September 13, 2015

Castles of The Midlands

Dudley Castle is a ruined fortification in the town of Dudley, West Midlands. 
According to legend, a wooden castle was constructed on the site in the 8th century by a Saxon lord. Historians usually date the castle from soon after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Some of the earthworks from this castle still remain. The Paganel family built the first stone castle on the site, but it was demolished by order of King Henry II after a family member joined a failed rebellion against him in 1173. The Somery's were the next dynasty to own the site and built another castle with a chapel and a great hall. The keep and the main gate date from the 13th and 14th century. 

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, came into ownership of Dudley Castle in 1537. He erected a range of new buildings within the older castle walls. Dudley was later beheaded for his attempt to set his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, on the throne. Queen Mary returned the castle to the Sutton family. Elizabeth I visited the castle during her reign, considering it as a possible place of imprisonment for Mary, Queen of Scots. Edward Sutton III was the last of the male line to possess the property. 

During the 17th century Dudley Castle was partly demolished on the orders of Parliament. In the 19th century some tidying up of the site was carried out by the Earls of Dudley. Battlements were reconstructed on a remaining tower and the site was later used for pageants and other celebrations. The castle grounds were incorporated into Dudley Zoo in 1937. 

Eastnor Castle is a 19th-century revival castle in Herefordshire. It was founded by John Cocks, 1st Earl Somers, as his stately home and continues to be inhabited by his descendants. In residence is the family of James Hervey-Bathurst. The estate was established when the Cocks family purchased land in the area in the 16th century. Subsequent marriages into the Somers and Nash families provided the wealth necessary to build the present imposing building, designed to look like one of the medieval castles guarding the Welsh borders.

It was built to the designs of Robert Smirke in 1812-20. The construction cost £85,000, the equivalent of approximately £26 to £28 million at 2007 prices. The castle has provided the backdrop to a number of films and television programs. 

The Gothic Drawing Room survives largely unchanged from the time when it was redecorated to the designs of A.W.N Pugin for the 2nd Earl in 1849. The massive chimney piece by Bernasconi and family tree depicted above provide the focus, while the chairs, table, desk and bookcase were designed by Pugin with the Somers’ ‘S’ and coronet inlaid in the table and bookcase doors. The chandelier was exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851.
The Great Hall is the heart of the castle. It was furnished and decorated in the 1860s by G.E. Fox, who introduced the marble columns in the gallery and painted wall decoration, said to be taken from the design on a Saracen banner captured in the Crusades.

The chairs, benches and fire screens in the State Dining Room were designed by Smirke for the room and evoke an earlier style of English furniture. The ceiling was decorated in the 1850s and features crests of families with which the Somers and Cocks were linked. 

The 16th century tapestries of the Staircase Hall were bought and hung here in 1990 to take the place of portraits now hanging in the Dining Room. The staircase was designed by Smirke with cast iron banisters. 

The State Bedroom belonged to the 3rd Earl and is hung with panels from the Royal School of Needlework. The 17th century bed is Italian and belonged to Cardinal Bellarmine. The wardrobe and chest of drawers are 17th century Genoese. 

Hampton Court Castle & Gardens is an estate in the county of Herefordshire. It dates from 1427, when Sir Rowland Lenthall built the original house on an estate which had been granted to him by King Henry IV at the time of his marriage to the king's cousin Margaret Fitzalan, daughter of the Earl of Arundel. The prominent and noble Coningsby family owned it from 1510 until the early 19th century, and has since changed hands several times. The house was remodelled in the 1830s and 1840s to give it more of a castle air, reversing earlier attempts to make it appear more regular and domestic.

Hampton Court Castle and grounds were sold by the Van Kampen family in 2008 and last year it was for sale for £16 million. The 12 acre garden is open to the public during the summer months. 

Harvington Hall is a moated medieval and Elizabethan manor house in Worcestershire.

The Hall belongs to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham since 1923 and is particularly notable for its seven priest holes, four of which are built around the main staircase and are thought to be the work of Nicholas Owen. The Archdiocese restored the Hall and opened it to the public.

To the left is the main Elizabethan building and to the right stands the North Tower, also originally Elizabethan but reconstructed in 1756 with a Georgian staircase and windows. Between them is the low central part, with the gateway and a single tall chimney. Many of the rooms still have their original Elizabethan wall paintings. On the far side of the island are two other buildings; a camouflaged 18th century Catholic chapel and the Elizabethan Malt House, which has recently been restored and adapted as a visitor centre. 
The Elizabethan House was built in the 1580s by Humphrey Pakington. It was inherited by his daughter Mary, Lady Yate, on his death. In 1644 it was pillaged by Roundhead troops. The Throckmortons of Coughton Court in Warwickshire owned Harvington Hall from 1696 to 1923, but during the 19th Century it was stripped of furniture and panelling and the shell was left almost derelict.

