Beneath our feet and hidden away in nooks and crannies of Britain’s towns and cities, there is still a treasure trove of ancient wonders to be found–we’ve learned that from important finds in recent years such as the Staffordshire Hoard, and, of course, King Richard III’s grave in Leicester. Even more recently there have been some interesting historical places, including medieval roads, hermitages, castles and town walls, re-discovered in Yorkshire and gaining new interest from the public. Some were/are hiding in clear site, with the local towns growing up and over them. Others lay in the countryside, hidden away on estates or covered by foliage.
One site of particular interest is Common Hall Lane in York, which runs alongside the 14th c Guildhall, a place Richard would have known well. Both the hall and the medieval lane were constructed over the site of the Roman road that runs through York. In later times, the lane was closed off and now lies behind a locked wooden door which is on the water level. Being so near the river, it apparently floods often. The Guildhall is undergoing restoration at present and it is hoped that when the work is complete, Common Hall Lane will be re-opened as well.
Another site that has received recent attention is the medieval Hermitage that lies under the old Pontefract General Infirmary. A series of chambers run underground, containing a 72 step staircase, the hermit’s bed, bench, and fireplace, a well supposedly filled with magical, curative water and a macabre carved skeleton, representing death, who holds up a spear. At present, there is no general access to the cave…but there are occasional open days arranged by the custodians.
Scarborough Town Walls have also recently been added in to heritage walking tours of the area. These walls were in fact raised on the orders of Richard in 1484, replacing older structures,. Only one section still remains–near a car park. A blue plaque commemorates Richard’s renewal of the town’s defences; the King also renovated the castle at the same time.
HIDDENHERITAGE–LINK TO LIST OF SITES
York Guildhall–with the door to Common Hall Lane visible
Plaque to King Richard’s Wall in Scarborough
If Richard was planning to seize the throne all along why did he a.) start by getting everyone in Yorkshire to swear allegiance to Edward V and b.) set off south with only a modest retinue of 300 men? Given that he was in a position to raise most of the north in arms, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to do just that?
If we accept that Richard did not initially plan to seize the throne what made him change his mind? a.) An attempted ambush by the Woodvilles/Wydevilles? b.) The realisation that he ‘couldn’t work’ with Edward V? c.) The discovery of the precontract? d.) Or did he just wake up one morning and think ‘**** it, I’ve not got any supporters down here but I’ll take the throne anyway!’
Why did Elizabeth Woodville run off into sanctuary, given that the Woodvilles were (supposedly) innocent of any wrong-doing? As a woman and a Queen, no one was going to kill her, and by staying out and standing her ground, could she not have made Richard’s work a lot more difficult to achieve?
Why did Richard only send for his supporters when things had already kicked off and when it was actually too late for them to get to London to help him? Was he really that bad a planner or is it more likely that he was taken by surprise by some development?
Why did Anthony Woodville send off for an exemplification of his powers to recruit troops in Wales just at this particular time? Did he think Owain Glyndwr had come back or had he some other purpose for raising armed men?
(Reblogged from The Yorkist Age)
While looking in A Dictionary of Superstitions, edited by Iona and Moira Tatem, specifically for anything concerning Midsummer traditions, I found one that involved the orpine/sedum plant. The following passage was taken from Brand, Antiquities I 263-4, 1777:-
“….on 22nd January, 1801, a small gold ring….was exhibited to the Society of Antiquaries….It had been found….in a ploughed field near Cawood, in Yorkshire, and had for a device two Orpine plants joined by a true-love knot, with this motto above: ‘Ma fiance velt’, i.e. my sweetheart wills, or is desirous. The stalks of the plants were bent to each other, in token that the parties represented by them were to come together in marriage…From the form of the letters it appeared to have been a ring of the fifteenth century….”
Apparently the tradition at Midsummer was to take two slips of orpine/sedum plant and put them close together in a chink in the roof joists. They were kept moist and called Midsummer Men, representing a lover and his sweetheart. The way the slips grew toward or away from each other told if the lovers would know happiness or not. Woe betide them if the slips died!
