Fascinating Historic Graffiti at Fountains Abbey, Helmsley Castle and Sudeley Castle

People who have read my blogs for a while know I have two slightly eccentric passions for history. One’s old trees – definitely a bit of a mad obsession – and the other is graffiti.

Fountains Abbey Leisure Gardens

I think it’s my imagination which gets me going over these things because when I see trees I am thinking who walked past this, when, or leant against it or – I mean hundreds of people for hundreds of years could have had something happen in their lives near the tree and my head tries to get into their lives and picture what they were thinking, feeling and doing at the time. It’s very odd because of course it’s the same with houses, even more so, but my imagination is more intoxicated by trees and my other passion graffiti, than houses – odd I know.

The Tudor Mansion at Helmsley

But today anyway this little cheeky blog is on my other passion – for graffiti – I mean just think who was it who stood there and carved it out, what was going on in their lives, in their head? Were they laughing? Were they with a partner, or a friend, joking? Had they just had a tryst? Were they serious and thoughtful and seeking solitude? Angry? Contemplative? Afraid?

Sudeley Tudor Castle

I’ve said before the graffiti in The Tower of London is my favourite. Most of it dates from King Henry VIII or Queen Elizabeth I’s time when they would shut noblemen and women away for months in the tower rooms rather than in the dungeons. But I discovered loads more on holiday in Yorkshire this year (where some of the scene’s from my debut novel, Illicit Love are set)

Fountains Abbey Medieval Mill

So first there was this which I discovered at Fountains Abbey in the medieval mill – although the graffiti dates to the 1700 and 1800s not medieval times. A lot of 18th and 19th century graffiti is by tourists as it was fashionable for the more wealthy middle classes and the senior classes to idle away a day by riding out and exploring ruins. But on this door in the mill which the National Trust have preserved, are carved names they believe were workers. The fabulous leisure gardens which did bring many visitors at the time are beyond a gate from here so it’s believed it was not tourists.

Fountains Abbey graffiti from the 1800s

Fountains Abbey graffiti from the 1700s

Fountains Abbey graffiti from the 1700s

There is also another area of graffiti in the mill on a window frame.

Helmsley Castle Gatehouse

Then I found this even more exciting graffiti at Helmsley Castle. I love the town of Helmsley. The medieval castle, which was updated with a Tudor mansion in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, is on the edge of the town it’s owned by English Heritage and like many castles is only a ruin thanks to the Civil War. In 1644 Helmsley Castle was besieged by 700 men on foot and 300 men on horseback and the siege lasted for 3 months. However at the end of the siege the Parliamentarian army let the 200 strong Royalist Garrison encamped at Helmsley leave peaceable through the gatehouse in a procession. They had been starved out and their defence of the castle had earned the respect of the Parliamentarians. So interesting then to see this graffiti dating to the 1600’s on the walls of the gatehouse.

Helmsley Castle graffiti from the 1600s

Helmsley Castle Graffiti from the 1600s

Helmsley Castle Graffiti from the 1600s

There are some 19th century tourist’s marks too. They were probably cut by friends of the family from Duncombe Park who owned the land Helmsley Castle was on then and who’d made the castle ruins a folly for them to view in the garden of their fashionable early 18th century mansion, or perhaps they were just people from the nearby town – some land owners allowed locals in their parks and one of the Duncombe family married a lower class woman he saw while out riding, having then spoken to her parents and sent her to school to learn how to be a lady.

Helmsley Castle graffiti from 1800s

Perhaps – perhaps – perhaps – it’s all imagination engendered by a few marks on a wall.

Oh and I might as well slip these in while I’m talking of graffiti – not from Yorkshire but from Sudeley Castle which was also ruined in the Civil War. Sudeley Castle was partly restored though and while half the castle is a ruin the other half is lived in. Actually Sudelely is another place I’ve drawn inspiration from for scenes in my debut novel – Mmm there’s a pattern forming here.

Sudeley Castle Graffiti from the 1800s

Sudeley Castle Graffiti from the 1800s

Sudeley Castle Graffiti from the 1700s

More Historic Graffiti from Sudeley Castle

More Historic Graffiti from Sudeley Castle

More Historic Graffiti from Sudeley Castle


Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark

Stories of Amore in Eighteenth Century Bath – Miss L—

‘Company at Play’, Thomas Rowlandson, Plate 8 from Comforts of Bath, 1798

This week I am going to tell another true story of the life behind the closed doors of 18th CenturyBath, taken from Oliver Goldsmith’s, The Life of Beau Nash.

