Brougham Castle, Cumbria


Brougham Castle
c.1910
Publisher: Valentine

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In a picturesque setting beside the crossing of the River Eamont in Cumbria, Brougham Castle was founded in the early 13th century. This great keep largely survives, amid many later buildings – including the unusual double gatehouse and impressive “Tower of League”. Both a formidable barrier against Scots invaders and a prestigious residence, the castle welcomed Edward I in 1300. 
English Heritage

Brougham Castle is a medieval building about 2 miles (3.2 km) south-east of Penrith, Cumbria, England. The castle was founded by Robert I de Vieuxpont in the early 13th century. The site, near the confluence of the rivers, Eamont and Lowther, had been chosen by the Romans for a Roman fort called Brocavum. The castle is scheduled as an Ancient Monument, along with the fort, as “Brougham Roman fort and Brougham Castle”. In its earliest form, the castle consisted of a stone keep, with an enclosure protected by an earthen bank and a wooden palisade. When the castle was built, Robert de Vieuxpont was one of the only lords in the region who were loyal to King John. The Vieuxponts were a powerful land-owning family in North West England, who also owned the castles of Appleby and Brough. In 1264, Robert de Vieuxpont’s grandson, also named Robert, was declared a traitor, and his property was confiscated by Henry III. Brougham Castle and the other estates were eventually returned to the Vieuxpont family, and stayed in their possession, until 1269, when the estates passed to the Clifford family through marriage. With the outbreak of the Wars of Scottish Independence, in 1296, Brougham became an important military base for Robert Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford. He began refortifying the castle: the wooden outer defences were replaced with stronger, more impressive stone walls, and a large stone gatehouse was added.
. . .
Lady Anne Clifford died at Brougham Castle in 1676 and her grandson, Nicholas Tufton, 3rd Earl of Thanet, inherited the Clifford estates. He died in 1679, and over the next five years possession passed through his three younger brothers. Under the youngest, Thomas Tufton, 6th Earl of Thanet, Brougham Castle suffered particular neglect. In 1714, he decided that Appleby Castle was a sufficient residence and sold the contents of Brougham Castle for £570. Only the Tower of League was left untouched, but in 1723 its contents were also sold, for £40[41] By the 1750s, the castle’s only practical use was as a ready source of building material for the village of Brougham, which prospered due to investment from the Earl of Thanet. In 1794, a record of the dilapidated state of the castle noted that “much of the interior walls have lately been removed, also, for the purposes of building houses for the adjoining farmhold”.
Wikipedia.


PLan of Brougham (“The Castles of England: their story and structure”. James MacKenzie, 1897 p. 284)

This large strong, and magnificent edifice–now in utter ruin–stands at the confluence of the Lowther with the river Eamont, about 1½ miles from Penrith, having been in its day one of the most important of the Border fortresses. The entrance to it is along a series of arches by the river-side. One part of the ruin consists of three square towers, with the remains of their connecting wall stretching for a considerable distance towards the S.W., and terminating in a tower. In the centre of the main group rises the keep, “a lofty square tower, frowning in Gothic strength and gloomy pomp.” The turrets on its summit have disappeared, together with the parapet and galleries. The lowest storey has a vaulted stone roof with eight arches, supported by one centre shaft. It is of Norman origin, but the date of its building is uncertain. On the S. are traces of the Roman camp which stood here on the road from York to Carlisle.
From “The Castles of England: their story and structure”. James MacKenzie, 1897 p. 283 (available here

Tresco Abbey Gardens, Isles of Scilly


Scilly Isles. Old Abbey Ruins. Dracaena in Bloom.
c.1910
Publisher: Pictorial Stationery Co.

