Windsor Castle

Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Castle

Belton House, Grantham

Rushton Hall, Kettering

Blickling Hall

Felbrigg Hall


Newark Castle

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Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is the world’s oldest and largest occupied castle dating back to the 11th century and William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I (1100 – 1135) it has been used by the English Monarch and has undergone substantial enlargements and improvements from Henry II (1154 – 1189)  up to the present Queen Elizabeth II who uses it as a private residence during her weekends and also for ceremonial and State occasions.

The castle was originally designed as part of a ring of castles to protect London after the Norman invasion. Constructed as a motte and bailey, it consists of three wards built around a central mound. The palace was built by Henry III (1216 – 1272) as a Royal Palace and this was improved by Edward III (1327 – 1377). During the reign of Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) and Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) it was used extensively as a Royal Court for diplomatic purposes.

During the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) it was used by the Parliamentary forces as a military headquarters and was subsequently the place that Charles I (1625 – 1649) was imprisoned prior to his execution. Following the restoration of the Monarchy Charles II (1660 – 1665) carried out a number of projects at Windsor Castle.

During the 18th century the castle suffered some neglect before being renovated by both George III (1760 – 1820) and George IV (1820 – 1830) who made substantial changes making it into how it is today. During the time of Victoria (1837-1901) it was used extensively for entertaining.

On the night of 20th November 1991 it suffered a fire which destroyed some of the most historic parts of the castle included the Crimson Drawing Room, the Green Drawing Room and the Queen's Private Chapel. St George's Hall also suffered damage as did the State Dining Room and the Grand Reception Room. The cost of repair amounted to £36.5m which was obtained by the formation of a trust and by charging members of the public an entrance fee to visit the castle and personal donations by the Queen.
Covering an area of more than thirteen acres (five hectares), Windsor Castle provides fortification, a palace, and a small town.  The Middle Ward is positioned on a motte which is a raised earthwork 15 metres high. On the motte is the Keep called the Round Tower which is built on top of the original 12th century building.

From the Middle Ward a gateway leads onto the North Terrace.  The eastern exit from the ward is guarded by the Norman Gatehouse which dates from the 14th century, this is vaulted and decorated with carvings of medieval lion masks (the traditional symbols of Royalty) and forms the entrance to the Upper Ward.

The Upper Ward consists of a number of buildings enclosed by the upper bailey wall, which forms a central quadrangle. The State Apartments run along the north of the ward, while the private royal apartments and the King George IV Gate are to the south, with the Edward III Tower in the south-west corner.

The existing building is laid on the medieval foundations constructed by Edward III. The ground floor provides the service chambers and cellars, with the first floor forming the main much grander part of the palace.

The rooms are designed in the Classical, Gothic and Rococo styles, together with an element of Jacobean. Many of the rooms were restored after the fire of 1991 to their original appearance, although modern materials were used in the process. On a tour of the castle visitors are able to visit some of the State Rooms, although photography is not permitted.

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Addition information can be seen on Encyclopaedia Britannica

