Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Conisbrough

Lady on Horseback

Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

For me, being a “Ricardian traveler” doesn’t necessarily mean that you only visit places where Richard III — as a child, the Duke of Gloucester or the King — lived.  It means exploring towns, castles, battlefields, and churches which have some association to his family or to the Wars of the Roses.  I would call Conisbrough in South Yorkshire a “Ricardian” site because it does have connections to Richard’s ancestors, including a rather infamous one!  And, to my surprise, I discovered that Richard did give its castle some attention during his life, consistent with his reputation as being a Duke who made extensive investments in architecture and his estates’ infrastructure.

Conisbrough Castle

From the 11th to the 14th century, Conisbrough Castle was in the possession of the de Warenne Earls of Surrey.  Construction began in the late 11th century, with the unique great tower (also called “Hamelin’s Tower” after Hamelin de Warenne, Henry II’s half-brother) being built in the 1170s or 1180s.

Conisbrough Castle

Conisbrough Castle

Conisbrough Castle

Conisbrough Castle – Barbican and SW Curtain Wall

The great tower contained living quarters for its early inhabitants:  a great chamber for receiving guests, a bedchamber, chapel and latrine.  “Mod cons” such as a well and fireplaces provided fresh water and heat.  The fireplaces have unique “joggled” (V-shaped) lintel stones and intricately carved capitals in the French style, similar to examples at York Minster (completed by 1175).  The castle anchored a burgeoning human settlement on the River Don, and there are lovely views of Conisbrough village from the roof of Hamelin’s Tower.

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Conisbrough Castle passed to the crown (Edward III) when the de Warenne family line ran out of surviving heirs.  The king granted it to his son Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York. While Fotheringhay and Ludlow were primary Yorkist residences, Conisbrough was an important secondary residence.  It was at Conisbrough Castle that Langley’s second son, Richard, was born in 1385.  Richard II served as his god-father, as the king was staying in York at the time.

Richard of Conisbrough is a controversial historical figure.  There are, and were, significant doubts about his birth legitimacy.  He was conceived 12 years after his older brother Edward when his mother (Isabella of Castile) was rumored to have been having an extra-marital affair with Richard II’s half-brother, John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon.  Further doubt is cast on his legitimacy by his father and brother neither mentioning nor providing him with any land or income in their wills.  In a secret and clandestine marriage,  he took the 16-year old Anne Mortimer, eldest sister of the Earl of March and Richard II’s declared heir, as his wife.  Aside from receiving an annuity of 500 marks from Richard II, and later the title of Earl of Cambridge in 1414 from Henry V, Richard was the poorest of all English earls and held no political or military office.  His “claim to fame” came in 1415 when he was executed for his role in the Southampton Plot, a poorly devised scheme to assassinate Henry V and put his brother-in-law, Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, on the throne.  Notably, some historians and scholars have questioned whether any such cohesive conspiracy existed.  They suggest that Henry V might have gotten wind of grumblings amongst some noblemen and, in an effort to eradicate political turmoil before he left for his campaign in France, accused them of plotting against his life.  A confession was obtained from one of the alleged co-conspirators (Sir Thomas Grey), but Richard of Conisbrough demanded a trial by his peers.  He was found guilty.

His second accomplishment is that he and his wife Anne Mortimer produced one male child, also named Richard, who later became the third Duke of York and the father of two kings (Edward IV and Richard III).  Although the English Heritage guidebook states that the future third Duke of York was born at Conisbrough Castle, this is not documented by baptismal records there.  Anne Mortimer died either while giving birth to Richard in 1411 or shortly thereafter, when she was around 20 years of age.  There are no records about where she died or was buried, but there is a theory that she was interred at King’s Langley in Hertfordshire.  Her skeleton was found during an exhumation of Edmund of Langley’s tomb in 1877.  It was during the disinterment of Langley’s remains, which were intermixed with those of his first wife Isabella, that archeologists discovered a separate lead coffin containing the skeleton of a young woman less than 30 years of age with auburn hair.  The scientists concluded it could not belong to Langley’s second wife, Joan Holland, since she died at the age of 53/54 after remarrying several times.  Of course, no DNA or other forensic testing was done back in the Victorian days, so this conclusion is based on the educated guesswork of archeologists.  It is possible that Anne gave birth to Richard and  died at Conisbrough Castle, with her body being translated more than 150 miles to Kings Langley, but again there is no record of this happening.  There is some logic to the argument that she would have been buried near her place of death, thus making Conisbrough a less likely candidate.

