Dover Castle — the Key to England

Described as the “Key to England”, Dover Castle has guarded the shortest sea crossing between England and continental Europe for nine centuries.

Never conquered, its strategic importance is equaled only by the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.

To add atmosphere to our journey into history, play the soundtrack.

The Largest Castle in England

Dominating the town’s skyline, Dover Castle’s mile-long defensive curtain wall marks the boundary of this enormous fortification.

Aerial panorama of Dover Castle. Credit Chensiyuan
Aerial panorama of Dover Castle. Credit Chensiyuan

According to map measurements using tools like Google Maps, Dover Castle covers an area that is almost 50% larger than Windsor Castle, making it England’s largest castle.

Windsor Castle is, however, the largest inhabited castle in the world and the longest-occupied palace in Europe.

Area maps of Windsor Castle and Dover Castle compared
Area maps of Windsor Castle and Dover Castle compared

Steeped in History

A fortification has stood on the same site for nearly 2,000 years.

Beginning with an Iron Age hill fort, the Romans later built two 80-ft stone lighthouses, one of which still survives next to the restored Anglo-Saxon church of St Mary de Castro.

The Roman Lighthouse and Church of St Mary in Castro, Dover Castle. Credit Nessy-Pic
The Roman Lighthouse and Church of St Mary in Castro, Dover Castle. Credit Nessy-Pic

When William the Conqueror and his Norman forces invaded England in 1066, they came upon a castle at Dover made entirely of clay.

Collapsing under its own weight after the Normans set fire to it, the castle was rebuilt, using the clay for flooring.

But it wasn’t until the reign of Henry II, father of Richard the Lionheart, that the present-day castle took shape.

King Henry II of England
King Henry II of England

Henry built the inner and outer baileys (courtyards surrounded by walls) and the great keep (fortified tower).

Colton's Gate Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Colton’s Gate Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe

After passing through Colton’s Gate to enter the outer bailey and then Palace Gate, with its portcullis and drawbridge, you enter the inner bailey with the massive Great Tower at the heart of the medieval fortifications.

Dover Castle Palace Gate to the inner bailey. Credit Nilfanion
Dover Castle Palace Gate to the inner bailey. Credit Nilfanion

Standing over 80 ft high and roughly 100 feet square, Dover Castle’s Great Tower is the largest and most expensive keep ever built in England.

Dover Castle Keep seen from the Barbican. Credit Jim, flickr
Dover Castle Keep seen from the Barbican. Credit Jim, flickr

Incorporating the first internal sanitary and plumbing system ever installed in an English castle, the Great Tower was enormously expensive to build, costing upwards of £70 million ($93,000,000) in today’s equivalent.

Medieval Indoor toilet system in Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Medieval Indoor toilet system in Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
The Keep at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
The Keep at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Staircase in the Great Tower. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Staircase in the Great Tower. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014

Richly furnished with vibrant colours, the Great Tower reflected the importance bestowed upon it by King Henry II.

Medieval Visitor's Bedchamber - Dover Castle. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Medieval Visitor’s Bedchamber – Dover Castle. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Dover Castle interior rooms within the Great Tower. Credit Karen Roe
Dover Castle interior rooms within the Great Tower. Credit Karen Roe
Dover Castle interior rooms within the Great Tower. Credit Karen Roe
Dover Castle interior rooms within the Great Tower. Credit Karen Roe

Wars and Invasions

Invited by a group of rebel English barons, Prince Louis of France invaded England in 1216 in an attempt to seize the English crown from the unpopular King John.

St Mary de Castro and Roman Lighthouse seen through an embrasure of the Dover Castle Keep, Dover, Kent, England. Credit Jim, flickr
St Mary de Castro and Roman Lighthouse seen through an embrasure of the Dover Castle Keep, Dover, Kent, England. Credit Jim, flickr

Setting up huge stone-throwing catapults, the French bombarded Dover Castle but the walls held firm.

Trebuchet at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Trebuchet at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe

So the French tried a different tactic—tunneling to undermine the castle’s foundations.

Dover Castle tunnels. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Dover Castle tunnels. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014

And they succeeded in breaching the North Gate only to be stopped by English soldiers.

Bloody hand-to-hand fighting in front of the Barbican (fortified gatehouse) was all that separated England from defeat.

The English defenders prevailed and Prince Louis called off the siege after another few months.

Dover Castle Barbican with hand-to-hand combat (composite). Credit Jim, flickr, Sander van der Wel
Dover Castle Barbican with hand-to-hand combat (composite). Credit Jim, flickr, Sander van der Wel

Resulting from the near defeat, the man in charge, Hubert de Burgh, built Constable’s Tower—the first fortified residential gatehouse in England.

Constable's Tower in Dover Castle. Credit Nilfanion
Constable’s Tower in Dover Castle. Credit Nilfanion

Dover Castle’s defenses were successively updated in response to every major European conflict involving Britain—including those against Napoleon and Hitler.

Cannon at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe
Cannon at Dover Castle. Credit Karen Roe

During the Napoleonic Wars, the first 200,000-strong “French Army of England” gathered at Boulogne in France in preparation to invade England.

Inspecting the Troops at Boulogne, 15 August 1804
Inspecting the Troops at Boulogne, 15 August 1804

Frantically carrying out building works to prepare Dover Castle for the invasion, military engineer William Twist designed some ingenious improvements.

He built underground barracks and the “Grand Shaft”—a giant stairwell 180 ft deep to get troops from the castle to the base of the white cliffs of Dover in a matter of minutes.

The Grand Shaft looking up from the bottom. Credit Adam Carter, flickr
The Grand Shaft looking up from the bottom. Credit Adam Carter, flickr
The Grand Shaft. Credit Adam Carter
The Grand Shaft. Credit Adam Carter

Blockaded by the Royal Navy and unable to command the English Channel, Napoleon was forced to cancel the invasion.

British cartoons depicted Napoleon in one of his “invasion barges” trying to cross the channel.

Caricature mocking the fragile landing rafts of the French by Robert Holborn
Caricature mocking the fragile landing rafts of the French by Robert Holborn
Cannon at Dover Castle. Credit Anguskirk, flickr
Cannon at Dover Castle. Credit Anguskirk, flickr

Positioned at Dover during the First World War, this rare type of 3″ twenty hundredweight anti-aircraft gun was used against Zeppelin airships and aircraft threatening Dover port.

World War II anti-aircraft gun. Credit Karen Roe
World War II anti-aircraft gun. Credit Karen Roe

Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk

It was May 1940.

Facing almost certain annihilation, 400,000 British, French, Polish, and Belgian troops assembled on the beaches of Dunkirk awaiting evacuation.

Dunkirk 26-29 May 1940 British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation
Dunkirk 26-29 May 1940 British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation

With its proximity to Dunkirk and secure underground tunnels, Dover Castle was chosen as the headquarters for Operation Dynamo—the massive rescue of allied troops.

A World War 2 operations room in the tunnel beneath Dover Castle
A World War 2 operations room in the tunnel beneath Dover Castle

Strafed by the German Luftwaffe day in and day out, it would be eight days before 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by over 800 boats and ships.

Not all were lucky enough to make it back to the safety of Dover.

About 40,000 were marched off the beaches and spent the rest of the war in Germany or Poland working as slave labour in mines, fields, and factories.

British prisoners at Dunkirk, France
British prisoners at Dunkirk, France

What a welcoming sight the white cliffs of Dover, with its castle perched proudly above, must have been to those rescued.

Dover Castle atop the white cliffs at Dover Port. Credit Remi Jouan
Dover Castle atop the white cliffs at Dover Port. Credit Remi Jouan
Destroyers filled with evacuated British troops berthing at Dover, 31 May 1940
Destroyers filled with evacuated British troops berthing at Dover, 31 May 1940
St Mary in Castro Chruch and Dover Castle ramparts above the white cliffs of Dover
St Mary in Castro Chruch and Dover Castle ramparts above the white cliffs of Dover
Dover Castle flying the Union Jack. Credit Harvey Barrison
Dover Castle flying the Union Jack. Credit Harvey Barrison

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Winston Churchill.

Dover Castle remained a military site until the end of World War II.

Warwick Castle – England’s finest medieval castle

Invaded, embattled, and besieged through centuries of warfare, Warwick Castle (pronounced “Worrick”) survived the ravages of history to become one of Britain’s major attractions and top 10 favorite castles.

Aethelfleda

It was King Alfred the Great’s daughter, Æthelflæd, who established the site of Warwick Castle in 914.

Built to defend the Kingdom of Mercia against invading Danes, the fortified settlement dominated the old Roman road called the Fosse Way, running southwest to northeast across the Midlands.

Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, King William I strengthened the fortification with a motte-and-bailey castle to maintain control of the Midlands while he marched northward.

Son of a powerful Norman family, Henry de Beaumont was appointed constable in 1088, to keep and maintain Warwick Castle for the king’s armaments.

Warwick Castle. Credit Baz Richardson
Warwick Castle. Credit Baz Richardson

Becoming the first Earl of Warwick two years later, Warwick Castle was passed through six generations of de Beaumonts, during which time it was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century.

As the first heiress of Warwick Castle, Margaret de Newberg, 7th Countess of Warwick took over the estate in 1242.

Margaret’s nephew, William Maudit, succeeded as the 8th Earl of Warwick.

Destroying the castle walls during a surprise attack in 1264 during the Second Barons’ War, Maudit’s wife, the Countess, was taken prisoner and only released on payment of a significant ransom.

Just wondering, sire, would you be so kind as to release me if I mend your curtains?
Fair maiden wax figure in Tussaud's exhibition at Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Fair maiden wax figure in Tussaud’s exhibition at Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr

Future owners would include seven successions of the de Beauchamp family, a Neville by marriage, two Plantagenets, three Dudleys, and no less than 15 Grevilles, the last of which sold Warwick Castle to the Tussauds Group, famous for Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London.

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.

Warwick Castle became Crown Property twice—once under Henry VII and Henry VIII from 1499-1547, and again under Mary I and Elizabeth I from 1554-1562.

Elizabeth I granted the castle to Ambrose Dudley, an elder brother of her court favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose effigy lies in nearby Collegiate Church of St Mary’s in Warwick.

Tomb of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and his wife, Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester. Credit Tony Grist

But it was not until the 1740s under Francis Greville that a long 50-year period of major works changed Warwick Castle into what we know and love today.