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral, The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln, is one of England’s finest Gothic cathedrals. Located in the historic city of Lincoln, it was commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1072 and was constructed on the site of an Anglo Saxon church. The building was completed in 1092 under the supervision of Bishop Regimus. In 1142 it was destroyed by fire but was rebuilt and expanded by Bishop Alexander (known as ‘the Magnificent’).
In 1185 the cathedral was severely damaged by an earthquake, with reconstruction beginning in 1192 by Bishop Hugh who was later to become St Hugh. The work was paid for by the local people including the Swineherd of Stowe who gave his life savings to the project. His statue sits on top of the northwest turret opposite that of St Hugh which is on the southwest turret.
Hugh used the Gothic style of architecture which used pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses. This allowed larger windows and wider roof spans, although the Norman style of architecture with its round arches for the doors and windows can still be seen. As construction work was to last for a period of 100 years,  Hugh was not to see the completion of the Transept or Nave,  as he died in 1200 and - like many of the Cathedral’s Bishops - was buried in the Cathedral.
A number of problems occurred during the construction work; the central towers collapsed at the end of the 1230s and had to be rebuilt; while the nave, having been completed in the middle of the 13th century, was joined to the remains of the Norman west end, although its alignment was out of line, resulting in a kink which can be seen today by looking up to the ceiling just inside the entrance.
In 1255 Henry III (1216 – 72) allowed the removal of part of the town wall to enable the cathedral to be enlarged, This included the replacement of the rounded chapel constructed by St Hugh with the current square one at the east end. It was at this time that work began on the Angel Choir. The two large stained glass windows were added in 1330. These are the Dean’s Eye and the Bishop’s Eye.  During that time it was common for cathedral windows to contain images from the bible.  However, at Lincoln there are very few images; although some can be seen of the Saints Paul, Andrew, and James.
The central tower was extended to its present height between 1307 and 1311 with the western towers being raised at the end of the 14th century. Lead-covered spires were later added to all three towers with the central tower making the Cathedral the tallest building in the world (160m) overtaking that of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Despite the central spire collapsing during a hurricane in 1549, its original height was not surpassed until the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1889.  The other two towers also had spires, these were 30.7m high, but these were removed in 1807 after their weight, and the poor foundations threatened to cause the towers to collapse. It had been planned to remove the spires in 1726 but the cathedral was besieged by the people of Lincoln in protest so the plan was abandoned.  The towers contain a total of 20 bells, with the quarter-hour striking clock, Great Tom being installed early in the 19th century.
The reformation in 1540 resulted in King Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) seizing many of the cathedrals precious objects including vestments, plate, and statues encrusted with jewels, whilst the English Civil War (1642 - 1651) saw the destruction of many of the shrines. With the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, new building commenced, including the construction of the ‘Wren Library’ named after its architect, Sir Christopher Wren. This contains a collection of over 277 rare manuscripts, including the text of the Venerable Bede.
Visitors enter the cathedral at the West Front. The main door, however, is only fully opened to receive the Sovereign, the Lord Lieutenant or the Judges when they come in State.  On entry into the Nave there is a spectacular view of its pillars and ribbed vaulting. In the Nave, near the entrance - to represent the fact that baptism is the start of the Christian’s journey through life - is the Font. Made of Tournai marble, with carvings of mythical beasts around its sides, it was brought to Lincoln from Belgium in the 12th century.
At the far end of the Nave stand the altar with the brass lectern in the shape of an eagle resting on a globe in front to its side.  However, these can be removed to provide an open space for concerts or recitals. Behind the altar is the transept with a number of chapels, including those dedicated to the armed forces, and St Hugh’s choir with its wonderful carved woodwork.  The intricate carved stone Choir Screen constructed in the 1330s to separate  the choir from the rest of the Cathedral still bear traces of blue, red, silver and gold which originally coloured it.
Behind St Hugh’s Choir is the Angel Choir and the three chantry chapels which were added in the 15th and 16th centuries. Beyond the Angel Choir stands a shrine to St Hugh and a duplicate of the tomb of Eleanor of Castile found in Westminster Cathedral, although the original stone chest survives, its effigy is a 19th century copy to replace the original which was destroyed in the 17th century. On the outside of the cathedral are two statues which are reputed to be of Eleanor and Edward I (1239 - 1307) although these were restored in the 19th century and may not in fact be the couple.
Many would say that the most famous part of Lincoln Cathedral is the Lincoln Imp. This is a small stone carving situated at the top of a stone pillar in the Angel Choir. Legend has it that two mischievous imps entered the cathedral and started to cause havoc by smashing things and throwing rocks. An angel entered the cathedral and ordered the imps to stop, and when they did not,  the angel turned one into stone, whereupon  the other quickly left.
Lincoln Cathedral also has a Cloister; something that is common in a monastic cathedral but not in a secular one like Lincoln. Built originally in the 13th century the Cloister was rebuilt in 1674 by Sir Christopher Wren during his work on the Cathedral. Just off the Cloister there is now a café, the entrance to the library and The Chapter House.
The Chapter House is a circular building which contains one column with twenty ribs extending from it. It was named the Chapter House because the governing body of the cathedral met there and each meeting was opened by a reading of a portion of a chapter from the Bible. Later, the term chapter was used for the governing body itself. When King John (1199 – 1216) placed his seal on Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215, the Bishop of Lincoln was one of the signatories, and one of the four remaining original copies of the document was held in Lincoln Cathedral before being transferred to Lincoln Castle.
The cathedral has been used for a number of films; the most famous of which is The Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks which was made in 2005. Although the story was actually set in Westminster Abbey, Lincoln Cathedral was selected when permission to film in the Abbey was refused. The chapter house was adorned with painted murals and polystyrene replicas of the Abbey. The cathedral also doubled as Westminster Abbey in 2007 for the film Young Victoria.