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In 1834, Augustus Smith left Hertfordshire and took up residence on the Isles of Scilly as Lord Proprietor and leaseholder of all the islands, choosing Tresco as his home… He selected a site adjacent to St Nicholas Priory – which had fallen into disrepair in the sixteenth century – to build his home. On a rocky outcrop above these ruins, Augustus Smith built his house, which he named Tresco Abbey. In addition to constructing the house, he started almost immediately creating a garden based around the priory ruins. In order to protect his early plantings from the winter gales, he built a series of walls around the garden. The garden then expanded across the south-facing hillside on a series of terraces carved from the granite subsoil.
Tresco Island

Tresco Priory is a former monastic settlement on Tresco, Isles of Scilly founded in 946 AD. It was re-founded as the Priory of St Nicholas by monks from Tavistock Abbey in 1114. A charter of King Henry I mentions a priory as belonging to Tavistock Abbey in the reign of Edward the Confessor. . . The Priory did not survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries and may well have closed earlier. The remains of the priory are now incorporated into Tresco Abbey Gardens.
Wikipedia.


Scilly. | Tresco Abbey.
c.1910

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Tresco Abbey Gardens are located on the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom. The 17 acre gardens were established by the nineteenth-century proprietor of the islands, Augustus Smith, originally as a private garden within the grounds of the home he designed and built. The gardens are designated at Grade I in the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Augustus Smith chose Tresco as the site of his home because the site was more or less central in relation to the rest of the islands. It is also close to the original abbey ruins, is near a fresh water pool and overlooks the sand dunes and beach at Carn Near. The area at the time was barren land and the original building, designed by Smith and started in 1835, was small in comparison to the current building. He made additions to the house in 1843 and 1861. The Grade II listed house consists of roughly coursed granite with ashlar dressings and a slate roof. Some of the timbers from the 1861 wreck of the Award were used for the panelling and roof of the new dining room, as well as panelling of the rooms Annet, Rosevean and Rosevear. His successor, Thomas Smith-Dorrien-Smith, added the tower in 1891.
Wikipedia.

Country house. Mostly of 1843 and 1861, with tower of 1891, for Augustus Smith and Thomas Algernon Dorrien Smith. Roughly coursed granite with ashlar dressings; slate roofs and granite ashlar stacks. Complex evolved plan: main square block with east tower, to east of west wing and south-west wing. 2 and 3 storeys. North elevation has 3-storey entrance bay between main block and west wing, with monogram AS and date 1843 over chamfered 4-centred arched doorway; this is flanked by a slender 3-storey tower with small windows
Historic England


Mesembryanthemums
Aloes Steps, Tresco
Scilly

c.1910
Publisher: “The ‘Neptune’ Series by C. King, Scilly Isles”

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Whitby Abbey, Whitby, North Yorkshire


Abbey Ruins, Whitby
c. 1940

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Founded by Oswy, King of Northumbria, in about 656, the first abbess being St Hilda. Destroyed by the Danes in circa 870 and refounded for the Benedictines by Reinfrid, one of the soldiers of William the Conqueror. Extensive ruins of the church from early Cl2 to Cl4.
Historic England

In about 1078 a monk called Reinfrid founded a new monastic community at Whitby. At a very early stage in its history this community split and the two parts each developed into a fully fledged Benedictine monastery: one on the headland at Whitby and the other at St Mary’s Abbey, York. The Benedictine monastery initially probably had timber buildings or reused the Anglian ruins on the headland. About 1100 a stone church and conventual buildings were built in the Romanesque style, as well as a large parish church close by. In the 13th century the monastery church was rebuilt in the Gothic style. This was a massive undertaking, including major landscaping of the whole site, though there is no documentary evidence for it. The first building campaign is dated on stylistic grounds to about 1225–50. The eastern arm, the crossing and transepts, a central tower, and part of the nave were built before funds seem to have run out. Work appears to have been resumed on the nave in the 14th century, but it was not finished until the 15th century.
. . .
The shell of the abbey church was substantially complete until the 18th century. It was weakened, however, by erosion from wind and rain. The south transept collapsed in 1736, much of the nave in 1763, the central tower in 1830 and the south side of the presbytery in 1839.
English Heritage


Plan of Whitby Abbey, Whitby Abbey, Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, Official Guide-book, 1952

