Lady Despenser's Scribery - Introduction
- This small corner of the web concentrates mainly on the life and times of Hugh Despenser the younger, as well as the reign of Edward II and the fourteenth century in general. It contains snippets of some (though certainly not all) of the research I have done in order to write a novel about him (and hopefully, later, a biography as well). Oh yes, some 21st century stuff sneaks its way in too, from time to time!
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Back from my Northern Medieval Adventures
Sorry if I've been a bit quiet these last few days - I took a road trip up to Yorkshire and did a bit of a whistle-stop tour of several sites!
Anyway, here's a brief (!) summary of what I got up to. I intend to do some longer posts on the individual places and their connections with Edward/Hugh in the very near future...
My original intention was to travel to York on the Friday and spend the afternoon there, and on Saturday and Sunday I had planned to watch the jousting group Destrier train at some nearby stables. Then, on Monday, I would travel back home via Lincoln. However, best laid plans of humans and rodents and all that - the Destrier training was cancelled and I suddenly had two spare days to fill!
The original Friday worked out OK - I visited Clifford's Tower, the 14th C houses in Goodramgate and, of course, York Minster - all in 5 hours. It would have been a bit quicker but the Chapter House in the Minster was closed for a function and I had to wait until late afternoon to get in - but it was well worth it. The atmosphere in there was one of great power and presence which echoed that of the rest of the Minster. In fact I found it all to be a bit overwhelming and the fact that you had to pay for everything somehow made it feel less spiritual and more touristy - but there again, by this stage I was rather tired and still faced with another hour's drive to the guesthouse.
The next day was rather ambitious itinerary-wise. First of all I travelled to Beverley Minster which really felt like York's less flashy little sister. It felt far more peaceful in this beautiful place: the architecture was simpler and less ornate and it wasn't crowded with tourists. The bells also made the most beautiful sound I have ever heard in any church or cathedral. I wish I could have stopped longer but my next destination was over an hour away and the clock was ticking.
My next place on the wish-list was Rievaulx Abbey. But before I got there I decided to try and find the remains (grassy humps in a field) of Watton Priory - where one of Hugh's daughters was forcibly veiled. Unfortunately I couldn't quite locate the spot and, without a more detailed map, was probably not going to. So I continued on my long and winding road to Rievaulx.
My first impression of the abbey was that it wasn't unlike Tintern in style and location - except that it was far bigger. And, just like Tintern, it was gorgeous. As I started to walk into the grounds it began to rain (just a shower) so I sheltered in the museum. Once it stopped I stepped outside again to the glorious scent of rain-soaked earth. And then, from the dark clouds surrounding the sunlit valley, thunder started to roll - totally magical.
It was hard to drag myself away from Rievaulx too, but there was one more place I wanted to visit before it closed (and yes, there was yet again another hour or so's drive to get there) - and that was Scarborough Castle - as a little homage to Piers Gaveston (And of course I couldn't help thinking about you, Anerje while I was there!). It was a steep climb up to where Gaveston surrendered to his eventual killers and, for me, seemed quite an unusual layout for a castle. The walls - and sea cliffs - enclose a very large area with not much in it apart from a keep and some accommodation ruins. I suppose there might have been other, wooden buildings there at some point, but nothing remains of them now. The whole place felt quite melancholy and brooding. It also gave the impression of being a soldier's place - not a homely castle (like Goodrich). It was an interesting and quite dramatic location, but I can't say that it was a favourite castle of mine.
I ended the day with fish and chips on the sea front - away from the hectic and noisy area of the amusement arcades and fast food shops and then geared up for an hour and a half drive back to base - and a well-needed evening of rest.
The next day (Sunday) was my last of the trip. I'd decided to go home a day earlier in order to save some money (hence cramming everything in). For this part I kept to my original plans and travelled south to Lincoln - ostensibly to visit the Cathedral. Of course, by the time I got there - and it being a Sunday - there was a service about to start and the eastern end was closed off. To get the 'cathedral experience', I joined in with the Matins, wondering if Edward II and Hugh ever worshipped here too.
Afterwards, I went out for some air and ended up having a brief tour of the nearby Bishop's Palace - a maze of ruins on many different levels. Brief diversion over, I returned to the cathedral to look around. Once again, it was a beautiful and amazing place and, like Beverley, had retained a simplicity in its architecture that I had not expected. Like York, it was the Chapter House I really wanted to see - as this was the place where Hugh decked John de Ros in parliament - and I was not disappointed. Not quite as big as York's, it was still impressive and built to a similar octagonal design.
I stayed in Lincoln for longer than I'd planned - it's such a lovely place, despite the very steep hill (called Steep Hill strangely enough) that nearly had me needing resuscitation. And the fact that I lost where I'd parked the car and so did a tour of the side-streets in completely the wrong direction. The time slippage did mean though that I had no time on my homeward journey for my last intended destination: Newark castle. That will have to wait for another time.
I would like to give a very special mention to all the lovely people I met up there (yes, they really are friendly 'up north'!). In particular the guide at York Minster (really funny and full of interesting facts), the guide at Beverley Minster, the English Heritage staff at Scarborough who pointed me in the direction of the best fish and chip shop, and finally the staff at my B&B as well as the place itself: Rudstone Walk was the most comfortable and helpful place I've ever stayed. I'd recommend it to anyone. Thanks to all for making my weekend so memorable and enjoyable.
Finally - belated happy birthday to Edward II for 25th April! I didn't forget!