A number of tours are available around the cathedral.   One of the tours enables visitors to enter the roof space. Anyone wishing to find out more about the cathedral or its tours should visit the cathedrals official site, a link to which is provided below.

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Lincoln Castle

Located in the city of Lincoln, which by Norman times, rated third in prosperity and importance of the cities in England. Something that was due to its location and proximity of roads and rivers. Following the defeat of the English by William Duke of Normandy (William the Conqueror) at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William encountered resistance to his rule particularly in the North of the country and wished to consolidate his position; one such way of doing this was to construct a number of castles. In 1068 he commenced the construction of Lincoln Castle on the site of the former Roman fort at the top of the hill. This construction covered part of the Roman wall and has recently found to have been built over a stone church dating back to the Anglo-Saxon period. The construction of the castle was to involve the demolition of some 166 houses.

William’s castle would have been constructed of wood, this was virtually destroyed by fire in 1113 which resulted in it being replaced by a stone construction. Lincoln Castle is bounded by stone walls, with ditches on all sides except the south. On the south side the walls are interrupted by two earthen mounds called mottes. Lincoln Castle is very unusual in that it has two mottes. To the south, where the Roman wall stands on the edge of a steep slope, it was retained partially as a curtain wall and partially as a revetment retaining the mottes. In the west, where the ground is more level, the Roman wall was buried within an earth rampart and extended upward to form the Norman castle wall. Excavation work was carried out in the 19th century on the Westgate (which concealed the Roman Westgate) which had been buried but this resulted in it becoming unstable so the work stopped and it was re-buried.

The Westgate was the main entrance in medieval times and would have led into open countryside through the city wall, but it was sealed up, possibly in the fifteenth century and has only recently been reopened.

One of the mounds is in the south east corner, and was probably an original feature of William's castle, while the other occupies the south west corner. A square tower stands on top of this mound, standing above the outer walls to dominate the city. The second mound is crowned by the 'Lucy Tower', which is thought to have been built in the 12th century and named after the Lucy of Bolingbroke, the Countess of Chester.

The castle was the focus of attention during the First Battle of Lincoln which occurred on 2 February 1141, during the struggle between King Stephen and Empress Maud over who should be monarch in England.  The castle held but suffered damage which necessitated rebuilding. 

The Castle was again the site of a siege and the subsequent Second Battle of Lincoln which occurred in the course of the First Barons' War (1215–17) . This was the period of political struggle which led to the signing of Magna Carta on 15 June 1215. After this, a new barbican (a fortified outpost or gateway) was built onto the west and east gates. 

The castle contains a number of towers, the Lucy tower is the15-sided shell keep built on the larger motte, this was named after the mother of a 12th century owner, Lucy, Countess of Chester. The tower is an open structure but would probably have contained lean-to buildings against the inner wall. This medieval keep later became the Victorial burial ground for convicts.

The Observatory Tower is square in plan and built on the smaller motte at the south east corner. Part of the tower is Norman, with 14th century adaption’s with an observatory being added in the 19th century by the then governor of the prison which gave it its’ name. 

The East Gate is the main entrance to the castle and was originally a plain Norman arch built into a rectangular recess in the wall. In later years it was strengthened  by a gatehouse and two round turrets which probably rose higher than they do today. It was also fronted by a barbican spanning a dry moat which would have incorporated a drawbridge and portcullis, but these were demolished in 1791.

Apart from being used as a defence structure it has also been used as a prison. The prison was built on the castle green enclosure in 1787 and enlarged by the Victorians in 1847.   Imprisoned debtors were allowed some social contact but the regime for criminals was designed to be one of isolation.  Consequently, the seating in the prison chapel is designed to enclose each prisoner individually so that the preacher could see everyone but prisoners could only see him. The castle ceased to be used as a prison in 1878.  Many of the prisoners were deported to Australia and many more were executed on the ramparts on the tower at the north-east corner, overlooking the upper town. Prisoners were publicly hanged here for various crimes until 1868 and buried in the castle grounds where their graves can still be seen. These include the grave of William Frederick Horry the first person to be hanged by Victorian hangman William Marwood in 1872, and the first to die using the long drop method, which ensured that the neck was broken by the fall. 