The early years of the convent were stormy and its history is confused. The community soon incurred the enmity of the founder and was, besides, set upon and pillaged by sea pirates and local robbers. There was probably a split within the convent itself, one part under Stephen retiring to Lastingham and ultimately to St. Mary’s, York, and the other, under Reinfrid, remaining at Whitby or perhaps temporarily at Hackness. Better times came when Serlo de Percy, brother of the founder, joined the community and became Prior; he was followed by William de Percy, a son of the founder, who became Abbot. From the last decade of the eleventh century, the monastery flourished and became third in value of the Benedictine houses of Yorkshire, after those of St. Mary’s, York, and Selby. In the second half of the twelfth century there were between thirty and forty monks at Whitby. Under Abbot Richard of Peter¬ borough (1148-75) Eystein Haroldson, King of Norway, made a raid on Whitby in or about 1153, burnt the town and laid hands on all the spoil that he could carry off. The only episcopal visitation of the monastery on record is that made by Archbishop Multon in 1320, when the monastery was heavily in debt. Nothing was seriously amiss but the monks were forbidden to go out of the monastery with bows and arrows; furthermore the Abbot, Prior or monks were forbidden to keep their own or other people’s hunting dogs in the convent and if any dog got in, it was to be caught and soundly beaten. By the end of the fourteenth century, the numbers of the convent had fallen off but there were still some twenty monks. The later Abbots had the right to the use of the mitre, ring and staff, and the clear value of the house before the Dissolution was estimated at ^437 2s. 9d. a year. The abbey was surrendered to the King’s Commissioners by Henry Davell, the last Abbot, on 14th December 1539
. . .
There is no direct documentary evidence for the dates of the re¬ building of the Abbey church, which must in consequence be assessed on architectural evidence only. It would seem that the general rebuilding was begun at the east end about 1220. The setting-out was faulty, which led to the marked deviation to the north of the axis of the presbytery from that of the nave. There is little or no difference in date apparent throughout the eastern arm of the church but the north transept, which followed in sequence, is perhaps twenty years later, and with this campaign of building went the south transept, the first three bays of the nave and the central tower. The rebuilding of the remainder of the nave was not undertaken till the fourteenth century and the great west window was a work of the fifteenth century. Samuel Buck’s view of the church (1711) shows that the clerestory of the nave was also much altered or rebuilt in the fifteenth century.
Whitby Abbey, Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, Official Guide-book, 1952


General view from west in 1789, before collapse of Central Tower, “Whitby Abbey, Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, Official Guide-book”, 1952

Roman Pharos, Dover


Dover Castle and Pharos
c.1910
Publisher: Valentine.

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Dover Castle.

…within the walls of the medieval castle stands a much older building, dating from a time when Britain was an outpost of the Roman Empire. Around 2,000 years ago, in the early 2nd century AD, the Romans built a pharos, or lighthouse, here. This would have guided the ships of a Roman fleet into the harbour below. Not only is the Dover pharos the most complete standing Roman building in England, it’s also one of only three lighthouses to survive from the whole of the former Roman empire.
Google Arts & Culture

Seventy years after the Roman invasion in AD 43, construction of a fort began at the mouth of the river Dour. This was Dubris, a fort for the classis Britannica, a Roman fleet that patrolled the eastern Channel. Though building stopped suddenly, it began again around AD 130 and the fort was completed. The Romans built an octagonal tower-like lighthouse on Castle Hill around the same time [as the fort], with another on the opposite hill, the Western Heights. These lighthouses supported fire beacons to act as navigation lights for ships approaching the narrow river mouth, enabling them to find a quayside outside the fort. The fort at Dubris was demolished around AD 215 and a new one constructed around AD 270, which may have continued in use, along with the lighthouses, into the 5th century. The pharos was later reused for the church of St Mary in Castro as a chapel and bell tower, and can still be seen.
English Heritage


Roman pharos on the western heights of Dover (GB), inside view, 1893 (from Wikimedia Commons).