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find out more about this ring, not its present whereabouts or an illustration, but it is yet another such treasure from the fifteenth century found in Yorkshire.
Cawood has an ancient bridge over the River Ouse, and a former residence of the Archbishops of York that is now called Cawood Castle. According to Wikipedia: “….George Neville became Archbishop of York in 1465 and held a feast at the castle. The Earl of Warwick, the Archbishop’s brother, aided in the preparation of the feast and is said to have wanted a feast larger than the King’s coronation feast. Guests included the Duke of Gloucester, the King’s brother. The feast lasted several days and became known as the Great Feast of Cawood due to the sheer size of it. Records from the feast show that a substantial quantity of food was consumed, including 104 oxen, 6 wild bulls, 400 swans, 1000 capons and 104 peacocks; 25,000 gallons of wine were consumed with the meal….”
To read more of the feast and of the castle and its history, go to this article This site is well worth a lengthy visit.
Perhaps it was during this great shindig that the ring was lost! But all this goes to show how astonishing research can be. This time it started with finding an interesting Midsummer superstition, led to a 15th-century ring with twined sedum flowers, and thence to a nearby residence of the Archbishops of York and the famous Great Feast of Cawood, attended by Richard and Warwick the Kingmaker, among others. From little acorns great oak trees do grow!
Not quite grossly humiliated over the back of a horse, but it’ll have to do. Much better if there’d been a very thorny white rose stuck in the van’s exhaust pipe. Ah, well….
This seems a wonderful idea. Don’t we all like looking at old photographs of place and seeing what is still there now? if anything? It’s possibly why the Francis Frith photographs are so popular. We love to look at what has been lost forever, but which some of the more senior of us still remember.
Of course, Ricardians would love to see photographs that were taken in medieval times. Impossible, I know. But we can dream.
In the meantime, take a look at this article.
PS: I confess that my very first thought on seeing the above photograph was that if it had been taken on a very “touristy” day in midsummer, someone pausing like this, to compare past with present, would very likely cause a huge knock-on effect! People everywhere, like skittles.
“….English Civil War musket balls, Roman pottery and items from the 2nd Century AD are among objects unearthed during a rare dig at a Yorkshire landmark. [Scarborough Castle]
“….Teams discovered the find during a six-week operation on land at Scarborough Castle, which was twice besieged in the 17th Century civil war.
“….The last major excavations on this section of the site took place almost a century ago….”
Local people in Barnard Castle are getting together to help with restoration at St Mary’s parish church. Such a thing would always be of interest to us, of course, more especially if you read the article below and get to: “Work is also needed to replace stonework around some of the windows that Richard III paid to have installed and which were last replaced during Victorian times.”
It should be noted though that, contrary to some analysis, the fact that the children are wearing colourful clothing does not of itself make them “Royalist”.
Parliamentarians often wore colourful clothing too, and many of them wore their hair long – not cropped. Equally, supporters of the King often appear in portraits wearing black. Black happened to be fashionable, and it was also an expensive dye. So a suit of black implied your wealth, especially if cut from fine cloth. The mother of the children, standing in background, is wearing black.
Clothing was, in fact, more a matter of class distinction than political.
At the Battle of Marston Moor, one of the Parliamentary generals, Sir Thomas Fairfax (not this Royal ancestor), passed through the Royalist lines by the simple expedient of removing his “field sign” – without which he was indistinguishable from a Royalist officer.
It should be explained that up until the creation of the New Model Army (which wore red) regiments were clothed in whatever colours their colonel chose, so you could have regiments wearing (say) blue on both sides of a battle. Officers naturally wore their own clothes and equipment – nothing so lowly as uniform for them! Hence the “field sign”. This was usually improvised on the day. It could be something as simple as a sprig of barley worn in the hat, depending, of course, on what was available.