With the accession of Edward IV to the throne in 1461, the castle again became a crown property. The last recorded repairs to it were carried out in 1482-3, on the orders of  Richard, Duke of Gloucester.  After the Battle of Bosworth, it fell into a ruinous state and remained in that condition for hundreds of years.  Yet, for many, the castle has inspired the imagination.  Both Geoffrey of Monmouth (Historia Regum Britanniae) and Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe) used Conisbrough Castle as a setting for their storied flights into English history.

The Church of St Peter, Conisbrough

Perhaps one of the more surprising “gems” discovered on the trip to Conisbrough was the parish church of St. Peter’s, which boasts architectural details from the Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman periods.

St. Peters Church, Conisbrough

St. Peters Church, Conisbrough

St Peters Church, Conisbrough

Nave of St Peters Church, Conisbrough

 

The church was founded in the 8th century, built around 740-750 AD and more likely even as early as 680 AD based on masonry construction similarities with other churches dating from that period, making it one of the oldest parish churches in all of England.  One of the arch capital supporters in the nave came from a nearby Roman villa, and it features a carving of a Roman soldier with a leather-pleated skirt; it was later defaced by 16th century iconoclasts, but it is still visible today.  The nave itself has round Saxon arches on the north side, and pointed Norman arches on the south side from the 1200 period.  The nave’s roof was raised in 1200 and again 1475, when the church was being substantially remodeled in the Perpendicular style during the reign of Edward IV, to its present height.  The Victorians enlarged the north aisle in 1866, keeping the original stones and some ancient 13th century glass windows which depict Old Testament figures such as Joseph, Noah and Jacob.  Unfortunately, their work was met with scorn and ridicule, and it seems they may have caused the loss of some ancient frescoes and wall paintings.  A 13th century altar slab, with its 5 consecration crosses, presently in the north presbytery chapel, was found in the Castle ruins in 1923 and brought into the church where it is used for prayer.

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There is a most curious tomb chest that is said to be from the Romano-British time period, a leftover from when Aurelius Ambrosius remained in Conisbrough following the withdrawal of Roman governors in 400 AD and preached in what is now the churchyard.  According to the history recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth, he gathered and led the Britons against the invading Saxons. The tomb chest depicts (from right to left) a dragon, a serpent, a knight with sword and shield defending against the dragon, and a priest with a bishop’s crozier.  Other experts say that Geoffrey of Monmouth’s history is suspect and more fantasy than fact, and the chest actually dates from the Norman period.

St Peters Church Grave Cover

Tomb Chest:  Romano-British or Norman?

Remnants of 15th century glass have been assembled into two collages in the windows of the south wall of the chancel.  One contains a depiction of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with tears streaming from her face, as she knelt at the crucifixion of Jesus.  The other contains a portrait of Prior Thomas Atwell from Lewes Priory in Sussex and a figurehead of St Blaise with his bishop’s crozier.

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For more information, including visiting hours, about Conisbrough Castle, click here and here.

The parish church of St Peter has a 20-minute video about its history on its website, which you can find here.

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Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle

Lady on Horseback

Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

My previous Travel Tales blog talked about the Forest of Bowland and Skipton.  Today, we’re going to two places that sometimes get forgotten by the traveler who is interested in visiting places having some Richard III connections:  Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle.

 

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey – Refectory and undercroft

 

From our temporary homebase in Ripon-Masham, we drove 30 miles to visit one of the gems of English medieval history.  Like Fountains and Byland Abbeys, Rievaulx was one of the great Cistercian monasteries of medieval Europe, and its ruins are said to be the “most complete” of any of the dissolved religious houses in England. It has one of the most spectacular natural settings within a deep valley in the North York Moors National Park; however, to take a photograph from the best vantage point one has to pay an admission price of over Ł5.00 per person to the National Trust’s Rievaulx Terrace. (It was raining and it didn’t seem worth the price of admission just to take a photograph.)

