Monday, 30 April 2012

Z-Plan Castles

 A-Z Challenge 2012 - Z
Z-Plan Castles

I had all sorts of grandiose ideas when I started on a castle theme for A-Z this year. I always knew certain letters would give problems but there turned out to be more than I expected – it wasn’t just Q, X and Z. I won’t tell what the others were. Trying to deal with only castles that were haunted turned out to be impossible. I even had to desert Britain and Ireland in favour of Germany for X.

Thanks to Old Glenbucket, when I did Glenbuchat for G, for giving me an idea to finish with on Z. Glenbuchat is what is known as a Z-Plan castle.

I found that there is even a Facebook page for Z-Plan castles – not that it tells you much:

Z Plan is a form of castle design common in England and Scotland. The Z-plan castle has a strong central rectangular tower with smaller towers attached at diagonally opposite corners.

A variant on the Z plan is the C plan, in which the two smaller towers are attached at adjacent corners of the main tower.”

It also gave three examples, one of which was Glenbuchat. However I just had to check out Castle Fraser which is reputed to be the most elaborate example of a Z-Plan castle in Scotland.

Castle Fraser, near Kemnay, Aberdeenshire
The five-storey Z-Plan castle was begun in 1575 by the 6th Laird of Fraser and completed in 1636. The castle was modernised in a classical style in the late 18th century under the supervision of the lady laird, Elyza Fraser with the interiors reconstructed again between 1820 and 1850 by Charles Fraser. New owners carried out a partial restoration of the castle in about 1950 with much of the 19th century work removed to reveal earlier fabric.

Built as the home of the Frasers the castle passed down through the Lords Fraser and then into the Mackenzie family who took the name Mackenzie Fraser. The last male heir died childless in 1897. In 1921 the castle was sold to the 1st Viscount Cowdray whose family restored the castle as a shooting lodge and gifted it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1976.

I’m please to say that there is a legendary ghost associated with the castle.

A young princess staying at the castle was brutally murdered while asleep in the 'Green Room'. Her body dragged down the stone stairs, left a trail of blood stains. The occupants of the castle could not scrub out the stains no matter how they tried and were forced to cover the steps with wood panelling, which can be seen today. It’s said the princess still stalks the halls of the castle during the night.

There is a much more mundane explanation for the panelling - the stone stairs were covered to make them easier to climb when they were used as the stairs for the servants in the 19th century.

As this is the last post this year I thought I present another Z-Plan Castle, again with a ghost or two.

Ballindalloch Castle
Ballindalloch Castle lies between Dufftown and Granton-on-Spey in the Moray region of Scotland. The first tower was built in 1546, The castle was restored  in 1645 after it had ben plundered and burned by the first Marquess of Montrose. General James Grant extended the castle in 1770; Thomas MacKenzie added more in 1850. 1878 extensions were mostly demolished during modernisations in 1965.

Ballindalloch Castle has been continuously occupied by the Russell and Macpherson-Grant families throughout its existence.

The ghosts?
  • General James Grant, Laird of Ballindalloch 1720-1806 – a British General in the American War of Independence.
  • ‘The Green Lady’ whose ghost haunts the Ballindalloch dining hall

Muness Castle
The ruins of Muness Castle are located on the island of Unst, Shetland. Unst is the most northerly inhabited island in Britain.

The remains of the castle consist of just over two storeys of the three-storey Z-Plan arrangement. The corner towers are circular rather than square, as is more usual with such castles

Muness Castle was built by Laurence Bruce in1598; it was burned by French raiders in 1627 and although repaired it was no longer in use by the end of the 17th century, The Bruce family sold 
Muness Castle in 1718 only for it to be abandoned by 1750. It has been roofless since 1774

One may read over the door of the ruins: "List ye to knaw yis building quha began, Laurence the Bruce he was that worthy man, Quha ernestly his airis and ofspring prayis To help and not to hurt this vork alwayis. The zeir of God 1598."

The building is in the care of Historic Scotland.

My special thanks go to Hilary Melton-Butcher whose castle theme has kept me on my toes throughout this year’s A-Z Challenge – we only had the same castle twice! 

