Archive for July, 2019

Bristol Aquarium

Posted: July 19, 2019 in Natural History
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A visit to Bristol for a meeting allows the chance to take a couple of hours off to visit the Aquarium in Bristol.

I remember Bristol zoo from my childhood in its association with early wildlife programmes on the TV involving Jonny Morris, who took the part of a zoo keeper at the zoo as a way of introducing the animals. So it was good to finally be able to visit the zoo which is located in Clifton.

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Warkworth Castle is, to my mind anyway, one of the most complete and finest examples of a medieval castle in England. It is built on a hill contained within a loop of the River Croquet, just a few miles inland from the river’s entry into the North Sea at Amble.

Gatehouse

Gatehouse

The castle as it is seen today dates from around 1200 and was built by Roger Fitz Roger, Sheriff of Northumberland. It replaced an earlier castle which had suffered as a result of the Scottish invasion of 1173.  King Edward I stayed at Warkworth in 1292 during his campaigns against the Scots. In 1328   it passed into the hands of the Percy family (formerly Earls and later Dukes of Northumberland).

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The Tower dates from 1377 and was built by the first Earl of Northumberland. The castle passed to the Crown when the sixth Earl died in 1527 and although Crown officers continued to use it but by 1550 it was described as falling into decay. It was restored to the Percy family in 1557 and they set about repairing the decay, but Warkworth continued to pass between the Crown and the Percy family as the family’s fortunes waxed and waned.

Tower Chapel

Tower Chapel

During the civil war, the castle was held by Parliamentary forces and when they withdrew they were ordered to make sure the castle could not be held by any other force. It is recorded that materials from the castle were used in buildings elsewhere in the area. In the 19th century the Percy family began to renovate the castle. The Dukes of Northumberland, now living at Alnwick, would bring guests to Warkworth for picnics in the Great Tower. The castle passed into State guardianship in 1922 and into the hands of English Heritage in 1984.

Stairways to upper floors

Stairways to upper floors

 

Remains of passage from lower ward to tower bailry

Remains of passage from lower ward to tower bailry

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It is not certain when the first castle was built at Alnwick. It was probably between 1070 and 1090 as it is recorded that King Malcolm III of Scotland tried to take the castle in 1093 and was killed at the battle that ensued. Some remnants of both an 11th century and a 12th century stone castle can be found in the castle today, but it is likely that the original castle was a wooden structure. Most of the castle that can be seen today dates from the time when the Percy family took control of Alnwick after purchasing the land from Bishop Bek of Durham in 1309. Baron Percy retitled himself ‘1st Lord Percy of Alnwick’. Many of the early lords of Alnwick carried out redevelopment and improvement. It is reputed that the 2nd Lord used money obtained from ransom of Scottish prisoners following the Battle of Neville’s Cross to finance his redevelopments.

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Despite the important part that the Percy family play in the history of England, Alnwick itself seems to have been untroubled by these events. By the 16th century the family had moved south and the changing political and military scene meant that Alnwick was no longer so important as a garrison castle and it began to fall into disrepair. So much so that it was used as a prisoner of war camp during the English civil war.A reference to the castle in 1750 mentons its state of disrepair.

In 1750, the first Duke of Northumberland, a Percy through his maternal line, decided to establish a residence in his Ducal county and chose Alnwick. He began a programme of repair and redevelopment to turn the ruined medieval castle into an 18th Gothic mansion.

Alnwick in the 18th century

Alnwick in the 18th century

In the 19th century the 4th Duke undertook a plan to re-medievalise the castle removing some of the features added by his Great-Grandfather. Whilst he tried to turn back the clock outside he was also responsible for building the lavish state rooms in the keep on an Italian theme.Unfortunately there si no photography inside the castle and so I cant show you the interiors of his keep.

The castle remains the family home of the Dukes of Northumberland – the current occupant being the 12th Duke. the latest in a long line of the Percy family which has owned Alnwick castle for over 900 years.

In 1623 a survey of the Tudor castle at Southsea found that many of the guns were unusable and that the garrison had no gunpowder stored on site. The deterioration of the castle continued following a fire in 1627 which gutted many of the buildings. It was still in use however during the Civil War and in 1642 it was captured by the parliamentarians. In 1680, following the restoration, Charles II built an enlarged castle with 30 guns.

