Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle P1020073

I think that Northumberland is one of the loveliest parts of the United Kingdom, with the Cheviot Hills and in particular the beautiful golden sands along the coast of the North Sea. It also has a large share of castles. Since we moved here we’ve visited all of the coastal castles, except that is the ruins of the castle at Dunstanburgh. It’s a spectacular ruin standing alone on the coast on an isolated headland between Embleton and Craster, looking out over the North Sea.

Last Tuesday we decided it was time for us to go there. It was a lovely hot, sunny day and we walked from the car park down the road to the little village and harbour at Craster, well known for its kippers.

Craster P1020067

From there it’s about a mile and a half walk northwards along the coast to the castle, which is owned by the National Trust (NH) and managed by English Heritage(EH). But we never actually got to the castle, because the heat defeated us and my knee, which has been a problem for a few months now, became painful so we only walked about halfway there, then turned back. I took a few photos zooming in as close as I could:

Dunstanburgh Castle P1020072

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster began building Dunstanburgh Castle in 1313. He was the wealthiest nobleman in England at the time and later took part in the barons’ rebellion against Edward II, resulting in his execution in 1322. John of Gaunt modernised it in the 1380s and later during the Wars of the Roses it became a Lancastrian stronghold, finally falling into ruin in the 16th century.

We will go there again to see more. At least we enjoyed the coastal walk and the view of the castle, despite the heat. And as always I was trying to visualise what it must have been like when it was new and how it had changed over the centuries, thinking of the battles that it had seen, of all the people who had lived and died there.

Cragside: The Turkish Baths

I haven’t done a Saturday Snapshot for months!

Turkish Bath P1090264

Here are some photos of the Turkish Baths at Cragside, in Northumberland that I’ve been meaning to post since our last visit. There’s a lot to see at Cragside. It’s now owned by the National Trust and was formerly the home of William George Armstrong (1810 – 1900). We didn’t manage to see this suite of rooms the first time we visited as there was quite a queue.  But on our second visit there weren’t as many people. You go down stairs from the Library lobby to go into the rooms below the Library. The guide book describes them as:

The suite of rooms includes a steam bath, a cold plunge, a hot bath and a shower, as well as water closets and a changing room. They are the lowest and the first completed part of Norman Shaw’s first addition to the original house. His plan, which shows that modifications were still being made, is dated 5 May 1870, and Armstrong’s friend, Thomas Sopwith, recorded in his diary that €˜the Turkish Bath at Cragside was used for the first time on November 4th 1870€².
The baths were part of Lord Armstrong’s innovative provision of central heating for the whole house. The space occupied by the baths is cleverly situated between chambers with huge water-pipe coils, which, heated from the boiler to the north, were the source of hot air that was ducted up into the main house. (NT guide book for Cragside)

Turkish Bath P1090265

Turkish Bath P1090266Apparently, Lord Armstrong was keen to build up foreign business and thought that:

Chinese or Burmese, or Japanese arms ministers would be more likely to agree to handsome contracts, if they were both well entertained and comfortable – even in a Northumbrian winter. (NT guide book for Cragside)

I think it’s an excellent idea and wish we had space for something similar!

Saturday Snapshot – Flodden

It’s the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden this year – it was on 9th September 1513 that the armies of England and Scotland met at Flodden Field, near Branxton in Northumberland. There have been events this year to commemorate the battle and the men from both nations who died in this last medieval battle between England and Scotland.

Living not far from the site of the battle this week we went to see what had changed as a result of the anniversary. There’s now a surfaced path leading up to the Monument.

(Click on the photos to see them enlarged)

500th anniversary P1010826

There are some more information boards and signs to guide you round the Battlefield Trail:

Battlefield trail signpost P1010837The monument isn’t actually on the site of the battle but stands on Piper’s Hill.

Flodden MonumentFrom the monument you can look towards the north down on the village of Branxton:

Branxton P1010831The two armies lined up south of the monument with a marshy dip between them. The Scots advanced first, unaware of the of the ground conditions below them. Now it’s a ditch but in 1513 there was a brook surrounded by a reeded quagmire downhill – where the Scots were bogged down, the rear ranks pushing forward into the front ranks, crushing the fallen bodies and causing chaos. They were then easy prey for the deadly English billhooks.