Francis Greville, Baron Brooke, later 1st Earl of Warwick by Jean-Marc Nattier - 1741
Francis Greville, Baron Brooke, later 1st Earl of Warwick by Jean-Marc Nattier – 1741

Greville commissioned the famous Italian painter Canaletto to paint five views of Warwick Castle during the 1740s and 1750s.

The east front of Warwick Castle from the outer court, painted by Canaletto in 1752
The east front of Warwick Castle from the outer court, painted by Canaletto in 1752
Warwick Castle, the South Front by Canaletto, 1748
Warwick Castle, the South Front by Canaletto, 1748

“England’s greatest gardener” Capability Brown was also hired by Greville to landscape the beautiful grounds.

Remembered as “the last of the great English 18th century artists to be accorded his due”, Capability Brown designed over 170 parks, earning him the nickname “Capability” because he always saw room for improvement.

Covering over 690 acres, Greville spent the equivalent of £280,000 ($360,000) on the gardens alone.

Warwick Castle Gardens. Credit shakestd
Warwick Castle Gardens. Credit shakestd

Another famous owner was Francis Greville, 5th Earl of Warwick, but more so for his wife than anything he did.

Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick was a campaigning socialite by day, who supported many schemes to aid the less well off in education, housing, employment and pay.

By night, she was a mistress of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII.

Her youngest two children were reputedly fathered by a millionaire lover.

So popular was she with the public, that the music hall song “Daisy Bell” was named after her.

Daisy, Daisy
Give me your answer, do.
I’m half crazy
all for the love of you
Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, 1899

Retiring to Rome and Switzerland, the last owner, David Robin Francis Guy Greville, 8th Earl of Warwick, sold Warwick Castle to The Tussauds Group for £1.3 million in 1978.

Now part of Merlin Entertainments, the world’s second largest leisure group after Disney, Warwick Castle has received many accolades, including being recognized as Britain’s best castle by the Good Britain Guide 2003.

Join us as we enter Warwick Castle, the finest medieval castle in England.

Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds
The Barbican of Warwick Castle. Credit One lucky guy, flickr
The Barbican of Warwick Castle. Credit One lucky guy, flickr

Please tip the gatekeeper—wonderful fellow once you get to know him, but please try not to upset him.

Don't mess with this guy. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Don’t mess with this guy. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle. Credit Steve Edwards, flickr
Warwick Castle. Credit Steve Edwards, flickr
Warwick Castle, Guy's Tower. Credit Elliott Brown
Warwick Castle, Guy’s Tower. Credit Elliott Brown
Guy's Tower. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Guy’s Tower. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
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Warwick Castle. Credit James Petts
Warwick Castle. Credit James Petts

Inside Warwick Castle

Who needs Netflix when you have live entertainment at home?

The Music Room. Credit Paul Renolds, flickr
The Music Room. Credit Paul Renolds, flickr
The Carnation Bedroom. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
The Carnation Bedroom. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr

Lady Warwick (Daisy Greville) was a favourite of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and entertained him and his entourage lavishly.

She and her husband were members of the Marlborough House Set, headed by the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII).

When one was a favourite of the future king, their friends would “prove their worth” through favours.

Cecil Rhodes, a good friend of Lady Warwick, made sure that her investments in South Africa were successful.

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales visits Warwick Castle!
Albert Edward, Prince of Wales visits Warwick Castle!
Warwick Castle Parlor. Credit David Pettit, flickr
Warwick Castle Parlor. Credit David Pettit, flickr
Daisy's Bedroom. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Daisy’s Bedroom. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr

You look beautiful ma’am, do excuse me while I change the baby for a cleaner one.

Warwick Castle bedroom. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle bedroom. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle Blue Boudoir. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle Blue Boudoir. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Do excuse the maid—she's new.
Do excuse the maid—she’s new.

Third Class Accommodations

If you misbehaved at dinner, you may find yourself in third class accommodations deep in the bowels of Warwick Castle, i.e. the dungeons.

The Dungeons of Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
The Dungeons of Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr

In the Middle Ages, a variety of devices were used on unwelcome guests to exploit their sensitivities to pain and glean confesssions and other useless bits of information.

Various implements of medieval torture. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Various implements of medieval torture. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr

And if they were really lucky, they could spend the night in the gibbet.

Warwick Castle dungeons with gibbet. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle dungeons with gibbet. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr

The Glorious Grounds

Warwick Castle grounds. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle grounds. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
The Mound, Warwick Castle. Dating from 1068, this is the oldest part of the castle, which is a Grade I listed building in England. Credit DeFacto
The Mound, Warwick Castle. Dating from 1068, this is the oldest part of the castle, which is a Grade I listed building in England. Credit DeFacto
Warwick Castle Gardens and Orangery. Credit Paul Reynold, flickr
Warwick Castle Gardens and Orangery. Credit Paul Reynold, flickr
A peacock strutting his stuff at Warwick Castle. Credit pjs2005, flickr
A peacock strutting his stuff at Warwick Castle. Credit pjs2005, flickr
Don’t mind us, we just live here
Peacocks at Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Peacocks at Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Eagle at Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Eagle at Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr

Who said Chivalry was dead?

Jousting Knights at Warwick Castle. Credit Dark Dwarf, flickr
Jousting Knights at Warwick Castle. Credit Dark Dwarf, flickr
Jousting knights
Jousting knights

The collection of armoury on display at Warwick Castle is regarded as second only to that of the Tower of London.

Knight at Warwick Castle. Credit Jitka Erbenová
Knight at Warwick Castle. Credit Jitka Erbenová
Armor on display at Warwick Castle. Credit Peter K Burian
Armor on display at Warwick Castle. Credit Peter K Burian

Qu’est-ce que c’est, un trebuchet?

Warwick Castle is home to one of the world’s most powerful siege engine.

The Trebuchet at Warwick Castle. Credit Dave White, flickr
The Trebuchet at Warwick Castle. Credit Dave White, flickr

At 59 ft tall, the trebuchet is made from over 300 pieces of oak and weighs 24 tons.

Taking eight men half an hour to load and release, the trebuchet can hurl projectiles of up to 330 lb distances of almost 1000 ft and as high as 82 ft at a speed of over 120 mph.

Trebucket at Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds
Trebucket at Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds

Water Mill and Mill Garden

A water-powered mill in the castle grounds was probably built under Henry de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Warwick.

Warwick Castle water mill . Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle water mill . Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr

Adjacent to the mill is The Mill Garden which is privately owned but open to the public. Interesting views of the castle can be seen from this garden.

Warwick Castle from The Mill Garden. Credit Jessica Spengler
Warwick Castle from The Mill Garden. Credit Jessica Spengler

The Old Castle Bridge

Remains of the Old Castle Bridge, Warwick
Remains of the Old Castle Bridge, Warwick
Remains of the Old Castle Bridge, Warwick.. Credit DeFacto
Remains of the Old Castle Bridge, Warwick. Credit DeFacto

A day well spent!

As the light starts to dim over Warwick Castle, you will be reminded that time flies when you’re having fun.

A day to remember for a lifetime.

Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr
Warwick Castle. Credit Paul Reynolds, flickr

Calke Abbey—An English Country House Frozen in Time

Calke Abbey is an 18th-century country house near Ticknall, Derbyshire, England, in the care of the charitable National Trust.

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty is the largest membership organization in the United Kingdom.

“a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces—for ever, for everyone.”

Join me as we take a tour of an English Country House, frozen in time.

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit PJMarriott
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit PJMarriott
Calke Abbey main building. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey main building. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Chris Hoare
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Chris Hoare
The Drawing Room at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The Drawing Room at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The Dining Room , Calke Abbey. Credit Phil Sangwell
The Dining Room , Calke Abbey. Credit Phil Sangwell
Mantelpiece in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
Mantelpiece in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
The Salon at Calke Abbey, Derbeyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The Salon at Calke Abbey, Derbeyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The library at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
The library at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine

While we’re in the library, fancy a game of Happy Families? (called “Cheery Families” in the mid 19th century).

Happy Families (Cheery Families) in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
Happy Families (Cheery Families) in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
Winding Staircase at Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Winding Staircase at Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Family portraits on the stairway. Credit Thomas Quine
Family portraits on the stairway. Credit Thomas Quine

Created in 1626, the Harpur-Crewe Baronetcy, of Calke Abbey, Derbyshire was a title in the Baronetage of England.

Passed down through ten Baronets, the title became extinct in 1924 when the estate went to the female line and then to the grandson of the last Baronet.

Inheritance tax forced the sale after his death in 1981 and in 1985, the National Trust took possession.

Reminiscent of Mr Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Sir Henry Crewe the 7th Baronet, became one of the richest land owners in Derbyshire, with an income of, you guessed it, £10,000.

Described as an “unfortunate connection” by his mother Lady Frances because it breached the social conventions of the time, Sir Henry married his mistress, a lady’s maid called Ann or Nany Hawkins.

The Harpur-Crewe Baronets had a fascination with taxidermy, displaying all manner of birds, insects, game, and even prize cattle around the house, some in glass cases and some mounted on walls.

Bird showcases at Callke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Bird showcases at Callke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Taxidermy - the hobby of a gentleman naturalist. Credit Thomas Quine
Taxidermy – the hobby of a gentleman naturalist. Credit Thomas Quine
Boar's Head. The Harpur-Crewe family that owned Calke Abbey had a fascination with taxidermy. Credit Thomas Quine
Boar’s Head. The Harpur-Crewe family that owned Calke Abbey had a fascination with taxidermy. Credit Thomas Quine
The Breakfast Room , Calke Abbey
The Breakfast Room , Calke Abbey

Hinting at the joys of children’s laughter throughout the house at one time are these high chairs for meal times.

Children's chairs, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Children’s chairs, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine

How many hours of happiness did this cheerful rocking horse provide?

Antique Rocking Horse, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Antique Rocking Horse, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine

And at one time, a child’s imagination would be set alight by the magical miniature world of dollhouses.

Related post: The Magical Miniature World of Antique Dollhouses

Details of a Doll's House in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair
Details of a Doll’s House in Calke Abbey. Credit Mark Longair

Sitting patiently on a window ledge, a Piggy Bank waits for its stored change to be used to buy more toys for a rainy day.

Piggy Bank at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Piggy Bank at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey Kitchen. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Calke Abbey Kitchen. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Antique carriage, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Antique carriage, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Antique Wheelchair, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Antique Wheelchair, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey Gardens, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Calke Abbey Gardens, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Orangery , Calke Abbey. Credit Phil Sangwell
The Orangery , Calke Abbey. Credit Phil Sangwell
Walled garden and Gardener's Cottage at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Nancy
Walled garden and Gardener’s Cottage at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Nancy

To keep the grounds looking immaculate, a host of equipment was needed, including manual mowers, lawn rollers, edge trimmers and other garden tools—all stored just how the gardener left them 100 years ago.