Last Saturday Hilary told us Y (why) Castles are like they are

  • Castle Fraser on of the finest Castles of Mar 2006; author JThomas; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license
  • Ballindalloch Castle 2008; author Mike Searle; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license
  • Muness Castle ruins 2006: author ThoWi; public domain

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Postage - Sunday Stamps

1949 saw the 25th Anniversary of the Universal Postage Union for which Great Britain issued a set of four stamps - 2.1/2d blue; 5d violet, 6d purple; 1s brown. I only have one of these:

Universal Postage Union - 1949
For the hundredth anniversary of Sir Rowland Hill, the postal reformer, there was a set of four multicoloured stamps - again I have only one, that of the man himself. The set contained 10p Sir Rowland Hill; 11p General Post c 1839; 13p London Post c 1839; 15p Uniform Postage 1840.

Centenary of death of Sir Rowland Hill
I was disappointed that I do not have anything relating to stamps themselves but did find some post boxes. I just don't know their year of issue (hope someone can tell me.)

Christmas Post
Thanks to the postmark showing a postcode I know my last stamp was sent from Teesside in 2002.

I must say I thing the colour on this stamp is a bit on the pale side.

For more postage stamps and things don't forget to visit Viridian's Sunday Stamps 68

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Yarm Castle

A-Z Challenge 2012 - V

Yarm Castle

In A-Z last year I wrote about the Yorkshire town of Yarm. In doing so I mentioned Yarm Castle. I make no apologies for repeating the Castle again as castles have been my theme this year.

The Georgian town of Yarm has a High Street that has been voted the best in Britain in previous years. It's not surprising then that we are on a tourist trail. Of course tourists are told that the Castle is something they must see.

The tourist 'trail' starts with the Town Hall which dominates the High Street.

Yarm Town Hall - built in 1710
To get to the Castle you cross the road at the traffic lights and proceed to High Church Wynd, which runs at right angles to the High Street and down which you can see one arch of a railway viaduct built with 7 million bricks.

High Church Wynd
Half way down the Wynd you will pass Flood Cottage which has a line above its garage door denoting the height of flood water in 1851.

Flood Cottage
At the far end of the Wynd should you look back, this is the view:

High Church Wynd - looking back
The building on the left is Hope Cottage.

Hope Cottage & 4 of 43 viaduct arches
Probably the oldest dwelling in Yarm
The front of Hope Cottage is in West Street where castle seekers will find success, but they need to keep their eyes open:- 

Yarm Castle silhouetted against the sky
No-one can tell you who built it or when. It has many windows it seems, but not a single room.

The splendour of Yarm Castle.
It has a commanding view of West Street from its position on a garage or shed roof.

If you are wondering what the tower is to the right of the keep, perhaps you can work it out from a different angle.

Yarm Castle on the left
On the right is the Town Hall which you might like to compare with the one where you started from on this tourist trail. Hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have being you guide.

Hilary Melton-Butcher used X for X Castles yesterday to give us a potted history of castle development; I wonder where Yarm would have fitted in.

Friday, 27 April 2012

May Day - Sepia Saturday

I searched my files and came up with nothing appropriate. So then I started looking at events elsewhere over the years and  finally settled for these.

May Day in the country - 1859
Wood engraving  - artist Homer Winslow (1836-1910)
Published in Harpers Weekly
From Homer Winslow Collection - Boston Public Library

Moving on a few years there is this garland for May Day.
Walter Crane 1895 - Working Class Movement Library
Moving into the 20th century but staying with the workers connection is this celebration in Sweden.

First May Day in Slite, Gotland, Sweden - 1918
From the Swedish text that accompanied this photo I gather that in the evening there would have been music provided by a workers' band.

Somehow I think that the following May Day celebration was not for the 'working class' and an up market band would have been required.

May Day Celebration at Call-Collins Mansion,
at the Grove, Tallahassee, Florida
 (Florida Memory Project)

If yo wish to celebrate more May Days you should visit Sepia Saturday 123


A Water Castle in Xanten

A-Z Challenge 2012 - X

A Water Castle in Xanten

When I could find no castle beginning with X in Britain I thought I had fallen three fences from home. In the event I have finished up with a very short post.