The grounds also contain remains of Lincoln's Eleanor cross. These are a series of 12 crosses erected by King Edward I (1274 – 1307) marking the nightly resting-places along the route taken when the body of his wife, Eleanor of Castile, who died in Harby near Lincoln, was taken to London.

At the western end of the castle facing visitors as they enter the Eastgate is an ivy clad building built in 1826 as the Assize courts these are still used today as Lincoln's Crown Courts. The south entrance porch was added in the early 20th century. 

The most recent addition is the Heritage Skills Centre, which is the first new building within the Castle grounds for over 100 years. The Centre is a multi- functional building used for heritage crafts and skills development in Lincolnshire and provides short courses, lectures and demonstrations.

One of the main attractions is the Lincoln Magna Carta, the document is one of only four surviving originals sealed by King John after pressure from the rebellious barons at Runnymede in 1215. A ambiguous programme of renovation is currently (2013) underway to create a new exhibition centre to display Magna Carta; the construction of visitor facilities and opening sections of the prison within the castle to the public. It is planned be completed by April 2015, to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta.

The Castle also holds historical re-enactments, jousting, brass bands, craft fairs and concerts and is one of the sites for the Lincoln Christmas Market which is held at the beginning of December each year.

Belton House, Grantham

Located on the outskirts of Grantham, Lincolnshire, the Grade I listed building of Belton House is one of the finest examples of Carolean (Restoration) Architecture, which became popular following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.


Set in parkland and a number of gardens, the estate contains an orangery and, although not part of Belton House, the grounds contain the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul which dates back to Norman times and is the burial place of many of the previous owners of the estate. 

The property was built between 1685 and 1688, by Sir John Brownlow, a lawyer, on land first acquired by his family in 1598 and was added to by subsequent generations. Although the Brownlows were not regarded as aristocracy, they were gentry, and the house received a Royal visit by King William III in 1695.

Symmetrical, with an ‘H’ shaped plan, the layout of rooms is back to back; creating a house two rooms deep. This design is known as "double pile". This enabled the house to be compact and requiring just a single roof.

The reception rooms and bedrooms were on the two main floors,  but the layout kept guests and family separate, with the family occupying the rooms on the first and second floors of the west and east wings, whilst the state rooms were located in the centre. The great staircase formed part of the guests’ route from the Hall and Saloon on the first floor to the principal dining room and bedroom on the second.

The main entrances to the house are in the centre of the north and south facades and were accessed by a series of steps. The family lived in the west wing, which was approached through the courtyard with its attractive clock tower. The family lived on the first and second floors with the servants occupying the basement and attic.  These servants’ areas can be seen during tours of the house.

Belton House was one of the first properties to adopt sash windows. These were used on the first and second floors whilst the basement and attics used the mullion and transom systems. The windows maintained the design of symmetry with a number of false windows being provided to maintain this symmetry.

Visitors enter the house through the large Marble Hall at the centre of the south front. This is flanked by the Tapestry Room and the Great Staircase. The bedrooms are arranged as suites on the first and second floors of both wings.

The chapel was erected from the basement to the first floor which allowed the servants to worship in the chapel from their floor, but allowed their employers to worship from a gallery where they could not be seen by the servants.

The great Marble Hall was one of the rooms which was remodelled in the early 19th century, as was the adjacent Saloon, which was originally known as the Great Parlour, and has always been the main reception room of the house. The marble fireplace in the Saloon is original but the ornate plaster ceiling is a Victorian copy.  Either side of the Saloon are two small drawing rooms.

The library contains some 6000 books collected over 350 years. This room began as the Great Dining Room but was converted into a drawing room in 1778 and then to the library in 1876.

Next to the Library is the Queen's Room, which contains the great canopied bed used by Queen Adelaide, the widow of William IV. The second floor contains a number of other bedrooms, including the Chinese Room which contains the original hand-painted 18th century Chinese wallpaper and the Windsor Bedroom used by King Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor following his abdication in 1936. This room was also used by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, whilst a cadet at nearby RAF Cranwell.

Belton House together with the garden and some of the contents was acquired by the National Trust in 1984.  The parkland and much of the remaining contents has been subsequently acquired and opened to the public.