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Rievaulx Abbey – Presbytery

At the height of its popularity, as many as 650 men – monks and lay brothers – prayed, sung masses, lived and worked within a completely self-sufficient community.  But it also provided hospitality and lodgings to kings and great noblemen.  In 1322, Edward II was visiting Rievaulx when his army was surprised by the Scots on nearby Shaws Moor and defeated by them at the battle of Byland. Other than that, the abbey seems to have been cut off from the rest of the world, suffered significant losses during the Black Death, but made something of a come back during the 15th century when records show the monks renting out pastureland to 49 tenant farmers. Visiting ruins of such grand buildings is always awe-inspiring – albeit a little melancholy.

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Helmsley Castle – Possessed by Richard III from 1478-1485

The next stop was to Helmsley Castle, only three miles to the east from Rievaulx. I’d never heard of this particular castle in all my “Ricardian” reading, but Edward IV granted it to Richard following the execution of George, Duke of Clarence, in 1478.   Helmsley became a great castle when Robert de Roos II (c. 1186-1227) set about rebuilding the pre-existing fortress structure. De Roos, also known as “Fursan”, was one of the 25 barons chosen to ensure King John’s compliance with Magna Carta, and this was highlighted in an exhibit at its visitors’ center.

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Helmsley Castle – model

The castle remained in the continuous possession of the de Roos lords until the Battle of Hexham in 1464, when its current owner was executed and attainted for fighting on behalf of the deposed Henry VI.   The castle’s east tower dominates the nearby town of Helmsley and the surrounding parkland where medieval lords would have enjoyed hunting and other recreational activities. Although Richard possessed this castle from 1478-1485, there is no record of him residing here. However, he might have dropped by for a visit when he was at Rievaulx Abbey on May 20-21, 1484 according to Rhoda Edwards’ “The Itinerary of King Richard III”.  Indeed, as Richard next traveled from Rievaulx Abbey to Scarborough, it would be almost impossible for him not to pass by his castle at Helmsley – it is literally on the eastward route over the Moorlands towards Scarborough.  Who knows, perhaps he indulged in a bit of hawking in the lovely country that surrounds the castle.  Or maybe he took a brief meal there before setting out to his next destination.  Imagine that:  Richard’s banner might have hung over Helmsley Castle for a short time!

Why was Richard III traveling to Rievaulx and passing by Helmsley to his beloved Scarborough?  Well, he was continuing what he called “Our Great Journey” or what we now call Royal Progress, following his coronation in July of 1483 and interrupted by Buckingham’s rebellion in October of 1483.  It consumed most of  his brief 26-month reign, and totaled an astounding 2,750 miles.  Other English kings were equally active in traveling through their realm, especially during politically stressful periods and after their coronations.  As Rhoda Edwards shows, both Edward IV and Henry VII did the same.  It wasn’t just for pleasure.  The King brought his household, and perhaps more importantly, a council of administrators who would draw up charters, continue royal business, and receive and hear petitions from the people.  Given the fact that Richard III’s royal retinue numbered in the range of 200 persons, it would seem likely that Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle provided lodgings for these royal servants.  So, this was not just a time for Richard III to bask in the glow of his recent crowning, but was intended to create connections to his subjects and to introduce them to the overall style and “tenor” of his rule.

Here are some more photos from our outing to Rievaulx and Helmsley:

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The King In The Lab – Bones Don’t Lie

We may jokingly call ourselves Ricardian Loons, but we’re serious about our research. Consequently, science will be a key area of focus for our blog. Since the discovery of Richard’s lost grave in 2012, the scientific examination of his remains has revealed – and continues to reveal – a wealth of new information. Some people insist that these insights have no bearing on history, but we disagree. In our opinion, they’re casting doubts on many popular theories about England’s most controversial King.

I’d like to kick off our science series with a paper I wrote for the University of Oxford’s “The Wars of the Roses: Power, Politics and Personalities” course, which asked how far the analysis of Richard’s remains changes our understanding of his life and reign. So, what can his bones tell us about the man? As it turns out, quite a lot.

More than meets the eye: 3D model of Richard’s spine © University of Leicester

Starting with his childhood, they put his relationship with the north into perspective. Much has been written about Richard’s childhood home at Middleham Castle and his wardship in the Earl of Warwick’s household. According to wide-spread belief, he lived in Yorkshire for most of his formative years and it has been suggested that the happy time spent amid its purple moors and rolling hills shaped his personality. Others have argued that, having lost his father at an early age, the ambitious Kingmaker became his mentor and served as role model for his more controversial actions, such as the executions of Hastings and Rivers and the deposition of Edward V.