Then I remembered the X-files and knew the truth was out there somewhere. Somewhere proved to be the only town in Germany beginning with that elusive X = Xanten.

Engraving of Winnenthal Castle, Xanten - 1746
Haus Winnenthal, also called Burg Winnenthal and Castle Winnenthal at Xanten, Germany is one of the oldest surviving water castles on the lower Rhine. It was probably built in the 14th century. It was partly demolished in the 19th century with the buildings left being used for agricultural purposes. After heavy damage in World War II the manor house was in ruins for a long time before it was rebuilt in the 1980s. Now together with the castle it is a residence for senior citizens.

Burg Winnenthal, Xanten - 2009
Yesterday Helen Melton-Butcher and I had the same W castle - Warkworth Castle, Northumberland
Nevertheless we have chosen different was to tell its story, so if you haven't already you should check it out.

  • Engraving of Winnenthal Castle in Xanten 1746, northern aspect; source Theodor Wildemann: Rheinische Wasserburgen. Ges. f. Buchdruckerei, Neuss 1954, S. 17 Author Paul van Liender; after a drawing by Jan de Beijer (1703-1780)
  • Burg Winnenthal in Xanten from the south west -2009; author Franz Vincentz; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Faith - Thematic Photography

Faith as a topic takes me on a tour of some famous buildings.

Truro Cathedral
In front of this great window is a magnificent view of the altar.

Truro Cathedral altar 

We have just commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the loss of the Titanic, but in three years time it will be 100 years since the sinking of the Lusitania. When I wrote about the lost of the Andorra Star, another ship torpedoed, in WWII a friend sent me these photos of a memorial.

Memorial in Tealby
But when you see the detail you find that it includes a victim from the Lusitania.

Lost on the Lusitania
Closer to home my local church includes this small stain glass window which shows the church itself.

Kirklevington Church window
Regular participants will know that I worked in Norway for a while. While on my travels I came across this church.

Norwegian country church

I started in Cornwall at Truro but I finish with two English gems

Ruins of Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, North Yorkshire
York Minster
For other faith full views you need to visit Carmi's TP 193

Warkworth Castle and Hermitage

A-Z Challenge 2012 -W

Warkworth Castle and Hermitage

The town of Warkworth and its castle occupy a loop of the River Coquet in Northumberland less than a mile from England’s north-east coast.

Warkworth Castle (Turner - 1799)
Warkworth Castle plan
The keep is square with the angles cut away; turrets project at right angles from each side; a lofty centre tower commands a great range of country.

The area in front of the keep occupies more than an acre and is surrounded with walls and towers, some walls remain at a height of 35 feet.

Warkworth Castle 2008
The first mention of Warkworth Castle is in a charter of 1157-1164 when Henry II granted the castle and surrounding manor to the Norman Roger fitz Richard whose son Robert is believed to have undertaken substantial building work at Warkworth. Robert hosted King John at the castle in 1213.

The castle descended through the family line and it was a later Robert fitz John with whom King Edward II stayed for a night at Warkworth in 1292. In 1310 John de Clavering, son of Robert, assumed control of the family estates. After the death of de Clavering and his wife Henry de Percy, 2nd Baron Percy took control of Warkworth Castle having been promised the Clavering’s property by Edward III. Warkworth became the Percy’s preferred family home.

The last Percy earl died in 1670. In the mid-18th century Hugh Smithson took the name of Percy when he married an indirect Percy heiress and founded the dynasty of the Dukes of Northumberland. The 8th Duke gave custody of the castle to the state in 1922. Since 1984 English Heritage has cared for the site; Warkworth Castle is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Richard Jones in his Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland says that, “the lower floors (of the keep) possess a distinct chilling aura, and dogs show a marked reluctance to enter them; and if they do they quickly become alarmed, Children entering its dark interior have also been know to become silent and contemplative – which for stressed parents at least, can become something of a welcomed relief.”

Warkworth Hermitage - 1814 exterior
The hollow containing the Hermitage may be seen from the castle hill. The Hermitage is on the north bank of the River Coquet and can only be reached by boat. The story of the Hermitage concerns Isabel the beautiful daughter of the lord of Widdrington Castle, a near neighbour of Warkworth and Sir Bertram, the lord of Bothal Castle.

While Sir Bertram was feasting at Alnwick Castle with other Percy followers, Lady Isabel’s maid presented with a helmet from her lady; the accompanying message was that for Sir Bertram to win her over he must perform some deed of daring. Lord Percy immediately set a day to march against the Scots in which Bertram might test his helmet.

In the conflict that followed Sir Bertram was seriously wounded and carried to Warkworth Castle where it was thought he would die. Isabel heard the news and set out on horseback to visit and nurse him. The two men with her were unable to prevent her being met and carried off by another prospective lover, a Scottish chief.

Bertram recovered and set out for Scotland to search for her. Unbeknown to him his brother had already departed, without telling Bertram on the same rescue mission.

Both discovered where Isabel was imprisoned. When Sir Bertram arrived at the fortress where she was held he saw a Scot going off with Isabel. Not recognising his brother Bertram rushed to the attack. Isabel threw herself between them and was mortally wounded; the brother died too.

In grief and remorse Bertram renounced the world and became Brother Benedict. Giving away his wealth he scooped out Warkworth Hermitage for himself and built a chapel for the tomb and effigy of the slain Isabel with his own image kneeling at her feet. From the cell of penance in the hermitage there is a window through which a kneeling penitent can see Isabel’s grave in the chapel.

After Brother Benedict’s death the Percys maintained a priest to reside in the Hermitage and to celebrate masses for his soul. This tradition was continued till the dissolution of the monasteries.

Hilary Melton-Butcher's castle yesterday was V - Venlaw Castle, Peebles, Scotland

  • Warkworth Castle, Northumberland, a 1799 water colour by J M W Turner; Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Plan of Warkworth Castle; 1954 Castles: An Introduction to the Castles of England and Wales published by HMSO; author ST J O’Neill
  • Warkworth Castle 2008; author Draco2008from UK; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence
  • Warkworth Hermitage, exterior view, as in 1814. England; October 2009; source Walter Scott Border Antiquities 1814; author L Connell

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A Castle (and witchcraft) in a Vale

 A-Z Challenge 2012 - V

Belvoir Castle

I feel quite justified in using Belvoir Castle for V; it is situated in the Vale of Belvoir in Leicestershire; it has a ‘V’ in its name and its name translates as ‘beautiful view.’

Belvoir Castle 2011 (aerial view)
The castle, in its commanding position, has breathtaking views across the Vale of Belvoir and is the fourth castle which has stood on the site since Norman times. The existing castle was completed in the early 19th century after complete or partial destruction of previous buildings.

The first castle built c1070 with a large central square stone keep and surrounding wall lasted for nearly 400 years before being demolished in 1464 during the Wars of the Roses when its owner, Lord Ros, was executed for supporting the Lancastrian cause.

A second castle was built during the reign of Henry VIII (1509 -1547) by the Manners family who had inherited the castle when the Ros family died out in 1508. This castle, a heavily fortified medieval building, stood for c120 years until it was again destroyed during the Civil War. After the war the Earl of Rutland, a Manners’ descendant, rebuilt a classical style mansion on the castle site – an enormous house with four wings round a large courtyard.

In 1703 the 9th Earl of Rutland was created Duke of Rutland but when the 5th Duke married Elizabeth Howard in 1799 she wanted a more traditional castle. The previous castle was rebuilt as the fine Gothic Castle that stands there today.

Belvoir Castle (Jones Views)
Belvoir Castle has been the home of the Manners family for 500 years and the seat of the Dukes of Rutland for over three centuries to the present day.

Although the name Belvoir originated with the French-speaking Norman conquerors, the native Anglo Saxons unable to get their tongues round the foreign word called it “Beaver Castle” – and its been pronounced “Beaver” ever since.

Belvoir Castle
If you are waiting for a ghostly connection you may be disappointed. However, the witches of Belvoir are inextricably linked with the Francis the 6th Earl of Rutland and his second wife Countess Cecilia.

A local woman named Joan Flower and her daughters Margaret and Philippa were considered to be witches in league with the Devil. The three had been servants to the Countess until they were dismissed when Margaret was caught pilfering.

Soon afterwards the Earl and Countess suffered convulsions; they recovered but their two sons subsequently died of sudden illnesses and strange sickness. Their daughter, Lady Catherine became the next to feel the witches’ revenge although she survived. At Christmas 1618 the three women were arrested and taken to Lincoln jail. Joan Flower protested her innocence demanded bread and butter saying it would never go through her if she were guilty. When she put it in her mouth she promptly choked to death.

Margaret Flower admitted she had stolen the glove of the young heir and given it to her mother who stroked her familiar cat with it; dipped the glove in hot water and pricked it whereupon the young boy had fallen ill. They had also taken feathers from the bed of the Rutlands, and a pair of gloves, which they had boiled in water, mingled with a little blood. This practice was to prevent the Earl and Countess having any more children.

Associated with the Flowers in their practices were three other women Anne Baker, Joan Willimot and Ellen Greene all from local Leicestershire villages.

Three witches
These three women were condemned to death along with the Flower sisters. Margaret and Philippa Flower were executed at Lincoln on 11th March 1618(1619?) for the alleged crime of witchcraft,

One source says the Flowers were hanged; another that they were burnt to death.

  • Belvoir Castle 2011, from an RAF Dominie; Author Jerry Gunner. Lincoln; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
  • Belvoir Castle from Jones Views of the seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen, published in 1819. The south west range and round tower.
  • Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire; author Nancy; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license
  • Three women examined in the case of the Witches of Belvoir; source

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Uffington Castle

A-Z Challenge 2012 - U
 Uffington Castle

Uffington Castle sits on the northern face of the Berkshire Downs in Oxfordshire just to the south of the famous White Horse cut in the hillside. Its is designated as an ‘Iron Age Hillfort’ but archaeological finds suggest that it dates from the Bronze Age around 800 – 700 BC. The fort’s shape is defined by a single rampart as a rough pentagon; its importance to the early Celtic tribes was its position commanding the Ridgeway, the ancient track that runs across England from the coast near Dover to Illchester in Somerset.

Uffington Castle - 2009
It has been said that Uffington was Mount Badon where King Arthur defeated the Saxons in c AD518 and suggested that the White Horse is actually an effigy of the dragon slain by St George on the nearby natural chalk outcrop of Dragon Hill.

Uffington Castle - ditch and bank on south-east side - 2006
Uffington Castle does not appear to have been ever densely populated; despite evidence of buildings inside it wasn’t permanently occupied either. The fort may even have been a spiritual centre rather than a defensive structure. Wayland’s Smithy, a Neolithic burial chamber is a mere 1.1/4miles away along the Ridgeway and contributes to the area’s mystical and spiritual significance.

Hilary Melton-Butcher’s ‘T’ castle yesterday was Tintagel Castle, Cornwall.

  • Uffington Castle Uffington Castle on Whitehorse Hill viewed from the west 2009; author Philip Halling; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.
  • Uffington Castle The ditch and bank on the southeast side. – 2006; author Andrew Smith; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.
  • Video: Uffington Hill Fort by Graeme Field

Monday, 23 April 2012

Taunton Castle and the Bloody Assizes

A-Z Challenge 2012 - T
Taunton Castle

Back in Anglo-Saxon times, c 710 AD, King Ine of Wessex “timbered him a burgh” at Taunton in what is now the south west county of Somerset. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle related that Ethelburga, his consort, destroyed it 12 years later when recapturing it from rebels.

A minster and a manor house built by the Bishops of Wessex were later to occupy the site before the minster became an Augustinian Priory in c 1120. Henry de Blois transformed the manor house into a mighty castle in 1138 during the Civil War in the reign of King Stephen.

