Archive for the ‘Medieval History’ Category

Elsing Spital

Posted: November 19, 2019 in History, London, Medieval History, UK
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I came across Elsing Spital (Elsing’s Hospital) whilst walking in the City of London during a lunch break in a conference. All that remains of this medieval hospital is the tower of the church, which now sits amongst the concrete tower blocks of the city.

The hospital was founded in 1131 by William Elsing as a hospital for the blind homeless people of London. In 1340 the running of the hospital was undertaken by the Augustinian order, who appointed a prior and canons to live on the premises. Eventually, the number of inmates would rise to around 100.

The priory and the hospital were closed during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and the property was granted to Sir John Williams, the master of the King’s Jewels. However, he did not get to enjoy it as within a year fire had destroyed the whole building.

As the city of London grew around it, the land of the hospital was used for buildings and by 1960, the remain buildings of the tower were enclosed by the surrounding buildings to the extent that they were no longer accessible by the public. However, more recent development have created an open plaza which contains the remains.

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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.

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

The first Benedictine Abbey at St Albans was founded in 793 by Ulsinas. It is thought that this may have been on site further up the hill than the present building which was begun in 1077. It is a building which includes many architectural styles: Norman, Romanesque (11th Century) Gothic and 19th Century.

It is the burial place of St Alban, the first Christian Martyr in Britain.

The old part of Lincoln is situated on a hill overlooking the River and has been occupied since Roman times.

The remains of a Roman gateway to Lincoln

The old town is full of medieval buildings

The towers of the Cathedral dominate the skyline

Centuries prior to the building of the Norman castle, the Romans had built a legionary fortress on the hill overlooking the River Witham.

The Normans created a motte and bailey castle here in 1068. Stone castle walls were erected by the end of the 11th century, replacing the original wooden palisade and a stone keep was also added shortly afterwards.

In 1141, Lincoln was the site of a battle ‘The Joust of Lincoln’ in the war between Stephen and Matilda for the English throne. King Stephen was captured during the battle and was held for some months before being exchanged for Matilda’s half-brother. Stephen went on to win the war and established himself firmly as England’s King.

It was beseiged 1191 and again in 1217 during the troubles between King John and the Barons and the castle held on both occasions under the control of its formidable constable, Lady Nicola de la Haye. It was also beseiged in 1644 when it was held by Royalists against the Parliamentarian forces although on this occasion it was forced to surrender.

In 1788 a prison block was built within the castle holding both criminals and debtors. In 1826 a courthouse building was added to the castle interior and in 1848 the criminal part of the jail was demolished and a new prison was built to hold short term prisoners awaiting trial at the Lincoln courts. This prison was one of the first to use the ‘separate system’ in which prisoners had their own cells. However, due to the number of prisoners who needed to be housed this was soon abandoned. The prison closed in 1878, just 30 years after its opening.

Today the prison and the castle walls are open to the public. In a specially designed vault in the castle grounds, it is also possible to see a number of ancient documents including Lincoln’s copy of Magna Carta.

There is evidence of Pre-historic occupation in the Derby area.

The Romans built a fort on the site in 50AD and a vicus (town) grew up around it. However when the Romans left Britain the site was abandoned.

There was possibly an Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area, but the Vikings founded a settlement in 873 which was captured by the Saxons in 917. It prospered and a mint and market are recorded in the 10th century.

Viking Sword

The Doomsday book (1086) records a population of 2000 (The average size of a village was about 100-150).  It received charters in 1154 and 1204 and a wool industry was established in the town. Despite outbreaks of the plague in 1636 and 1665, the town continued to grow. The UK’s first silk mill was opened in Derby in 1717.

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The city was occupied by the Jacobite Army in December 1745 and King George I visited in 1773 and warranted the change of name for the local china from Derby to Crown Derby (it later became Royal Crown Derby by permission of Queen Victoria). The Railway reached Derby in 1839 and the Midland Railway soon set up a depot for maintenance and construction of engines.

The Old Roundhouse from the Railway Works

In 1907 Rolls Royce opened a factory manufacturing cars and airoplane engines.

Keith and I were fortunate that as we were exploring the grounds of the church in Snodland, a lady kindly offered to open up the church so we could have a look inside.

There is a possibility that there was a church on this site from around 660 AD although the first written record is from around 1000. The church was rebuilt in stone around 1100 and there is evidence that some of this came from a near-by Roman Villa as tiles and other Roman masonry have been found in the walls and in the infill.

The church was enlarged a number of times in the 13th-15th centuries, probably due to its position at the place where the Pilgrims Way from London to the tomb of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury crosses the River Medway (originally there was a ferry).

The tower included a Priests room, although this seems to have been converted into a lock-up when a rectory was built nearby in the 17th century to house the priest. There was much renovation in the 19th century and a vestry was added to the south side at this time. There are only a few fragments of original medieval glass as a land mine fell nearby in 1942 and shattered the windows. Some 19th-century windows remain plus more modern replacements.

St Martin, Exeter

Posted: March 27, 2019 in Devon, History, Medieval History, UK
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The site of an ancient church in the Cathedral Close, most of the current church dates to the 15th century. Its furnishings reflect the 17th and 18th-century low-church tradition.

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