The Roman pharos or lighthouse at Dover was probably built in the first century A.D. A similar lighthouse was built on the Western Heights and at night guided Roman ships into the port of Dubris. The tower was octagonal outside and rectangular inside rising to a height of perhaps 80 feet (24m). It had eight storeys each set back 1 foot (0.3m) from the one below, which gave the whole structure the appearance of an extended telescope. Only the first four Roman storeys remain, the present topmost storey being a fifteenth century reconstruction. The present splayed shape of the pharos is a result of the severe weathering it suffers in exposed position and mediaeval refacing.
Roman Britain

AD 46. Built under the Emperor Claudius. This guided the Roman fleet round to the port of Richborough. In mediaeval times it was used as a belfry to the Church of St Mary Sub-Castro. 4 storeys, 3 being Roman and the top storey and remains of battlements mediaeval. An octagonal tower with originally vertical stepped walls rising in tiers set back each within the last, now almost smoothed. Rubble with a facing of green sandstone and tufa and levelled at an interval of 7 courses with a double course of brick set in hard pink mortar. Round-headed windows with a small recessed spy-hole inside them.
Historic England

Halton Castle, Cheshire


The Ruins Halton
c.1940
Publisher: F Ball?

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Halton Castle itself was built circa-1070 by either Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester or his tenant, Nigel of Contentin, probably in the form of an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. The castle occupied a high promontory that offered a naturally strong defensive position. The only vulnerable approach, on the north-west side, was protected by a deep ditch cut from the rock. The intent behind the castle was invariably to secure control of the important crossing over the estuary (which from circa-1178 was served by a ferry) and to exploit the valuable riverine resources which included an abundant supply of Salmon. . . . It was rebuilt in stone in the late twelfth/early thirteenth centuries with the bailey being enclosed by a substantial stone curtain wall. Towers, a square one on the west side and a later round one to the north, were added in the subsequent years. A substantial Great Hall was built within the castle’s grounds perhaps enhancing a structure that had stood since the fortification was first erected. Foundations of a circular structure may be indicative of a shell keep.
Castles Forts Battles


The South View of Halton Castle in the County of Chester (from Wikimedia Commons).

The present castle dates from the 13th century but it is clear from excavations that it supercedes a motte and bailey castle which occupied the north western side of the site. This form of castle was introduced by the Normans and consisted of a mound of earth capped by a timber fortification. A ditch was cut into the bedrock on the east side and the attached bailey occupied the rest of the crown of the hill. The ruins of the castle at Halton survive well despite the later insertion of a courthouse on the site of the gatehouse and the creation of a folly garden within the ruins. It has within the western half of the interior the buried remains of an extensive range of late medieval domestic buildings as well as the remains of six lock-ups from the 18th century refurbishment of the site as a courthouse and prison.
Historic England

The importance of Halton was recognised at the opening of the Civil War, when a garrison was placed there for the king by Earl Rivers in June 1643, but a year after the post was reduced and taken possession of for the Parliament by the force under Sir William Brereton. Shortly afterwards the castle was dismantled and turned into a ruin. An ancient print reproduced by the Historic Society of Cheshire  shows the old fortress standing on a cliff over the river, with the town below it;the enclosure of high embattled walls is of circular form, holding nine large square mural towers, at intervals,the lower gatehouse being flanked by two of them. On the opposite side of the enceinte is shown a similar gateway, leading probably to an inner ward not seen. Ormerod too gives a sketch of the ruins as they may have been at the beginning of the present century. This view shows half-octagonal flanking towers to the entrance gateway, with the lofty Edwardian windows of John of Gaunt’s period.
The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol II” James D. Mackenzie, 1897, p.175

Pagoda, Kew Gardens, London


Pagoda, Kew Gardens
Postmarked 1906
Publisher: Millar & Lang, Glasgow

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Kew’s Pagoda was completed in 1762 as a gift for Princess Augusta, the founder of the Gardens. It was one of several Chinese buildings designed for Kew by Sir William Chambers, who had spent time travelling and studying the architecture of East Asia. A popular ‘folly’ of the age, it offered one of the earliest and finest bird’s eye views of London
Royal Botatanic Gardens, Kew

The Great Pagoda was completed in only six months. The speed of completion and the quality of construction were points of pride for Chambers; “the walls of the building are composed of very hard bricks…neatly laid, and with such care, that there is not the least crack or fracture in the whole structure, notwithstanding its great height, and the expedition with which it was built”. 80 gilded dragons decorated the roofs of its ten storeys although these had been removed by 1784. The height of the building impressed contemporaries; in 1762, Horace Walpole wrote to a friend, “the Pagoda at Kew begins to rise above the trees and soon you will see it from Yorkshire”.
Wikipedia.