The Garden Shed - Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Garden Shed – Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Calke Abbey Garden Shed, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Calke Abbey Garden Shed, Derbyshire. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Like the immovable sundial in the grounds, the clock stopped for Calke Abbey. It is locked in a time capsule.

Inhabited by privilege it was, but it was built and cared for by ordinary working folk like you and me.

We need to preserve our heritage because it is our story too.

Calke Abbey sundial, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine
Calke Abbey sundial, Calke Abbey. Credit Thomas Quine

Herstmonceux Castle

Shaped by centuries of history, the story of Herstmonceux Castle is a fascinating tale of ambition, intrigue, murder, abandonment, and renewal.

Domesday Book

Written in the Domesday Book—a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of England and parts of Wales conducted in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror—is an entry stating that one of William’s closest supporters granted tenancy of the manor at Herst to a man named ‘Wilbert’.

Later accounts mention a lady called Idonea de Herst, who married a Norman nobleman named Ingelram de Monceux.

It was at this time that the manor became known as “Herst of the Monceux”, eventually corrupted to Herstmonceux—pronounced “Herst-mon-soo”.

Medieval knights

In 1440 an English Knight by the name of Roger Fiennes petitioned King Henry VI for the right to fortify his manor house at Herstmonceux in East Sussex.

He had fought alongside Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) and risen to prominence, amassing a considerable fortune.

It was time to build a castle worthy of his family’s status.

Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt
Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt

Herstmonceux Castle would become the largest private home in England.

One of the oldest significant brick buildings still standing in England, it followed the French fashion of building in brick—considered bold by British standards of the time.

Herstmonceux Castle. Credit Tom Lee, flickr
Herstmonceux Castle. Credit Tom Lee, flickr

The architects of Herstmonceux Castle focused more on grandeur and comfort than on defense.

Fifteenth-century visitors would have been overawed with its breathtaking interior.

Adorned with visible symbols of seigniory, Herstmonceux was a leading trophy house of the period, reflecting the richness and vigour of the Lancastrian court.

Tudor intrigue

The Fiennes family fortunes continued to rise until the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1548).

One golden rule of Tudor high society worth remembering was never to outdo the King or get on the wrong side of him.

But the Fiennes family managed to do just that.

Young Thomas Fiennes, 9th Baron Dacre, the castle’s owner at the time, became implicated in the murder of a neighbour’s games keeper.

Henry VIII saw his opportunity to seize Herstmonceux Castle for himself.

Although originally pleading not guilty, Lord Dacre changed to a guilty plea and threw himself at the King’s mercy in the hope of a reprieve.

But alas, the unfortunate Dacre was hanged at Tyburn on 29 June 1541.

The Gallows at Tyburn

English lawyer and Member of Parliament, Edward Hall, wrote of the execution in his chronicle about the strife between the houses of Lancaster and York:

“he was led on foot, between the two sheriffs of London, from the Tower through the city to Tyburn, where he was strangled as common murderers are, and his body buried in the church of St. Sepulchre’s.”

King Henry VIII historical portrait sculpture by artist-historian George Stuart. Credit Mary Harrsch, Lieven Smits

Fortunately for the rest of the Fiennes family,  their estate was reinstated in 1558 under Elizabeth I and they again prospered.

Georgian asset stripping

By 1777, the reckless extravagance of  successive Fiennes family heirs left the castle in a sorry state of repair.

Architect Samuel Wyatt undertook an assessment and pronounced that it wasn’t worth saving.

The furniture was sold off, the wood panelling removed, and the interior walls torn down.

Reduced to little more than an ivy-covered gothic curiosity, even some of the bricks were used for other building projects.

Engraving of Herstmonceux Castle, 1845
Engraving of Herstmonceux Castle, 1845

Victorian tourism

The opening of the railways spurred massive growth for the new tourism trade, turning Herstmonceux Castle into a popular attraction.

Strolling through the gardens, climbing amongst the ruins, or enjoying a cup of tea, Victorians would visit Herstmonceux whilst holidaying in nearby Eastbourne and Brighton resort towns..

But the castle continued to deteriorate and by the early 1900s was in serious need of attention.

Hurstmonceux Castle, 1895
Herstmonceux Castle, 1895

Edwardian restoration

Transforming the ruined building into a residence took 20 years, beginning in 1913.

Undertaken initially by Claude Lowther, a conservative politician, and later by architect Walter Godfrey, it was refurnished and stocked with objets d’art.

Incorporating architectural antiques from England and France, the existing interiors largely date to the Edwardian period.

The apex of Godfrey’s architectural achievement, the restoration was described by the critic Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘exemplarily’.

The parks and gardens of Herstmonceux Castle and Place together with the walled garden to the north of the castle, and the Herstmonceux Science Centre are all Grade II* listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Having extra legal protection within the planning system, listed buildings are of national importance.

There are three types of listed status for buildings in England and Wales:

Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest.
Grade II*: particularly important buildings of more than special interest.
Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them

The Gatehouse, Herstmonceux Castle. Credit Poliphilo
The Gatehouse, Herstmonceux Castle. Credit Poliphilo

Heavenly bodies

For over 30 years, beginning in 1957, the Herstmonceux grounds were home to the Royal Greenwich Observatory until it was moved to Cambridge in 1988.

Housing the Equatorial Telescope Buildings, the estate now plays host to an interactive science centre for schoolchildren, the largest dome of which can be seen for miles.

Herstmonceux Observatory. Credit Lee Roberts, flickr
Herstmonceux Observatory. Credit Lee Roberts, flickr

Today’s Herstmonceux

Learning of the castle’s vacancy in 1992, Alfred Bader, an alumnus of Queen’s University, Ontario, offered to purchase the castle for his wife, who declined, joking that there would be “too many rooms to clean”.

But he managed to convince then-Principal of Queen’s University, David Chadwick Smith, to make Herstmonceux Castle into an international study centre.

Giant sundial at Herstmonceux Castle
Giant sundial at Herstmonceux Castle
Interior corridor, Herstomonceux Castle. Credit 6mat1
Interior corridor, Herstomonceux Castle. Credit 6mat1
Herstmonceux Rose Garden
Herstmonceux Rose Garden
Herstmonceux Castle, Dining Hall. Credit 6mat1
Herstmonceux Castle, Dining Hall. Credit 6mat1
Herstmonceux Elizabethan Garden
Herstmonceux Elizabethan Garden

Home to events throughout the year, the annual England’s Medieval Festival is held on August Bank Holiday weekend.

Held over three days, the festival features jousting, falconry, knights battles, medieval camping, traditional and modern folk music, medieval banqueting, re-enactments, battles, horses, theatre, crafts, workshops, shopping, medieval food, drink and real ale.

Herstmonceux Medieval Festival. Credit Vicki Burton
Herstmonceux Medieval Festival. Credit Vicki Burton
Preparing for battle. Herstmonceux Medieval Festival. Credit Vicki Burton, flickr
Preparing for battle. Herstmonceux Medieval Festival. Credit Vicki Burton, flickr
Herstmonceux Medieval Festival. Credit Vicki Burton, flickr
Herstmonceux Medieval Festival. Credit Vicki Burton, flickr

Daily Rates Gardens & Grounds Castle Tours Gardens & Grounds + Science Centre
Adults £6.00 £2.50 £13.00
Children Under 16
Students £3.00 £1.00 £8.50
Children Under 5
Carers Free Free Free
Concession:
Senior Citizens
Disabled £5.00 £2.50 £10.50
Family Ticket (2 adults + 3 children or 1 adult + 4 children) £14.00 N/A £40.00

Where to stay

There are many good places to stay near Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, depending on your preferences and budget. Here are some of the top-rated hotels and properties that are close to the castle:

  • Cleavers Lyng: A 4-star hotel with a rating of 4.9 on Google Hotels. This hotel is perfect for those who want a luxurious stay with stunning views of the countryside. Distance to Herstmonceux Castle: 0.6 km (0.4 miles).
  • Wartling Place Country House Bed & Breakfast: Refined rooms with countryside views, plus a self-contained cottage, at a Georgian rectory. This hotel is perfect for couples who want a romantic getaway. Distance to Herstmonceux Castle: 2.1 km (1.3 miles).
  • The PowderMills Hotel: Upmarket, lakeside hotel set in a Georgian country house offering posh dining & an outdoor pool. This hotel is a great option for those who want a luxurious and pampering stay. Distance to Herstmonceux Castle: 12.5 km (7.8 miles).
  • Premier Inn Eastbourne Polegate: No-frills hotel with contemporary en suite rooms, plus a pub/restaurant & free parking. Distance to Herstmonceux Castle: 14.4 km (9 miles).
  • The Relais Cooden Beach: Contemporary hotel featuring a wellness centre, a relaxed restaurant & sea views. This hotel is a great choice for families who want a relaxing and enjoyable vacation. Distance to Herstmonceux Castle: 16.2 km (10.1 miles).

These are just some of the options available for you to stay near Herstmonceux Castle. You can find more details and reviews on the websites of the respective properties or on the links provided.

York Minster – the Magnificent Medieval Cathedral of Northern England

The Largest Gothic Cathedral in Britain

In 1215, Archbishop of York, Walter de Gray ordered the construction of a Gothic structure for the north of England to rival Canterbury Cathedral in the south.

Gothic style was about soaring to the sky, and therefore Heaven, with pointed arches, lots of light and ornamentation.

Instead of starting from scratch, the new Gothic form was built on and around the existing Norman Minster dating from 1080—the foundations of which can be seen today.

Declared complete and consecrated in 1472, York Minster has survived wars, plague, political upheaval, structural crisis, and local rebellion … and lived to tell the tale.

South entrance to York Minster. Credit Nick Ansell
South entrance to York Minster. Credit Nick Ansell

To this day, the most significant building rising above York is the 800-year-old medieval Minster.

York Minster. Credit Tim Green
York Minster. Credit Tim Green
York City Center. Credit Peter Czerwinski
York City Center. Credit Peter Czerwinski

The term “minster” is given to churches established in the Anglo-Saxon period as missionary teaching churches. Today, it’s used as an honorific title.

York Minster. Credit Saste
York Minster. Credit Saste

Developed during the Gothic period (12th—16th c.), “flying buttresses” were arched structures used to support the walls of medieval cathedrals.