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However by 1770 things had been allowed to deteriorate and a document describes the castle as being a shameful ruin and plans were made for its demolition. However renewed risks of French invasion called for these plans to be put on hold and the castle was further strengthened in 1793 and in 1814.

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In the 1820s the lighthouse was added to the castle and this remained in service to 1927.

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The original Southsea Castle was built in the mid-16th century following Henry VIII’s break with the church of Rome and the increased likelihood of invasion from continental Europe. In order to counter this Henry built a series of castles and keeps around the coast of southern and south-eastern England particularly covering places where an army could land or protecting the anchorages of his ships. There was an extensive series of forts and castles guarding Portsmouth Harbour and Southampton water.

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Artists impression of original Southsea castle 1544

Artists impression of original Southsea castle 1544

Picture showing an attempted French invasion in 1545. Southsea castle can be seen in the foregound

Picture showing an attempted French invasion in 1545. Southsea castle can be seen in the foregound

Tudor Gun crew at Southsea Castle

Tudor Gun crew at Southsea Castle

Arundel Castle

Posted: July 11, 2019 in History, Post medieval history, UK
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Arundel Castle is situated on a rock bluff overlooking the valley of the River Arun. The first castle on this site was built is 1068, just two years after the Norman conquest. By 1155 the original wooden structure had been replaced by a stone castle. In the 13th century the castle passed into the hands of the Howard family. Sir John Howard was created Duke of Norfolk in 1483 and the castle remains the home of his descendants to this day. It was besieged during the Civil War (1642 to 45) first by the Royalists and then by the Parliamentarians. It was badly damaged and repairs were not commenced until 1718. Queen Victoria stayed at the castle for three days in 1846 and the castle as it is today owes much to the restoration carried out around 1900.

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Still Battling!

Posted: July 11, 2019 in Announcements

We got the internet back at 10.30pm last night and I resolved to catch up on posts this morning. But you guessed it, when I woke this morning it wasdown again. I have tried posting on public WiFi at the coffee shop but it is just too slow to handle images, so will need to try somewhere else.

In the meantime I will continue reposting a series on UK castles I have visited over the years.

Rochester Castle

Posted: July 10, 2019 in Kent, UK
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Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle

The first castle on this important site where the London Road crosses the River Medway was built by  Odo, the half-brother of William the Conqueror shortly after their victory in 1066. In 1088, following Williams death, Odo supported the King’s eldest son Robert for the crown and the castle was besieged by forces supporting the eventually successful son William Rufus. Records show that the following year repairs were made to the castle by Gandalf, Bishop of Rochester. The tower keep, much as it is seen today, was built in 1127 by William, Archbishop of Canterbury,  who had come into possession of the castle.

The Keep at Rochester Castle

The Keep at Rochester Castle

In 1215 the castle was taken by the rebel barons and was subsequently besieged by the forces of King John. The defenders held out for two months but eventually, starving, they had to surrender the castle. It was besieged again in 1264, this time holding for the King against rebel barons although the outcome was different as the castle was relieved after a week by Royal forces.

The Castle Keep

The Castle Keep

In 1381  the castle was captured and ransacked during the peasant’s revolt. It was badly damaged and this seems to have made it turning point in the castle’s history  as although repairs were carried out and people continued to live in the keep, the records show that the amount of repair work done was insufficient to keep the castle in a fully functional state and eventually it fell out of use. Much of the stone from the external walls and outbuildings was carried away and used on other building projects such as nearby Upnor Castle.

One of the few remaining portions of the external walls of Rochester Castle

One of the few remaining portions of the external walls of Rochester Castle

In 1870, the site was opened as a public park and eventually passed into the hands of the local authority, then the ministry of public works and finally to English Heritage.

Canterbury Castle in Kent built as one of the earliest Norman castles in 1066. Originally a woodern castle it was replaced by the surviving stone structure between 1100 -1135. Its highpoint in history (or indeed its low point) was when it was captured and held by the invading French army in 1380.

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A plan of the interior

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A model of what it looked like in 1135

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The standing exterior wall