The priest hides were built in the time of Humphrey Pakington when Catholicism was considered high treason. Four of them are sited round the Great Staircase. In the Library one can be found behind a swinging beam, which would once have been hidden by panelling, book shelves and cupboard doors. They show the trademarks of the master builder Nicholas Owen, who was at work from 1588. He was a servant to Fr Henry Garnet, who during the late 16th century set up a network of houses throughout the country to which priests could be directed and where they could find disguises, chapels and priest holes. In 1606 Owen was starved out of one of his own hides on the fourth day of a twelve day search, during which he and his companion had nothing to eat but one apple. He died under torture in the Tower of London. His three companions were hanged, drawn and quartered. 

Warwick Castle is a medieval castle developed from an original motte-and-bailey castle built by William the Conqueror in 1068. It is situated in Warwick, the county town of Warwickshire, on a bend of the River Avon. The river has eroded the rock the castle stands on, forming a cliff. Over its 950 years of history Warwick Castle has been owned by 36 different individuals, plus four periods as crown property under seven different monarchs. Eleven of the owners were under 20 when they inherited, including a girl aged two and a boy aged three. At least three owners died in battle, two were executed and one murdered. 

William appointed Henry de Beaumont, the son of a powerful Norman family, as constable of the castle. In 1088, Henry was made the first Earl of Warwick.
In 1153, the wife of Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick, was tricked into believing that her husband was dead, and surrendered control of the castle to the invading army of Henry of Anjou (later King Henry II). According to history, the Earl died on hearing the news that his wife had handed over the castle. King Henry later returned the castle to the Earls of Warwick. A stone castle replaced the first building in the 12th century. The castle's position made it strategically important in safeguarding the Midlands against rebellion. 

When Thomas de Beaumont, 6th Earl of Warwick died, the castle and lands passed to his sister, Lady Margery, countess of Warwick in her own right. Her husband died soon after, and while she looked for a suitable husband, the castle was in the ownership of King Henry III. Warwick Castle was returned to her when she got married in 1242. The castle then passed through seven generations of the Beauchamp family, who over the next 180 years were responsible for most of the additions made to the castle. The defences were significantly enhanced by adding a gatehouse, a barbican and residential towers. The facade overlooking the river was designed as a symbol of the power and wealth of the Beauchamp earls and would have been of minimal defensive value, following a trend of 14th-century castles being more statements of power than designed exclusively for military use.

Richard Neville became the next Earl of Warwick through his wife's inheritance of the title. In 1469 Neville rebelled against King Edward IV and imprisoned him in Warwick Castle. Neville attempted to rule in the king's name, but the king's supporters forced him to release the king. Neville was killed in the Battle of Barnet in 1471 during the Wars of the Roses, and Warwick Castle passed to his son-in-law George Plantagenet who was executed in 1478, and then to his two-year-old son Edward, 17th Earl of Warwick, whose lands were taken in the custody of The Crown due to his young age. As he was too close to the throne he was placed under attainder so he could not inherit it, and was held in the Tower of London by Henry VII for fourteen years. In 1499, the 24-year-old Edward was executed for supposedly comitting high treason.

The Bear and Clarence Towers were constructed by King Richard III in the 1480s. 
While in the care of The Crown, Warwick Castle underwent repairs and renovations using about 500 loads of stone. In 1547 the castle and lands were granted to John Dudley. He noticed that the castle had fallen into decay due to neglect, but he did not initiate any repairs. Queen Elizabeth I visited the castle during her reign on a couple of occasions, but a timber building was erected for her to stay in. 

The residential buildings line the eastern side of the castle, facing the River Avon. These buildings include the great hall, the library, bedrooms, and the chapel.
The castle was used as a stronghold until the early 17th century, when it was granted to a Sir Fulke Greville by James I in 1604. Sir Greville converted it to a country house and the grounds were turned into a garden. The conversion of the castle coincided with a period of decline in the use of castles during the 15th and 16th centuries. Many were either being abandoned or converted into comfortable residences. Whilst the castle was undergoing repairs, it was peripherally involved in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605; when the conspirators involved discovered the plot had failed they stole cavalry horses from the stables at Warwick Castle to help in their escape. 

