The Queen is pleased to announce the arrival of the container from England. Starting this Thursday, come and see Her recommendations. She is quite pleased and excited for your visit.
The Queen is pleased to announce the arrival of the container from England. Starting this Thursday, come and see Her recommendations. She is quite pleased and excited for your visit.
We were between international fairs and decided to drive towards the east coast for the day. We wanted to visit Tattershall Castle. We’d driven by before and, this time, we were determined to stop. Tattershall Castle is a tall imposing structure made of red bricks. Not exactly the picture that flashes in your mind when you hear the word “castle”. It’s more of a fortified tower house (a giant keep), not a castle used as a fortress.
It was built as a private residence for Lord Cromwell, the Lord Treasurer to King Henry VI in 1434, taking 13 years to complete. This is not the Cromwell from the Civil War, Commonwealth and Protectorate. It was built on the site of a stone castle, built two centuries earlier. Now, it is owned by the National Trust. It is set right beside the A153 in the town of Tattershall, about 30 miles from the North Sea coast.
After parking, we strolled past the Holy Trinity Church and the almshouses (we’ve shown these photos on Instagram), crossed the first moat and stopped in at the guardhouse to purchase tickets and pick up our headsets (which we didn’t use).
What’s left of the castle is a red brick keep, a tall tower (crazy tall) that’s been around for 550 years, some ruins and two moats. The keep is four stories high with a basement below and battlements above. All of the keep is opened to visitors. On each corner of the keep is a turret. One turret contains the spiral winding 149 stairs that take you from the ground floor up to the battlements. It’s the widest spiral staircase we’ve ever encountered. A separate, smaller staircase takes you into the basement.
On each of the four floors is one ginormous room and then the other three turrets contain smaller rooms for the guards and bathrooms. In the large open chambers are where the family lived and conducted their business. Each floor has a massive fireplace that dominates the room. The higher you go up in the tower, the more impressive the Fireplaces and rooms. Decorated with strained glass, carvings, and painted ceilings. It’s important to note, that while the family’s servants shared the common rooms with the family, the family did not enter the basement nor the ground floor. The family did not mix with the locals. The kitchens were located in another building that no longer exists.
Tattershall Castle was built on high ground, though not on a hill or cliff. When we huffed and puffed up to the top battlements, we could see Lincoln Cathedral, as we looked northwest. Drive time between the two landmarks takes about 40 minutes. The day we were there was exceptionally windy and hazy, but we could still make out the cathedral. The family had Spectacular views, as they looked down.
There’s always something about a place that captures your imagination. We were fascinated that the castle was left empty from 1693 until 1914. Here’s this massive structure allowed to decay and it’s used as a stable for cows! The locals took stones away to built their own garden walls and buildings. During this period, visitors still came to view the romantic ruin. Even as a ruin, it must have been something to see.
It wasn’t until 1911 that Lord Curzon of Kedlestone decided it was a national treasure and must be saved. He was one of those titled English gentlemen that rich American girls wanted to marry. He married well (thank you America) and had enough money to save Tattershall Castle, Bodiam Castle and the Taj Mahal in India! At the time he bought the castle, a company had purchased it and had begun tearing it down. The four massive fireplaces had been sold to people in America and they were already removed and waiting on the shipping docks. Lord Curzon stepped in and pulled some important strings. Since the fireplaces were part of a national treasure, they were returned to the castle by horses and carts.
We hoped you enjoyed reading about our adventures in the midlands of England in October. Thanks for reading! And be sure to stop in the store and tell us your England stories. You might even find a special English antique to take home with you.
When a place has been around for 1000 years and has been the subject of myth, legend, and movies, you expect a pretty awesome story. Nottingham Castle has everything you expect: murder, treason, imprisonment. Everything that is except a castle. Not there anymore. The castle was torn down in 1649 because of the role it played in rebellion. Instead of a castle, there’s a museum in a mansion built on the cliff overlooking Nottingham. Some walls remain and so do the castle tunnels carved into the castle’s sandstone hill. The tunnels eventually spill out into the yard next to Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem pub (see previous post).