Rushton Hall, Kettering

Acquired by William Tresham in 1438, Rushton Hall remained in the Tresham family for nearly 200 years. During that time it was developed to incorporate a number of architectural styles.  Rushton Hall survived Francis Tresham’s involvement in the Gunpowder Plot!! His involvement in the Plot resulted in his death in the Tower of London in 1605.   The Hall then passed to his son Lewis Tresham who sold it to Sir William Cockayne in 1619. The estate later came back to the Treshams through the marriage of the then owner, the 2nd Viscount Cullan to Elizabeth Tresham, although it subsequently had to be sold as a result of the couple’s extravagant life style. 

In 1828 the Hall was acquired by the Banker William Williams Hope - owner of the Hope Diamond. He spent a significant amount of money renovating it, although he only used it during the hunting season. It was sold in 1854 to Clara Thornhill who shortly afterwards married William Capel Clarke and in 1856 they took the name Clarke-Thornhill. One of the visitors to the Hall at that time was Charles Dickens who is said to have based Haversham Hall depicted in Great Expectations on Rushton Hall. 

In 1934 on the death of William Clarke-Thornhill, Rushton Hall ceased to be an ancestral home and was let to a series of tenants.   Much of the Tudor and Jacobean architectural details was reinstated during this time, which resulted in it being registered as a Grade I listed building in 1951. From 1957 to 2003 the Hall was a school for the blind, run by the Royal National Institute for the Blind.  In 2003 Rushton Hall was bought by the Hazelton family who restored and converted it to a four star hotel and spa which it is today.

Access is provided by the winding gravel roadway passing gatehouse which leads to the Hall and grounds which extend to 25 acres and includes a lake.

The entrance to the hall is flanked by two sculptures of armed knights. The corridors lead to a number of public rooms which include the grand lounge, with its magnificent timber ceiling, ornate plaster work and stained glass windows; the dining room with its impressive fireplace and oak panelling and the library and other rooms for private dining or meetings. The main stairway leads up to the bedrooms while another set of stairs lead to the cellar bar and wine cellars, one of which contains the priest hole – a common feature in many of the houses of principal Catholic families in the 16th / 17th century. Also in the cellar is the small room containing the plaster representation of the Passion dating from 1577 taken from the church which once stood at the site.

Surrounded by the wings of the hall is the Inner courtyard which provides a guide to the history of the construction with the dates prominently displayed. Rushton Hall enables visitors to experience the atmosphere of the building at their leisure by enabling them to stay at the Hall, and enjoy its history and splendour.


Blickling Hall

Blickling Hall is located in the village of Blickling, north of Aylsham, Norfolk and dates back to the 11th century when it was the manor house of Harold Godwinson who, on the death of King Edward the Confessor, become the King of England. Following Harold’s death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the succession of William I, the house was given by William to his chaplain. By 1091 it had become the Bishops’ country palace. 
In 1378 Blickling Hall was acquired by Sir Nicholas Dagworth, an aide to Edward III.  It was he who built the rectangular moat house that was to have a considerable influence on the future developments of the building. After his death in 1401 it was acquired by Sir Thomas Erpingham who was one of the commissioners to receive the renunciation of the throne by Richard II in 1399.  In the 1450s it was purchased by Geoffrey Boleyn and was to remain in the Boleyn family for several generations and was the home of Sir Thomas Boleyn the father of Anne Boleyn. It is believed that Anne was born there, although there is no evidence to substantiate this. In 1616, the estate was sold to Sir Henry Hobart, and his descendants remained at Blickling Hall until 1940, when it was bequeathed to the National Trust. During the Second World War it served as the Officers’ Mess to the nearby RAF Oulton. At the end of the war, the house was let by The National Trust until 1960, when the Trust began work to restore the house and grounds, and these were opened to the public in 1962.

The Hall as it stands today started to develop in 1619, when the architect, Robert Lyminge was engaged by Sir Henry Hobart to expand the Hall. The design was to incorporate the existing medieval and Tudor fabric into the new Jacobean style building. This resulted in the red-brick house with leaded-light windows, its Dutch gables and many turrets. It was Lyminge who built the service buildings which flank the house and form the grand forecourt. The Hall is surrounded on three sides by a dry Moat. 

