Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Castle, the King of France and the Dolphins

The Castle

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

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:

Recent images of the Castle and Earthworks

Monday, 9 January 2017

Sad End to a Grand Country House

Haverholme is 4 1/2 miles north east of Sleaford.  Referred to in Domesday Book as Holm, later becoming Hufreholme and then Hafreholm.

Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln offered a marshy island site near Sleaford to Abbot Gervase of Fountains Abbey in 1137.  Buildings were erected by 1139 and a band of Cistercian monks were sent from Fountains to take possession.  The monks were unhappy with the site and Bishop Alexander offered them land in the north of the county, where Louth Park Abbey was built.

Alexander then offered Haverholme to Gilbert of Sempringham.  Gilbert founded the only English religious order and was unique in accepting men and women into the same houses albeit in separate accommodation.  

The number of nuns at Sempringham was increasing and the buildings at Haverholme were ready for occupation. The priory at Haverholme was dedicated to St Mary.  St. Gilbert sent nuns, lay sisters and lay brothers to Haverholme, but at first they suffered severely from poverty, Simon Tuchet granted the priory lands in nearby Ashby in 1140.  Later benefactors included Henry II, Roger Mowbray and Roger de Lacey.

In 1164 Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, "from his angry sovereign in fear of his life, he took refuge in the hermitage belonging to Haverholme Priory, on the edge of the fen, under the guidance of a monk who knew the country."

Gilbert had limited the numbers in the house to 100 nuns and lay sisters, and 50 canons and lay brothers.  At the Dissolution the members of the Priory had dwindled down to a small number.

The deed of surrender is dated September 5th, 1539, and by it William Hall, the Prior, and six canons gave up the Priory and all the estates belonging to the Priory, and in return, together with the prioress and seven nuns, received pensions for life varying from £4 to £2 per annum. 

The Priory was granted to Edward Lord Clinton, who, by the King's licence, granted half the manor to Robert Carre in 1544, and the other half to William Thorold.  The property passed through several owners until it was bought by Sir Samuel Gordon, 1st Baronet in 1763.  The property passed, on his death, to Sir Jenison William Gordon, 2nd Baronet.  In 1788 Sir Jenison improved and enlarged the building.  

The Priory, south and east aspects c. 1800
Sir Jenison died in 1831 and bequeathed the Priory to George William Finch-Hatton, 10th Earl of Winchilsea, 5th Earl of Nottingham.  Henry Edward Kendall was commissioned to redesign the Priory, the work being completed in 1835.  A resemblance to Haverholme Priory can be seen in Carre's Hospital at Sleaford, another of Kendall's designs.

Henry Stormont Finch-Hatton, 13th Earl, was the last owner of the Priory. After World War I, in common with many landed families, the 13th Earl decided to put the Haverholme Priory Estate up for auction.

South aspect c 1925

East end of south aspect and Orangery

The auctioneers were the well-known local firm of Earl and Lawrence and took place on Monday, 9th August 1926 at the Corn Exchange, Sleaford. The Priory sold for £5,400 to a Mr Caley of Manchester who, after the departure of the Finch-Hatton's by 11th October, would demolish the building. A sad end to a fine country house.

There is a story that circulates in the local Sleaford area that the Priory was bought by an American heiress who intended to rebuild it in the United States. The story goes on, she was killed in a train crash, the stone was stored at Liverpool docks and was eventually used to repair dock walls. Sorry to dispell the illusion, it's not true.
Henry S Finch-Hatton's second son was Denys Finch-Hatton, Denys was a white game hunter in East Africa and was killed in a flying accident in 1931.  He was the subject of the film "Out of Africa", starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

An Abandoned Village

In my pre-driving days, I used to travel, with my parents at weekends in the summer, from Lincoln to Mablethorpe via Belchford and Alford.  On the crest of a hillock at the side of the Bluestone Heath Road are some ruins and, despite asking a local and checking OS maps, we could not find out what it was.

Remains of St Andrew's Church, Calceby
Fast forward more years than I care to remember, I now know the ruins are of St Andrew's church, Calceby.  

Calceby existed prior to the Norman conquest, it was one of 84 villages in Lincolnshire belonging to Earl Harold who, for a few months in 1066, was King Harold II of England.  King William granted the village of Calceby to Earl Hugh of Chester.  'Calceby' is Old Scandinavian: 'Kalfr's village'

At Domesday, Calceby was a thriving village totalling 151 villagers, extensive ploughlands, 1000 acres of meadow and 80 acres of woodland.  The village was probably near to its peak in the 11th century and suffered a long slow decline.  In 1377 60 villagers paid poll tax and 18 families were recorded in 1563.  By 1961 the population was just 32 persons.

There are many reasons why a village was abandoned, a plague outbreak is just one, a plague pit was discovered during the widening of Bluestone Heath Road near the village in 1952, possibly dating from the "Great Pestilence" of the 14th century;  climate change meant years of poor harvests when many people would leave.  But the main reason Calceby and about 100 other villages in the Wolds were abandoned was due to landowners changing from arable to more profitable sheep rearing, Fewer people were needed on the land so they moved to the larger centres of population, Alford, Horncastle and Spilsby.  A total of 20 farms were abandoned by the landowners during the 17th century,  the open fields were enclosed on behalf of Sir Drayner Massingberd (1615-1689) beginning in November 1672

Aerial Map of Calceby, showing outlines of various features (Bing)

The last baptism at St Andrew's church was in 1724.  The last vicar of St Andrew's, William Pennington, was instituted in 1724.  Calceby was united with South Ormsby and Kelsby in 1750. By this time the church was in serious disrepair and in 1756 much of it was demolished and sold to the South Ormsby estate. 

The church of St Leonard, South Ormsby was restored in 1871-2 by James Fowler of Louth, the 12th century round arched doorway in the west wall is said to be from Calceby.