York Minster flying buttresses. Credit the noggin_nogged
York Minster flying buttresses. Credit the noggin_nogged

The Largest Expanse of Medieval Stained Glass in the World

When it comes to stained glass, York Minster is in a class of its own, with some of the finest examples of medieval stained glass in the world, dating as far back as the 12th century.

Completed in 1408, the Great East Window in the Lady Chapel is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world.

The size of a tennis court, the Great East Window was created between 1405 and 1408 by master glazier John Thornton and shows intricately detailed scenes from the book of Genesis.

The Great East Window. Credit striderv, Andrewrabbott, flickr
The Great East Window. Credit striderv, Andrewrabbott, flickr

In the below detail, Saint John (bottom left) is instructed by an angel to write down what he saw in his vision and send it to the seven churches of Asia.

John Thornton’s clever design combines all seven churches into one image, each represented by an archbishop standing in a shrine-like building.

The Seven Churches of Asia in the East Window at York Minster. Credit Andrewrabbott
The Seven Churches of Asia in the East Window at York Minster. Credit Andrewrabbott

Commemorating the union of the royal houses of York and Lancaster following the Wars of the Roses, the Rose Window in the south transept dates from about 1500.

The Rose Window. Credit Keith Laverack
The Rose Window. Credit Keith Laverack
York Minster Rose Window. Credit Tony Hisgett
York Minster Rose Window. Credit Tony Hisgett

The Five Sisters Window in York Minster’s North Transept is the only memorial in the country to women of the British Empire who lost their lives during the First World War. Each lancet is over 52 feet (16 m) high.

Dating from the mid-1200s, the window was removed during the First World War to protect it during German Zeppelin raids.

The Five Sisters in the North Transept. Credit Archangel12
The Five Sisters in the North Transept. Credit Archangel12

The Great West Window contains a heart-shaped design colloquially known as ‘The Heart of Yorkshire’.

Built between 1338 and 1339, it shows the hierarchy of the Church as you look up the window.

At the base level are eight Archbishops of York, with their Apostles above, followed by panels showing the life of Christ and the Virgin—the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, and Ascension. The top panels show Mary sitting beside Christ in Heaven.

The window is known as ‘the heart of Yorkshire’ due to the shape of its upper stonework.

The west window. Credit David Iliff
The west window. Credit David Iliff

The Widest Gothic Nave in England

York Minster’s nave is the widest Gothic nave in England and has a wooden roof (painted so as to appear like stone) and the aisles have vaulted stone roofs.

The nave of York Minster looking towards the West Window. Credit David Iliff
The nave of York Minster looking towards the West Window. Credit David Iliff
The nave of York Minster, David Iliff
The nave of York Minster, David Iliff

The Chapter House

Windows cover almost all of the upper wall space of the highly decorated Chapter House, filling it with light.

Innovative design and a light wooden roof meant that the buttressed walls could support the ceiling without the need for a central column, creating a beautiful open space.

The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff
The Chapter House ceiling and stained glass. Credit David Iliff

Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
Vault of the Chapter House at York Minster. Credit mattbuck
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House
The central boss on the Gothic vault above the Chapter House

Grotesques

Grotesques are fantastical or mythical figures used for decorative purposes. Gargoyles are forms of grotesque that include a drainage spout to help prevent heavy rainwater running down the face of the building.

York Minster is covered with grotesques inside and out.

York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
York Minster Sculptures. Digital-Designs
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesques on the wall of the chapter house in York Minster. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque on the wall of the chapter house. Credit David Iliff
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Gargoyle. Credit SaraJB
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff
Grotesque. Credit David Iliff

Current stonemasons working on the finishing touches of the York Minster restoration have carved sometimes amusing grotesques doing unusual things.

This chap will eventually be baring his derriere to all and sundry from a lofty position above the city, affixed to York Minster.

The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell
The Mooning Gargoyle. Credit Tom Blackwell

The 11-ton Great Peter Bell

The clock bells ring every quarter of an hour during the daytime and Great Peter strikes the hour.

York Minster. Credit Manuamador
York Minster. Credit Manuamador

Great Peter is the name of the northwest tower’s bell, weighing in at almost 11 tons. The six other bells that ring every quarter of an hour weigh 3 tons each.

Before Evensong each evening, hymn tunes are played on a baton keyboard connected with the bells, but occasionally anything from Beethoven to the Beatles may be heard.

York Minster's 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
York Minster’s 10.8 ton Great Peter Bell. Credit Allan Harris
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
Vault of the central tower of York Minster. Credit Archangel12
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff
The tower ceiling of York Minster. Credit David Iliff

Reformation and Restoration

The English Reformation led to the looting of much of the cathedral’s treasures and the loss of much of the church lands.

Queen Elizabeth I was determined to have all traces of Roman Catholicism removed from the cathedral. Tombs, windows, and altars were destroyed.

York Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson
Minster on a foggy night. Credit Karli Watson

During the English Civil War the city was besieged and fell to Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1644, but York Minster was spared damage thanks to the influence of parliamentary general Thomas Fairfax.

In the 1850s services were suspended as the cathedral slumped deeply into debt.

York Minster, late 1800s
York Minster, late 1800s

To date, tens of millions of pounds have been spent on restoration work, but the results speak for themselves. York Minster will continue to reach to the skies for millennia to come.

The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft
The twin towers of York Minster. Credit Andy Beecroft

The Story of the Medieval Town of Arundel

Towns and cities were often sited on rivers. Besides providing fresh water for drinking and irrigation, rivers provided a convenient means of transport and created natural boundaries and defenses.

Britain has many examples of beautiful towns and cities built around rivers. Some even have their own medieval castles.

In the 2nd century AD, the great Hellenistic writer Ptolemy described a river that ran through the steep vale of the South Downs of Provincia Britannia (Roman Britain) as Trisantonis, from an ancient Celtic language meaning “the trespasser”.

He was alluding to the river’s propensity to flood its lower reaches close to the sea. But in its upper reaches, it flowed quickly, and smoothly, and locals called it Arno meaning “run”.

And so it is believed that the town of Arundel means “dell of the flowing river”.

Arundel Castle and Town in 1644
Arundel Castle and Town in 1644

Arundel is home to the Dukedom of Norfolk—the premier Dukedom in the peerage of England. As such, the Duke is also the Earl of Arundel, the premier Earl. As if that wasn’t enough greatness for a single peer, he is also the hereditary Marshal of England—the Earl Marshal, a chivalric title under the sovereign of the United Kingdom.

Arundel Castle. Credit MrsEllacott
Arundel Castle. Credit MrsEllacott

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle is the Duke of Norfolk’s home. Although the title refers to the county of Norfolk, Arundel is in West Sussex.

Arundel Castle aerial view. Credit Miles Sabin
Arundel Castle aerial view. Credit Miles Sabin

As the first Norman King of England, following the successful invasion of 1066, William the Conqueror set about dividing up the country among his Norman magnates.

Roger de Montgomery, a cousin and top lieutenant of King William, was declared first Earl of Arundel and established Arundel Castle, high on a hill, on Christmas Day of 1067.

And so began nearly 1000 years of history, with Arundel Castle handed down through successive generations of noble families, and sometimes reverting back to the crown.

The current owners are the Fitzalan-Howard family, 18th generation of the Dukedom of Norfolk—and they actually live at the castle.

The courtyard of Arundel Castle, West Sussex, England. Credit Mark Tollerman
The courtyard of Arundel Castle, West Sussex, England. Credit Mark Tollerman
Arundel Castle on a sunny October day. Credit Gregg M. Erickson
Arundel Castle on a sunny October day. Credit Gregg M. Erickson
Arundel Castle. Credit Ilya Schurov
Arundel Castle. Credit Ilya Schurov
Baron's Hall, Arundel Castle. Credit Loz Pycock
Baron’s Hall, Arundel Castle. Credit Loz Pycock

Fitzalan Chapel

14th-century St Nicholas Church sits on the western grounds of Arundel Castle and is one of only a few churches that is divided into areas of Catholic and Anglican worship.

St Nicholas Church, Arundel. Credit JohnArmagh
St Nicholas Church, Arundel. Credit JohnArmagh

Its Catholic chapel is a private mausoleum of the Dukes of Norfolk and their families.

Fitzalan Chapel and White Garden. Credit The Land
Fitzalan Chapel and White Garden. Credit The Land
Ftizalan Chapel. Credit Jim, flickr
Ftizalan Chapel. Credit Jim, flickr

For nobles of high birth, it was common practice to place a recumbent effigy on top of their tomb.

A husband and wife were often depicted together, side by side in a state of eternal repose, awaiting resurrection.

Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel Castle. Credit The Land
Effigies in Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel Castle. Credit The Land

There was also a period when cadaver tombs displayed the life-sized effigy of the person, as they were just before death, above a rotting cadaver in the macabre state of decomposition.

Tomb and effigy of John FitzAlan, 14th Earl of Arundel (died 1435), in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel. Credit Lampman
Tomb and effigy of John FitzAlan, 14th Earl of Arundel (died 1435), in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel. Credit Lampman

Arundel Cathedral

Suppressed from worship in 1664, the Roman Catholic Dukes of Norfolk could no longer attend a religious service in a Catholic church or cathedral until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.

In 1868, the Duke of Norfolk commissioned a new Roman Catholic sanctuary in celebration of the 1850 restoration of Catholic hierarchy in England.

Complementing Arundel Castle’s medieval architecture, he chose the French Gothic style, which was popular between 1300 and 1400 at a time when the Dukes of Norfolk rose to prominence in England.

Arundel Cathedral is regarded as one of the finest examples of French Gothic Revival architecture in the country.

Arundel Cathedral seen from Arundel Castle gardens. Credit The Land
Arundel Cathedral seen from Arundel Castle gardens. Credit The Land
The nave of Arundel Cathedral looking west, in West Sussex, England. Credit David Iliff
The nave of Arundel Cathedral looking west, in West Sussex, England. Credit David Iliff
Arundel Cathedral Sanctuary. Credit David Iliff
Arundel Cathedral Sanctuary. Credit David Iliff

Arundel Town and Environs

Arundel’s pretty High Street rises up the hill towards the castle, it’s side walks lined with traditional shops and restaurants. There’s an old-fashioned butcher, a greengrocer, a second-hand bookstore, and even a shop specializing in walking sticks.