The first Nottingham Castle was built in 1067 by William the Conqueror as part of the Norman Conquest takeover of England. He came from France and proceeded to build massive stone towers and castles to maintain his hold over the island. As generations passed and the castle changed hands over and over again, it had lots of stories to tell. About Robin Hood. About the murder of the Queen Mother’s lover. About brother versus brother. Battle after battle. Rebellion.
After we had our Sunday Roast at the pub at the base of the cliff, we started our walk to visit Castle Hill. We walked passed a statue of Robin Hood and continued our climb until we reached the gatehouse. Most of the hill is preserved as a park with the museum at the top. From the outer gate, you continue to climb up to the top of the hill where the 19th century mansion is perched. The cave tour begins in the mansion and winds down through the sandstone tunnels carved into the hill.
Climbing up and down the 300 slippery steep steps, we heard the infamous stories of the castle. Stopping in small cave rooms, we heard ghost stories. Some of the tunnels were opened up to the outside, so defensive weapons could be used against attacking armies. The steps are worn down and it’s dark and ominous.
Most of all, we were interested in stories during the Robin Hood time period. King Richard the Lionheart left to fight the Crusades without having an heir to the throne. His younger brother Prince John already had control of most of Nottingham including the Sherwood Forest. He had land but no castle. When Richard left, John decided it was time make his move and he sent in his cronies to seize Nottingham Castle in 1191. Three years later, Richard had to use force to take back the castle from his brother’s soldiers. The siege lasted only a few days. Even though Prince John lost the castle, he eventually got the castle back when he became King John in 1199.
Even without a castle, it’s an interesting, historic site. It was a strenuous climb, but well worth it. It’s not often you can step back into the Middle Ages with a story-telling tour guide.
Next up, our last blog from our October trip, Tattershall Castle.
There are three pubs in England that claim the title of “Oldest Pub in England”. We visited the one in Nottingham on our last trip. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is located in the centre of the city of Nottingham, in the county of Nottingham and yes, it’s THAT Nottingham. The one with the ties to Robin Hood and the evil Sheriff and bad King John and crusading King Richard the Lionhearted.
Nottingham is a confusing city with one-way streets, crazy roads for buses only, and the most compacted multi-storied parking garages, which by the way, are equally confusing. We had to stop three people just to figure out the ticketing system for the garage and don’t even get us started on how small the ramps were. But back to the story.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is said to have been functioning as a pub since 1189. The records are vague at best, but there seems to have been a brewery established for the Nottingham Castle, at or near this spot. A brewery was a necessity for a castle in medieval times, because no one wanted to die by drinking the water. This was a gathering spot for the Knights on their way to fight in the crusades, thus the name.
The Nottingham Castle is built on top of a sandstone cliff and the pub at the base of cliff. Only half of the pub is wood, the rest of the rooms are really small grottos carved into the rock like small caves with pub tables and chairs. There are two levels. You enter through the garden door, walk around the bar, passing by a couple of these small grottos and walk into a larger wooden room, which is where we ate our Sunday Roast lunch and had our pints.
Have you been to a pub? If not, here’s your instructions. First, find your table and lay claim. Second, note your table number. Third, review the menu, either found at the bar, at your table or on a wall somewhere in the pub. Fourth, order at the bar, giving your table number first, then your food and drink order. Usually, you can either leave the tap open or go ahead and pay. You carry your drinks back to the table and get refreshed. A server will bring your silverware and food.
While we waited on our lunch, we took turns exploring the historic and haunted pub. Up some wobbly stairs are two more rooms with partial cliff walls. In the second “museum” room, they have swords that were used during the crusades. They have several artifacts that are haunted. No, we didn’t see any ghosts, but we were there on a Sunday morning, much to Philip’s dismay.
After lunch, we headed up to the castle for tour, but that’s the next blog.
While out antique shopping on a Saturday, a dealer suggested we visit the three antique shops in the Georgian town of Knaresborough. The town is located at the bend of the River Nidd, with most of the town perched on the sandstone cliff. It’s located in North Yorkshire about 15 minutes from Harrogate. The town was listed in William the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book in 1086. So, it’s been around for a while.
We visited the charming market square before having lunch at the Lavender Tea Room. The tearoom is located up some tiny steps above the oldest operating chemist in England. Records show that medicines had been dispensed here from the 17th century until 1997. It’s now a candy store! Our lunch was served on a traditional tea tiered server and we managed to finish it all off. Usually, we don’t stop for lunch, so this was a real treat.
Near the market square, Knaresborough Castle is situated at the top of a large cliff, with a wonderful view of the River Nidd. It dates from the Norman times. The castle ruins are owned by the Queen. However, in 1170, Hugh de Moreville owned the castle and he and his followers took refuge there after they had murdered Thomas Beckett in Canterbury. Hugh de Morville was the Constable of the Castle of Knaresborough and leader of the group of four knights who took King Henry II at his word when he said “will nobody rid me of this turbulent priest”. The tie-in for us: 36 years ago, we visited Canterbury Cathedral!
The ruins are surrounded by a park, so we strolled around and peered out over the river. We watched several trains cross the Victorian stone viaduct built in the mid-1800s. Canoes rowed under the bridge. Peaceful. The leaves were just starting to turn their fall colours.
This town sums up why we like England so much. It’s easy to take the word of a stranger and end up in an enchanting little town that belongs to an earlier time. Full of history and just waiting to be discovered. And, yes, we bought several things for the store!
Up next: The oldest pub in England.
The National Trust cares for over 300 historic buildings and gardens around England. One of these properties is located between Lincoln (our home base while in England) and Grantham. Belton House is a country house estate built for Sir John Brownlow between 1685-1689. We stopped in for a tour after a morning of antique shopping in Grantham.
So, what’s the draw of a visit to a stately manor? For some, it’s the gardens and grounds. For others, a chance to see how the 1% live. For us, it’s the history, art and architecture. And it doesn’t hurt that we’ve seen some of these buildings on television and in the movies.
The money for the Belton House came from practicing law. The accumulated wealth allowed the gentry family to build the symmetrical H-style manor house and to fill it with wonderful pieces of furniture and paintings. In addition, the house has two fabulous libraries filled with over 11,000 books collected over 300 years. Our favourite paintings were the massive canvasses of birds, painted by Melchior d’Hondecoeter in the 17th century, that decorate the dining room. The grandeur and size is outstanding and, amazingly, the gargantuan canvases were cut down to fit the room.
In more recent history, the 6th Baron Brownlow served as the King’s Lord-in-Waiting for King Edward VIII. He and Wallis Simpson visited Belton House on several occasions before and during Edward’s short reign before he abdicated. As we strolled through the home, we noticed photos of the couple in different rooms and guides were quick to point out rooms that the couple used.
Okay, so you know there has to be a Mr. Darcy connection. Belton House served as the setting for Rosings in the BBCs 1995 adaption of Pride and Prejudice starting Colin Firth. We took a photo of the desk where Darcy sits to write THE letter to Elizabeth.
Around the house, you notice the greyhounds. Painted on floors, carved in sculptures, placed in the ceiling, and embossed on door plates, the greyhound appears in the family’s coat-of-arms and the motif is found throughout the house.
We enjoyed our quick visit this time and, if time allows, we’ll go back and check out the downstairs!
Up next, we stray from our agenda and visit Knaresborough.
After visiting Chester, we headed towards Ashbourne (lots of antique stores), but first, stopped in at the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
Maybe, a pottery museum wouldn’t make the top ten lists of the average English tourist. But, we have a collection of early British pottery and are members of the Transferware Collectors Club, so it’s been on our bucket list for several years.
Stoke-on-Trent is south of Manchester in the heart of industrial England. It was here that Enoch Wood and Josiah Wedgwood started potteries to compete with the influx of china from the Far East in the 1700s. Several towns make up the Stoke-on-Trent area, also known as The Potteries. On the back of historic china and pearlware, you’ll find the names of Tunstall, Burselem, Stoke, Fenton, Longton, and Hanley. We’re sure you’ve heard of Staffordshire, an English county and a term used to loosely group different types of pottery.
The Gladstone Pottery Museum is preserved as the last complete Victorian Pottery factory. In the 19th century, hundreds of factories existed in the area, where the natural resources of coal, sand, lead, and clay were available. Thousands of bottle ovens dotted the landscapes, since most factories had several. The Gladstone is an important industrial heritage site and an interesting museum devoted to sharing the story of the process and the workers who risked their lives to provide the world with pottery, china and tiles.
Gladstone was a small pottery that made household bone china and they had five bottle ovens. They employed men, women and children and was typical of the hundreds of factories in Staffordshire. We explored the exhibits, watched live demonstrations and climbed into the bottle ovens.
The ovens were the most interesting. The bottle shape that you see was the outer wall of the kiln. Inside was the actual oven. It would be stacked with thousands of pieces of china then fired. The kiln fireman would stand inside the outer shell and keep the fires stoked with coal for 2 days. The heat must have been extreme, to say the least! The air thick with coal smoke.
There was an unbelievable amount of work that went into making a plate or cup. Every step required an expert skilled worker and several support staff. And there were many, many steps. On the lives of all these people, the world got its dishes. The Gladstone Museum does a fine job of giving us a glimpse into the lives of the workers and the Industrial Revolution.
Up next, our visit to Belton House. Thanks for reading!
We made a return trip to Chester, England on our latest shopping trip; not to buy, but to reminisce. Chester is a beautiful ancient city built by the Romans 2000 years ago. It’s known for its city walls, the black and white covered walkways of the Rows and its beautiful red sandstone cathedral.
We were there 36 years ago and returned this year to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. In 1980, Drury University’s English Professor Jim Livingston organized a Winter Term Trip to England during the month of January 1981. He was Theresa’s faculty advisor, so she signed up for the trip. The trip was not only open to students, but also to alumni of the college. Philip tagged along with his friend, who was an alumnus. We met and the rest is our history.
During the trip, the participants had the opportunity to go off and explore on their own for a few days. Four of us went to Edinburgh, Wales and Chester. We only had a small time to spend in Chester, so we’ve always known we wanted to return. This time, we spent two glorious fall days, different from the snowy January 1981 visit.
We walked on the city walls getting our bearings. The walls surround the older parts of the city for two miles. They were originally built by the Romans and then rebuilt by the Normans. Medieval gates have been replaced by arches, which cars now drive through. The walls are tall and wide and easy to walk. They are made of the same red sandstone as the cathedral and in some places, they are almost 40 feet high. Trees hang over the walls providing shade and fall colours. From the high vantage point, you can peek into the yards and alleys of the city.
Our main objective was to revisit the cathedral. We remembered it as smaller than average, quiet and a beautiful red color. So, we headed over to the Chester Cathedral for a private behind-the-scenes tour and walked up 216 spiral stair steps for an awesome view of Chester and Wales. There has been a church on the spot since the 900s. The original Minster was turned into a Benedictine abbey in 1092. It survived Henry VIII’s dissolution of monasteries by becoming the cathedral of the Church of England. On the tour, we were able to catch glimpses of the past monastic life, including eating lunch in the 13th century monks’ dining hall. The cathedral is the beautiful sacred spot we remembered.
Most people associate Chester with The Rows. The black and white Rows are rows of two levels of shops with covered walkways. Think of them as the first malls, where you could shop continuously without getting wet from the English weather. They were built in the 13th century. Most have been rebuilt and enlarged and now have shops and eateries (And antique stores!). Stairways link both levels so you can shop each with ease, which we did. Yes, Philip found a few candy stores.
We wandered around the oldest Roman amphitheater ever unearthed in England and gardens, just outside the city walls. We visited the River Dee, stopping to imagine the Vikings raiders sailing up the river to attack the city. We had dinner the first night at the oldest horse race course in England, and the second night, we ate at the Bear and Billet, a tavern who roots go back to 1584!
At a Copenhagen flea market, we found a mangle board. A mangle board is a carved board that was used to remove water and press the wrinkles out of woven cloth. The cloth was wrapped around a round rolling pin. Then, the user would press the mangle into the cloth wrapped rolling pin. This early ironing contraption was used before handheld heated metal iron.
Mangle boards were used throughout Europe between the 1500s and 1800s. Often they were given as a courting gift. Highly carved, they often had horses as handles. In the Scandinavian countries, the horse represented virility. The one we found has a horse handle with a horsehair tail. The carving was done as chip-carving, a traditionally Scandinavian style. Although we bought it in Denmark, it resembles a Swedish board. Today, mangle boards are collected as folk art.