Posts Tagged ‘Castles’


29 JUNE 1471

   Posted by: Michael    in Events in History

Middleham (D Preis)Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is given Middleham, Sheriff Hutton and Penrith.  All three had been key stronghold of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, before his rebellion against Edward IV and his death at the battle of Barnet.

Illustration:  Middleham Castle (© D Preis)

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St Mary de Castro in Leicester

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Ricardian Places

A church of special significance for Richard, duke of York:

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

In March 2013, I spent a weekend in Leicester to attend the Richard III conference, but also used my time there to do some sightseeing. I was also lucky to be able to visit the church St Mary de Castro in Leicester. The word “lucky” is appropriate in this context, as visiting hours were limited. And in September 2013, the church had to close completely because of fears the spire might collapse [i] .it only reopened on 24 August 2014 [ii].

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

St Mary de Castro, from Castle Yard (© D Preis)

The limited visiting hours meant, I a short window of time before having to catch the coach back to Heathrow and the flight back to Australia, but I’m very glad that I did rush back to see it. It is a beautiful church and the people assisting visitors were incredibly friendly and helpful. I’m glad to see that mine was not an isolated experience, because a blogger remarked: “If it’s the same man who opens it up most days as the fellow who did on Saturday, you will get a warm and knowledgeable, but never overbearing welcome” [iii].

1. Early History

St Mary is the church of Leicester castle, hence the Latin ‘de Castro’; it was founded in 1107 as the chapel of the castle by Robert de Beaumont, who was created Earl of Leicester by King Henry I [iv].   Initially, the church was a college of 12 secular canons and a dean.  However, it is possible that a Saxon collegiate church had existed on the site before the Norman conquest of 1066. A wall includes a stone, which might be a Saxon coffin lid and might have come from an earlier Saxon church.

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

Possible Saxon coffin lid in St Mary de Castro (© D Preis)


Robert’s son, Robert le Bossu (the Hunchback), founded Leicester Abbey and called it ‘St. Mary de Pratis’ (St. Mary of the Meadows).  It seems his own foundation was more important to him, as he endowed it with the properties, which up to that point had been set aside to provide St Mary De Castro with an income.  However, a few years later the Abbot and the Earl restored the college, though on a smaller scale.  At the same time, it also served as a parish church, which helped the financial situation of the church.  While the college was dissolved by the Chantry Act of Edward VI in 1548, it continues to be a parish church to this day.

The first Norman church was much smaller than today’s building, only approx. 40m long, without a tower or spire and no glass in the windows. Some arches and the carving of a little figure, which might depict a page or a squire indicated by the kirtle and hairstyle, remain from the 12th century church.

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

Little figure, possibly of a page or squire (© D Preis)

Then Robert de Blanchesmains, third Earl, the son of le Bossu, supported Queen Eleanor and her sons in their quarrel with Henry II, with the unfortunate result that the town was sacked in 1173 and the church severely damaged.

2. Rebuilding in the 12th century

Afterwards the church was rebuilt and in the process made longer and a chancel was built, possibly chapels were added on the sides.

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

Norman sedilia (© D Preis)


Of interest are the sedilia (three seats for the priest and his helpers) in the south wall of the chancel.  They are said to be among the finest examples of Norman work in the country, with double columns, fine chiselled decoration and characteristic chevron moulded round arches.   There was also a piscina (stone basin), but this was mutilated at a later stage and only re-discovered with the aumbries (i.e. the cupboards “for to lay anything in pertaininge to the High Altar”), in the middle of the 19th century.

3. 13th century extension

By the early 13th century with the increased importance and size of the castle, it was decided to extent the church, by enlarging the south chapel, for the use of the parishioners. This aisle had its own altar, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. As a result there were basically two churches under one roof, separated by the original outside wall. The new church also has sedilia (these with pointed arches) and a piscina, built in the south wall, these are in the Early English style.