At the time of its construction it was considered so unusual that people were unconvinced it would remain standing. Chambers studied oriental architecture in China, but when he designed Kew’s pagoda he ignored the rules. Pagodas should have an odd number of floors, traditionally seven (rather than ten), believed to represent seven steps to heaven. The Great Pagoda was the most accurate reconstruction of a Chinese building in Europe at the time. It was originally flanked by a Moorish Alhambra and a Turkish Mosque, follies that were all the rage in the great gardens of the time.
Wordl Heritage Journeys

The dragons are back at Kew after more than two centuries, tails curled, wings neatly furled to make them less of a wind catcher, gazing down with glittering eyes on the acres of gardens and thousands of visitors far below. . . . Legends insisted they were made of gem-studded enamelled bronze or even solid gold, and that they were stripped off the pagoda to settle the Prince of Wales’s gambling debts, or to decorate his extraordinary oriental-styled in Brighton. The truth was more boring. Chambers took them off when he restored the building in 1784, because although they looked magnificent, they were made of cheap pine and after a spell of atrocious weather – the Thames froze over in 1783 – they were rotten.

Their replacements, blazing in green, blue, red and gold, guard a secret. The eight at ground level were hand carved from cedar wood, but the 72 dragons on the higher floors were produced on a 3D printer. “The biggest engineering problem we had was attaching the dragons to the roofs,” Putnam said. “They didn’t worry much about health and safety in the 18th century, but the biggest of the printed ones weigh less than 10 kilos, and the wooden ones weigh a quarter tonne – to make them all in wood we’d have had to punch the original structure through and through with steel-reinforcing rods to hold them.”
The Guardian

Kenilworth Castle, Kenilworth, Warwickshire


Kentworth Castle | Warwick
[Kenilworth Castle]
c.1910
Publisher: Woolstone Bros, London

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Kenilworth Castle, in the town of Kenilworth in Warwickshire, England, was founded during the Norman conquest of England; with development through to the Tudor period. It has been described by the architectural historian Anthony Emery as “the finest surviving example of a semi-royal palace of the later middle ages, significant for its scale, form and quality of workmanship”. Kenilworth played an important historical role: it was the subject of the six-month-long siege of Kenilworth in 1266, thought to be the longest siege in Medieval English history, and formed a base for Lancastrian operations in the Wars of the Roses. Kenilworth was the scene of the removal of Edward II from the English throne, the perceived French insult to Henry V in 1414 of a gift of tennis balls (said by John Strecche to have prompted the campaign that led to the Battle of Agincourt), and the Earl of Leicester’s lavish reception of Elizabeth I in 1575. It has been described as “one of two major castles in Britain which may be classified as water-castles or lake-fortresses…”.

The castle was built over several centuries. Founded in the 1120s around a powerful Norman great tower, the castle was significantly enlarged by King John at the beginning of the 13th century. Huge water defences were created by damming the local streams, and the resulting fortifications proved able to withstand assaults by land and water in 1266. John of Gaunt spent lavishly in the late 14th century, turning the medieval castle into a palace fortress designed in the latest perpendicular style. The Earl of Leicester then expanded the castle during his tenure in the 16th century, constructing new Tudor buildings and exploiting the medieval heritage of Kenilworth to produce a fashionable Renaissance palace.
Wikipedia.


