Stokesay Castle: Solar

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At the south end of the hall range at Stokesay Castle is a cross wing which houses the solar block. Reached by an external stair, the solar was originally private apartments for Laurence of Ludlow who built the castle in the late 1280’s. As with many of the rooms in the castle, the solar was refashioned in the 17th century. The ceiling dates to that time as do the carved overmantel, the cornices and panelling round the walls.

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A principle feature of the Renaissance period was the tradition of elaborately carved fire mantels dominating a room with surrounding walls covered in plain panelling. This is finely demonstrated at Stokesay where undecorated panelling frames the stunning centrepiece of the room – the overmantel.

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The overmantel is divided by pilasters shaped as human figures (above)into four squares, two of which have a grotesque head at their centre (below). Originally brightly coloured, the design may have been Flemish and the cornices used to cover exposed portions of the wall after the overmantel had been put up, suggest that it was not made specifically for its present position.

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Respecting the room’s medieval outline, the 17th century designer hid the openwork roofing from sight with a new ceiling. The panelling carefully framed the peepholes on either side of the fireplace and although covering some 16th century paintwork, the windows and window-seat were left untouched. The only significant change inside the room was in the east wall where the original window was blocked up however, the medieval window has since been opened up.

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The solar was intended for use as a bedroom and afforded some privacy for the noble family of the castle. Typically situated on an upper floor, it was a secluded room used as private living and sleeping quarters. A room of comfort and status, the solar at Stokesay is a wonderfully preserved example of such historic indulgence.

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Dent: Adam Sedgwick Memorial Fountain

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Standing in the Market Place in the village of Dent is an impressive Shap granite monument. The memorial fountain commemorates the life and work of Adam Sedgwick who was one of the founders of modern geology. A distinguished mathematician, clergyman and geologist, Sedgwick was born in the village in 1785. After his education at Dent School and Sedbergh Grammar school, Sedgwick went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a first class honours in mathematics in 1808. He was appointed a fellow of Trinity College in 1810 and was ordained in 1817, going on to become a canon in Norwich cathedral. Sedgwick was appointed Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge in 1819 and in 1823, he made a detailed study of rocks in the Lake District. In 1829 Sedgwick became President of the Geological Society of London. Charles Darwin studied geology under Sedgwick at Cambridge before departing on the ‘Beagle’ in 1831 as project naturalist. The memorial was erected by the people of Dent in the late 19th century and is inscribed with Sedgwick’s name in Gothick lettering.

The Sedgwick Memorial Fountain is Grade II Listed.

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Grasmere War Memorial

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Located on a low outcrop in Broadgate Recreation Ground stands the village war memorial. Dedicated to those who fought in both World Wars, the freestanding monument is of local slate and was designed by William Gershon Collingwood – secretary to John Ruskin. Born in Liverpool in 1854, Collingwood settled in Gillhead following an academic career at Oxford. Heavily influenced by John Ruskin and William Morris, he developed a life-long interest in Norse settlement, art and language which prompted his research into the Pre-Norman crosses of Cumbria and the north of England. An expert on Anglo-Saxon crosses, Collingwood also designed Ruskin’s grave in St Andrew’s Church in Coniston.

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Below the wheel head is the figure of a dove and below that a stag is trampling a dragon. An inscription below honours the men of Grasmere as follows: “In honour of the men of Grasmere who fought and in ever thankful memory of the men who died for God for King for home for freedom peace & right in the Great War.” There are no names listed on the memorial – the village dead are listed on a plaque in the nearby 12th century church of St Oswald.

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The memorial verse at the base of the monument reads: “These died in war that we in peace might live. They gave their best so we our best should give. Not for themselves, for freedom home & right. They died and bid us forward to the fight. See you to it that they shall not have died in vain.” The inscription was written by the poet, writer and conservationist Anglican clergyman Canon Hardwicke.D.Rawnsley who was the secretary of the memorial committee. Rawnsley had retired to Allan Bank in 1917 after serving as Vicar of Crosthwaite for 34 years. A close friend of Collingwood, it is thought likely that Rawnsley invited him to design the monument.