4. The tower

Possibly before 1300, the tower was fitted inside the church, as on the outside it would interfere with the passage between the castle’s gates in case of attack. In the area underneath the tower is the font. In this area some floor tiles from the 14th century are preserved. The spire was added in 1400 and partly rebuilt in 1685. However, it was discovered to be in a perilous state and was demolished in 2013/14. There is an appeal to raise money for a rebuilding of the spire.

St Mary de Castro in Leicester

Tower inside the church (© D Preis)


5. Famous people with a connection to St Mary de Castro

St Mary De Castro has connections to a number of famous people. In the 14th century, the early dissident and translator of the Bible, John Wycliffe, preached at St Mary. The Lollards continued to have a strong hold in the Leicester area.

St Mary de Castro might be the church where Geoffrey Chaucer married Philippa de Roet, the sister of Katherine de Roet (Swynford), in the 1360s. Their great-grandson John de la Pole, second duke of Suffolk, married Elizabeth, a sister of Edward IV and Richard III, here in 1458. His parents were William de la Pole and Alice Chaucer, daughter of Thomas Chaucer, one of Geoffrey and Philippa’s children.

Katherine de Roet and John of Gaunt, who was also earl of Leicester from November 1362 onwards [v], are among the ancestors of both Edward IV and Richard III as well as the Tudors.

6. The Parliament of Bats

In 1426, the so-called Parliament of Bats was held in Leicester. This was a time of a power struggle between the chancellor, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, and the Protector, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. As there was also a disagreement with the London mercantile community over tunnage and poundage, it was decided for parliament to sit in Leicester instead of London. John, duke of Bedford, returned from the war in France to resume his role as protector. The name ‘Parliament of Bats’ has nothing to do with flying mammals, but more with cricket bats. It refers to the lords’ retainers being armed with bludgeons, ‘battes’, although they had been instructed not to carry arms [vi].

At the time King Henry VI was only four years old. It was at St Mary de Castro that on 19 May 1426 Bedford knighted Henry VI, who in turn knighted 36 others. One of them was the then 14-year-old Richard, third duke of York (who was to become the father of Richard III) [vii]. We can only speculate that this must have been a very exciting event for the 14-year-old boy. Of course, at this time nobody could foresee the later disagreement between duke and king, which would lead to what is known today as the Wars of the Roses. All through this period the town was loyal to the Yorkists and send its forces to fight for Edward, Earl of March (later Edward IV), at Towton in 1461 [viii].

7. Richard III and Leicester

His son, Richard III, would have attended mass at St Mary de Castro. He visited Leicester [ix] several times before he became king and might very well have stayed at the castle. We know for sure that during his reign he stayed at the castle twice in 1483. During the first visit, 17 to 20 August, he wrote two letters “from my castle at Leicester”, which are extant. The second visit was 22/23 October, while assembling an army to fight Buckingham’s revolt. He also visited the town twice in 1484, but on these occasions does not seem to have stayed at the castle, which might have been in a poor state of repair by then. During his first visit of 1484, on 31 July, he visited Leicester Abbey and for the second, on 5 November, Edwards says in The Itinerary that he was at the “Town of Leicester”, though we do not know where. And of course, Richard stayed in Leicester 19-21 August 1485, before marching out to fight Henry Tudor’s army at Bosworth, supported by forces from Leicester. We do not know for sure where he stayed on this last occasion, though legend has it that he spent the nights at the Blue Boar Inn.

After his death, his body was displayed at St Mary-in-the-Newarke in Leicester, to show the people of the city who had supported him that he was dead indeed. In the meantime, Henry Tudor celebrated his victory at Coventry, where he stayed the night 24/25 August. Coventry citizens probably felt it was politic to welcome him lavishly, but in the city annals they recorded that King Richard “was shamefully Carryed to Leicester & Buryed their”[x] .


i. ‘St Mary De Castro church shut for six months over spire collapse fear’, BBC News Leicester (7 September 2013). URL: Date accessed: 13 October 2013

ii.  Home page of The Collegiate Parish Church of St. Mary de Castro, Leicester.  URL:  Date accessed:  10 October 2014

iii. James Alexander Cameron, ‘The medieval churches of Leicester and their many sedilia study trip’, Stained Glass Attitudes (16 April 2013).

