?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Raby Castle

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Raby Castle

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
out of the light star
Bobby and I woke early on this day to try to squeeze in the Tynemouth Castle and Priory--literally a five-minute walk down the street from Sharon and Kirsty's flat--before Kirsty's dad Joe picked us up to go to Raby. Despite the lady in the castle shop being quite certain that the castle would be open yesterday--today at the latest--it was still closed. Meh. Bobby and I are faced now with the rather ridiculous prospect of seeing nearly everything on our list ... except the castle right down the street from us.

Alas, we could not be out in the cool morning air and simply return to sit around on our bums in the flat until Joe arrived. So we set out down the road, walking along the seaside as far as Cullercoats, where we poked around their cathedral a bit. A very lackadaisical Internet search reveals that it is 19th Century, despite Gothic architecture. (Just like you said, atanwende! ;) Returning to the flat, we met up with Joe and left for Raby.

Raby Castle is located in Durham. We wanted to see two things in Durham: the castle and the cathedral.

Here's a map of our journey so far.

It was a fairly long drive, and we took a couple of wrong turns in the traffic circles before I glanced out my window and saw a hugely impressive castle mounted on the hill above us. I gave Bobby and nudge ... we had arrived!

Raby Castle is one of those strange castles (strange to my American perception anyhow) that continues to function as a family home. It's a bit difficult--though hardly unpleasant!--for me to imagine going home at night ... to the family castle. The castle is inhabited by Lord Barnard and his family, and when they are not residing in it, it is open for guided public tours. We arrived just in time to miss the next tour and so wandered outside for quite a bit, Bobby and I with our jaws around our knees. The Nevills built Raby Castle in the 14th century, and it has undergone additions and changes pretty much constantly since then. It's an impressive place; the best way I can think to describe it is that it looks like the stereotypical castle from a child's picture book: thick and squarish with towers at the corners and crenelated walls. It sits on a vast grounds and also has an extensive garden.

Because it is a private family home, pictures are not allowed inside the castle, though Bobby and I made up for it by snapping almost one hundred of the outside alone.

As I noted earlier, the castle has undergone successive renovations from its medieval origins. As we toured the castle, I found myself growing increasingly annoyed with those residents in the 18th and 19th centuries, who often found the medieval construction unsuited to their tastes and so completely redid things, often demolishing entirely the older structures. Bobby and I--of course--were less interested in gilded ceilings and silken furnishings than we were the rooms and structures as they would have been in the medieval period, but we were satisfied by the occasional room left mostly untouched or an iota of information alluding to the castle's medieval past.

For example, the Baron's Hall once purportedly held 700 knights plotting the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth; upon discovery of this plot, she promptly repossessed the castle from the Nevills. The room has been extensively remodeled since then, but it is still thrilling to stand and close one's eyes and imagine the profundity of the history that occurred right there, beneath one's feet. The servant's dining room and kitchen were original, leading us to marvel over the thickness of the walls (which I estimated at about four feet thick, or 1.3 meters); as Bobby said, you often read of the thickness of the walls in medieval castles, but it's not until you try to look out a window and truly experience this that it really makes sense.

After the tour, we walked through the garden to the tearoom for afternoon tea and, of course, a turn through the shop. ;)

This was our last evening in England before departing for Scotland, so that night's supper was at the local pub, and then home to pack up for the next leg of our journey.

I know that no one really looks at these posts for the writing. ;) As I noted earlier, Bobby and I took over one hundred pictures this day; this is, obviously, only a small representation. I will be opening this Photobucket album to the public shortly for those who are interested in seeing the full array.

Cullercoats Cathedral (19th Century)

Looking down the street to Cullercoats:

Photobucket



Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Looking up the street into Tynemouth:

Photobucket


The Angel of the North

My sister-in-law Kirsty (linwe_ancalime) hates this thing. It apparently sits in Gateshead but is consistently associated with Newcastle ... and I will agree that it is rather odd. It does resemble a bald lady with airplane wings, and it does look rusty. Joe assures us that it looked like that when it was put up. Anyway, we took this photo to irritate Kirsty.