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Lyddington Bede House

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The village of Lyddington lies on the northern edge of the valley of the River Welland where the Hlyde, from which Lyddington takes its name, forms a tributary valley. The forest of Rockingham provided an ideal hunting ground for the Norman kings and was the basis of the Bishops of Lincoln decision to develop their estate at Lyddington. Located conveniently near the centre of the diocese, the rural palace became an important seat of ecclesiastical administration. The palace served the princes of the church up to the sequestration of episcopal property by the Crown in 1547. It then passed to the Cecils of Burghley in 1600 and the surviving buildings were converted by Sir Thomas Cecil into the Jesus Hospital, later known as the Bede House, to house pensioners. The buildings served this purpose and continued to be occupied until 1930. It was acquired by the Ministry of Works in 1954 and has since been restored.

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Originating as the medieval wing of the palace, archaeological evidence suggests that the surviving buildings are only the end cross wing of a great 14th century hall. It is thought likely to have been built by Bishop Burghersh who was given licence to crenellate in 1336. The main upper chambers were refenestrated and re-roofed in the latter part of the 15th century. The archaeological evidence has also revealed that the position, splendour and size of the former hall was greater than that constructed by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Mayfield in Sussex. Running along the front of the building is a lean to verandah which was erected in 1745 to provide some shelter for the old folk of the bede house.

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At the top of the stair to the ceremonial apartments is a landing with two very fine doorcases (above). Dating to the early 14th century, they survive from the newly crenellated residence of Bishop Burghersh. The shields in the spandrels may well have been painted and gilded but no trace of this now survives.

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The Chapel (above) was probably once part of the bishop’s private chapel. Originally there was a window in the wall (now blocked) which would have allowed those in the Great Chamber to hear mass. The room was later used by a bedeswoman and the invalid chair also dates to this period.

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The Great Chamber (above) was the most magnificent room in the bishop’s private quarters. It later became the common hall of the bedehouse. The room is bathed in light from the mullioned and transomed windows which date to the late 15th century. Below the exceptionally beautiful early 16th century cornice (below), the walls had fine tapestries and hangings. This room was where the bishop received eminent guests – high clergymen, heads of monastic houses, courtiers and kings.

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When the palace was converted in 1601, the great chamber became the bedesmen’s common hall. The residents would gather here to say prayers and recite the Lord’s Prayer. Four times a year they would also listen to the warden reading the rules of the bedehouse. With the dispersal of the bishop’s household it is probable that the fine furnishings were stripped out with anything of value being sold to supplement the royal coffers.

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The Presence Chamber is a room in which medieval bishops conducted their business. The room has a blocked doorway that originally lead up to the presumed gallery above the great hall. The room features a fine fireplace (above) with five carved panels datable by analogy to 1480-1520. With its ornamental fireplace and handsome ceiling, the room would have been impressive and furnished with a canopied bed, rich hangings and decorated chairs. Bishop John Longland was possibly the last bishop who occupied the room. He was King Henry VIII’s confessor and was caught up in the king’s struggle against the Church. The king and Catherine Howard stayed at Lyddington in 1541 and met with his privy councillors before continuing north. After the conversion of the palace in the 17th century, this room and those beyond it were used by the warden of the bedehouse.

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In the medieval palace, the attic floor was probably no more than roof storage. Moulded tie beams indicate that these were visible before the fine ceiling of the great chamber was inserted. Part of the floor is laid in gypsum plaster on reed – a flooring technique common in the east Midlands from the late medieval period onwards. The attic floor has a series of fine knee-braced collar trusses with curved windbraces to the single level of butt purlins. The fine roof structure dates to the mid 15th century and was probably built by Bishop Alnwick before his death in 1449. Gabled dormer windows were inserted in the 17th or 18th century and a small iron fireplace indicates that at least one of the attic rooms was used and heated in the 19th century.

Lyddington Bede House is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade I Listed.

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Fordhouses: Moseley Old Hall

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Adjacent to the border of Staffordshire, in the suburb of Fordhouses on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, is the charming half-timbered Moseley Old Hall. Thought likely to date to 1600, the Hall was built by Henry Pitt of Bushbury, a merchant of the staple who had purchased the estate in 1583 from a Codsall family. On his death in 1602, it was inherited by his daughter Alice who subsequently married Thomas Whitgreave of Bridgeford, Staffordshire. Moseley Old Hall and estate then passed by direct descent in the Whitgreave line until its sale in 1925. In the late 19th century, the Hall’s dilapidated state seems to have been the cause of the change of name to Moseley Old Hall – in 1600 it was referred to as Mr Pitt’s new Hall at Moseley.

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Until 1870 there appears to have been little structural alteration to the building. The outer walls were rebuilt at this time and the Elizabethan windows were replaced by casements. Much of the original panelling and timber framing within the house still remains and is clearly visible throughout. Despite falling into disrepair and seriously affected by mining subsidence, the Hall remained in use as a farmhouse until the estate was sold in 1925. In 1940 it was acquired by Will Wiggin of Bloxwich but his efforts to repair the building were interrupted by wartime restrictions and were not completed at the time of his death. The Wiggin family transferred the Hall and one acre of land to the National Trust in 1962 and they opened the building to the public in 1963.

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After his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles II was on the run for 41 days with a price of £1000 on his head. On the morning of 8th September of the same year, the King arrived at the back door of Moseley Old Hall disguised in rough woodman’s clothes. Thomas Whitgreave and his priest, Father Huddleston, greeted the King and welcomed him inside. Whitgreave was a Catholic and his mother Alice, who was also in the house, had suffered heavy fines for their faith from the Parliamentary authorities. The King was found a safe hiding place in one of Moseley’s priest holes. By the time he left Moseley two days later, the King had devised a practical plan of escape to France. Those who had helped the King lived in fear of execution for the next eight and a half years until Charles was restored to the throne in 1660. The King dictated his own account of the dramatic six weeks of 1651 to Samuel Pepys in 1680. Thomas Whitgreave became known in the family as ‘the Preserver’ and he described the events at Moseley in a manuscript. The original manuscript still belongs to his descendants but has been reproduced, along with many other versions of the story, in the exhibition about Charles Ii in the Dressing Room.

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The Ante Room walls display five 17th century prints of the Stations of the Cross by Nicholas de Bruyn. Also known as Way of Sorrows or Via Crucis, the Stations of the Cross are a series of images that commemorate Jesus on the day of his crucifixion. The room has exposed timbers, uncovered wooden floor and fireplace.

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The corridor on the first floor (above) was constructed in the 19th century to give privacy to the bedroom from which it was divided. The walls display collections of contemporary engravings which depict people and events connected with the King’s flight. Also on display are various Acts and Ordnances issued by the Commonwealth of England, including a document that dates to September 1651 offering a reward of £1000 for the capture of ‘Charls Stuart Traytor’.

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The Bedroom on the second floor has a large oak bedstead which has rope springing to support a straw palliasse or mattress. Similar bedrooms of the period would only contain a bed and possibly a chest to hold clothing.

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The Chapel (above), or Oratory, was originally open to the rafters. The barrel-vaulted ceiling was added following the Relieving Act of 1791 which allowed Catholics greater freedom of worship. The blue and gold star decoration above the altar was executed following the issue of a licence for the Chapel on 14th July 1791. The room was regularly used for services until the 20th century. The Whitgreave crucifix was made in Spain and the room features two carved Yorkshire/Derbyshire chairs.

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The Attic contains much of the original timber framing and the facing wall has an infilling of wattle and daub. The garret is the room in which Huddleston’s three pupils kept watch during Charles visit to Moseley. The adjoining section of the attic is a small hiding place, next to a chute to the Brewhouse on the ground floor. The brewing ingredients were stored here, under the roof, to keep them dry until required for use.

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One of the principle features of the garden at Moseley Old Hall is the Knot Garden. A knot, as it was developed in Tudor times, was a small, usually rectangular, bed upon which was outlined a pattern. The Moseley Knot is worked in the living green of dwarf plants with spaces filled with coloured gravels. The garden follows one of five designs laid out by the Rev. Walter Stonehouse, Rector of Darfield in Yorkshire in 1640.

Moseley Old Hall is Grade II* Listed.

Ashby De La Zouch Castle

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On the outskirts of Ashby De La Zouch stands the ruins of Ashby Castle and the earthwork remains of an associated formal garden, known as The Wilderness. The Castle was the creation of William, Lord Hastings, who was one of the leading political figures and artistic patrons of the 15th century. Edward IV granted license to fortify the site in 1474. Adapting an existing manor house, Lord Hastings also built a new chapel and two towers – the Great Tower and The Kitchen Tower. Work to the Castle was interrupted in 1483 when Lord Hastings was executed but Ashby became the principle seat of his descendants. Remaining in the ownership of the Hastings family until the mid 17th century, the Castle was besieged during the Civil War and surrendered to the Parliamentarians in 1646. The site is primarily a 12th century house that was redesigned and rebuilt over several centuries. The early Norman house and buildings were originally timber structures which were replaced by stone after 1150.

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The Kitchen Tower (above) stands to the west of the hall and was erected between 1350 and 1400. The lower two storeys originally formed a vast vaulted space which was ringed with hearths and cauldron stands. The kitchen had its own well, set in a wall niche. Above the kitchen was a spacious room with large windows, a timber floor and its own latrines. To either side of the Kitchen Tower there were further service ranges. The size of the kitchen is unusually large and featured a high vault decorated with carved bosses of stone. Only two hearths remain following the demolition of one wall in 1648 and would have incorporated several cooking spaces, such as cauldron stands for boiling, fireplaces for roasting and ovens for baking.

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Great Chamber

The Great Chamber is at the opposite end of the hall from the services and probably featured a parlour at ground level. Used as a principle room for entertaining important guests, the Great Chamber still retains a fine 15th century fireplace (below) and a huge grid window, cut through in the 16th century.

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Fireplace Great Chamber

The Great Tower is the architectural centrepiece of the castle and is thought to have been completed shortly after Lord Hastings obtained a licence to crenellate in 1474. The Tower could be secured with a portcullis which fitted within the grooves on each side of the small entrance door. The Tower is elaborately detailed and features heraldic achievements of Lord Hastings and lions of England which ornament the entrance door. The Great Tower was the last major addition to the Castle and reflected the power and wealth of Lord Hastings. The Tower was blown up on the orders of Parliament in 1648. The operation was directed by William Bainbrigg of Lockington, a local cavalry commander.

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Great Tower

The Chapel (below) would have been served by priests and singers from the household and is thought to be the earliest of the extensive additions which took place between 1464 and 1483. Situated to the south east of the solar building, the Chapel had two balconies at the west end. Seated in stalls along the sides of the Chapel, original wooden panelling and a first floor gallery were located on the west wall. In 1907 the eastern part of the chapel was screened off for use as a burial place for the Hastings family.

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The Chapel

The remains of the garden earthworks date to the 16th century and are known as The Wilderness. The rectangular garden is divided in two by a raised walkway. Some garden designers are known to have built fortifications which had a strong appeal for the 16th century English nobility. By 1615, the gardens included a ‘wilderness’ which was a newly fashionable type of shady garden planted with trees. The gardens largely disappeared after the Civil War although a kitchen garden was maintained until the 18th century to serve Ashby Place.

Ashby Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade I Listed.

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Outer Porch