By carrying out a multi-isotope analysis of Richard’s teeth, which would have formed during his childhood and early adolescence, and bone samples from parts of his skeleton which would have regenerated at slower rates, scientists were able to plot his life history geographically. The results indicate that from age 7 he lived in southwest Britain, possibly Ludlow in the Welsh Marches, part of the duchy of York. Only during his adolescence did he move back into eastern England.

This ties in with the view held by a number of historians that Richard was only in Warwick’s custody for about 3 years, from age 13 to 16. Although his name was added to charters and commissions before 1465, these were most likely nominal appointments, similar to the office of Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine to which he was appointed around the same time. As AJ Pollard has pointed out, “a child of 9 cannot be a commissioner, any more than he could preside over admiralty courts.”

Moreover, Richard may have only seen Warwick at special occasions, such as the enthronement feast of George Neville as Archbishop of York, as the Earl’s commitments required him to travel and it is unlikely that he personally tutored his ward in lessons as diverse as horsemanship, weapons training, hawking, languages, music and dancing. It is therefore doubtful that Richard saw him as a mentor or that his wardship had a significant influence on his personality.

Moving on to his adult life, the analysis of Richard’s spine has shown that he was not a “hunchback”, but suffered from adolescent onset idiopathic scoliosis. The condition typically associated with the word hunchback, which is not a medical term, is kyphosis, a forward curvature of the spine that causes the upper part of the back to appear more rounded than normal. By contrast, scoliosis is a sideways curvature which results in uneven shoulders or hips. Based on a 3D reconstruction of Richard’s spinal column, scientists concluded that his scoliosis was spiral shaped with a Cobb angle of 70-90 degrees during life. While this is classed as severe, the curve was well balanced and abnormalities of individual vertebrae were restricted to the chest region, which means that the physical disfigurement was slight and could be easily disguised with custom-made clothing. Aside from this, his bones were symmetric and well formed. He did not have a withered arm nor did he walk with a limp.

This explains why Tudor sources describe Richard as deformed while contemporary accounts do not: his contemporaries weren’t afraid to speak the truth; they simply couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until after his death at the battle of Bosworth, when his naked body was thrown over a horse to transport it back to Leicester, that his condition became public knowledge. Indeed, one way of diagnosing scoliosis is to ask the patient to bend forward as this causes the curve to protrude. Unfortunately for Richard, in the Middle Ages an imperfect body was seen as indication of a corrupt mind, so his condition was seized upon and further embellished by the Tudors to justify the usurpation of Henry VII. We should therefore be wary of the logic that, if the Tudors were right about his deformity, they were probably also right about his character: not only did they attribute deformities to him that he did not have, but in the age of Paralympics and equal opportunity employment we hopefully no longer see physical imperfection as a sign of mental corruption.

According to the scientists, Richard’s scoliosis was not disabling as back pain and breathing or heart problems are rare, even in severe cases. This was vividly demonstrated in the TV documentary “Richard III: The new evidence”, which saw a young man – Dominic Smee – with Richard’s gracile bone structure and the same degree of scoliosis explore the king’s ability to wield medieval weapons and fight on horseback. To the surprise of medical experts and combat instructors, he mastered every challenge, even though he had no prior experience and led a sedentary lifestyle. The experiments revealed that, far from reducing his physical ability, the plate armour and medieval saddle actually improved it by supporting his back. Richard would have trained for combat since childhood and therefore grown up to be considerably more athletic than his body double, so his scoliosis would have affected him even less.

The programme also confirmed that a 70-90 degree Cobb angle can be easily disguised. In a loose fitting t-shirt Dominic’s scoliosis was barely noticeable and under armour it was completely invisible. Like that of his body double, Richard’s armour would have been custom-made to accommodate his uneven shoulders and hips, but there is no reason to doubt his well-documented military reputation based on his physicality. Consequently the reverse argument that, if he managed to overcome his disability, this indicates a powerful personality capable of great ambition and potentially evil, is also no longer credible.