Fulke Greville spent a lot of money (£3 million as of 2015) on renovations. Sadly, he was murdered by his manservant in Holborn, for leaving the servant out of the will. During the Civil Wars the castle was temporarily sieged, and prisoners were held there. A garrison was maintained in the castle for many years; at its strongest it numbered 302 soldiers. Extensive repairs were made of the interiors in the 1670s. On 4 November 1695 the castle was in sufficient state to host a visit by King William III. The Greville family became earls of Warwick in 1759. 

In 1858 Queen Victoria visited the 4th earl with great local celebrations. The castle was extensively damaged by a fire in 1871 that started to the east of the Great Hall. Although the Great Hall was gutted, the overall structure was unharmed. Restoration and reparations were subsidised by donations from the public.

Successive earls expanded its tourism potential until 1978, when it was sold to the Tussauds Group, a media and entertainment company, after 374 years in the Greville family. They opened it as a tourist attraction and extensive restorations have been carried out since. The collection of armoury on display at Warwick Castle is regarded as second only to that of the Tower of London. Warwick Castle is one of Britain's best and most visited historic buildings.

Wightwick Manor is a Victorian manor house located on in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. It is one of few surviving examples of a house built and furnished under the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement. Wightwick (pronounced 'Wittick') was built and extended in the 1880s and 1890s by Theodore Mander, of the Mander family, who were successful 19th-century industrialists in the area. 

This family house portrays life during the Victorian era and includes original Morris wallpapers and fabrics, De Morgan tiles, Kempe glass, and Pre-Raphaelite works of art. The house has beautiful Victorian gardens, stables, a workshop and a bookshop. It was presented to the National Trust in 1937. Descendants of the family retain rooms in the manor. 

September 6, 2015

Manor houses of the South West and Midlands

Baddesley Clinton is a manor house located north of the historic town of Warwick. Much of the house was built by Henry Ferrers, a lawyer and antiquarian, in the late 1500s. The house provided refuge for persecuted Catholics, hiding from priest hunters in the 1590s. 

The house was probably established during the 13th century when large areas of the Forest of Arden were cleared and eventually converted to farmland. It has been rebuilt in local Arden stone but the oak frame remains at the core of the structure. 

John Brome, Under-Treasurer of England, bought the manor in 1438. It passed to his son, Nicholas, who was responsible for the extensive rebuilding of the nearby parish church, done as penance for killing the parish priest (a murder reputed to have taken place in the great house itself). The house passed to Nicholas Brome's daughter and her husband Sir Edward Ferrers, the High Sheriff of Warwickshire, when he died in 1517. Baddesley Clinton was the home of the Ferrers family until 1940 when it was purchased by Thomas Walker, a relative of the family. His son sold the estate to the National Trust in 1980. 

Henry Ferrers made many additions to Baddesley Clinton, including starting the tradition of stained glass representing the family's coat of arms. Inside the house are a beautiful Great Hall, parlour and library, amongst other rooms, and there is a great deal of 16th century carving and furniture to be seen.

In 1591 priest hunters (protestant soldiers) raided the house. 8 priests hid in one of the three priest holes cunningly concealed within the building. One hole is off the Moat Room, and is simply a small room with a door hidden in the wood panelling. A second leads into the ceiling, and though not visible to visitors, is reputed to hold six people. A third hole is hidden in an old toilet. Fugitives could slide down a rope from the first floor through the old garderobe shaft into the house's former sewers, which run the length of the building, and could thus probably hold at least a dozen people.

Baddesley Clinton, with its beautiful gardens, is open to the public nearly every day of the year. 

Barrington Court is a Tudor manor house in Somerset, begun around 1538 and completed in the late 1550s.

The estate was occupied since the 11th century and by the 14th century included a substantial house to the north east of the present building, where traces of a moat can still be seen. It was originally surrounded by a medieval deer park. The house was owned by several families by 1745, after which it fell into disrepair and was used as a tenant farm. In the 1920s the house was renovated, the stable block turned into a residence and several outbuildings, gardens and gateways constructed. Like many Elizabethan mansions, Barrington is built in an 'E' shape with large projecting wings with square projections that contain staircases. A long gallery stretches the entire length of the house on the upper floor.
The Daubeneys, known for their services to Edward IV, Henry VII and Henry VIII, owned the house in the 15th and 16th century. Henry Daubeney, Earl of Bridgewater, may have begun the new house, but went bankrupt and was involved in the disgrace of Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Barrington Court was forfeit to the crown. Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, sold it to the Cliftons in 1552. They are thought to be responsible for most of the building. 

