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

This week my exploration of follies has led me to Old Wardour Castle; to the medieval.

Old Wardour Castle near Salisbury was built in the 14th Century, but I am not writing about its medieval beginnings, or its development into a fabulous Tudor residence; I am exploring it as an example of the Georgian fashion for blending romantic ruins into a landscape garden. After all not everyone has a real ruin in their garden and the fashion for follies meant others were building mock equivalents, aspiring to a former stately ‘keep’. It was the 8th Lord Arundell who asked ‘Capability Brown’ to incorporate the ruins into his new garden design.

The Arundell family were forced to leave Old Wardour Castle when it was damaged during a siege in the Civil War in 1644. They built a smaller house beside it in the 1680’s, outside the wall, and began developing the grounds. The early garden was established in 1730. It was formal and terraced, with a bowling green. It was not until the later 18th Century that the garden reached its romantic peak after the 8th Lord Arundell married an heiress in 1763 and set about building both a new house and a new garden.

The new house was quite deliberately perched upon the slope of a facing hill, so that it looked down on the romantic ruins, painting a picturesque view as the family would have seen sunlight shining back from the fallen walls of their ancestral home, framed by woodland.

The mock gothic Banqueting House which nestles beyond the castle’s curtain wall, was built in 1973-4, while New Wardour was still under construction. It is a place where guests may stop and dine after a visit to the ruins.

To add entertainment to the developing pleasure garden of course it had to have a Grotto, which was placed facing the ruins on the far side from the Banqueting House, on top of the old terrace which was still lined by a yew avenue. It was built in 1792 by Josiah Lane of near by Tisbury, a well known local builder of garden ornaments. And you can see like Pope’s Grotto, and that at Prior Park, it is eclectic, containing ammonites and stalagmites. It has twisting, turning tunnels, and numerous little niches in which the explorer might perch and a frightening aura about it, to inspire the fashionable gothic imagination.

Staying in the gothic style is what survives of Lord Arundell’s stone ring. To add even more authenticity and age to his pleasure garden he transported a 4,000 year old prehistoric ring of stones from Tisbury, and added two seats to it for his guests to idle away their afternoons upon, reading poetry, or painting. In these stone alcoves he incorporated decorated stone from the fallen ruins.

I can easily imagine a house party riding out from New Wardour to the ruins for an afternoon of adventure and exploration, for their entertainment. Running through the grotto tunnels, and climbing up through the ruined tower’s rooms to reach the highest point and there carving their names to remember the visit. They would have dined lavishly in the banqueting hall, enjoying their host’s hospitality and then perhaps sat in the alcoves of the stone ring or the grotto, flirting, resting, talking, painting or reading.

And yes there is Graffiti, some from the days of these house parties, and some from later days in the 1800’s when in 1830 the ruins were opened to the public and the banqueting hall became a place for visitors to obtain refreshment, including one private dining room for the more influential. Though in some places it is hard to tell the old graffiti from the new, where it has been worn away by rain and carved over again.

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

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