High Street, Arundel. Credit John Turner
High Street, Arundel. Credit John Turner
Top left clockwise: The Moathouse Cafe (credit grassrootsgrounds); The Tea and Biscuit Club; Shopping Arcade, Tarrant Street (credit Roger Kidd); Kim's Bookshop (credit Basher Eyre)
Top left clockwise: The Moathouse Cafe (credit grassrootsgrounds); The Tea and Biscuit Club; Shopping Arcade, Tarrant Street (credit Roger Kidd); Kim’s Bookshop (credit Basher Eyre)

There’s nothing quite like enjoying your favorite beverage in a pub with centuries of history. Arundel has more than its fair share.

The Duke of Norfolk built the Norfolk Arms in 1785. Fashionable visitors from Brighton stayed there and by the early 1800s, it was the chief coaching inn of the town. The room over the entrance archway could accommodate 150 people for dinner.

The Swan Hotel is recorded as far back as 1759 and was a favorite for carriers. Both it and the Red Lion—possibly built as early as 1658—catered to the new pastime of cycling in the late 19th century. St. Mary’s Gate Inn dates from the early 1800s and had its own bowling green at that time.

From top left clockwise. Norfolk Arms, The Swan Hotel, St Mary's Gate Inn, The Red Lion
From top left clockwise. Norfolk Arms, The Swan Hotel, St Mary’s Gate Inn, The Red Lion

Passing through Arundel is a long-distance footpath that approximates the route taken by King Charles II when he was on the run after being defeated at the Battle of Worcester by Oliver Cromwell’s “New Model Army”.

Top right clockwise. Monarch's Way. (Credit Peter Holmes); Mill Road lined with lime trees on both sides (Credit Nigel Cox); Houses at Crossbush (Credit Chris Shaw); Row boats out on Swanbourne Lake (Credit Shaun Ferguson).jpg
Top right clockwise: Monarch’s Way. (Credit Peter Holmes); Mill Road lined with lime trees on both sides (Credit Nigel Cox); Houses at Crossbush (Credit Chris Shaw); Row boats out on Swanbourne Lake (Credit Shaun Ferguson).jpg

Arundel in Art

Arundel, Early Morning by Alfred East
Arundel, Early Morning by Alfred East
Arundel, West Sussex, at Sunset by George Vicat Cole - 1872
Arundel, West Sussex, at Sunset by George Vicat Cole – 1872
Arundel Castle, with Rainbow by Joseph Mallord William Turner - 1824
Arundel Castle, with Rainbow by Joseph Mallord William Turner – 1824
Arundel Mill and Castle by John Constable
Arundel Mill and Castle by John Constable

For further information, see the history of Arundel Castle.

10 Fascinating Facts About Hampton Court Palace

Completed in 1515, Hampton Court was Henry VIII’s favorite summer residence. It epitomized Tudor fashion and style. But Henry didn’t have it built. He seized it.

Hampton Court main entrance or 'Great Gate'. Credit Duncan Harris
Hampton Court main entrance or ‘Great Gate’. Credit Duncan Harris

Designed by Henry’s closest advisor, Thomas Wolsey, Hampton Court Palace was originally conceived as Wolsey’s own home—as a reward to himself for becoming Cardinal in 1515.

Hampton Court moat. Credit David Farquhar, flickr
Hampton Court moat. Credit David Farquhar, flickr

Sparing no expense, Wolsey used glittering painted red brick with a black diamond pattern, white mortar joints and dozens of decorative chimneys—the largest collection in England.

Decorative Tudor chimneys of Hampton Court Palace. Credit Cristian Bortes
Decorative Tudor chimneys of Hampton Court Palace. Credit Cristian Bortes
Hampton Court Palace fountain. Credit Peter Trimming
Hampton Court Palace fountain. Credit Peter Trimming

Its opulence provoked gossip that it was finer than any of the King’s own palaces. So Wolsey smartly deflected criticism by saying he had built it for Henry all along.

Wolsey, a quiet word, if you please … A little birdie tells me you’re building a rather grand palace on the river?
But, your majesty, I was keeping it as a surprise for your birthday.
Good man, Wolsey. I knew I could trust you. Keep it up!King Henry and Cardinal Wolsey
'Me and My King' Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey by Sir John Gilbert c. 1886
‘Me and My King’ Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey by Sir John Gilbert c. 1886

Interwoven into the stonework of Hampton Court is Catherine of Aragon’s royal emblem—pomegranate seeds that were meant to represent the potency of her kingdom. Next to it was carved the Tudor rose, indicating how serious Henry was about their relationship that lasted almost 24 years—longer than his five other marriages combined.

2. Hampton Court has the largest surviving 16th-century kitchens in the world

200 cooks worked slavishly from sunup to sundown to feed 800 guests when Henry’s entourage was staying at the palace.

The Great Fires at Hapton Court kitchens. Credit Kotomi Creations
The Great Fires at Hapton Court kitchens. Credit Kotomi Creations

Burning a ton of wood in each of six huge fireplaces, the cooks sweated buckets and were rewarded with as much beer as they could drink.

Hampton Court Kitchens. Credit David Farquhar, flickr
Hampton Court Kitchens. Credit David Farquhar, flickr
Hampton Court Kitchens. Credit David Farquhar, flickr
Hampton Court Kitchens. Credit David Farquhar, flickr

3. Hampton Court Palace was the ultimate Tudor sports and leisure complex

Its 16th-century tennis court is one of the oldest sporting venues in the world.

It is the prettiest thing in the world to see him play, his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest textureVenetian Ambassador
Henry VIII was a masterful tennis player
Henry VIII was a masterful tennis player

But jousting was Henry’s favorite sport. Set amongst the 60 acres of formal landscaped gardens there was a jousting complex. He saw himself as a chivalrous knight in armor and risked serious injury every time he took part.

Jousting knight in a modern reenactment. Credit David Ball
Jousting knight in a modern reenactment. Credit David Ball

Splinters from shattered lances could blind and serious cuts might mean literally bleeding to death.

The Boy's King Arthur by N.C. Wyeth, 1922


In 1536, Henry was knocked from his horse and crushed, as the horse—wearing armor and weighing probably half a ton—rolled over him, rendering him unconscious for two hours.

Opening an ulcer in his leg, Henry would suffer severe pain for the rest of his life. Some believe the constant pain changed him into an irascible tyrant.

Anne Boleyn was watching, and later suffered the miscarriage that would ultimately put her head on the block.

Anne Boleyn in the Tower by Edouard Cibot, 1835
Anne Boleyn in the Tower by Edouard Cibot, 1835

4. Hampton Court has many priceless works of art

Commissioned by Henry VIII and hanging on the walls of the palace’s Tudor apartments are enormous paintings that tell a story of Henry’s battlefield conquests.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold, c. 1545 in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court
The Field of the Cloth of Gold, c. 1545 in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court

To celebrate the birth of his only son and heir, Edward, Henry commissioned a series of spectacular tapestries.

Considered one of the finest pieces of decorative artwork from the Tudor period, the “Abraham Tapestries” depict stories from the life of the biblical prophet Abraham.

Made with cloth of gold, each tapestry cost Henry the price of a warship.

Tapestries in the Great Hall. Credit bvi4092, flickr
Tapestries in the Great Hall. Credit bvi4092, flickr

Painted by Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna between 1484 and 1492, the Triumphs of Caesar depict a triumphal military parade of Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars.

Thought to be Mantegna’s greatest masterpiece, the paintings are the best examples of their kind ever created.

The Vase Bearers from the Triumphs of Caesar, Royal Collection, Hampton Court Palace, c 1500
The Vase Bearers from the Triumphs of Caesar, Royal Collection, Hampton Court Palace, c 1500

5. The Great Hall was a token of love from Henry to Anne Boleyn

The ceiling of the Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace. Credit David Iliff
The ceiling of the Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace. Credit David Iliff
Henry VIII's First Interview with Anne Boleyn by Daniel Maclise, R.A. - 1835
Henry VIII’s First Interview with Anne Boleyn by Daniel Maclise, R.A. – 1835

The term “eavesdroppers” comes from the colorful little faces hanging from the eaves of the Great Hall looking down on courtiers below. A reminder that walls have ears.

Hampton Court Eavesdropper. Credit Matt Brown
Hampton Court Eavesdropper. Credit Matt Brown

After Anne Boleyn’s execution, Henry wiped all traces of her from Hampton court, apart from one of her symbols that the workmen missed. It remains to this day.

6. Hampton Court was the birthplace of the Church of England

Henry broke with the Roman Catholic church after Pope Clement VII failed to grant him an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.

Ahem … we’ve been watching you Mr. Tudor. Just how many wives does a King of England need? For all we know, you won’t stop until you’ve had six. Annulment denied. Next …
Pope Clement VII and King Henry VIII
Pope Clement VII and King Henry VIII

Despite being opposed to Protestantism, Henry appointed himself Supreme Head of the Church of England to ensure the annulment of his marriage. Pope Paul III excommunicated him in 1538.

7. Hampton Court was the place for Tudor ladies to be seen in all their finery

Arriving suitably attired meant a lot of preparation, with up to five layers of clothing.

Tudor costumes at Hampton Court Palace. Credit Mary Harrsch, flickr
Tudor costumes at Hampton Court Palace. Credit Mary Harrsch, flickr

This portrait of Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, shows the foresleeves that were separate pieces tied on with ribbons and matching the kirtle.

Jane Seymour, Queen of England by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1536
Jane Seymour, Queen of England by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1536
Queen Anne Boleyn at the Grand Jousting Tournament reenactment held at Hampton Court Palace. Credit KotomiCreations
Queen Anne Boleyn at the Grand Jousting Tournament reenactment held at Hampton Court Palace. Credit KotomiCreations

8. The Great Watching Chamber was built in honor of Jane Seymour

Built in honor of Jane Seymour, the only wife to produce a male heir, the Great Watching Chamber was where courtiers would wait to see Henry. The ceiling is a lavish latticework of gilt interspersed with colorful leather maches.

Ceiling of the Great Watching Chamber, Hampton Court Palace
Ceiling of the Great Watching Chamber, Hampton Court Palace

Less than two weeks after the birth of her only child, who became King Edward VI, Jane Seymour died of postnatal complications.

Stained glass window in the Great Watching Room. Credit David Farquhar
Stained glass window in the Great Watching Room. Credit David Farquhar

The only one of Henry’s wives to receive a queen’s funeral, Jane’s heart and lungs are kept inside a lead box hidden behind the altar of the chapel at Hampton Court.

The Chapel, Hampton Court Palace, 1819
The Chapel, Hampton Court Palace, 1819

9. Hampton Court was the home of King William III and Queen Mary II

William III and Mary II
William III and Mary II

Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to redesign the palace in the style of Versailles. Lack of funds meant that only half the palace was rebuilt.