Photobucket


Raby Castle

Photobucket



Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Detail of the ceiling in the passageway leading to the courtyard and tour entrance:

Photobucket


Photobucket


The coats of arms over the entranceway:

Photobucket


For those who don't know us, Bobby and me!

Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


This door was intriguing because it was so small! I am in the picture to provide scale:

Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Raby Gardens and Grounds

Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


The most enormous hedges I've ever seen!

Photobucket


Photobucket


Photobucket


One of the castle's longhorns that roam at will over the grounds:

Photobucket
  • Cool photos! Even though I was there :-P, I'm following all your trip journals with interest. I love how you've picked up on things I didn't even notice, like the coat of arms above the door/window. That's awesome!

    Did you hear the tour guide explain why the doors are so small? I always thought it was because they were shorter back then, but he said it was designed that way to keep the heat in. Does Bobby know if this is correct?

    As we toured the castle, I found myself growing increasingly annoyed with those residents in the 18th and 19th centuries, who often found the medieval construction unsuited to their tastes and so completely redid things, often demolishing entirely the older structures.

    That bugs the hell out of me too. I love castles circa 1200-1500; anything after that, including WWII cannons *cough* Tynemouth *cough* is nice but not really my area of interest. I enjoyed the trip to Raby but I wish they had left it as a real castle (although I don't think today's aristocrats would want to love in a "real" castle!).

    BTW, I'm not sure if it matters but we weren't actually in Durham that day - we were in County Durham (which is, funnily enough, the county that contains Durham! ;-). Tomato, tomahto...
    • I just looked it up - Raby Castle is in Staindrop. Ewwwwwwww! Imagine owning a castle and having to put "Staindrop" on your correspondence. ;-P
      • Hey there Brew! I think that I may be able to shed a little bit of light on the size of the castle doors. In my most educated guess I would think that they were built so small for a combination of both the size of people back then and the requirement to retain heat. As you mentioned, they certainly couldn't just put the heatin' on in those days :) Therefore it is highly likely that they were small and narrow in order to prevent heat from escaping, especially in the winter months when fires were roaring throughout the castle. We know that heat retention was always on the minds of castle architects so this is not surprising.

        On the other hand, it has been suggested that on the whole medieval people were a bit shorter than we are today. If you look at suits of armor and such from about 1000-1500, you see that most would not fit a person from our era. However, this fact is actually hotly debated in the medieval history community as other studies that have examined skeletal structures indicate that medieval people were just as tall as we are today! In fact, while some suits of armor would not fit because they are so short, others would not fit because they are so big!

        You can read more on this here if you are interested: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/medimen.htm

        The diet of the medieval person from about the 11th-15th century was surprisingly good because of favorable climate changes in Europe that positively influenced agriculture. This certainly supports the idea that medieval people were as tall as we are today. The jury is still definitely out on this one, but we do know that small doorways were common throughout medieval architecture (whether you are talking castles or mere tenant lodgings).

        A final possibility is that they were built so small and narrow for defensive purposes. If the castle was breached it would be much easier to defend the higher ground if your enemy had to ascend a short and narrow passageway through a small door. You could essentially bottleneck them as they made their way to the upper floors.

        In all, I think all three possibilities are valid. I hope this helps!

        Staindrop is a rather curious name isn't it? Seems kind of funny: I am Lord Such and Such of Staindrop. I bet that got quite a f
    • Thanks for the info, Sir Bobby! I knew you'd know the answer. :)

      When the guide said that medieval people were the same height as we are today, I was a bit skeptical - not only was it the first time I'd heard this, but I'd seen the armour and clothing you mentioned and they did (generally) seem smaller. Anyway! It's a great debate and I guess we'll never know the answer for sure. Even the medieval people probably had a few Yao Mings among them (well, not a Chinese guy. I don't think that happened so much in medieval England).
      • Ha! Yeah, I don't that there were many Chinese nationals in medieval England. However, the thought of it is pretty funny! You are correct in saying that medieval Europe had its fair share of tall people though. It is a known fact that William the Conqueror was a pretty tall dude, and from all accounts, Robert the Bruce was fairly imposing as well, even by today's standards. It is a fascinating debate. As I come across information on this subject in my studies, I will be glad to send it along to you if you would like.