Walls of Taunton Castle - 2009
In the first half of the 12th century Taunton was a typical Norman keep, 50 feet by 40, with three stories and 13 feet thick walls. Now it is more Edwardian than Norman in appearance.

The outer ward of the castle has been invaded by two hotels, but the great gate-house opening into this enclosure dates from the time of Edward I (1272-1307. The inner ward is ‘triangular in shape with the Great Hall on the north side.

Inevitably the castle has a reputation of being haunted, the Great Hall of the castle especially. Somerset has many traditions and legends relating back to the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685. Somerset people suffered at the hands of the authorities after the failed uprising. Taunton Castle was the scene for some of the trails of the Bloody Assizes.

The rebellion was led by James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress Lucy Walter. After the death of his father in 1685 Monmouth tried to win the throne from his uncle James II. Having captured Taunton his followers took up residence in the Castle where he was proclaimed King. His supporters celebrated at the castle with wine and dancing. Their high spirits were to be short lived.

In the early morning of 6 July 1685, Monmouth’s army was crushed at the Battle of Sedgemoor. ON 15 July James Scott was beheaded in London. The King sent the infamous Hanging Judge Jeffries west to dole out savage retribution.

Excalibur and Taunton Castle Gate - 2009
It was in Taunton Castle’s Great Hall that Jeffries condemned 200 of Monmouth’s followers to the gallows, with many more sold into slavery. The women who had taken part in the dancing were flogged.

The museum, now occupying the Great Hall is said to echo to the marching feet of soldiers bringing prisoners to trial. A man in period dress and wig, carrying a sword and pistol has been seen. In addition to poltergeist activity the ghost of a fair-haired woman in 17th century costume also appears in the castle.

Castle Hotel guests often hear the soothing strains of a phantom violin or fiddle which are said to be sounds of the Duke of Monmouth and his followers continuing to celebrate a ‘victory’ for which they were unknowingly to suffer Jeffries bloody justice.

Hilary Melton-Butcher’s chose ‘my castle’ in Kent on Saturday - Scotney Castle

·        Walls of Taunton Castle 2009; by Ken Grainger; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.
·        Excalibur and Taunton Castle Gate 2009; by Ken Grainger; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.
·        Images from Geograph project collection

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Policing Sunday Stamps

I got snowed under last weekend with things I had to do, so missed out on Sunday Stamps. Just in case someone has reported me missing I've decided to call in the police this week.

Metropolitan Police - 150th anniversary 1979
It's interesting to see how times have moved on. I can't remember the last time I saw a policeman wearing a helmet and vehicles like that on the 11.1/2p stamp have disappeared. How close we get to a policeman in our village these days depends on how low their helicopter is flying.

Mind you we are over 250 miles from the Metropolitan Police area.

We live in a free country and it seemed right to show our police for Viridian's free choice this week. Check out others at Sunday Stamps 67

Friday, 20 April 2012

Spofforth Castle and Half a Ghost

A-Z Challenge 2012 - S
Spofforth Castle

The Percy family have been an influential family in northern England since the days of the Norman Conquest, William de Percy, a favourite of William the Conqueror, built the manor house at Spofforth in what is now North Yorkshire. In 1215 Richard de Percy and insurgent Barons are reputed to have drawn up the Magna Carta there.

In 1224 Henry II granted a licence to a later William de Percy to hold a Friday market in the town. It was in 1308 that Edward II gave Henry de Percy a licence to fortify the manor house.

Spofforth Castle sits on a small rocky outcrop overlooking the town. Only the west range, which contained the principle apartments, still stands; earthworks and low walls are all that are left of the north south and east ranges.

Spofforth Castle - 2009
In 1403 Harry Hotspur (immortalised by Shakespeare), Baron of Spofforth and born at the castle, was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury.

During the Wars of the Roses the Percys supported the House of Lancaster. After the Battle of Townton in 1461 the Yorkists burnt the castle and plundered the local countryside. The castle lay in ruins for nearly a hundred years before it was restored by Henry, Lord Percy. By this time it was Alnwick Castle that had become the Percys seat. [A for Alnwick in A-Z Challenge 2011 here]

Spofforth Castle - 2011
The last occupant of the castle was a steward who died in 1604. Spofforth Castle was finally reduced to a ruin during the Civil War.

