The White Cockade, the baby and the Jacobite.

rose castle 2Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army cross into England via the Solway Firth at a similar location to the point that Edward I crossed into Scotland more than four hundred years previously.    Carlisle prepared for attack.  It was still a walled city and even if the Carlisle Militia weren’t keen on a confrontation there was always an Autumn fog to keep the Scots at bay.  The prince headed off to find a comfortable bed in Brampton to the east of Carlisle and on the 10th November the Jacobites advanced. The following day the Prince sent a letter to the mayor saying that if the town surrendered that no harm would befall anyone.  It’s only fair to point out that by this time the prince had visited Warwick Hall and Blackwell Hall providing future local landowners with colourful tales and plenty of blue plaques.

The attack when it came was on the 14th of November lasting until the citizens of Carlisle surrendered on the 15th.  The castle remained defiant for a further 24 hours but ultimately Joseph Backhouse, the Mayor of Carlisle went to Brampton to hand the keys of the city over to the prince who duly had his father declared King James III at the market cross.  On Monday 18th Bonnie Prince Charlie paraded into the town on his white horse.  The Scots remained in Carlisle until the 22nd restocking their provisions and acquiring transport.  Every horse in the area  had to be taken to the castle and their owners were required to prove ownership or else the Scots took them as being militia horse and fair game.

So where does the baby and the bishop fit into the story? Joseph Dacre of Kirklinton Hall was in Carlisle as these events unfolded but his heavily pregnant wife, who happened to be the daughter of a former Bishop of Carlisle had gone to Rose Castle – which was the bishop’s residence. Rose Castle is only six miles south of Carlisle and it wasn’t long before the Jacobites arrived looking for the treasure that rumour said was kept in the castle.  MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart (Clanranold)  was just about to make a rather forceful entry when a servant appeared and pleaded for a bit of peace and quiet as Mrs Dacre had just given birth and the baby was so poorly that she was just about to be baptised.  There are several versions of the story but MacDonald gave the child the white cockade that he wore to signify that he was a Jacobite.  He ordered that there should be no robbery and that the little family should be left in peace and that furthermore the cockade would be guarantee that no other Jacobites would attempt to harm the castle whilst the infant was there.

Rosemary Dacre kept her white cockade even when she became Lady Rosemary Clark. The story is told in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (volume 1) – see the link here which will open at the letter said to be from Lady Rosemary.   She is also said to have shown the white cockade to George IV when he visited Edinburgh in 1822 – the first Hanoverian monarch to do so and at a point where all things Scottish became popular thanks to the king and thus opened up the way for Sir Walter Scott at a slightly later date to play on  the romanticism that Victorians liked – making it difficult sometimes to identify actual chivalric attitudes from fictional flourishes.

As for MacDonald – he was Prince Charles.  He was taken prisoner and sent to Edinburgh in the aftermath of Culloden before being sent to Carlisle along with other notable Jacobite prisoners. His house at Kinlochmoidart was destroyed by Cumberland’s men.  The prince had stayed there from the 11-17 August 1745 before he raised his standard and no doubt the Scot was proud of his home as he had only had it remodelled during the previous few years. The whole estate was forfeit when MacDonald was executed on the 18th October 1746.  It was ultimately repurchased by his grandson.

Once again song gets in on the act although as is often the case with folk history forms historians are uncertain as to who composed it although there is a definite link to the Jaobites –  the Lament for MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart tells of his clan’s grief at the death of their lord.

The sun is clouded. The hills are shrouded;
The sea is silent, it ends its roar.
The streams are crying; winds are sighing,
Our Moidart hero returns no more.


Fortified Churches in Cumbria

DSC_0065There are officially three fortified churches in Cumbria.  Two of them lie on the Solway Firth and the third, the first picture in this post, lies in the Eden Valley at Great Salkeld a few miles north of Penrith.

St Cuthbert’s Church in Great Salkeld was a brief resting place for the body of St Cuthbert when the monks spent seven years wandering through the north in fear of the Danes.  These days it is more noticeable for its tower.  The thick walls, narrow doorway and staircase as well as the ironbound door indicate that it was a place of safe haven from marauding Scots.

At Newton Arlosh they say that the door is so narrow that the bride and groom have to decide who is leaving the church first.  The spouse who sees daylight first will be the one in charge of the partnership so the locals say…I couldn’t possibly comment.

The third church is at Burgh-By-Sands and it is probably the oldest of the fortified towers which is not surprising given that it lays so very close to Scotland.  Its stones once formed part of the Roman fort of Aballava; a Celtic carved head reminds visitors that people have lived here for thousands of years.  The church lay in the domain of one of the knights who killed Thomas Becket and in 1307 Edward I was laid here in state after dying on his way to war with the Scots.  The tower caused the Bishop of Carlisle some distress because when the villagers built it they managed to undermine the foundations of the church.  One thing is for sure the builders meant business.  The tower is heavily buttressed and several feet thick as well as the narrow entrance, the iron yet is still in place with its three great bolts and there is a huge slot in the masonry for a bar to be slid into place.  There are narrow windows through which arrows could be fired and there is evidence of archers having sharpened the tips of the arrows on the walls of the tower.  When gunpowder became more readily available someone cut a gun loop in the lower room and a height that would leave attackers facing kneecapping at best.  The tower is vaulted and there is a narrow spiral staircase just the same as in Great Salkeld.DSC_0128

Of course there are a number of other churches in the area where villages- and certainly the priest- sought sanctuary in time of trouble.  The tower on the church at Edenhall (another St Cuthbert’s and another resting location for the saint’s mortal remains) has a funny little tower that includes a ‘mini’ steeple.  It was built in the fourteenth century and was probably used in much the same way as the three fortified churches already described but unlike the towers at Newton Arlosh, Burgh by Sands and Great Salkeld the tower in Edenhall lacks the narrow doorway and the iron bound door.

Other strategies were devised elsewhere. In Corbridge the vicar came up with an alternative means of self-preservation.  There is a peel tower in the churchyard where the vicar could flee in the event of trouble and the wall around the churchyard is fairly stout too.  At Kirkby Stephen the church tower is a handy vantage point that enabled two Westmorland’s Pilgrimage of Grace ringleaders to evade capture by Henry VIII’s men and is also part of a more general defense strategy whereby the streets narrow so that the townsfolk could defend their property more easily against border reivers.