It looks like this now – the ditch between the hedge and fence is now nearly dry, after weeks of rain in 1513 it was a quagmire:

Boggy Ground P1010835

 and the two armies came face to face:

Tthe Killing Fields P1010858

Flodden 1513: Scotland’s Greatest Defeat by John Sadler is an excellent account of the strategies and tactics of both armies, with maps and plans showing how the battle began and a time timeline of the various conflicts giving a detailed account of events.

Having read this book and the information boards around the trail I was able to visualise the battle, even on a peaceful weekday afternoon 500 years later. The Scottish troops had moved from their original position on Flodden Edge as the English approached the battlefield, putting them at a disadvantage. The outcome could have been different if they had seen the dip below them as they charged down the hill – or even if the English had attacked first.

But then, the battle needn’t have taken place at all if James IV of Scotland had not invaded England in an attempt to divert English troops from their fight against the French. Indeed he had entered into a Treaty of Perpetual Peace with England in 1502. But in 1512 he had also renewed the Auld Alliance with the French, putting him in the position of either declaring for France against Henry VIII (James’s brother-in-law) or remaining neutral, which would make him vulnerable to any further English expansion, as Henry had revived his claim to the Scottish throne.

Despite pressure from senior members of his council to avoid an outright breach with England, when Henry arrived in Calais preparing to wage war against the French, James decided to go to war against the English. Prior to the battle at Flodden he had crossed the River Tweed into England where he then attacked and captured Norham Castle, and then destroyed both Etal and Ford Castles whilst the English were still mustering their troops. But the outcome was a disaster for Scotland and James was killed on Flodden Field:

The king’s was but one of many hundreds of bodies, sprawled and piled on the bloodied turf. The whole hillside from the brook northwards was a killing ground, the dead, maimed and horribly injured competing for space, severed limbs and streaming entrails spilling fresh gore. The din would have been terrific, with hoarse shouts and the screams of the dying men, the crash of spears, a crescendo rising and spilling like breakers against the shore. (page 82, Flodden 1513 by John Sadler)

Each time I go to Branxton, or see the monument as we drive south along the A697, I think about the battle and all those who died there in 1513.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Saturday Snapshots: Wallington

Griffins' heads, Wallington

Wallington is now owned by the National Trust but was for generations the home of the Blackett and Trevelyan families. It’s in the village of Cambo, Northumberland, to the west of Morpeth, approached down a series of country lanes. We visited it just over a week ago, never having heard of it or of Cambo until I looked in the NT handbook. There’s a lot to see, including these strange objects on the front lawn – they’re griffin heads that were originally on Bishopsgate in London (according to wikipedia this was the gate where the heads of criminals were displayed on spikes).

I took lots of photos, mainly inside the house, which was built in the late 17th century. We didn’t have time to see everything and spent most of the time looking round the house. I’ve just posted a few of my photos today (click on them to enlarge):

First the entrance to the property is under a Clock Tower topped by a cupola on nine Doric columns:

Clock Tower, Wallington

This opens into a grassed courtyard where people were sitting having picnics and children were playing ball games. Crossing the grass takes you to the entrance to the house:

Wallington entranceI think the Central Hall is impressive, but one of the house stewards told me not all visitors like it. I suppose not everybody thinks an Italianate Renaissance palazzo type courtyard is right for the house, or perhaps it’s the wall paintings they don’t like.

Central Hall, Wallington P1080991The wall paintings illustrate the history of Northumberland. They are the work of William Bell Scott, a friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The photo below shows three of the paintings, featuring Egfrid, King of Northumberland with St Cuthbert, Danish Vikings landing at Tynemouth and the death of the Venerable Bede.

Wall paintings, Wallington P1080993Just a few more photos – below a photo of one of the cabinets containing a collection of model soldiers, 3,800 in total. These belonged to the three sons of Sir George Otto Trevelyan. They set them out following the plans of the battles of Marlborough and Napoleonic wars to re-enact the battles. Now they are laid out in regiments:

Model soldiers, Wallington P1090002There are the usual rooms – Kitchen (my photos of this are a bit dark), Parlour, Study, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Library, Nusery, Bedrooms and Galleries, all with many paintings, sculptures, beautiful furniture and collections of ceramics and textiles.