But what of Spofforth’s ghost?

A bluish-white female appears for a moment on the top of the tower before plunging to the ground. The spectre is made even more gruesome by only the upper half of her body being visible. Who she was and why she killed herself has never been ascertained; she disappears at the moment of impact with the ground.

I toyed with the idea of using Scotney Castle in Kent for the letter S; instead you may check it out  here

Hilary Melton-Butcher’s castle for R  yesterday Raby Castle, County Durham

  • Spofforth Castle 2009; author TJ Blackwell; Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 unported license
  • Spofforth Castle 2011; author Immanuel Giel; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported license.
  • Video by Justin Chapman 2011

Rait Castle

A-Z Challenge 2012 - R
Rait Castle’s Girl with No Hands

The ruins of the 13th century Rait Castle, near Nairn in the Highland region of Scotland have been designated a scheduled ancient monument and a Class A listed building but stand largely neglected and over grown. Attempts to preserve it have been hampered by modern day disputes over who owns it. The castle lies on the estates which were home to the Thanes of Cawdor of Shakespearean fame, with lineage traceable back to MacBeth.

Rait Castle
The story of Rait Castle is mixed up with a bloody episode in Scotland’s history of clan warfare, such that large parts of it remain intact as locals were reluctant to plunder its stones for reuse after it had been abandoned in 1442. It the 1200s the land in the area had been held by the de Raits and Clan Chatton (led by Clan Mackintosh) before the castle was won by Comyns (Cummings).

Rivalry between the Cummings and the Mackintoshes came to a head at a grand banquet at the castle. Ostensibly the banquet was intended to heal the rifts between the families, but the Cummings planned to slay their guests.

However the daughter of the Cumming chieftain had a young Mackintosh as a lover to whom she disclosed the plot. A large boulder near the castle was their meeting place and it was there at “Stone of the Maiden” that she revealed the Cummings intentions.

The Mackintoshes attended the feast, each man with a dirk hidden in his plaid. The signal for the slaughter was the entrance of a bull’s head and a toast to “Memory of the Dead.” Before the Cummings could draw their swords the forewarned Mackintoshes struck with their dirks. Only the chief escaped.

The enraged chief cornered his daughter in a turret where she sought to escape by leaping out of a window. Before she could do so, the chief sliced off both her hands with a broadsword.

The castle has been empty since that night of horror. Empty that is except for the girl in a blood-red dress who has no hands and who still haunts the ruins.

Hilary Melton-Butcher's Q castle yesterday was Queens Castle, Windsor.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Tresco Abbey Gardens - Sepia Saturday

In 2008 our children took my wife and I to Tresco on the Scilly Isles to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary. One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Tresco Abbey Gardens.

Tresco Abbey - 2008
With the garden theme this week I now regret not taking more photos while we were there, but here's a few.

The Abbey garden is now one of the foremost in the country. The whole garden is protected by a belt of trees that were originally planted in the early 19th century by Augustus Smith who had leased the island from the Duchy of Cornwall. Up to that time there had been no trees growing in Tresco. In 1990 a series of storms culminated in a hurricane that blew down many of the trees; since then over 60,000 replacements  have been planted to re-establish the shelter belt.

Central path leading to the Temple of Neptune
Somehow it seems appropriate that there is a statue of an early Earth goddess,

Then we came across this rather splendid tree, all I need is a guidebook to tell me what it is.

It has not been manicured in any way; this is how it grows.

Also in the gardens is a museum with a collection of figureheads from ships wrecked on the islands.

Valhalla is now managed by the National Maritime Museum.

Statue of Children
This statue can be viewed at the end of a path between the Abbey Garden's trees.

But I'll admit you can't see it at all clearly in this shot.

But outside the garden, near the island's refuse tip there is no mistaking this greedy lot waiting for their meal.

Expectant Gulls
For more garden treats you need to fly off to SS 122