The conclusion that his scoliosis was not disabling is further supported by the analysis of the perimortem trauma on his remains, which identified 11 injuries from bladed weapons inflicted around the time of death, 9 to the skull and 2 to his ribs and pelvis, indicating that he really was killed “fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies”. The absence of defensive wounds on arms and hands suggests that, although he had lost his helmet, he was indeed wearing armour. Since this would have protected his body, the cuts to his ribs and pelvis are thought to be humiliation injuries, inflicted post mortem when his naked corpse was thrown over a horse.

The treatment Richard’s body received in death is sometimes cited as evidence for his unpopularity, but this overlooks the fact that Henry Tudor’s army consisted largely of foreign mercenaries, who wouldn’t have seen him as their anointed king, but as an enemy they were paid to defeat. Richard’s remains show fewer post mortem injuries than those of the men who died at Towton, another battle fought with the help of mercenaries, and while he was buried with minimal effort, his grave was located in a place of honour. James IV of Scotland, who historians describe as a wise and charismatic ruler, fared far worse at the hands of his brother-in-law, Henry VIII. After his death at the battle of Flodden his unburied corpse was allowed to rot until his head became detached from his body and eventually both parts were lost. Seen in this context, Richard’s fate was not unusual.

The assumption that he was hated or feared was also at the heart of the belief that his remains had been dug up at the dissolution of the monasteries, carried through the streets by a jeering mob and then thrown into the river Soar. This story was so widely accepted that it was even cited by ULAS, the archeologists commissioned to dig for Richard’s grave under the now famous Leicester car park, on the application for the license to exhume the remains suspected to be his. The positive identification of the undisturbed remains has since shown that it had no basis at all.

Unfortunately, as old myths are debunked, new ones are being created. Much was made in the TV documentary of the fact that Richard suffered from roundworm infection and osteoarthritis and that, according to the multi-isotope analysis, his diet became more fancy in the last 2-5 years of his life and contained a higher proportion of wine compared to water and beer. The programme concluded that his “ill health” and “dissolute” lifestyle were responsible for his defeat at Bosworth and even suggested that he charged Henry Tudor on horseback because he was too unfit to fight on foot. This contradicts both historical records, which show that this diet was normal for a medieval king and that only a year before Bosworth he was described as very slender and more interested in conversation than food, as well as scientific research which indicates that he had fewer parasites than the average medieval person and that arthritis was common in the Middle Ages. The authors of the multi-isotope analysis have since dismissed the allegations as unfounded and Dominic Smee has revealed that he spent 20 minutes on a treadmill before running out of breath, so again there’s no reason to assume that Richard, who reportedly killed or unhorsed several opponents at Bosworth, was significantly physically disadvantaged.

Since Richard’s scoliosis was not visible and not disabling, it is also unlikely that it caused self-loathing or other psychological or emotional defects. This explains a contradiction in his psychological portrait which puzzled its authors. The psychological analysis predates that of his spine and assumes that the scoliosis would have been very visible and difficult to disguise. The psychologists therefore expected Richard to have struggled with interpersonal relationships in his adult life as he would have found it hard to establish trust, but couldn’t find any evidence for this in historical accounts. On the contrary, they concluded that “he seemed remarkably able to engender and build trust with the people with whom he worked.”

Indeed, it is difficult to see how he could have established himself as Edward IV’s Lieutenant of the North if he suffered from serious psychological defects. Given the bitter divide between the Yorkist south and the Lancastrian north, this was not an easy task. Only 10 years earlier, Yorkist propaganda had accused northerners of “slaying and maiming liegeman in such detestable cruelness as has not been heard done among Saracens and Turks to Christian men” and as late at 1471, when Edward returned from exile to reclaim his throne from Henry VI, the city of York closed its gates to him. 19-year old Richard moved to Yorkshire that same year and adolescent onset scoliosis sets in between age 10 and 13, so it would have already been present. As the multi-isotope analysis shows, it is unlikely that he developed strong emotional or social ties during his wardship, so far from enjoying a nostalgic homecoming he was planted into hostile territory and, as AJ Pollard pointed out, “had to win round the political elites in the aftermath of Warwick the Kingmaker’s downfall. He had not been then the expected or natural heir”. Nevertheless, Rosemary Horrox concluded that he managed to build “one of the great affinities of the Middle Ages, both in scale and cohesion.” To accomplish this he would have needed all his wits and it is highly improbable that he suddenly lost them when he became king.