iv. Information on the church:
‘The ancient borough: St. Mary’s’, A History of the County of Leicester: volume 4: The City of Leicester (1958), pp. 369-380. URL: Date accessed: 31 October 2013

Visitor’s Guide to St Mary de Castro

v. Simon Walker, ‘John , duke of Aquitaine and duke of Lancaster, styled king of Castile and León (1340–1399)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008.

vi. ‘The Parliament of Bats, 4 Hen. VI’, The History of Parliament. URL: Date accessed: 12 January 2014

vii. Ralph Alan Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI: The Exercise of Royal Authority, 1422-1461. University of California Press, 1981, pp.80-81

viii. Mathew Morris & Richard Buckley, Richard III: The King under the Car Park. University of Leicester Archaeological Services, 2013, p.11

ix. For Richard III’s visits to Leicester see Morris & Buckley, pp.11-12; as well as Rhoda Edwards, The Itinerary of King Richard III 1483-1485. Richard III Society, 1983.

x. DeLloyd J Guth, “Richard III, Henry VII and the City: London Politics and the ‘Dun Cow’”, in: Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages: a Tribute to Charles Ross, ed. by Ralph A. Griffiths & James Sherborne. Sutton, Gloucester, 1986, pp.194-195


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Corfe Castle in Dorset

   Posted by: Babs Creamer    in Ricardian Places

Our thanks go to  Babs Creamer of the Dorset Group of the Richard III Society, who has for a long time been a good friend of our branch, who contributed this fascinating article.

 Corfe Castle in Dorset

The name of Corfe Castle in Dorset goes back to Anglo-Saxon times, where the word Corfe meant a cutting, pass or gap. When the River Wicken and the Byle Brook eroded the rock a steep-sided chalk hill was left suitable to be a good defensive site “Corfe’s Gate or Corvesgate” a name which was resurrected by Thomas Hardy for his 19th century novels.  Little is known about the earliest buildings there but we do know there was a timber-built Saxon hall as post-holes were found in the West Bailey during excavations. Queen Elfreda was very probably residing at the hall in AD978 when her stepson the teenaged Saxon King Edward called on her and his half-brother Ethelred whilst he was out hunting.  Legend has it that Elfreda ordered Edward’s death by stabbing so that her own son Ethelred (the unready) would become king.  I say legend as this story may be just as true as the one about King Richard III killing the Princes in the Tower!  In 1001 Edward was recognised as a saint due to miracles at his tomb. “Edward the Martyr”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Medieval Warwick Study Day

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, Ricardian Places

Warwick Castle is of special relevance for Ricardians, as it is the birthplace of Richard III’s queen Anne Neville (on 11 June 1456).

Warwick Castle was begun by William I in 1068 in the motte-and-bailey type, using the cliff and river Avon on the one side as a natural defence, the other walls are protected by a dry moat.  The castle’s most formidable defences are at the north-east end, where in the 14th century a central gatehouse tower and two other towers, Caesar’s and Guy’s Towers, were built.

The castle was part of the Beaumont and then the Beauchamp inheritance.  Through Anne Beauchamp, the title Earl of Warwick and the Warwick estates had come to Richard Neville, who became the 16th Earl of Warwick and would later be known as the “Kingmaker”.  They had two daughters, Isabel and Anne, but no sons.   After Richard Earl of Warwick fell at the Battle of Barnet, the estates were divided between Anne Beauchamp’s two sons-in-law, Edward IV’s younger brothers George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester.  The earldom went to George as the husband of the older daughter.  After the deaths of both Isabel (in 1476) and George (in 1478) their then three-year–old son Edward inherited the estates.  Due to his minority it was in the custody of the crown [1]. Read the rest of this entry »

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Loyalty Binds Me on Amazon

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

We just heard that all the DVDs and CDs of Loyalty Binds Me are now available to buy through Amazon. (US):

Sandal Castle DVD
Sandal Castle Music CD
Middleham Castle DVD (UK):

Sandal Castle DVD
Sandal Castle Music CD
Middleham Castle DVD

For more information on the titles go to Loyalty Binds Me, you can of course still order directly from them as well.