The story begins one evening in the Upper Assembly Rooms of Bath, where Beau Nash was in attendance. And although the author does not tell us how, Beau Nash must have had heard some rumour, or known something specific was about to occur. He must therefore have been entangled in all gossip and perhaps played confident too.

But by whatever means he came by the information on the evening in question, he approached a lady of ‘no inconsiderable fortune,’ and her daughter, and ‘bluntly told the mother, she had better be at home:’ It was an ‘audacious piece of impertinence, and the lady turned away piqued and disconcerted. Nash, however, pursued her, and repeated the words again.’

The second warning was observed, as the mother perhaps realised the impertinence had some purpose, ‘and coming to her lodgings, found a coach and six at the door, which a sharper had provided to carry off her eldest daughter.’

The sharper, a Colonel M—- ‘At the conclusion of the treaty of peace at Utrecht,’ ‘was one of the thoughtless, agreeable, gay creatures, that drew the attention of the company at Bath. He danced and talked with great vivacity, and when he gamed among the ladies, he showed, that his attention was employed rather upon their hearts than their fortunes. His own fortune however was a trifle, when compared to the elegance of his expense; and his imprudence at last was so great, that it obliged him to sell an annuity, arising from his commission, to keep up his splendour a little longer.

However, ‘he had the happiness of gaining the affections of Miss L—-, whose father designed her a very large fortune. This lady was courted by a nobleman of distinction, but she refused his addresses, resolved upon gratifying rather her inclinations than her avarice. The intrigue went on successfully between her and the colonel, and they both would certainly have been married, and been undone, had not Mr Nash apprised her father of their intentions.

The old gentleman, recalled his daughter from Bath, and offered Mr Nash a very considerable present,

While ‘In the mean time colonel M— had an intimation how his intrigue came to be discovered; and by taxing Mr Nash, found that his suspicions were not without foundation. A challenge was the immediate consequence, which the king of Bath (Beau Nash), conscious of having only done his duty, thought proper to decline. As none are permitted to wear swords at Bath, the colonel found no opportunity of gratifying his resentment, and waited with impatience to find Mr Nash in town, to require proper satisfaction. 

During this interval, however, he found his creditors became too importunate for him to remain longer at Bath, and his finances and credit being quite exhausted, he took the desperate resolution of going over to the Dutch army in Flanders, where he enlisted himself a volunteer. Here he underwent all the fatigues of a private sentinel, with the additional misery of receiving no pay, and his friends in England gave out, that he was shot at the battle of —.

When the Colonel left England the noble man continued to pursue Miss L—- and ‘pressed his passion with ardour, but during the progress of his amour, the young lady’s father died, and left her heiress to a fortune of fifteen hundred a year.’

She thought herself over the Colonel, after an absence of two years ‘and the assiduity, the merit, and real regard of the gentleman who still continued to solicit her, were almost too powerful for her constancy.’  

But in this period Beau Nash, ‘took every opportunity of enquiring after colonel M—, and found, that’ his rumoured demise was untrue ‘he had for some time been returned to England, but changed his name, in order to avoid the fury of his creditors, and that he was entered into a company of strolling players, who were at that time exhibiting at Peterborough.

Beau Nash must have seen or heard something that twisted his conscience over his actions of two years before, for, ‘He now therefore thought he owed the colonel, in justice, an opportunity of promoting his fortune, as he had once deprived him of an occasion of satisfying his love.

To make amends, Beau invited the lady. Miss L—, along with her adoring noble man, to be a member of a party visiting Peterborough, ‘and offered his own equipage, which was then one of the most elegant in England, to conduct her there. The proposal being accepted, the lady, the nobleman, and Mr Nash, arrived in town just as the players were going to begin. Colonel M—, who used every means of remaining incognito, and who was too proud to make his distresses known to any of his former acquaintance, was now degraded into the character of Tom in the Conscious Lovers. Miss L— was placed in the foremost row of the spectators, her lord on one side, and the impatient Nash on the other, when the unhappy youth appeared in that despicable situation upon the stage. The moment he came on,’ he saw her ‘but his amazement was increased, when he saw her fainting away in the arms of those who sat behind her. He was incapable of proceeding, and scarce knowing what he did, he flew and caught her in his arms.

“Colonel,” cried Nash, when they were in some measure recovered, “you once thought me your enemy, because I endeavoured to prevent you both from ruining each other, you were then wrong, and you have long had my forgiveness If you love well enough now for matrimony, you fairly have my content, and d–n him, say I, that attempts to part you.”

Their nuptials were solemnized soon after, and affluence added a zest to all their future enjoyments. Mr Nash had the thanks of each, and he afterwards spent several agreeable days in that society, which he had contributed to render happy.


Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark