Tag Archives: Northern Rising

Highead Castle and Thistlewood Tower

high head castlePele or peel towers are a peculiarity of the Anglo-Scottish borders. They came into existence in a medieval environment, largely during the Scottish Wars of Independence, when the population lived in fear of constant attack. Really and truly none should still be standing as when James VI of Scotland became James I of England he decreed that the borders should henceforth be known as the “Middle Shires” and that pele towers should be torn down. He also executed or deported men with the most notorious border surnames, both English and Scots, to drive his message home.

 

In essence a pele tower is a mini castle that is easily defendable. The large ones have a barmkin or yard enclosed by a wall or palisade of some description. In wealthier towers this would be stone in other locations it would be more of a thorny hedge like structure. The idea was that cattle could shelter in the barmkin whilst people sheltered in the tower that was usually several stories high and many feet thick. The basement room of a tower would be vaulted and used for storage. Often the original access to the living quarters of the tower would be through a hole in the vaulted ceiling via a ladder which could then be drawn up after the defenders.

 

I’ve long been familiar with the pele tower at Hutton-in-the Forest which is the home of Lord and Lady Inglewood. The original tower is now the joint of the two arms of the substantial manor house that grew in later centuries. However, it was during a walk near Ivegill that I encountered the remnants of two more pele towers.

 

Highead Castle can’t be seen from the road and I only glimpsed it through trees – a sort of red sandstone Cumbrian Sleeping Beauty affair. It began life as a pele tower and grew into something rather grander in 1550 when it was purchased by the Richmond family. This in its turn was remodeled during the Eighteenth Century to become a rather lovely Palladian house featuring eleven bays and a pediment not to mention rather a lot of carved ornamentation and Italianate balustrading. As is the way of these things the builders fell upon hard times and by the end of the nineteenth century the castle had changed hands yet again.

 

Unfortunately the castle caught fire in 1956 and was left a wreck. There was a plan to pull it down during the 1980s that came to nothing on account of local protest and since then renovation work has commenced. I hope that it will be a bit like a phoenix and eventually turn into a dwelling again as the ruins that I saw through the trees were rather beautiful.

 

The next pele tower on my walk rejoices in the rather lovely name of Thistlewood Tower. DSCF2764.jpgIt’s a two-storey tower with a vaulted undercroft and like some of the rather grander pele towers it was extended once England and Scotland ceased raiding one another and windows inserted – so technically it ceased being a fortification and turned into a rather grand farm house. In this instance the extension is a seventeenth century one.

 

 

The land around Thistlewood is first mention as being owned by John de Harcla, the brother of Sir Andrew de Harcla, who was executed for treason in Carlisle by Edward II. John suffered the same fate meaning that the land became Crown property by reason of the attainder against John.

 

In 1326 Ralph Dacre received tenure of the land and tower that stood on the site for a period of ten years but the following year it was granted to William L’Engles (there is a little bit of surname difficulty at this point as I think the name should be de Beaulieu) for life.   There then followed a legal wrangle between the new owner and the old tenant. In 1330 Dacre petitioned Parliament that he should be allowed to complete his tenure but clearly by 1358 Thomas de Beaulieu was extending the property to include a chapel and it is Thomas who is most often referenced in the Victorian secondary sources. The tower remained in de Beaulieu hands until the death of William de Beaulieu in 1434.

 

The tower passed once more into the hands of the Dacres where it remained until they finally blotted their copybooks once too often during the reign of Elizabeth I.

 

In 1568 Richard Dacre of Aikton and his family were accused of plotting at Thistlewood and Carlisle to aid Mary Queen of Scots. Richard was up to his neck in the middle of the Rising of the North along with his relation, a cousin of some kind, Leonard Dacre.

 

Leonard Dacre’s, the second son of the Fifth Lord Dacre, wrote a number of letters to Mary Queen of Scots who called him “Dacres with the croked back”. The Rising of the North is often seen as a catholic conspiracy but Leonard’s concerns were rather more prosaic. His nephew, the sixth lord though still a minor, had been killed in an accident in May 1569 with a vaulting horse in Norfolk where he was a ward of the Duke of Norfolk along with his three sisters. Unsurprisingly Thomas Howard, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, ensured that three of his sons married the three sisters and that the estates became part of the Howard empire. On 19th June that same year a court in Greenwich concluded that the title of the Baron Dacre of the North had ceased to exist and that, furthermore, the lands should be divided between the boy’s three sisters. Leonard believed that he should be the seventh Lord Dacre – and that meant getting the family loot as well as the title. Leonard was not amused. It should also be said that many of the border families allied themselves with Dacre because of the power of their name in a quasi-medieval society despite the fact that times were beginning to change – for a start many of them wrote to Cecil complaining about Thomas Howard’s management.