The East Front, Hampton Court Palace. Credit MrsEllacott
The East Front, Hampton Court Palace. Credit MrsEllacott
Staircase, Hampton Court Palace. Credit MrsEllacott
Staircase, Hampton Court Palace. Credit MrsEllacott
A view of Queen Mary's State Bedchamber at Hampton Court Palace
A view of Queen Mary’s State Bedchamber at Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Privy Garden. Credit Matt Brown
Hampton Court Privy Garden. Credit Matt Brown
Hampton Court Palace, William III Apartments. Credit KotomiCreations, flickr
Hampton Court Palace, William III Apartments. Credit KotomiCreations, flickr

10. Hampton Court was a fusion of architectural styles and periods

The Hampton Court we see today is a unique fusion of two different styles of architecture—Tudor and Baroque—and two different worlds set 150 years apart, covering the Tudor and the Stuart eras.

Even its ghosts travel across the threshold of time.

Anne Boleyn Ghost
Anne Boleyn Ghost

References
Wikipedia.org
Historic Royal Palaces
Secrets of Iconic British Estates

10 Fascinating Facts about Windsor Castle

Noted for its architecture and long association with the royal family, Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire.
Here are 10 fascinating facts about this magnificent castle, some of which you may find surprising.

1. Windsor Castle was part of William the Conqueror’s plan to subjugate Saxon Britain

The year was 1066. William, Duke of Normandy had just accomplished the unthinkable by defeating the last Saxon king of England, Harold Godwinson, at the Battle of Hastings.

Now he could implement his strategy for conquest by building a series of castles to consolidate his power.

He marched inland, first to Dover, securing a strategic position with a motte and bailey castle, then onto London itself.

Blocking the city with three mighty castles, including the Tower of London, he sought to suppress any opposition completely.

It was his ring of nine castles, each about 25 miles apart and a day’s march from London, where our story begins.

The most impressive of these is Windsor Castle—an immense citadel rising from the banks of the River Thames as it passes through the county of Berkshire.

Windsor Castle, Sanford Robinson Gifford, c. 1860
Windsor Castle, Sanford Robinson Gifford, c. 1860
Windsor Castle at Castle Hill. Credit diamond geezer
Windsor Castle at Castle Hill. Credit diamond geezer

2. Inside the castle walls is the Mother Church to English chivalry

Considered by the historian John Martin Robinson to be “one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic”, St George’s Chapel was the creation of Edward III, founder of the Order of the Garter—the highest order of chivalry in the United Kingdom.

St. Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle. Credit Aurelien Guichard
St. Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle. Credit Aurelien Guichard
The Choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Credit Josep Renalias
The Choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Credit Josep Renalias

Every June, members of the order meet at Windsor Castle for the annual Garter Service. After lunch at the State Apartments of Windsor Castle, the knights don their robes and insignia and proceed on foot down to St George’s Chapel where the service is held.

The Order of the Garter is the oldest and most senior Order of Chivalry in Britain, established by King Edward III nearly 700 years ago.

The first occasion on which all four of Queen Elizabeth's children had attended the Garter Service. Credit Philip Allfrey
Knights Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, in procession to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle for the annual service of the Order of the Garter. Credit Philip Allfrey.

Members of the Royal Family attend the Most Noble Order of the Garter Ceremony at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London on June 13, 2016. From left: Queen Elizabeth II; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

3. Windsor Castle is the longest-occupied palace in Europe

Used as a residence by monarchs since the reign of Henry I, the castle has undergone many changes during its long history, often at colossal expense.

“a superb and unrivalled sequence of rooms”

—art historian Hugh Roberts

Born at Windsor Castle, Edward III spent lavishly on an expansion. His military victories in France at Crecy, Poitiers, and Calais helped pay for “the most expensive secular building project of the entire Middle Ages in England”.

Henry VIII enjoyed Windsor as a royal playground for shooting, dancing, wrestling, tennis, and even songwriting. He is purported to have spent the equivalent of £295 million in 2008 terms ($420 million) on work that included hiring Italian architect Benedetto Grazzini to convert the Lady Chapel into an Italian Renaissance design.

St George's Hall, by Charles Wild, 1816
St George’s Hall, by Charles Wild, 1816

Windsor Castle was one of Elizabeth I’s favorite residences and she spent more money on it than any of her other residences.

Charles II liked to imitate Louis XIV of France, creating “the most extravagantly Baroque interiors ever executed in England”.

“the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste”

—art historian Hugh Roberts

Another £100 million ($142 million) in 2008 terms was spent by George III on Gothic restyling work, which paled in comparison to the £817 million ($1.2 billion) in 2008 terms lavished by his son and successor George IV.

The Queen's Drawing Room, by Charles Wild, 1816
The Queen’s Drawing Room, by Charles Wild, 1816

The sumptuous State Apartments were described by the art historian Hugh Roberts as “a superb and unrivaled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste”.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Windsor their primary home and hub for all the diplomatic and state visits of the rapidly expanding British Empire.

4. Prince Albert died at Windsor Castle in 1861

Despite ill health, Albert had taken over most of the royal duties while Victoria grieved the death of her mother.

One pressing concern was that Edward, Prince of Wales had been carrying on an affair with an Irish actress named Nellie Clifden, causing some upset in the royal household over the potential for scandal or even pregnancy.

As if that worry wasn’t enough, Prince Albert had to intervene to prevent war with the United States over the Trent Affair.

Having suffered stomach cramps for two years, Albert’s health finally gave out on the night of 14 December, 1861 in the Blue Room at Windsor Castle.

Albert, Prince Consort, on his deathbed at Windsor Castle, with members of the royal family and the royal household in attendance, 14 December 1861. Credit Wellcome Images
Albert, Prince Consort, on his deathbed at Windsor Castle, with members of the royal family and the royal household in attendance, 14 December 1861. Credit Wellcome Images

Although diagnosed as having typhoid fever, modern scholars believe his stomach cramps may have been due to a chronic disease such as abdominal cancer.

5. Queen Victoria became known as “the Widow of Windsor”

Victoria kept the castle in a state of mourning for many years, becoming known as the “Widow of Windsor”, a phrase popularized in the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling that pays tribute to the “poor beggars in red” who fought around the globe to expand her empire.

‘Ave you ‘eard o’ the Widow at Windsor
With a hairy gold crown on ‘er ‘ead?
She ‘as ships on the foam—she ‘as millions at ‘ome,
An’ she pays us poor beggars in red.

Shunning Buckingham Palace after Albert’s death, Queen Victoria used Windsor Castle as her main residence for conducting official duties near London.

Despite major technological advances of the era, like electric lighting, Queen Victoria preferred candles and kept the castle famously cold and drafty.

Queen Victoria and Princess Beatrice in the Queen’s Sitting Room in 1895, photographed by Mary Steen.

Victoria’s later portraits are of a sad, stately old lady, staring into space. What was she thinking?

Perhaps, she was dreaming of a beautiful sunny day at Windsor Castle with Albert and their firstborn, Victoria, Princess Royal.

Queen Victoria, by Bertha Müller, 1899
Queen Victoria, by Bertha Müller, 1899
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at home at Windsor Castle byE dwin Henry Landseer, 1843
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at home at Windsor Castle by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1843

6. Inspired by Windsor Castle, the Royal Family changed their last name to Windsor in 1917

Believing that their dynastic German name of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was bad for British morale during the First World War, King George V decided to take a new name after the castle.

'A good riddance' A 1917 Punch cartoon depicts King George sweeping away his German titles
‘A good riddance’ A 1917 Punch cartoon depicts King George sweeping away his German titles

On 17 July 1917, the Royal Family lineage changed from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor.

7. Windsor Castle was a royal air-raid shelter during World War 2

While Londoners headed for the Underground railway to escape the horrors of Luftwaffe bombing in World War 2, the royal family used Windsor Castle as a refuge.

In 1939, when war with Germany was announced, Windsor Castle was readied for wartime. Security was tightened, windows were blacked-out, and staff were relocated to Windsor from Buckingham Palace.

The roof above the children’s room, where Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were staying was strengthened, chandeliers were lowered to floor level to prevent damage in a bombing raid, and important works of art were removed for safekeeping.

Driving daily to London and returning to Windsor each night was a closely-guarded secret for the king and queen. It was considered good for morale to report that the king was staying full-time at Buckingham Palace.

The Castle Guard, formed from members of the training battalion, Grenadier Guards, leaving the main entrance of Windsor Castle on the way to Victoria Barracks in Windsor, 30 June 1940.

8. Windsor Castle has seen its fair share of fire, the most recent being in 1992

Windsor Castle endured serious fires in 1296 and 1853, but the most damaging was in 1992.

It was 20 November 1992, and renovations were being carried out on the Private Chapel of the State Apartments. Near the altar, a curtain is thought to have been too close to one of the spotlights used for the work, setting it alight—the fire quickly spreading to the staterooms.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Whilst 200 firefighters battled to control the blaze, castle staff hurriedly rescued precious artworks. Fortunately, many rooms had been emptied as part of the renovation work, so most of the collection was saved.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Lasting for 15 hours, the fire was eventually brought under control with more than 1.5 million gallons of water—causing additional damage to the castle structure.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Exactly who should pay for repairs was a controversial issue at the time. Since George III, profits from the monarch’s estate have been passed to the government in return for a fixed payment. To save money, the castle wasn’t insured and headlines ran in British newspapers calling for the Queen to pay from her private income. In the end, a deal was struck whereby the government paid for repairs in exchange for the opening of Buckingham Palace to the public.

Taking five years to complete at a total cost of £67 million ($95 million) in 2015 terms, the damaged rooms were restored using modern methods to recreate the appearance before the fire.

9. Windsor Castle has a 2.65-mile approach road

For such a spectacular castle, one would expect an equally spectacular approach, would one not?

Windsor Castle Long Walk. Credit Graemev2
Windsor Castle Long Walk. Credit Graemev2

At 2.65 miles long and 240 ft wide, this double-lined avenue of trees called “The Long Walk” runs through The Home Park—an area once set aside for deer hunting and mentioned in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor.

Adjoining the larger Windsor Great Park, The Home Park has some of the oldest broad-leaved woodlands in Europe.

10. Windsor Castle is the largest continually inhabited castle in the world

Today, more than 500 people live and work in Windsor Castle – the largest inhabited castle in the world.

It is the preferred weekend residence of Her Majesty The Queen, whose standard flies from the Round Tower to show when she’s at home.