The stables, built in 1674, were converted into a separate house - Strode House - around 1920. In front of the building is the fountain court.
The interior of the house suffered from its demotion to a tenant farm and from a fire in the early 19th century. Barrington Court was one of the first large properties acquired by the National Trust. In 2014 it was the site of filming for the BBC's Tudor-era TV series Wolf Hall and in May this year the house was the venue for the Antiques Roadshow. Unfortunately the building has no furniture, but it is still open to visitors. 

Chastleton House is a Jacobean country house situated at Chastleton in Oxfordshire. It has been owned by the National Trust since 1991, but before that it was owned by the same family for nearly 400 years.

Chastleton House was built between 1607 and 1612 on the site of a previous residence. The house is built of Cotswold stone, round a small courtyard, called the Dairy Court. It was built within an existing settlement, Chastleton village, which provided many of the services for the house which would otherwise have been attached, such as a laundry, a fishpond and a bakehouse. 

The Long Gallery has a barrel vaulted ceiling. No other gallery of such a length, 72 feet (22 m), and date survive. 

A dovecote
Chastleton House was used as one of the locations for the television series Wolf Hall and represented 'Wolf Hall', the home of the Seymours.

Stokesay Castle is a manor house in Stokesay, Shropshire. It was built in the late 13th century (1280s and 1290s) by Laurence of Ludlow, the leading wool merchant in England at the time, who intended it to form a secure personal home and generate income as a commercial estate. His descendants continued to own the castle until the 16th century, when it passed through various private owners. 

The parish church of St John the Baptist, of Noman origins, lies just alongside the castle.
In 1563 Stokesay Castle was passed to Henry Vernon. The property began to be regularly called a "castle" for the first time during this period, as the family had hopes of becoming members of the peerage. However, Henry's substantial debts led to the selling of the castle for £6,000 in 1598. By the time of the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1641, Stokesay was owned by William Craven, a supporter of King Charles I. When the Royalist war effort collapsed in 1645, Parliamentary forces besieged the castle and forced its garrison to surrender. Parliament ordered the property to be slighted, but only minor damage was done to the walls, allowing Stokesay to continue to be used as a house by the Baldwyn family until the end of the 17th century.

The south tower forms an unequal pentagon in shape, and has three storeys with thick walls. The current floors are Victorian in origin, having been built after a fire that occured in 1830, but the tower remains unglazed, as in the 13th century, with shutters at the windows providing protection in winter.
In the 18th century the Baldwyns rented the castle out for a range of agricultural and manufacturing purposes. It fell into disrepair but extensive restoration work was carried out during the 19th century. Stokesay was formally opened to paying visitors as early as 1908. The last owners were the Allcrofts, who placed Stokesay Castle into the guardianship of English heritage. Tourists visit the castle frequently, which happens to be one of the best preserved medieval fortified manor houses in England today and a rare surviving example of medieval buildings. It comprises many original and antique features. 

The castle used to be surrounded by a moat, between 15 feet (4.6 m) and 25 feet (7.6 m) across, although it is uncertain as to whether this was originally a dry moat, as it is in the 21st century, or whether it was water-filled. 

The wood panelling and carved wooden fireplace in the solar block are of 17th-century origin. This woodwork would have originally been brightly painted.
The hall features a 13th-century wooden beamed ceiling. The three-storey north tower is reached by a 13th-century staircase.
Stokesay Court is a country house and estate in southern Shropshire, not far from Stokesay Castle.

Stokesay Court was built by the rich Victorian-era merchant, Christian evangelist and church-builder John Derby Allcroft. He purchased the estate (including Stokesay Castle, which he felt unsuitable to reside in) and a small house in 1868. 
The Great Hall and Gallery
The site looks out over Ludlow and the Clee Hills. Work on the house lasted from 1889 to 1892, finishing only six months before Derby-Allcroft's death. Stokesay Court was one of England's first to have integral electric light, installed in 1891. It passed to John's descendants, and acted as an Auxiliary Military Hospital for convalescent soldiers during the First World War and as a temporary home for the evacuated students during the Second World War. Almost 300 letters written from the soldiers to Mrs Allcroft survive. The family sold the house's antique contents in 1994 to fund building repairs. It is currently owned by a niece of Philip Magnus-Allcroft.

The Upstairs Sitting Room
Keira Knightley in the Drawing Room at Stoke Court, starring in Atonement (2007).  

The house served as the home of the Tallis family in the film Atonement, including its pool fountain which was temporarily altered.