I was intrigued by this large boot in one of the bedrooms:

Boot Bath, Wallington P1090021It’s a Boot Bath – used by Sir William Blackett in the 18th century. It’s made of metal sheets soldered together. I don’t think I’d have liked using it, but it was designed for modesty – just your head and shoulders could be seen when you’re sitting in it – and for warmth! It was originally used in a bedroom downstairs and placed near a fire. I don’t think I’d like to have been one of the servants either, whose job it was to fill it up or empty it.

One final photo. After going round the house and part of the garden we needed some refreshment: a cup of Earl Grey tea with coffee and walnut cake for me and and mug of coffee with chocolate fudge cake for David (you can see my reflection in the teapot):

Teatime, Wallington P1090036

That’s enough for now – more photos another day, maybe of the Cabinet of Curiosities on the top floor of the house.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Berwick's Elizabethan Ramparts

Following on from last Saturday’s Saturday Snapshots here are a few more photos of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is the northernmost town in England. It’s a Border town that changed hands between England and Scotland 14 times until it finally became part of England in 1482. It’s a walled town; the original medieval walls were built in the 13th century and the Elizabethan Ramparts, dating from 1558 are virtually intact.

Berwick Elizabethan Ramparts

The fortifications replaced the medieval wall on the North and East sides of the town. The photo above shows part of the Elizabethan wall that is now the boundary wall of a car park.

Below are two photos of sections of the walls:

Berwick Ramparts 1

Berwick walls & bridges

The photo below shows a Russian cannon, captured in the Crimea. Before the Second World War this part of part of the walls was once bristling with artillery. All that remains now is this cannon which was brought back as one of the trophies at the end of the Crimean War (1854-56). The top of the barrel of the gun is embossed with the double-headed eagle emblem of the Russian Tzar.

Berwick Ramparts Canon

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot: Berwick Castle

There is little left of Berwick Castle. Ruins are almost as enticing as libraries and bookshops to me. If there are any of these in an area I love to go and explore, so it’s amazing that after living near Berwick-upon-Tweed for over three years the most I’ve seen of Berwick Castle is the view of a wall from Berwick Railway Station. It was the building of the railway that caused the Castle’s final destruction when in 1847 substantial parts of the Castle were demolished to make way for the Station! Apparently the walls were so thick they had to use gunpowder to reduce them to rubble.

We were in Berwick on Wednesday; it was a dismal afternoon as rain blew in from the North Sea, not ideal for taking photos, especially on a camera phone. I’ll go back another day, when the sun is out, to take more photos.

The photo below shows the approach to the Castle ruins from Coronation Park above the River Tweed. The Park was created to celebrate the coronation of George VI in 1937. The area at the top of the Park was known as Gallows Knowe. It was the place of public executions in Berwick, the last being in 1823 – maybe the very place where we stood to take photos.

Berwick Castle grounds IMG_0459

The Castle was first recorded in 1160, probably built by King David I of Scotland, and was completely rebuilt by Edward I of England, after he captured it in 1296, with a strong circuit of walls,  towers and turrets, including royal apartments, a great hall and a chapel. Berwick- upon-Tweed is the most northerly town in England. a border town that changed hands between England and Scotland many times until 1482 when it was retaken from Scotland.

The photo below shows the castle mound, and the remains of the castle walls, including a rounded gun tower . On the right of the photo the White Walls are visible – this was a battlemented wall that still runs from the corner of the castle down to the River Tweed. It was built to defend the river approach to the castle and town around 1297 – 1298. Also, just about visible on the extreme right of the photo is the Royal Border Bridge carrying the railway line into Berwick Station.

Berwick Castle mound and wall IMG_0469The next photo (below) shows more detail of the Bridge and White Walls.

Berwick Castle and Royal Border Bridge IMG_0475For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshots: Alnwick Treehouse

I’ve posted photos of our visit to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland before. Adjacent to the Castle is Alnwick Garden, a formal garden with a cascading fountain. Also in the Garden there is a fantastic Treehouse and a Poison Garden, safely secured behind locked gates. When we were there there a very long queue to go into the Poison Garden, so we left that for another day and went to Treehouse.

Treehouse Alnwick
Treehouse Alnwick

It’s an enormous structure made from sustainably sourced cedar, redwood and pine, extending high up into the trees.

Treehouse Alnwick
Treehouse Alnwick

There are wobbly walkways:

Wobbly Walkway
Wobbly Walkway
treehouse Alnwick P1050990
Wobbly Walkway

and a restaurant:

Treehouse restaurant
Treehouse restaurant

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.