Category Archives: England

Middleham Castle

Middleham Castle is the last attraction we’ve been to on our trip to north Yorkshire at the beginning of the month. Middleham Castle is owned and managed by English Heritage.

The nephew of William the Conqueror built a wooden castle in the 11th century, after the Norman conquest. Only the circular earthwork that surrounded the castle still survives today. In the 12th century, a stone castle will replace the wooden one. In late 13th century, the castle passed to the Neville family. It stayed in the Neville family until Anne Neville married Richard, who will become King Richard III.

Middleham Castle

Maybe the most important thing about Middleham Castle is that it was the childhood home of Richard III. Richard and George, his brother, were cared for by the Earl of Warwick at Middleham from 1460. There they meet Anne and Isabel, the ladies they will marry later in life. The Earl of Warwick was called The Kingmaker for his instrumental role in getting Edward IV on the throne. After less than 10 years later, King Edward IV was imprisoned in this castle during an uprising led by Warwick and his brother George.
Warwick would die in 1471 in the Battle of Barnet, after his death Richard will marry Anne and he will acquire the castle through marriage. Richard was Protector of the Realm after King Edward IV’s death in 1483. He would usurp the throne from his 12 years old nephew, Edward V. Edward V and his brother will be known as The Princes in the Tower, after they disappeared. To this day is unknown what happened to them. Richard III’s son, Edward, will be born and die at Middleham, aged one, a year later.
After Richard’s death in battle, in 1485, the castle was property of King Henry VII. It fell into disrepair.

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Royal Armouries Leeds

The Royal Armouries in Leeds were on my list to see for a long time. I jumped at the opportunity to see the Royal Armouries Museum when we had to go to Leeds earlier this month. I thought that a couple of hours will be enough to see the whole museum. I was so wrong. It’s huge and it’s interesting and I need to go back to see more.

Royal Armouries

One of the staircases in the museum is decorated with breast plates and swords and it looks beautiful.

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Mount Grace Priory

In our trip north we ended up visiting Mount Grace Priory, an interesting and beautiful priory. According to their website, Mount Grace Priory, the unusual monastery, is the best preserved Carthusian priory in Britain.
I have to admit I didn’t hear about the Carthusians before visiting the priory. The funny thing is that now that I’m reading the last book in The Cousins’ War by Philippa Gregory, I learned that the son of Margaret Pole lived and studied at Sheen Priory, a Carthusian monastery.

Mount Grace Priory

This is a new built, from the 17th century. The Priory was set in the woodlands and was founded in 1398, a small monastery with 23 monks and a prior. The priory was closed in 1539 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. The priory was sold and buildings were dismantled. The guest house, in the picture above, was repaired and it was a manor house.
In 1953 the Bell family gave the house and priory to the nation, now owned by National Trust and managed by English Heritage.

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York Cold War Bunker

One of the most unusual English Heritage properties can be found in York, it’s called York Cold War Bunker. Considering it was decommissioned in 1991, it’s very different than the castles and abbeys we can see in the English Heritage booklet. This is not the first bunker we visit, as we’ve been to Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker a few years ago.
The bunker can be visited only with a guided tour. I think that is the best way to see the bunker.

York Cold War Bunker

Unlike other bunkers, this one had a different purpose. Bomb strikes would have been mapped and coordonates would have been sent to the HQ bunkers where the important decisions were made. It is preserved as it was when it closed in 1991.
At the York Cold War Bunker, group 20 of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC).

60 people would have been in the bunker for 30 days. It wasn’t a place for saving people, but for getting data and transmitting it. 120 people would have been trained to work in the bunker, but only 60 would have been able to get in, the first ones to arrive. The rest would have been left out, people were expendable and everybody was aware that this was the situation. After the 30 days they had to work in the bunker, the doors would have open regardless of the situation that was outside. Sounds bleak and cruel, but it had a vital role if the WWIII would have started.

The situation in the bunker wasn’t meant to be pleasant. Water was scares and people wouldn’t have been able to shower. They all would have slept in the same beds, in 8 hours shifts. They had a generator that had enough fuel for the 30 days.

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Ye Olde Starre Inne

As my husband and I both work from home, we don’t have the opportunity to have drinks after work. Dressing up and going out is more a date or a night out than drinks after work. I wanted to take advantage of our time away with work in Harrogate earlier this month and we said we should go out for drinks at an old pub, exactly after finishing our day. I searched for an old pub and I picked Ye Olde Starre Inne, an 17th century pub in York.

Ye Olde Starre Inne

Ye Olde Starre Inne is the oldest licensed pub in York, established in 1644. During the siege in 1644 the pub was used as a hospital. In 1662 it was purchased for £250 by Thomas Wyville. In 1792 the landlord Thomas Bulmer put a sign on Stonegate and he paid a rent for it, I think that was a really new way of advertising, I have a picture of it at the end of the post.
In 1803 the pub was sold again for £850. Today the pub is owned by Taylor Walker.

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Rievaulx Abbey

On the same day we went to Helmsley Castle, we also visited Rievaulx Abbey, a Cistercian abbey in north Yorkshire. A few years ago I went to Fountains Abbey, see my post, and I learned about the Cisterians in a guided tour. Beside the ruins, at Rievaulx Abbey there is also a museum, a gift shop and a cafe. My husband and I had a lovely time and the museum is very interesting, we saw things we didn’t see before.

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey was founded in March 1132 and it was the first Cistercian abbey established in the north of England. In 1160s, at its peak, there were 650 people living at the abbey. As with most monasteries, it was suppressed in 1538.

The Cistercians were an order that descended from the Benedicts in late 1000s, they put emphasis on an austere life and followed the rules set out for monastic life by St Benedict in the 6th century. The Benedicts at that time made the rules less austere, as it happened with the Cistericians in the end too.

The most famous abbot was Abbot Aelred, in 1150-1160s. During his time as abbot, the abbey had 140 monks and 500 lay brothers. A Church was built in the 13th century. In the 14th century the lay brothers almost entirely disappeared from the community, and labour had to be hired. Rievaulx Abbey was shut down on 3 December 1538, when only 23 monks were living at the abbey. The abbey was sold and the roof was stripped of lead. The new owner develops a substantial ironworks that continues for about a century. 50 years later the abbey was sold to a lawyer from London, Sir Charles Duncombe. Duncombe built a new home nearby and his nephew created a terrace above the abbey, they can be visited too. That brought a lot of visitors on the area in the 18th century, including artists.
After this romantic period, when the abbey was a centre for artists inspired by the ruins, in the 19th century preservation was more important. In 1917 The Office of Works take the ruins into guardianship. Some renovations were made to the abbey with veterans from WWI.

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Helmsley Castle

On our trip to Yorkshire, we went to see Helmsley Castle which is part of English Heritage. The castle is near Rievaulx Abbey, we went there too and I will blog about that abbey these days. There is a scenic walk from Helmsley Castle to Rievaulx Abbey, but it was a bit cold, so we’ve decided to go with the car.

Helmsley Castle

The wooden castle was built in early 12th century by Walter l’Espec. After his death, his sister and her husband converted the castle in stone in 1186. They built two main towers, the round corner towers and the main gateway. After his death, the castle was inherited by his son who built the chapel in the courtyard. The following owners added new walls and upgraded the castle.

In 1478, Edmund de Roos sold the castle to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, that will be King Richard III. After the death of Richard III in 1485, Henry VII gave the castle back to Edmund de Roos. During the years the castle was modified and upgraded as most castles were.
During the Civil War, the castle was besieged in 1644 for three months before surrendering. At the moment, the castle is still owned by the Feversham family, but it’s in the care of English Heritage.

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