Monday, April 5, 2010

Medieval Dungeon Darkness

Say the word 'dungeon' and it conjurs up an instant notion of darkness and fear. Well it should too! Dungeons were an integral part of many medieval castles, particularly those castles built in areas of political and social unrest.

Take Carlisle Castle for example. Located on close to the border of England and Scotland, it has been a target for attack at different times in its turbulent 900 year history - from William Wallace to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite rebellion. It is not surprising, therefore, that when you visit Carlisle Castle, the dungeons at the base of its great keep make a strong and memorable impact upon the mind of the visitor. They are cold, damp and dark; their atmosphere is unique and difficult to convey in words. Suffice it to say, as you stand there absorbing this 'environment', it is easy to imagine the terrible plight of anyone who was imprisoned there. It is no surprise to learn that the medieval dungeon was also known as an oubliette - from the French oublier (to forget) and meaning a place where people were left to be forgotten and eventually die.

Read more about medieval dungeons and view pictures of carlisle castle's dungeons which we took on one very memorable visit.

We also have more about castle keeps.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Medieval King's Place In History

There's a wonderful book entitled "A Great And Terrible King" which portrays the life of King Edward I of England in great detail, especially his relationships with people around him from his father to his brother, his wife and many others. One interesting thing that came out of the book, however, was just how close he came to death when still relatively young. It was in 1272 during his crusade to 'the Holy Land' (Edward was 33 years of age) that he was attacked by a supposed messenger who turned out to be an assassin. Edward was stabbed in the arm with what was believed to be a poison dagger and how he survived, particularly so far away from home, is quite amazing.

How different history would have played out if he had died at that time. It was well before his encounters with William Wallace and Robert The Bruce so there might never have been the Battle of Stirling Bridge or the ransacking of York and he would have never been known by the nickname 'Hammer Of The Scots'.

Then there are the wonderful medieval castles that Edward had built - some of the finest medieval castles in the world. Perhaps none of those would have ever come into existence if he had died earlier. Another of Edward's significant achievements in later years - the reforms of the institution of the English Parliament - would also never have taken place so the British parliamentary and judiciary process might well have evolved into something other than what we know today.

The most significant thing of all is that, if Edward had died on the crusade then his son who became King Edward II would never have been born and the royal line of accession would have been entirely different as a result. It goes to show how world history can change with just one event.

Read more about the medieval crusades and medieval kings and queens

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Local Timeline Over 2 Millenia

On a visit to Lanercost Priory, a wonderful medieval church in a tiny Cumbrian village, I was intrigued to see a modern, sand blasted toughened glass panel on one of the inside walls. Called Lanercost 2000 it is a timeline of significant events related to local history from the birth of Christ right up to the present day.

The key period for many significant events appeared to be the Middle Ages and featured some of medieval Britains' key figures. It makes for fascinating reading!

1066 AD - Norman Conquest of Britain begins. This in turn led to the arrival in Cumbria of the de Vaux family who founded Lanercost Priory


1169 AD - Foundation of Lanercost Priory


1214 AD - Consecration of the Lanercost Cross (pictured)


1296 AD - William Wallace ransacked Lanercost

1306 AD - King Edward I arrived at Lanercost and stayed the winter, leaving in 1307


1311 AD - Robert The Bruce ransacked Lanercost

1346 AD - King David II of Scotland visited Lanercost

Read more about medieval churches in England.

Have you ever seen orbs in churches? Take a look at this photo taken at St Etheldreda's Church in London. Here is another of orbs in St Paul's Cathedral.

A series of short video clips of Lanercost Priory will follow in our next blog posts.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Carlisle Castle & Naworth Castle

Carlisle Castle
900 years of history in one building - that's a piece of architecture with a past!

Regarded by many as one of the most important fortresses in Britain, second only to the Tower Of London. Like the Tower of London it is reputed to be haunted.

The portcullis as you enter the castle takes your breath away!

Crenalated in 1335, this is a small privately owned medieval castle of great character. Tucked away in the Border region close to Hadrian's Wall and not from from both the Scottish and Northumberland borders, this is a 'chocolate box' country castle. Close to the historic Lanercost Priory which received visits from King Edward I, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce - no less!.

Not to be missed if you are travellling through Cumbria (though not open to the public other than for special events).

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Haunted Castles - Chillingham Castle

The second of our features on haunted castles in the lead up to Halloween and all things ghostly is about Chillingham Castle in Northumberland. Even the castle's name has 'chilling' in it - how spooky is that?!

A 12th century monastery and Norman stronghold, Chillingham Castle only became a fortified castle some 200 hundred years later. It has a rich history tied to key events on both sides of the England/Scotland border. King Edward I of England stayed there when he was on his way to do battle with William Wallace in Scotland. Side-tracking for just a moment, anyone interested in Scottish history and particularly the life of William Wallace should pay a visit to the marvellous Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland. Having been there myself I can vouch for it being a worthwhile experience - you even get to see what is claimed to be Wallace's broadsword that he used in battle.

Back to Chillingham Castle ... stories abound about it being haunted. Two of the most notable ghosts claimed to have been seen at the castle are that of the 'Blue Boy' and that of Lady Mary Berkeley. Both are said to date back to events from the time of King Charles II of England. To read the full detail of both 'ghost stories' read our haunted Chillingham Castle page.

There are a number of haunted rooms in Chillingham Castle including the Great Hall, Minstrels Gallery and Chapel. Indeed, a good friend who once stayed overnight at Chillingham Castle said they were convinced the castle is haunted and that parts of the castle definitely had an eery feeling that they could not explain. Coming from the friend in question who is not given to flights of fancy and having read other accounts, I am more than a little inclined to believe that Chillingham Castle is possibly one of the most haunted places in all of Britain!

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