The Round Tower with the Queen's standard flying. Credit Nick Warner
The Round Tower with the Queen’s standard flying. Credit Nick Warner
Windsor Castle, east side gardens and facade. Credit David Watterson
Windsor Castle, east side gardens and facade. Credit David Watterson
Presentation of Colours by Her Majesty the Queen
Presentation of Colours by Her Majesty the Queen. Coldstream Guardsmen give three cheers to Her Majesty in Windsor Castle. Credit Defence Images

References

Wikipedia
Windsor Revealed by Brindle and Kerr, 1997.

10 Fun Facts About the Yorkshire Dales: England’s Green and Pleasant Land

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

—William Blake, Jerusalem.
Pattern

Such is the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales that as you traverse its rolling hills with pretty dry-stone walls, discover its delightful villages, with tearooms and bookshops, and gasp in awe at its breathtaking valleys, you may be forgiven for thinking this is God’s own country.

Whether by car, bicycle or on foot, the Yorkshire Dales will surprise and delight at every turn.

Join us, dear reader, as we explore 10 fun facts about the Yorkshire Dales.

Yockenthwaite is a hamlet in the Langstrothdale valley in the Yorkshire Dales. Creit Alison Christine
Yockenthwaite is a hamlet in the Langstrothdale valley in the Yorkshire Dales. Creit Alison Christine
Cyclists. Credit Tejvan Pettinger
Cyclists. Credit Tejvan Pettinger
Winding road through Littondale. Credit Kreuzschnabel
Winding road through Littondale. Credit Kreuzschnabel
Jordan Lane near Sedbergh, Yorkshire Dales
Jordan Lane near Sedbergh, Yorkshire Dales

1. The Yorkshire Dales are named after their rivers

Shaped by glaciers in the last ice age, the Yorkshire Dales are river valleys named after their river or stream.

River valleys all over Yorkshire are called “(name of river)+dale”—but only the upper, more rural valleys are included in the term “The Yorkshire Dales”.

Wharfdale is the "valley" (dale) of the River Wharf. Credit TJBlackwell
Wharfdale is the “valley” (dale) of the River Wharf. Credit TJBlackwell
Europe during its last glaciation, about 20,000 to 70,000 years ago
Europe during its last glaciation, about 20,000 to 70,000 years ago

The word “dale” means valley and is derived from the 12th-century Old English word dael. It is used in Scotland and northern England, and is related to the Welsh word dôl and the German word tal.

More general use of the word “dale” was superseded in the 14th century by the word “valley’ from Anglo-French valee.

2. The Dales has several amazing Limestone Rock formations including deep caves

Found in previously glaciated limestone environments, limestone pavements are flat areas of limestone with deep surface patterning resembling paving stones.

Limestone plateau, Malhamdale. Credit Andi Campbell-Jones
Limestone plateau, Malhamdale. Credit Andi Campbell-Jones

The underlying limestone has eroded to form vast caves in several areas. Gaping Gill is a 322 ft deep shaft that is the largest underground chamber open to the surface in England. The volume has been calculated to equal that of York Minster.

Gaping Gill. Credit Mjobling
Gaping Gill. Credit Mjobling

3. Massive, graceful edifices to Victorian ingenuity allow the railways to cross the Dales

When the Victorians wanted to cross the Yorkshire Dales by rail in the 1870s, this was their answer—Ribblehead Viaduct.

Ribblehead Viaduct crossing Ribbledale
Ribblehead Viaduct crossing Ribbledale

Undaunted by the undulations of the dales, the Ribblehead Viaduct traverses a 440-yard span with a height of 104 ft above the valley floor.

It took 1000 navvies to build, 100 of whom died during construction either from accidents or outbreaks of smallpox.

The term ‘navvy” derives from Navigational Engineer and means a manual laborer for a major civil engineering project.

These workers built their own shanty towns close to the viaduct, naming them after Crimean War (1853-1856) victories and biblical names.

The TV series “Jericho” is a period drama based on the building of the Ribblehead Viaduct.

As graceful a sight as Ribblehead is, anyone familiar with large-scale engineering projects will appreciate just how daunting this must have been for the Victorians—and will see it in a different light.

Ribblehead Viaduct cast in a glowing light. Credit chantrybee
Ribblehead Viaduct cast in a glowing light. Credit chantrybee

24 arches, each spanning 45 feet, with foundations sunk 25 feet into the valley required 1.5 million bricks and some limestone blocks weighing 8 tons each.

Considered to be the most beautiful and spectacular railway journey in England, the Settle to Carlisle Railway crosses the Ribblehead Viaduct with its incredible views of the Dales.

Southern Railway steam locomotive leaving Garsdale station. Credit David Ingham
Southern Railway steam locomotive leaving Garsdale station. Credit David Ingham

4. Dry stone walls wind their way across the rolling hills

Dry stone walls are as common as sheep and give the Yorkshire Dales its delightful appearance—weaving their way across the rolling hills in all directions.

Dry Stone Walls and Bridleways. Credit Dave_S
Dry Stone Walls and Bridleways. Credit Dave_S

With no mortar to help bind them, it is the interlocking compressional forces that give the walls their structural integrity.

Ribblesdale with Pen-y-Ghent peak in the background. Credit Darkroom Daze
Ribblesdale with Pen-y-Ghent peak in the background. Credit Darkroom Daze

Construction of dry stone walls requires considerable skill, with experienced wallers few in number. Large, flat stones are used at the base, diminishing is size as the wall rises.

To help prevent the wall simply breaking apart, long tie stones are placed periodically which span both faces of the wall. Similarly, long capstones finish the final layer and provide rigidity.

5. Wensleydale is named after the small market town that originally produced the delicious, crumbly Wensleydale cheese

Wensleydale is an exception to the way most dales are named after their rivers. It is named after the small market town that originally produced the delicious, crumbly cheese.

French Cistercian monks from the Roquefort region of France who settled in Wensleydale brought with them a recipe for making cheese from sheep’s milk. Cow’s milk has been used since the 14th century.

The market town of Hawes at the head of Wensleydale. Credit Peer Lawther
The market town of Hawes at the head of Wensleydale. Credit Peer Lawther

After the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540, local farmers continued making the cheese up until World War II when milk was used to make “Government Cheddar” as part of the rationing of the war effort.

Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries
Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries

Wensleydale with cranberries is popular in restaurants and delicatessens and there is a Yorkshire saying:

“an apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze”

6. Mary Queen of Scots once stayed at Bolton Castle

The 14th-century Bolton Castle is a notable local historic site near Wensleydale.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale. Credit Peter Hughes
Bolton Castle, Wensleydale. Credit Peter Hughes

Famous for serving as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots, a story tells of how she escaped and lost her shawl on the way to Leyburn, hence the name “The Shawl”—a cliff edge that runs westward out of Leyburn, known for easy walks with excellent views.

Bolton Castle Maze, Wensleydale. Credit Peter Hughes
Bolton Castle Maze, Wensleydale. Credit Peter Hughes
Bolton Castle, Wensleydale. Credit Freddie Phillips
Bolton Castle, Wensleydale. Credit Freddie Phillips

7. Bolton Abbey has a rich past—and rich owners too

Built in the 12th century as an Augustinian monastery, Bolton Abbey sits on the banks of the River Wharf on a 133,000-acre estate in Wharfedale.

Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale. Credit Dr John Wells
Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale. Credit Dr John Wells

Owned by the Cavendish Family (better known for the peerage titles Duke and Duchess of Devonshire who also own Chatsworth House), the estate has 8 miles of river, 84 farms, 88 historic buildings, and 27 businesses—including tearooms and bookshops.

Fly Fishing in the River Wharfe next to Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale. Credit Carl Milner
Fly Fishing in the River Wharfe next to Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale. Credit Carl Milner
The Dalesman Cafe Gargrave on the outskirst of the Yorkshire Dales
The Dalesman Cafe Gargrave on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales

8. The Yorkshire Dales has a long history in lead mining

Mining for lead was a major industry in the Yorkshire Dales from the mid-17th century until about 1900, with Britain the world’s leader in lead production.

Lead Mining
Top: Ruins of former lead mining buildings at Gunnerside Beck, Yorkshire Dales. Bottom-left: Surrender Mill at Surrender Bridge, near Kearton, North Yorkshire, former lead smelting site. Bottom-right: Gunnerside from North Hush. A hush was formed by building a dam, then breaking it so that the rush of water stripped away the topsoil, revealing the lead ore beneath.

Geological processes make the rocks of the dales rich in lead, but although landowners struck a bargain with miners to prospect for lead and share in the profits, few miners saw any wealth.

It was hard manual labor with picks and shovels in dirty and dangerous situations.

Today, the remnants of a once thriving lead mining industry scar the landscape and can be explored.

Yarnbury Lead Mine entrance. Grassington. Credit Tom Blackwell
Yarnbury Lead Mine entrance. Grassington. Credit Tom Blackwell

9. Beautiful waterfalls grace the Dales landscape

The Yorkshire Dales has several beautiful waterfalls, most notably Aysgarth Falls in Wensleydale, which is spectacular after heavy rainfall as thousands of gallons of water cascade over several levels of limestone steps.

Aysgarth Falls, Wensleydale. Credit Rob Glover
Aysgarth Falls, Wensleydale. Credit Rob Glover

Originating from old Norse, the name Aysgarth means an open space in the oak trees.

Featured in the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the falls have attracted artists and poets—Turner, Ruskin, Wordsworth—for over 200 years.

Aysgarth Falls on the descent into Wensleydale. Credit Dave_S
Aysgarth Falls on the descent into Wensleydale. Credit Dave_S
West Burton Waterfalls. Credit ukgardenphotos
West Burton Waterfalls. Credit ukgardenphotos

10. Medieval farms, sheep, and a good vet

Medieval farmsteads are dotted across the Yorkshire Dales.

With herds of sheep and cattle a common sight, a good veterinary surgeon has long been a valued member of the Dales community.

Yorkshire Dales Farmsteads
Yorkshire Dales Farmsteads

A major TV series based on the writings of Alf Wight, a Yorkshire veterinary surgeon who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot, was filmed largely in the Yorkshire Dales.

Sheep causing a traffic jam at Hawes, Wensleydale. Credit James Burke
Sheep causing a traffic jam at Hawes, Wensleydale. Credit James Burke

The books are a great read for anyone who wants to know more about Yorkshire country life, along with its characters and their inter-relationship with the farm animals of the Yorkshire Dales.