Kenilworth Castle Plan, 17th centry
from Wikimedia Commons

  • The first castle was established in the 1120s by the royal chamberlain, Geoffrey de Clinton, who built most of the Norman keep.
  • In the early 13th century King John added an outer circuit of stone walls and a dam to hold back a great lake, so creating one of the most formidable fortresses in the kingdom.
  • In 1266 Simon de Montfort held Kenilworth against the king through an extraordinary six-month siege – the longest in English medieval history.
  • In the 14th century John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III, developed the castle into a palace, building the great hall and lavish apartments.
  • The castle was a favoured residence of the Lancastrian kings in the later Middle Ages – Henry V even built a retreat here at the far end of the lake.
  • In 1563 Elizabeth I granted the castle to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who transformed Kenilworth into a magnificent palace. Famously he entertained the queen here for 19 days of festivities in 1575.
  • The castle’s fortifications were dismantled in 1650 after the English Civil War. Later, the ruins became famous thanks in part to Walter Scott’s 1821 novel Kenilworth, which romanticised the story of Robert Dudley, his wife Amy Robsart, and Elizabeth I.

English Heritage


The Gatehouse and Entrance to Kenilworth Castle
c.1900
(The space for the stamp says “Write with the Waverley Pen”)

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Restormel Castle, Cornwall


Restormel Castle
Gateway
c.1940
Publisher: Ministry of Works

Lying at the heart of Cornwall, Restormel is one of the most remarkable castles in Britain. The present circular structure, built in the late 13th century, was a luxurious retreat for its medieval owners, with a large hunting park. In the 14th century the Black Prince, Edward III’s son, stayed there twice. At this time Restormel and nearby Lostwithiel were a centre for the highly lucrative tin industry, from which the Duchy of Cornwall drew much of its wealth. Ruined since the 16th century, the castle was briefly garrisoned by a Parliamentarian army during the Civil War.
English Heritage

The standing ruin of Restormel Castle, formerly the castle’s inner ward or enclosure, is highly distinctive. It takes the form of a low curtain wall enclosing buildings ranged around a central courtyard. Its plan is almost perfectly circular
. . .
The levels of first floors can be reconstructed from sockets and ledges in the outer and inner walls and in the radial walls dividing the rooms from one another. The range’s inner wall is fragmentary at first-floor level and some parts are entirely missing, but the positions of most windows and doors remain visible. Moving anticlockwise from the kitchen, the main first-floor rooms were a hall; an inner hall or solar; the ante-chapel; and then two further rooms, thought to be the great chamber and a wardrobe, or storeroom. The hall, ante-chapel and great chamber could be entered directly from wooden stairs rising from the courtyard. All the first-floor rooms communicated directly with adjoining spaces apart from the wardrobe at the north-west corner. This was accessible only by a stone stair against its gable wall. The ground-floor spaces were all unheated and most were probably storerooms.
English Heritage

The keep’s inner wall is 1m thick and lies 5.6m inside the outer wall. The space between is divided into rooms, which consequently have curved walls either end. The largest room is the 19m great hall, which once had a timber roof structure. The north east wing is 9.3m wide and contains a chapel with windows to three sides on the upper level. The chapel measures 7.6m by 5.5m wide internally. The end wall to the east is just 1.1m thick. Its window was blocked up with masonry during the Civil War when the wall was adapted to support a cannon platform overlooking the river. The gatehouse probably dates from the early 13th century. Its inner gateway is flanked by stone stairs leading to the upper floor. The remainder of the structure is likely to be late 13th century. The whole complex was rendered and would have been limewashed, making it white.
Engineering Timelines

The site was acquired by Richard, earl of Cornwall (d. 1272) and was rebuilt by his son, Edmund (d. 1299), whose chief Cornish residence it became when he moved the earldom’s administrative centre from Launceston to Lostwithiel. He converted the 11th -12th century castle, comprising a ringwork with a rectangular bailey, into a magnificent new residence but no written record of his works survives.

Works on buildings in the bailey are recorded in 1343-1344, and repairs are documented through the 14th and 15th centuries. By Leland’s day, however, the site had become neglected and major decay followed. The most important written source for understanding the site is a survey of 1337, when the Duchy of Cornwall was created, which identified some of the fabric being in need of repair. It was described as “well walled round” with a hall, three chambers with cellars, a chapel, a stable for six horses, and three chambers above the gateway. Outside the gateway, stood a hall with two cellars and a kitchen, a chapel, three chambers with cellars, a bake-house, and two old stables for twenty horses. A lead conduit system brought water into the castle.