Combining all of the above, the picture that emerges of Richard is that of an able-bodied and psychologically stable young man, who was as competent on the battlefield as he was in the council chamber and who wasn’t any more feared or hated than other rulers of his time. Some may find this hard to accept, but bones don’t lie. Richard is talking to us and after 500 years of questioning his every word and action it’s time we started listening to him.

2 Parking Spots

Related Posts:

“The King In The Lab – Body Of Evidence”
“The King In The Lab – Richard III’s Dissolute Diet”
“The King In The Lab – The Unsanitary Lifestyle Of Richard III”

Sources And Further Reading:

Angela Lamb et al: “Multi-isotope analysis demonstrates significant lifestyle changes in King Richard III” (JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL SCIENCE)

Jo Appleby et al: “The scoliosis of Richard III, last Plantagenet King of England: diagnosis and clinical significance” (THE LANCET)

Jo Appleby et al: “Perimortem trauma in King Richard III: a skeletal analysis” (THE LANCET)

Piers Mitchell et al: “The intestinal parasites of King Richard III” (THE LANCET)

Mark Lansdale and Julian Boon: “Richard III – A Psychological Portrait” (THE RICARDIAN BULLETIN)

Channel 4: “Richard III: The New Evidence”

History Extra: “What does the discovery of Richard III’s remains mean for history?”

Alex David: “Alison Weir on the Real Richard III” (endorsed and linked on WWW.ALISONWEIR.ORG.UK)

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Forest of Bowland and Skipton

Lady on Horseback

Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

I am passionate about history and travel!  As soon as I got my passport, I was determined to go out and see the world with my own eyes, but more importantly, to encounter places associated with Richard III.  In his brief 32 years, he assembled what has been called by Professor Rosemary Horrox of Cambridge “the largest noble affinity of its day” — meaning, he owned a vast number of castles and estates that we can still visit in the UK.

For me, the most interesting period of Richard’s life as a man began in 1471 when he was only 17 years old and still living in the shadow of his older brothers Edward IV and George, Duke of Clarence. That was the year Richard returned from exile in Burgundy, led his first troops in combat at the Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, and received from Edward IV a grant of castles, manors and offices that would form the backbone of his great affinity in the North of England. I had been invited to speak at the 2015 Richard III Foundation’s conference at Market Bosworth, so my husband and I decided to plan our annual holiday around my talk and to visit Ricardian sites from the 1470s that sometimes get overlooked in favor of the more famous ones like Middleham Castle, Fotheringhay, and Bosworth Battlefield.

Upon arriving at Manchester International Airport, we loaded our bags into our rental car and drove only 45 minutes to the strikingly beautiful Forest of Bowland in the “Red Rose” County of Lancashire. In July, 1471, Edward IV granted Richard the Mastership of the Forest of Bowland in the royal duchy lands. It was one of the few Lancashire duchy offices in which Richard was active – in other respects, he deferred to the Stanleys who jealously guarded their familial entitlement to those offices, so much so that Edward IV had to twice intervene and order Lord Stanley to stop meddling in the offices he’d given to Richard.

Rolling hills of Bowland Forest

Forest of Bowland, Lancashire

The Forest of Bowland is the perfect place to decompress after a long trans-Atlantic crossing and to adjust to a new time zone. It’s all rolling green hills dotted with countless sheep, ancient towns and churches, mossy dry-stone walls, and a network of bubbling brooks that swell over their banks during heavy rains. There, we stayed at a very small B&B in Newton-in-Bowland whose friendly owners, outspoken Yorkshire folk (the eastern side of Lancashire is more “White Rose” than “Red Rose” country), were surprised to be receiving guests from America. We were delighted by pleasant views from our bedroom window.

The owners of the B&B directed us to several walking routes in the area, including one on Pendle Hill, famous for its 17th century witches and the place where George Fox, in 1652, had a vision which inspired him to establish the Quaker movement. Not to be deterred by our jetlag, my husband and I succeeded in climbing the very steep 5-mile route up this “hill” (only 90 feet short of being a mountain!) and were treated to stunning vistas of North Yorkshire and the Pennines. At the end of the day, we rewarded ourselves with a hearty pub meal at Parker’s Arms, where we had the best venison burger ever tasted and a pie filled with “salt marsh lamb” and cockles.