        On another note, this is seriously awesome. You know how Dawn and I are contemplating completing our upper-lever (masters/PhD work) in the UK? We did some quick down and dirty research and found that the University of Stirling had programs in medieval/renaissance literature for Dawn, and a PhD program in, get this, Scottish medieval history for me! We are going to get real serious fairly soon about the feasibility of doing this so who knows, in a few years we could all be a short train trip away from each other!
        • I know it will be a struggle having to live in a country surrounded by castles and medieval things, but I'm sure you will soldier through. ;) It'd be cool if that happened; was that what Dawn was talking about Re: putting the Goldens on a boat?
          • Yeah, we would just have to make the sacrifice of living around castles, battlefields, and all other sorts of medieval thijngs. It would be difficult, but I think that we could pull through ;)

            That is exactly why Dawn was talking about putting the Goldens on a boat. If we are able to do it, we certainly want to bring the boys along! Just think, they could have playtime with their cousin Maggie!
    • On size/height - a scientist friend of mine in Mexico did some research a while back on nutrition and height and found that the difference in height between father and son can vary enormously depending upon diet, not just whether they are well fed or not but what they eat (eating habits changed significantly when people moved from tiny rural villages to the big city). I saw another study that children and grandchildren of Japanese immigrants in California were dramatically taller and the major change in diet seemed to be addition of milk as a beverage in early childhood. Another old-wives-tale or unproven true fact that I heard from my grandmother was that one could always tell which children had been born during years of extended miners' strikes in her youth. She swore that they were notably smaller and stupider. All of this is very unscientific hearsay, based upon scraps of faulty memory, but it does tell me that there could be a lot of factors involved here.

      Curious English names - they can be (often are) really silly. I remember the Monty Python skits where they read letters-to-the-editor the funniest part of which were the ridiculous, but perfectly plausible, surnames of the writers. One of my favorite geekish pastimes of my childhood was combing through our small-town telephone directory with my sisters for silly English names. Even from a very narrow sampling we found a lot of highly ludicrous ones.
      • You are right Oshun, I think there are many factors at play here. The link between diet (nutrition) and height seems to be linked pretty strongly. In light of the research on this, it seems logical that people in the medieval period would be just as tall as we are today. We know for a fact that their diets were not much different than ours today. They ate a largely meat-based diet that was supplemented with read, potatoes, and vegetables.

        The revolution in agricultural methods that occurred in the early medieval period (around 1200 or so), vastly improved individual diets as grains, fruits, and vegetables became more prevalent. This certainly contributes to the theory that medieval people were not significantly shorter than modern people.

        However, the flip side to this argument is that there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that scurvy was fairly prevalent during the Middle Ages. Since scurvy is caused by a lack of fruits/veg in one's diet, this sort of negates the notion that medieval diets were well-balanced and nutritious.

        The question is wide open because the information is SO conflicting. On the one hand it seems that food, including fruits and veggies, was readily available. On the other hand, the apparent susceptibility of individuals to scurvy suggests that they didn't always eat a nutritious diet.

        You just have to love the puzzle that is historical research! When you think you answer one question, ten more pop up in its place.
  • Thanks for sharing the pictures, they're really worth a gazillion words. I love the gardens. I'm going to check out the photobucket ones later too.
  • *sits down with a cuppa tea*

    Gorgeous castle! When we were in Ireland, we stumble upon a castle build in the same style in Lismore. Like this castle, only the gardens were open for visitors when the Duke and Duchess weren't in residence. However to earn some extra cash for the upkeep, you can rent it. A fabulous concept!

    Looking at Raby Castle, it looks like a well build strong hold and probably was never savaged and burnt down (that's also how we lost some of our most precious castle or line a Donjon nearby, shelled almost in ruin by the Germans in WWII given its strategic position nearby a river or inner county feuds over here), so its not only lack of interest in history or different tastes in fashion sadly enough... However these colourful histories come with intriguing myths and folklore with ghosts and...
Powered by LiveJournal.com