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ASTLEY CASTLE – HOME TO SIR JOHN AND ELIZABETH GREY nee WYDEVILLE.

image.pngAstley Castle and church..photo taken 1976. Courtesy of Will Roe, Nuneaton Memories.

Astley Castle, Warwickshire, was the marital home of Sir John and Elizabeth Grey nee Wydeville.  Sir John often comes across as a shadowy figure, outshone in eminence by his wife, and later widow, who went on to catch the eye of a king.  This story is of course well known and documented and I won’t go into it here but rather focus on Astley Castle itself.  Astley has a long and rich history.  Beginning life as a Manor House in 1266, the then owner, Warin de Bassingbourne was given a licence to crenellate and enclose with a moat.    The medieval house was much added to during the 17th century but I’m sure John and Elizabeth would still have been able to recognise the old and original features.

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Medieval  fire place  in Astley Castle..

In the 1960s the parts that had survived the centuries were in use as a hotel and perhaps the rooms used by John and Elizabeth deployed as rooms for paying guests.  Alas in 1978 a disastrous fire took hold and Astley, reduced to a shell , was abandoned.  Various proposals to rebuild proved to be too financially prohibitive and the ruins were declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  However in 2005 the Landmark Trust came forward with a solution and what was left of Astley was saved by the novel idea of building and incorporating modern accommodation within the ruinous walls.  Astley arose, like a Phoenix out of the flames, as they say, and today its possible to stay in what was once the marital home of the Greys.

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Astley Castle.  An old photo date 1900 showing the stone archway.

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The same view during renovation works..img_2027.jpg

Built of local red sandstone.  Although altered in the 16th century some original 12th century elements still remain incorporated in the building.   

By a somewhat strange coincidence the church at Astley, St Mary the Virgin,  has some interesting burials and monuments, for a Talbot lies buried there.  Elizabeth Talbot later Viscountess Lisle, was a niece to Eleanor Butler nee TalbotElizabeth Wydeville‘s very own nemesis.  This Elizabeth Talbot was to become the heiress to John Talbot, lst Viscount Lisle.  John Talbot was the son of that staunch warrior, John Talbot lst Earl of Shrewsbury, Eleanor’s father and known in history as Great Talbot. Both father and son perished at the Battle of  Castillion.  Elizabeth Talbot, having married our John Grey’s brother, Edward, was also Elizabeth Wydeville’s sister-in-law. Elizabeth Talbot, having lived until 1487, saw the disastrous outcome of  her former sister-in law,  Elizabeth Wydeville’s bigamous ‘marriage’.  What her thoughts on the matter were,  frustratingly we will never know.

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Elizabeth Talbot Viscountess Lisle. Historian John Ashdown-Hill suggests this portrait was painted in Flanders during the wedding ceremonies of Margaret of York (1).   Certainly the likeness is very similar to Elizabeth’s effigy in the church.  See below.  Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz Gemaldegalerie, Berlin. (no.532)

image.pngThe effigy of Elizabeth Talbot Viscountess Lisle now lies between those of Cecilia Bonville, Marchioness of Dorset (wife to Thomas Grey, son of John and Elizabeth Grey nee Wydeville) and her husband Edward Grey.  These effigies were not originally one monument and have been unfortunately moved together at some time (2).   Thanks to Caroline Irwin for photo.  

Astley Church was once much larger than it is now but some of the misericords have survived as well as the above effigies.

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14th century misericords …

  1. Eleanor the Secret Queen p.8.  John Ashdown-Hill

    2.  Memorials of the Wars of the Roses p.188.  W E Hampton.

 

 

 

A 17th-century ring found beside Loch Lomond…

Colman ring discovered in mud of Loch Lomond

Yes, 17th century, in spite of this headline elsewhere, it is this to which I am drawing your attention. The headline says the ring is 15th-century, which I suppose it might be, if it was 200 years old when it was lost, but examination seems to confirm that it is 250 years old, and therefore of the 17th century.

The lady who found it was the same one who discovered the gold coin on the battlefield at Bosworth, so she seems to have a magic touch.

The text of the article is as follows:

“An amateur metal detectorist found a 17th-century gold ring in Scotland, believed to have belonged to one of King Charles II’s courtiers, who was gruesomely executed after being framed for treason.

“Edward Colman, who worked for the king, was hung, drawn, and quartered {drawn, hanged and quartered} in 1678 after he was falsely accused of participating in a Catholic plot to kill Charles II. The conspiracy was fabricated by an Anglican minister, Titus Oates, now remembered as “Titus the Liar.”

“Nearly 350 years after Colman’s death, treasure hunter Michelle Vall from Blackpool unearthed the perfectly preserved signet ring from several inches of mud in Loch Lomond, where she was vacationing. The ring is emblazoned with the coat of arms of the Colman family and was most likely brought to Scotland in 1673 when Colman worked as a secretary for Mary of Modena, the wife of James II.

Loch Lomond

“According to the Daily Mailthe ring could be worth £10,000 ($11,000), and the school teacher says she did a celebratory dance when she stumbled across the valuable artefact. The provenance was identified by auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, who researched the origins of the ring’s coat of arms.

“The ring has been designated as a treasure by the Scottish Treasure Trove and will be transferred to a museum in accordance with Scottish law governing historically significant items. Vall is expected to split an unspecified reward with the owner of the land on which she discovered the ring.

“ ‘The ring was only six inches underground,” she told the British tabloid newspaper. “Obviously at the time I didn’t know what it was, but to find gold is rare for us detectorists.’

“Vall is an experienced treasure hunter. In 2017, she found a gold coin dropped by one of King Richard III’s troops during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, which was valued at £40,000 ($51,000).”

Now to zoom into old maps from all over the UK and the rest of the world….!

zoomable map of warwick-leicester - 1576I’m doing well today when it comes to detailed maps – old maps, specifically .Attention has probably been drawn to this site on various occasions, but here it is again. You can zoom right in on maps that are usually/often hard to make out. I’ve chosen this 1583 Warwick/Leicester map at random.

There are a lot more, not only from the UK but from all over the world, here.

 

Married – says who?

(edward-iv220px-johnlennonpeace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward IV’s first marriage probably took place in the Warwickshire estates of Lady Eleanor Talbot, his bride, on 8 June 1461 (1). However, this ceremony was not to become public knowledge until twenty-two years later, by which time both had died. Indeed, Edward only revealed his change of status in September 1464, by then claiming to be (bigamously of course) married to Elizabeth Wydeville, when the Earl of Warwick made an effort to find him a foreign wife.

Edward IV has unwittingly inspired several later prominent people, for privacy or image reasons, but I have chosen John Lennon to illustrate the point. He had a relationship with Cynthia Powell from about 1959 and she was his first wife from 1962-8. As many of the Beatles’ fans were young and female, Lennon and his colleagues were encouraged, by their manager Brian Epstein, to keep their relationships secret for several years. Note that his opening marriage took place almost exactly five centuries after Edward’s and ended at a similar point in the relevant century.

(1) The Private Life of Edward IV, Ashdown-Hill, p.59.

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