Pub lunch

Pub Lunch – Parker’s Arms, Newton-in-Bowland

Salt marsh lamb, by the way, is a local delicacy and is made from lambs who graze on coastal vegetation which lends a unique flavor to their meat. We’d never encountered it before and it was absolutely delicious with the cockles. Of course, this only made us more excited to try a wide variety of savory pies throughout our trip, and I suppose I could make an argument that sampling them lent another historical dimension since meat pies were greatly consumed during the 15th century. Don’t believe me? OK, I admit we love English pub food. But, anyway, back to history and our trip . . .

The next day we relocated our lodgings to the Masham-Ripon area in North Yorkshire, and this served as our “home base” for the next several days. Ripon is a bustling cathedral town, famous for its racetrack and the “Ripon Hornblower”. It’s also well-situated for making day trips to a plethora of Ricardian sites, including Middleham, Barnard Castle, Sheriff Hutton, Jervaulx Abbey, Fountains Abbey, Coverham Abbey, and Skipton Castle. It was to the latter, Skipton, that we first journeyed.

Skipton Castle touts itself as being “one of the best-preserved and most complete medieval castles in England” according to its pamphlet.

Skipton Castle

Skipton Castle, North Yorkshire – possessed by Richard III from 1475-1485

The original motte and bailey wooden castle was erected in 1090, and later replaced by a stone structure in the 12th century. Many elements of the 12th century castle and its chapel are still evident. Edward II gave the castle to the Welsh Marcher lord Robert Clifford in 1310, who initiated additional improvements, and it remained in the Clifford family possession until 1461, when the 9th Lord Clifford was attainted following Towton. Richard obtained possession of Skipton in 1475 when he acquired it from Lord Stanley in exchange for his Welsh castle in Chirk. It remained in Richard’s possession until his death in 1485, and as one can see from the photograph, a large Tudor-period manor house was added by the Clifford family when they regained possession after Bosworth. The combination of medieval and Tudor-style architecture is charming and there is a lovely courtyard.

Courtyard, Skipton Castle

Skipton Castle courtyard, with yew tree planted in 17th century

Skipton was one of the last Royalist holdouts in the North during the English Civil War and surrendered to Cromwell’s army after sustaining a long siege. Fortunately, the attempt to “sleight” the castle didn’t work completely and, while the castle lost its original roofs, the Parliamentarians later permitted Lady Anne Clifford to replace them – with the caveat that they were not strong enough to bear firing cannon. Lady Anne is credited with planting a yew tree in 1659, which still graces the courtyard.

Hats for sale in Skipton

Market Day in Skipton, North Yorkshire

Skipton is also a busy market town, and our visit coincided with their Monday market day. It was enjoyable seeing the local crafts, household goods and foodstuffs being sold on the High Street, many of which had a distinctive Yorkshire flair. We were also surprised to see that Andrew Cargenie, someone from our home state of Pennsylvania, provided the funds for Skipton’s Public Library!

The desirability of possessing Skipton must have been very high for Richard.  It had not only a fine castle with a garden, park, game reserves, private chases over the Pennine uplands and dales, but also a flourishing agriculture, commercial growth in the town, patronage of Bolton Priory, and extensive estates and honorial jurisdiction.  It also added to what Professor Horrox has called the “trans-Pennines” base of his nascent affinity.

Skipton Parish Church

Skipton Parish Church of the Holy Trinity – patronised by Richard III

Richard acted as patron of the local parish church of the Holy Trinity, granting it Ł20 in 1483 for the construction of its oak roof, the timbers of which are still in place today along with their original 15th century roof bosses. The church became a mausoleum for the Clifford family, following the dissolution of Bolton Priory in the 16th century.

For additional reading about Skipton Castle, see Richard T.  Spence’s “Skipton Castle and its Builders” (2002) and “The Shepherd Lord of Skipton Castle:  Henry Clifford, 10th Lord Clifford 1454-1523” (1994).  For additional reading about Richard’s experience as Duke of Gloucester, and his affinity in the North, see Rosemary Horrox’s “Richard III:  A study of service” (1989).

Some more photos of our time in Newton-in-Bowland, driving enroute to Skipton via Pateley Bridge, and at Skipton.

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