The central, surviving structure, it has been observed, was not designed by earl Edmund for defence but for display and comfort. Although its wall-walk was (and is) crenellated, this may have been – in this case, but certainly not at all castles by this date – a repetition of what had become a traditional element in the repertoire of castle design. The lord’s chamber (the most “private” room in the castle, see below) had its own stairway to the wall-walk, suggesting that the latter’s use was mainly for “promenade” and for enjoying views over the deer-park.
Castle Studies Group: Shell Keeps – The Catalogue (pfd) (includes floor plan)


Restormel Castle
Gateway & Internal buildings
c.1940
Publisher: Ministry of Works

St. Mary’s Abbey, York


St. Mary’s Abbey, York.
c.1910
Publisher: Sampson, York

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Postcard for St Olave’s Church

The original church on the site was founded in 1055 and dedicated to Saint Olaf. After the Norman Conquest the church came into the possession of the Anglo-Breton magnate Alan Rufus who granted the lands to Abbot Stephen and a group of monks from Whitby. The abbey church was refounded in 1088 when the King, William Rufus, visited York in January or February of that year and gave the monks additional lands. The following year he laid the foundation stone of the new Norman church and the site was rededicated to the Virgin Mary. The foundation ceremony was attended by bishop Odo of Bayeux and Archbishop Thomas of Bayeux. The monks moved to York from a site at Lastingham in Ryedale in the 1080s and are recorded there in Domesday. Following a dispute and riot in 1132, a party of reform-minded monks left to establish the Cistercian monastery of Fountains Abbey. In 1137 the abbey was badly damaged by a great fire. The surviving ruins date from a rebuilding programme begun in 1271 and finished by 1294.
Wikipedia.

The abbey estate occupied the entire site of the Museum Gardens and the abbot was one of the most powerful clergymen of his day, on a par with the Archbishop of York. In medieval York, the abbey sat opposite and mirrored the Minster: two great buildings dedicated to worship. The monks would spend their days working in abbey administration, copying books, trading with merchants, providing food and supplies for the monastery, managing the abbey’s estates and helping the poor.

Visitors can see the remains of the walls of the nave and crossing of the abbey church, where the monks prayed and sang, and the cloister, where the monks washed their clothes, contemplated and were allowed to speak. . . . King Henry VIII banned all monasteries in England in 1530s. The monks at St Mary’s were pensioned off in 1540 and the abbey buildings were converted into a palace for the King when he visited York. Gradually they fell into ruins and were used as agricultural buildings before being excavated by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in the 1820s.
York Museums Trust

Multangular Tower, York


Multangular Tower, Abbey Gardens, York
c.1910
Publisher: Valentine

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The Multangular Tower is the best example of standing Roman remains in York. It is on the northern side of the gardens, between the Yorkshire Museum and St Leonard’s Hospital. You can see the tower and fine stretches of the fortress wall from both sides, inside and out. The tower stood at the west corner of the legionary fortress. It was one of the two corner-towers of the huge stone wall that looked down onto the river. The small stones in the lower half are Roman whereas the upper half was reconstructed in the medieval period. The original Roman parts of the tower probably date from the early third century. Archaeologists can tell that the stone walls replaced timber fortress structures: an immense undertaking. The Romans used several types of stone in their buildings including limestone, tough millstone grit and elland stone, now better known as York stone, which was used for floors and roofs as it splits naturally into flat slabs. But it was not so much the stone but the use of mortar to hold it together that was the real Roman revolution. This allowed for the creation of far larger buildings than ever seen before.

The fortress wall was built 5m (c.15 ft) high. At the west corner stood what we now know as the Multangular Tower, which may have been well over 10m (c.30 ft) high. A matching tower stood at the fortress’s south corner, with six interval towers in between, projecting from the wall. These corner and interval towers were a military innovation, as they enabled soldiers to fire along the sides of the wall as invaders tried to scale them. In practice, the Roman occupiers probably never expected an attack on Eboracum. The fortress was mainly a base from which to control the region.

We know very little about the medieval rebuilding and reuse of the tower but the fortifications were significant during York’s role in the English Civil War and damage from a cannon ball can be seen in the wall to the North of the tower.
York Museums Trust