have stood upon the site when Ranulph de Meschines gave the land into the hands of Llyulph or Ligulph a local man.  The Barony of Greystoke was confirmed to his son by Henry I.

But back to St Andrews.  It prospered under the care of the Greystokes ultimately becoming a college for the training of priests during the fourteenth century.  It had chantries and could offer sanctuary to those who needed it.  That all changed with the Reformation when the furniture was stripped out and the priests sent away.

Worse was to follow during the English Civil War.  Cumberland, generally speaking, was Royalist by inclination.  By that time Greystoke Castle was in the hands of the Howard family – (the Dukes of Norfolk).

In 1648 the civil war arrived in Greystoke. The castle was besieged and captured – some might say knocked about a bit- by the Parliamentarians under General Lambert. It wasn’t rebuilt until the nineteenth century.

The inhabitants of Greystoke had clearly heard about the iconoclastic tendencies of the Parliamentarians and before the Roundheads arrived, so the story goes, they carefully removed all the medieval stained glass windows and buried them for safekeeping.

The glass was eventually recovered and restored in 1848 at the same time the whole church was rebuilt.  Unfortunately it could not be reset as it was meant to be.  Glass fragments had become lost and confused with the passage of time. This means that some of the images do not quite tell the stories they were meant to tell.  The devil under the foot of the bishop isn’t quite where he should be – he should be whispering in Eve’s ear.

There are plenty of examples of ‘patchwork’ or ‘jigsaw’ stained glass around the countryside.  In Wells, the medieval glass is a reminder that medieval lead and putty might not have been up to the job as well as being a reminder that Parliamentarians armed with pikes were not gentle with old glass.

Much of the stained glass in the City of York survives only because Lord Ferdinando Fairfax gave orders that it should not be destroyed after the Parliamentarians captured the city in 1644.

John Barwick of Witherslack

NPG D29584; John Barwick by George VertueJohn was born in 1612 so was in the prime of life just in time for the English Civil War. Cumberland was largely Royalist.  Perhaps its remoteness meant that being so far from London they weren’t as caught up in events as folk further south; or perhaps it was the fact that they were great traditionalists.  Whatever the reason the English Civil War saw many a Cumbrian Gentleman ruin himself financially in the king’s name as well as laying down their lives.  Carlisle was reduced to starvation during the siege that is amply documented by Isaac Tullie.

 

Elsewhere, John Barwick having made his way from the delightfully named Witherslack to Cambridge where he attained his degree and went on to become a Doctor of Divinity put down his books and pens when the king raise this standard.  He became a courier for Charles I bringing the money and silver plate of St John’s College to Nottingham rather than allowing it to fall into Parliamentary hands.  He then set about writing tracts promoting Charles’ cause.  It cost him his position in Cambridge but nothing daunted he moved his operation to London- into the Archbishop of London’s house in fact- where he continued to write for the king.

It was only after Charles’ execution that John was captured and confined in the Tower of London.  He was eventually released and John took up his pen once more on behalf of Charles II sending ciphered letters from London to Europe.  His reward was to be made Dean of Old St Paul’s.

He died in 1664 but he never forgot the village of his birth.  His will left a bequest enabling ground to be purchased for burials, a school to be built, dowries to be given to girls and the old and infirm to be provided with fuel.  His will also provided for a curate to tend to the flock where two of his brothers had lived their lives as farmers.

Pontefract Castle

DSC_0001Wolsey, on his way back to London in disgrace commented of Pontefract Castle, “Shall I go there, and lie there, and die like a beast?”  Perhaps he was thinking of King Richard II who starved to death in the great fortress.

The Normans built their motte and bailey on the Anglo-Saxon Royal Manor of Tanshelf.  It’s builder was Ilbert de Lacy.  Ilbert and his brother arrived in 1066.  The new Lord of Pontefract had done well out of the conquest and didn’t forget to show his gratitude by making gifts to both Selby Abbey and St Mary’s Abbey in York.  DSC_0004

As the centuries progressed so did the castle until its eight towers dominated the town and the landscape beyond. Edward I described it as ‘the key to the north’.  The de Lacy’s continued to be its custodians until Henry de Lacy  (Earl of Lincoln) lost his male heir when he fell off the battlements in 1310.  His daughter Alice an important heiress was married to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster so it was he who became the next custodian of the castle.  He was Edward II’s cousin and it would be fair to say that they didn’t see eye to eye.  By 1318 Alice and Thomas were separated – possibly because of the fraught political situation of the period or perhaps because they just didn’t like one another.  Alice spent most of her time in Pickering while Thomas lived a bachelor life.  Thomas eventually revolted against his cousin on account of the Despencers, made an alliance with the Scots and then rather unfortunately lost the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.  He was taken back home to Pontefract and unceremoniously executed looking towards Scotland which was the direction of his treachery.  DSC_0021

Eventually the castle passed into the hands of John of Gaunt and from there to his son Henry Bolingbroke who became Henry IV when he usurped his cousin’s throne.  Richard II found himself locked in one of Pontefract;s dungeons and that was the end of him.  Pontefract was now a royal castle and its prisoners reflected its importance and its security.  In 1405, Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York was imprisoned here before his execution.  James I of Scotland spent some time here as an unwilling guest as did the Dukes of Bourbon and Orleans after their capture at Agincourt.  Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury was executed here in 1460 and in 1483 Richard of York had Earl Rivers and Lord Richard Gray imprisoned here and executed – which was one way to reduce the Woodville influence at court but hasn’t reflected well on the man who became Richard III mainly because the two half brothers of the boy king Edward V were executed without trial.

The castle had a grim reputation which is perhaps something that Catherine Howard (Henry VIII’s Fifth wife) ought to have reflected upon before she started her affair with Thomas Culpepper during a Royal Progress.DSC_0011

Pontefract Castle’s days of greatness  and terror drew to a close with the English Civil War.  After the Battle of Marston Moor the castle became a Royalist stronghold.  Parliamentry forces besieged it and when it finally fell in 1648 the mayor of Pontefract petitioned on behalf of the townspeople that the castle should be destroyed.  Work began  in April 1649.

Today a few fragments of the castle remain.  The curtain wall encloses a park which hides a grim secret.  Some thirty-five feet beneath the grass there lurks a network of  cellars and magazines which were once Pontefract Castle’s dungeons.