Essentially Leonard tried to play both sides of the game. He protested his loyalty to Elizabeth and in so doing settled old scores, was even commended in December 1569 for his actions against the rebels but he continued to play both sides of the field until he saw which way the wind was blowing. At the point where it became clear that Elizabeth’s forces would prevail he secured Naworth Castle as part of his estate, along with other Dacre strong holdings, and refused admittance to his fellow rebels who sought him out to provide a safe haven.

 

By this point everyone was suspicious of him including Lord Scrope who was the Warden of the West Marches based in Carlisle. On the 19th February 1570 Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon received a note from his cousin Queen Elizabeth I, who was nobody’s fool, ordering him to capture Dacre. On the following morning Hundson and Sir John Forster, the Warden of the Middle March rolled up with a large force of riders outside Naworth. Hunsdon realizing that he wasn’t prepared for a siege decided to press on to Carlisle to meet up with Lord Scope’s forces.

For reasons best known to himself Dacre followed along behind until the royal forces reached the banks of the River Gelt at which point he ordered his men to charge – the affair became known as the Battle of Gelt Bridge. According to sources Dacre had an army of 3000 borderers. He was defeated Hunsdon’s force which was approximately half the size of Dacre’s army.

 

Dacre fled into Scotland and from there to the Low Countries where he received a pension from Philip II of Spain and agitated for an invasion until he died in 1573.

Unsurprisingly the Dacre estates fell to the Crown by attainder, Thistlewood Tower tenanted by Richard Dacre of Aikton among them – meaning that it was once again Crown land.

These days it has been restored and is for sale once again.

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In an aside it would appear that Richard’s son William who was married to the niece of the Bishop Edmund Grindal was also implicated in the rebellion. William was pardoned and settled in St Bees.

Rose Castle next I think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Castles, Cumbria, Pele Towers, The Tudors

Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon

huntingdon3bHenry Hastings, born in 1535, was the great grandson of  Margaret, Countess of Salisbury – the redoubtable lady who defied the executioner in the Tower of London , and as the very entertaining Yeoman of the Guard explained during my visit, “had it away on her toes.”  She was in her 80s at the time and about to be the victim of judicial murder.   He was descended from the Pole family so was a Plantagenet, Margaret was the niece of King Edward IV.  It was a bloodline that did rather mean that his family was prone to sudden death by beheading.  Both his maternal grandparents had suffered a similar fate and his two times great grandfather the Duke of Clarence was the chap who suffered an unfortunate end in a vat of malmsey.

 

Henry loyal to the Tudors and his country was a protestant with puritan tendencies having spent much of his childhood as companion to King Edward VI.  He was even married to the Duke of Northumberland’s daughter Catherine Dudley (making him a brother-in-law to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester).  Upon his father’s death he became the Third Earl of Huntingdon.

 

When Elizabeth was seriously ill in 1562 his name was given as a potential replacement.  It would have meant ignoring the rights of Lady Catherine Grey but his bloodline, his faith and, of course, his gender made his claim a powerful one.

 

His protestant sympathies were so strong that he asked Queen Elizabeth if he could go to France to support the Huguenots.  There was talk of him selling his estates to raise an army.  It is perhaps not surprising then, that as a possible heir to the English throne and a man of Protestant principle he was not one of Mary Queen of Scots admirers; he’d been invited to hear the evidence against Mary as presented by Moray in the form of the Casket Letters.  He was firmly against a marriage between Mary and the Duke of Norfolk in 1569, not least because it would have weakened his own position.

 

At this time the Earl of Shrewsbury, Mary Queen of Scots jailor, was ill and had been with the queen to take the waters in Buxton.  He had gone without Elizabeth’s permission.  Now, ordered back to Tutbury Mary was about to make the acquaintance of Huntingdon.  He was sent ostensibly to assist Shrewsbury to guard the queen against the northern earls who were planning to raise an army, march south and free the queen.  He arrived on the 19th of September.  Mary feared for her life and said as much in a letter to the French ambassador.  Shrewsbury must have agreed with Mary because he wrote back saying that his health was sufficient to guard his charge and that he had no desire to be replaced.  In the event Mary was conveyed to Coventry and out of reach of the Northern Earls via Ashby de La Zouche castle which belonged to Huntingdon.  The shared responsibility for the queen was not a happy alliance as letters in the National Archives demonstrate.

 

Huntingdon soon departed from his temporary role as joint custodian of the queen.  He soon found another occupation.  The threat of the Northern Earls loomed ever larger  in 1569 so it was decided that Huntingdon should be made lord-lieutenant of Leicestershire and Rutlandshire.  He was also created Lord Presedent of the North in 1672.  The following year he was one of the Duke of Norfolk’s judges when he was tried for the crime of treason.