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Stirling Castle in All Its Glory

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

At present Stirling Castle is undergoing extensive refurbishment with the aim to return the castle to its 16th century magnificence.

The first step was to find out how the palace might have been furnished and decorated. In some cases there were surviving records, for instance that there were a great many tapestries and also that James V had bought himself some four poster beds, which were the latest fashion in his day.

Other inspiration came from comparison with Scottish royal and noble residences of the time, paintings and inventories of people’s belongings, as well as surviving items in museum collections in the UK and overseas.
Top-quality craftsmen were commissioned to use authentic materials and techniques to refurnish and redecorate the palace. A team of weavers are also recreating a series of late medieval tapestries.

A special feature are the Stirling Heads. Thirty three of these large oak medallions, which once decorated the ceilings of some of the royal apartments, have been handed down to us. They are carved with the faces of Scottish kings and queens, European royalty, Roman emperors and Classical heroes.  The original ones will be on show in a special display area on the first floor of the palace. The gallery will also have exhibits and displays about the fine stone statues on the outside walls of the palace, and about Scotland’s place in Renaissance Europe. However, a replica set of the heads has been hand-carved and will be used to decorate the ceiling of one of King’s Presence Hall.

The refurbishment should be finished by Easter 2011, when visitors will be able to experience the 16th century in all its splendour.

To find out more about this fascinating project click here, there is also a link to a short film about the refurbishment on YouTube

Illustration:  The Great Hall at Stirling Castle, © Copyright Iain Russell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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Carew Castle, Wales

   Posted by: Isolde Martyn    in Ricardian Places

This ruined castle in Pembrokeshire was the home of Rhys ap Thomas, the Welsh lord whose support for Henry Tudor was a crucial factor in the overthrow of King Richard III. After Bosworth, Rhys became the highest officer of the crown in southern Wales.

Carew Castle, built on the upper reaches of the Carew River, which flows into Milford Haven was Rhys’s favourite residence and although it is now a ruin, it has a cosier family atmosphere than the huge, intact royal castle at Pembroke. Read the rest of this entry »

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For Sale: Sheriff Hutton Castle, North Yorkshire

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Ricardian Places

Sheriff Hutton Castle, one of Richard III’s main bases in the north, is up for sale.[1]

The first castle was built in 1140 by Bertram de Bulmer, who was then Sheriff of York, as a grand manor house.  Through the marriage of his daughter Emma it passed on to the Nevilles.  The existing castle was built in the 14th century, replacing the original manor.[2]  After Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, was killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, the castle came into the possession of Edward IV, who gave it to his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester.[3] Read the rest of this entry »

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Ludlow, Shropshire

   Posted by: Judith Hughes    in Ricardian Places

The following article was first presented as one of the famous ‘Scrabble’ talks to members and friends of our Branch at a General Meeting.  To encourage speakers from within the Branch, some draw a Scrabble tile from a bag and are asked to prepare a ten-minute talk on a subject with a Ricardian or medieval connection beginning with the letter they have drawn.

Ludlow (for a map, click here) is believed to be one of the series of castles built to hold back the unconquered Welsh.  Walter de Lacy who was second in command to William Fitz Osbern, who came over with William the Conqueror, owned land around Ludlow in Shropshire, and began the building.  His sons, Roger and later Hugh, built the earliest surviving parts of the castle. Read the rest of this entry »

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Richard lived here: Skipton Castle

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Ricardian Places

Skipton Castle in North Yorkshire (for a map, click here) is of special Ricardian relevance for me because this is where I first heard of the existence of the Richard III Society.  However, that is not the only connection between the castle and Richard III – it actually belonged to him.

Skipton Castle (photograph by Dorothea Preis)

The history of the castle goes back to William the Conqueror, who granted the land around Skipton to Robert de Romille, who built the first wooden castle on this site.  A castle at Skipton is first mentioned in 1130.  The wooden structure was replaced by a stone castle between 1194 and 1241. Read the rest of this entry »

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