The sheep love James Herriot—just ask one.

Swaldale Sheep. Credit Ambersky235
Swaledale Sheep. Credit Ambersky235

10 of the Best Medieval Abbeys in Britain

Hauntingly beautiful, the ruined abbeys of England, Scotland, and Wales stand majestically defiant against the elements—a reminder of a medieval past governed by work, study, and prayer.

Here’s our list of 10 of the best medieval abbey ruins in Britain.

1. Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Overlooking the North Sea on the East Cliff above Whitby in North Yorkshire, England sits the ruined Whitby Abbey.

Disestablished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, Whitby Abbey is a Grade I (building of exceptional interest) Benedictine abbey in the care of the English Heritage Trust.

Whitby Abbey at sunset. Credit Ackers72
Whitby Abbey at sunset. Credit Ackers72
Whitby Abbey. Credit Chris Kirk
Whitby Abbey. Credit Chris Kirk
Whitby Abbey at sunset with reflections. Credit Ackers72
Whitby Abbey at sunset with reflections. Credit Ackers72
Whitby Abbey. Credit Mike Peel
Whitby Abbey. Credit Mike Peel

2. Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Founded in 1132, Rievaulx Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey in Rievaulx, near Helmsley in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, England.

Once one of the wealthiest abbeys in England, it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 and is now owned and maintained by the English Heritage Trust.

 Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Mike Peel
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Mike Peel
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Tilman2007
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Tilman2007
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Mike Peel
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit Mike Pee
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit mattbuck
Rievaulx Abbey. Credit mattbuck

3. Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

One of the largest and best preserved Cistercian monastery ruins in England, Fountains Abbey is about 3 miles south-west of Ripon in North Yorkshire.

Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for over 400 years, until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Fountains Abbey. Credit Petr Krtochvil
Fountains Abbey. Credit Petr Krtochvil
Fountains Abbey. Credit mattbuck
Fountains Abbey. Credit mattbuc
Fountains Abbey. Credit David Iliff
Fountains Abbey. Credit David Iliff
Fountains Abbey Monks' cellarium. Credit Katie Chan
Fountains Abbey Monks’ cellarium. Credit Katie Chan
Inside Huby's Tower, Fountains Abbey. Credit Juliet220
Inside Huby’s Tower, Fountains Abbey. Credit Juliet220

4. Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, Wales

Founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, in 1131, Tintern Abbey sits on the Welsh bank of the River Wye, between Monmouthshire in Wales and Gloucestershire in England.

Falling into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1548, the abbey has been a favorite haunt of poets and painters from the 18th century onwards.

Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey and Courtyard. Credit Saffron Blaze
Tintern Abbey and Courtyard. Credit Saffron Blaze
Tintern Abbey east end columns. Credit NotFromUtrecht
Tintern Abbey east end columns. Credit NotFromUtrecht
The nave, Tintern Abbey. Credit Poliphilo
The nave, Tintern Abbey. Credit Poliphilo

5. Kirkstall Abbey, West Yorkshire, England

Set in a public park on the north bank of the River Aire, Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery near Leeds in West Yorkshire, England.

Founded in 1152 and dissolved by Henry VIII, the picturesque ruins have been the subject of works by artists J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Girtin and John Sell Cotman.

Kirkstall Abbey in the late afternoon sunlight. Credit Minda
Kirkstall Abbey in the late afternoon sunlight. Credit Minda
Kirkstall Abbey. Credit John Armagh
Kirkstall Abbey. Credit John Armagh
Kirkstall Abbey cloisters. Credit Sireuk
Kirkstall Abbey cloisters. Credit Sireuk
Kirkstall Abbey at sunset. Credit Minda
Kirkstall Abbey at sunset. Credit Minda

6. Buildwas Abbey, Shropshire, England

Buildwas Abbey is located along the banks of the River Severn in Buildwas, Shropshire, England, about two miles west of Ironbridge.

Founded in 1135 by Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Coventry (1129–1148), the Cistercian Buildwas Abbey was originally a Savignac monastery inhabited by a small community of monks from Furness Abbey.

The abbey has a storied history, with intrigue to rival the famous “Name of the Rose”. Frequently raided by Welsh princes who also kidnapped the abbot, there was a case where a monk murdered his abbot and, having evaded arrest, petitioned for reinstatement into the Cistercian order.

Buildwas Abbey. Credit JohnArmagh
Buildwas Abbey. Credit JohnArmagh
Buildwas Abbey. Credit Chris Walsh
Buildwas Abbey. Credit Chris Walsh
The church, Buildwas Abbey. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey, looking west. Credit Tony Grist
The church, Buildwas Abbey, looking west. Credit Tony Grist

7. Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Founded as a Savignac abbey in 1135, Byland Abbey was absorbed into the Cistercian order in 1147.

Described in the late 14th century as “one of the three shining lights of the north”, it wasn’t always so for Byland Abbey. Its early life was marked by disputes with other abbeys and the whole abbey community had to move five times before settling on Byland.

Now in the care of the English Heritage Trust, Byland has some impressive features including the lower half of a huge rose window and a stone lectern which is the only one of its kind in Britain.

Byland Abbey at Sunrise. Credit Chris Combe
Byland Abbey at Sunrise. Credit Chris Combe
Byland Abbey. Credit Antony McCallum
Byland Abbey. Credit Antony McCallum
Byland Abbey. Credit mattbuck
Byland Abbey. Credit mattbuc
Byland Abbey Sunset. Credit Willj
Byland Abbey Sunset. Credit Willj

8. Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire, England

Nestled in the rolling landscape of the Yorkshire Dales sits the 12th-century ruins of an Augustinian monastery.

The Bolton Abbey estate includes many miles of public pathways through beautiful countryside.

The Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway terminates at a nearby village.

Aerial view, Bolton Abbey. Credit Dr John Wells
Aerial view, Bolton Abbey. Credit Dr John Wel
Bolton Abbey David Benbennick
Bolton Abbey David Benbennick
Bolton Abbey. Credit Dbenbenn
Bolton Abbey. Credit Dbenben
Bolton Abbey. Credit David Benbennick
Bolton Abbey. Credit David Benbennick
Bolton Abbey Sunset. Credit Matt Smith
Bolton Abbey Sunset. Credit Matt Smith

9. Melrose Abbey, Roxburghshire, Scotland

Founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks on the orders of King David I of Scotland, Melrose Abbey was built in the Gothic style in the form of a St. John’s cross.

In 1921, an amazing discovery was made below the Chapter House of Melrose Abbey.

Held inside a lead container was believed to be the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce.

Confirmed in records of his death, the rest of his body is buried at Dunfermline Abbey.

Alexander II and other Scottish kings and nobles are buried at Melrose.

Maintained by Historic Scotland, the partly ruined monastery is a museum open to the public.

Melrose Abbey, Scotland. Credit Edwinrijkaart
Melrose Abbey, Scotland. Credit Edwinrijkaart
Melrose Abbey. Credit Steve Collis
Melrose Abbey. Credit Steve Collis
Melrose Abbey. Credit Globaltraveller
Melrose Abbey. Credit Globaltravelle
Melrose Abbey. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Melrose Abbey. Credit Hartlepoolmarina2014
Melrose Abbey. Credit The Land
Melrose Abbey. Credit The Land

10. Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, Scotland

“Rood” being an old word for the cross of Jesus Christ, the name Holyrood means “Holy Cross.”

Founded in 1128 at the behest of King David I, Holyrood Abbey was home to the Canons Regular in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Lying adjacent to Holyrood Palace at the eastern end of the Royal Mile, the Abbey lost prominence following the Scottish Reformation and has been ruined since the 18th century.

The abbey is protected as a scheduled monument.

Holyrood Abbey. Credit Brian Holsclaw
Holyrood Abbey. Credit Brian Holsclaw
Ruins of Abbey behind Holyrood Palace. Credit Donna
Ruins of Abbey behind Holyrood Palace. Credit Donna
Holyrood Abbey. Credit dun_deagh
Holyrood Abbey. Credit dun_deagh
Holyrood Abbey. Credit dun_deagh
Holyrood Abbey. Credit dun_deagh
Holyrood Abbey. Credit Brian Holsclaw
Holyrood Abbey. Credit Brian Holsclaw

Eilean Donan—a place to live forever?

In the picturesque western Highlands of Scotland, where three lochs meet, sits a small island called Eilean Donan.

And on this island is a dream castle.

Aerial view of Eilean Donan

Surrounded by mountains where eagles soar, Eilean Donan is remote—the nearest fishing village  is almost a mile away. The 2001 census for Eilean Donan recorded a total population of one person.

This is the place to write the novel of the decade.

Pronounced “Ail-en Don-an”, the castle was built in the 13th century as a stronghold to ward off Viking raiders, and later used by Clan Mackenzie in the Jacobite rebellions of the early 18th century. Royal Navy ships were sent to destroy Eilean Donan, but it was painstakingly rebuilt in the 20th century as the 20-year labor of love of John Macrae-Gilstrap.

The castle has been the setting for several movies, including the 1986 version of Highlander—as the home of Clan MacLeod.

If you could live forever, would you choose Eilean Donan as your home?

Enjoy scenes of Eilean Donan to Queen’s “Who wants to live forever” from the movie Highlander.

Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle. Credit David Iliff
Eilean Donan Castle. Credit David Iliff
Eilean Donan. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Causeway. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Causeway. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle at Dusk. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle at Dusk. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan. Credit Jggzgz
Eilean Donan. Credit Jggzgz
Eilean Donan Castle Sunset. Credit H Matthew Howarth
Eilean Donan Castle Sunset. Credit H Matthew Howarth
Eilean Donan at night. Credit krb&nah
Eilean Donan at night. Credit krb&nah
Piper in front of Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Marshalhenrie
Piper in front of Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Marshalhenrie
Approaching from the south. Credit Colin MacRae
Approaching from the south. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan. Credit Bruce MacRae
Looking west from within Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae
Looking west from within Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae
Opening Arch of Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae
Opening Arch of Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Bell Tower. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Bell Tower. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Shadowgate
Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Shadowgate
Eilean Donan Castle Bedroom. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Bedroom. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Bedroom. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Bedroom. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Bedroom. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Bedroom. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Bedroom. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Bedroom. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Ensuite. Credit Bruce MacRae
Eilean Donan Castle Ensuite. Credit Bruce MacRae
Banquet Hall, Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae
Banquet Hall, Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae
Banquet Hall, Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae
Banquet Hall, Eilean Donan Castle. Credit Bruce MacRae