 

His offices in the North grew and as a consequence it was he who represented Queen Elizabeth in a conference with the Scottish regent Moray following the Raid of Reidswire; he looked into the religious beliefs of the gentry of the north – no doubt in search of Catholic plotters- and was part of the force that gathered to repel the expected Spanish invasion.

 

In his spare time he wrote a family history, a poignant task given his lack of children.  He also invested in the early chemical industry buying land in Dorset with an alum and coppera mine, the manor of  Puddletown and part of the manor of Canford, which had previously belonged to Lord Mountjoy.  The two men became involved in a legal wrangle about who had the right to extract the minerals.  Mountjoy claimed that he had stipulated that he should retain the rights to extract the minerals.    The conflict was eventually resolved after many years.  The mines did indeed belong to Huntingdon but he had to pay Mountjoy’s son (the old lord had died by that time) £6000 in compensation.

 

Henry Hastings died in December 1595 and was buried in Ashby-de-la-Zouche.  His brother George became the Fourth Earl.

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Simple Tom

200px-Thomas_Percy_Earl_of_Northumberland_1566Thomas Percy 7th Earl of Northumberland gained the rather unflattering nickname Simple Tom.  He was a key figure in the Northern Rising of 1569.  He’d met Mary Queen of Scots on her journey to Carlisle in May 1568 and it was to Northumberland that Mary, during her journey from Bolton Castle to Tutbury, sent a gold ring with a reminder that he’d promised to help her.

 

Northumberland was not only in contact with Mary.  He also had links to the papacy in Rome and to the Duke of Alva in the Low Countries.  His forceful wife Ann was an ardent Catholic.  Percy had other reasons for resenting the English establishment.  He’d lost the lucrative wardenship of the East marches that he regarded as his birthright and in addition the revenue from copper mines found on lands he owned near Keswick had been commandeered on behalf of the State by Cecil.

He found himself drawn into a scheme later described as incoherent and aimless along with the Earl of Westmoreland and Leonard Dacre.  The aim was to raise the north, march south and free Mary Queen of Scots from captivity.  She was then to marry the Duke of Norfolk.  The earls would then rid Elizabeth of her poor advisors (Cecil).   

The rising  began before the rebels were ready.  Panic caused by the arrest of the Duke of Norfolk, led to the church bells in Topcliffe being rung backwards on the 9th November 1569.  It was the middle of winter – exactly the wrong time for a rebellion.  Before long the rebels found themselves sandwiched between a force from the south led by the Earl of Warwick and a combined force from the north led by Sir John Forster and Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon.  Mass was said in Durham.  Hartlepool was captured so that the Duke of Alva could land but the earls did not receive the support that they’d relied upon.  It wasn’t long before they found themselves turning  north towards home.  

 

The rebels and the forces loyal to the queen, including Percy’s brother Henry, fought briefly at Chester Dean near Hexham.  Percy and his fellow conspirator the Earl of Westmoreland fled the field along with Percy’s wife.

 

They rode as fast as they could to Naworth Castle, home of the Dacre family.  Leonard Dacre had been a conspirator but had changed sides.  Now he kept his doors firmly shut against the desperate earls.  His brother Edward led them into Liddesdale and left them in the hands of the Armstrongs who were notorious border reivers.  It was said of Jock of the Side’s home that it wasn’t fit for a dog kennel.

 Ann was left with Jock of the Side and Black Ormiston.  One or the other of these borderers relieved the countess of her jewels and her horses.  She was eventually rescued by the Kerrs of Ferniehurst who traditionally feuded with the Percy family but who were loyal to Mary Queen of Scots (sounds like a complicated game of chess).  

 Henry Percy’s ill luck continued.  He found himself separated from the Earl of Westmoreland and was betrayed by Hector Armstrong of Harelaw into the hands of Martin Elliott who promptly handed the unhappy earl into the clutches of Moray.  Moray sent his prize to Lochleven Castle where he remained for the next two years while the English and the Scots negotiated with one another over the best price for Simple Tom. 

 

During this time Ann, Countess of Northumberland escaped abroad to raise the money to ransom her husband from the Scots.  It did little good.  Percy was escorted into England in 1572.  He believed that he was going to make his peace with Elizabeth.

 

Upon his arrival in York on the 22nd August 1572 he was executed somewhere near Low Pavement and buried in St Crux Church near the Shambles.  The church was demolished and the site of his burial lost during the Victorian period.  However, the nineteenth century also saw his beatification – so Simple Tom became the Blessed Thomas Percy, Seventh Earl of Northumberland.

 

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Border Reivers, Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century