|Somerton Castle in 1801|
Antony Bek, Bishop of Durham, inherited Somerton from his mother, Eva de Grey, in the mid 13th century, at the time there was a grange on the site. Bek obtained a licence to crenellate at Somerton in 1281. It was built in the style of Welsh castles of the time, quadrangular with circular towers at the angles and linking curtain walls. It was not built as a defensive structure but rather as a demonstration of power and wealth.
The length of the walls were as follows: North 230 ft, South 210.5 ft, East 276.5 ft, West 251 ft.
Bek died in 1311 and Edward I took possession of the castle, granting it to William de Beaumont.
The King of France
On the 20th September 1356, during the 100 Years War, Edward, the Black Prince, against massive odds beat and captured King John II, John the Good, at the Battle of Poitiers.
John was brought to England in May 1357, the party landed at Sandwich and travelled onto Canterbury where, after making offerings at the shrine of St Thomas Becket, they rested for the night. Following two more overnight stops the party arrived in London on 24th May. John, on his white charger, rode through London to the palace of the Savoy. Late in the summer John and Prince Philip visited Windsor Castle where they enjoyed the sport of hunting.
|1850 plan of Somerton Castle showing location of all|
four towers and the curtain walls. Drawn by J S Padley.
Towards the end of 1358 a series of restrictions were placed on the captives. On 12th December 1358 Roger de Beauchamp was ordered to watch the captives with 69 men-at-arms and moved them to Somerton Castle, 10 miles south of Lincoln. Four large casks of wine were transported there and a ship carried his goods to Lincolnshire by sea. John only remained there for four months and was transferred to Hertford Castle on 4th April 1359.
King Edward III decided to move his important captives back to Somerton; and appointed William, Baron D'Eyncourt, custodian of the Royal prisoners. Two Bannerets Sir John de Kirketon, and Sir John D'Eyncourt, and two knights Sir William Colevill and Sir Saier de Rochford, agreed to the safe conduct of the king of France from Hertford Castle to Somerton. It was agreed that Lord D'Eyncourt and his associates should supply, as a guard during the journey, 22 men-at-arms, 20 archers, and 2 gaytes, all of whom were to dine at the Lord D'Eyncourt's table, at the cost of the king, and were to receive daily the following wages: each of the bannerets 4s., each of the knights 2s., each of the esquires I2d., each of the horse archers 6d., each of the foot archers 3d., and each of the gaytes 6d., amounting to 39s. per day; whilst, to make up the sum of 40s. the Lord D'Eyncourt was to have an additional 1s. per day. In accordance with this order, D'Eyncourt commenced the removal of the royal captives from Hertford to Somerton on Monday, the 29th of July, 1359, dining at Puckeridge, and sleeping at Royston. On Tuesday, the travellers dined at Croxton, and slept at Huntingdon, remaining there until the following day. On Thursday they dined at " Gerston" (Glatton?), and slept at Stamford, where they remained over the Friday. On Saturday they dined at Easton, slept at Grantham, and stayed there until after dinner on Saturday, August 4th. After leaving Grantham, and following the straight course of the Roman Ermine Street in the evening they arrived at Somerton. Most of the journey would have followed Ermine Street.
In February 1360 there were concerns about a possible French invasion to attempt to release the captives, Edward III ordered that they should be imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Following an agreement about payment of a ransom King John and Prince Philip were released on the 30th June 1360. The King agreed to send hostages to guarantee the payment of the ransom. The King and his entourage arrived at Dover on 5th July, here he was entertained by the Black Prince. He sailed from Dover on 7th July arriving in Calais where he was held for three months while he obtained the first instalment of the ransom.
Louis, Duke of Anjou and son of King John, the most important of the hostages, escaped from his captivity and returned to France with other hostages. King John was mortified when he learned of the escape, returned to England and offered himself as hostage. The palace of Savoy was again his residence, sadly he did not long survive his generous act. Following a short illness in the spring of 1364, John passed away in April 1364, after having made a will, at the age of 44.
Somerton Castle remained in royal ownership until it was sold by Charles I in 1628.
|Samuel & Nathaniel Buck's engraving of Somerton Castle, 1726.|
|North east tower in 1801|
Today the south-east tower is complete, the house attached to it is said to be Elizabethan (but I suspect it was built in the 19th century). The north east tower is vaulted, and supported by a single pillar, from which to the sides spring twelve arches forming as many niches in the walls. The lower part of the south west tower is still visible. The north west tower and curtain walling no longer exist, probably removed for the development of the farm buildings in the 19th century.
|North East Tower Vaulting|
There are remains of moats around the castle with a double moat and earth banks to the south.
The Dolphins was an Inn north east of Lincoln Cathedral. The attached notice was displayed in the inn for many years.
|A modern copy of the notice displayed |
in The Dolphins.
There are a few inaccuracies in the notice; the Dauphin wasn't held with the King, it was Prince Philip and Saier de Rochford was not the owner of the castle.
Was the name a misspelling or an insult to the French?
|The Dolphins Inn, removed by Albert Shuttleworth |
in 1892 to improve his view of Lincoln Cathedral
from his Eastgate House
Somerton Castle was bought a few years ago by a local businessman and is now being restored. Information and drawings of the work can be viewed here: https://goo.gl/Tcnhyr
|Recent images of the Castle and Earthworks|