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


David Robinson said...

One of those places I've seen so often fromt he A1 but never visited. Another spot-on post, Bob.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob - I had connection problems yesterday .. so gave up - and they've sorted it Ihope! for today.

Well done - good V .. also an interesting Castle to know about.

Interesting history it's had - sitting as it does just about in the middle of England. Also that language thing - is that why it's known as Beaver ... like Chumley for Cholmondeley ...

The witches and their stories .. strange tales surviving the ghostly tales of time ..

PS - I had internet connective challenges yesterday ..

Great post though and I love the photos - cheers Hilary

Jo said...

Interesting history. Poor women accused of witchcraft. We did some dreadful things out of fear and suspicion didn't we.

Jo said...

It occurs to me that maybe it became Beaver because the locals of the time resented the Normans. Makes me think of the beginning of Ivanhoe.

Luanne G. Smith said...

I think we've all had to get a little creative with the alphabet on this challenge at one point or another.

And witches are a great stand-in if there are no ghostly tales. What a history. I love hearing about these places. I'm also amazed to learn how many castles have stayed in the trust of the original family. Incredible.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Whereas I can believe in ghosts, I can't get my head around witches - imeediately I was looking for the logical explanation, which I don't do if I hear a ghost story.