The exterior provides a glimpse into the development of the Hall.  The South façade was completed in 1620 and contains the Hobart crest. The clock-tower was built after 1828 to replace a previous one dating from the 18th century. The East façade is Jacobean along its complete length while the West façade, originally Tudor was remodelled and refaced in the mid to late 18th century.  This was rebuilt to incorporate the gables in the mid-19th century. The West wing, dating from 1624, has been significantly repaired and remodelled with the complete wing being rebuilt in 1864 to include kitchens, and other service facilities.  The East Wing dates from 1623 and now incorporates a restaurant, shop and information room.

The gardens cover 55 acres, the majority of which are located on the East side of the house. They consist of formal and informal gardens including a Secret Garden with a summer house, whilst nearby is the 18th century orangery housing a collection of citrus trees. 

Visitors approach the Hall via the South Front and the entrance to the Hall is via the great timber door which leads through the Entrance Passage with its Jacobean plaster ceiling and into the Great Hall which occupies the site of the medieval Great Hall.  This was to become the principal room of the Jacobean house. It became the stair hall in 1767 when the staircase was transferred there and rebuilt as a double flight. The stained glass window contains 15th and 16th century German and Flemish glass.

The Hall contains a number of interesting rooms which convey the ambiance of the place. Rooms such as the splendid Chinese bedroom and dressing room which were created in the 1760s when the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire divided the Jacobean withdrawing room. He also refurbished the Long Gallery to accommodate the library. The Long Gallery certainly creates an impression as it is over 37 metres (123 feet) long with an intricately plastered ceiling and a Siena marble fireplace. It contains one of the most historically significant collections of manuscripts and books in England with most of the 12,500 books being acquired in the 18th century. The collection includes three pre-1500 Latin bibles and first editions of three Jane Austen novels.

The dining room with its fully laid table contains some impressive oak and chestnut panelling and a marble fire surround with a large oak over-mantel which dates from 1627. The room also contains a beautiful 18th century ten-fold screen in painted and gilt leather.

The South Drawing Room was the Great Chamber leading off the staircase prior to being converted into a drawing room around 1760. One of the finest Jacobean ceilings can be seen in the Hall, together with the magnificent Jacobean timber chimneypiece. The room was where Charles II was entertained in 1671.

In the Peter the Great Room are two paintings by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) and a tapestry of Peter the Great given to the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire by Catherine the Great of Russia in 1765. This room leads on to the State Bedroom with the lavishly adorned State bed in the alcove fronted with two Ionic pillars.

The Hall also contains Kitchens and servants quarters, a number of which however are not usually open to the public.  However, the author was also able to visit a number of these and wishes to express his gratitude to the National Trust for allowing this.  

Throughout the Hall, items of furniture, ceramics, textiles, tapestries and artefacts are found in the situation that they would have been used and which transport the visitor back to the time of its use, presenting a realistic view of life in those times in what is in fact a living museum.

Felbrigg Hall

Felbrigg Hall is located at Felbrigg near Norwich, Norfolk and at one time was one of the largest estates in Norfolk. The heart of the estate was built up before the Norman Conquest by the Bigod family who settled following the Danish invasions of the 9th century. The Domesday Book survey in 1086 recorded the village as a possession of the Bigod family, although it is believed to have been owned at one time by Gyrth Godwinson, the brother of King Harold the English King who was defeated at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It was in the 11th century that the property came into the ownership of the Felbrigg family following the two families being united in marriage. Over the years they enlarged the estate and the Hall, which remained in the Felbrigg family until the mid-15th century when after the death of Sir Edmund Felbrigg it was acquired by the Wyndham (Later the Windham) family. 

The current house dates back to around 1620 when Thomas Windham set about the development of the house using the same architect who was also involved with the work on Blickling Hall (See article above). The South Front, constructed of brick, flint and pebble was erected at this time although it is believed to have incorporated parts of a Tudor house which previously stood on the site,

Today the house offers visitors an insight into the way of life of not only the owner and his family but also for those who worked there.  It contains many artefacts, enabling visitors to gain an impression of what it would have been like to live in those days.  Many of the rooms can rival some of the rooms existing in many of the Royal palaces - rooms such as the Drawing room with its magnificent ceiling and the Dining Room with its fully set table.  The Library, which was probably the Great Chamber of the Jacobean house contains many volumes from the time of William Windham I (1647-1689) with the collection being built up by his successors.

A number of bedrooms can be seen, including the Rose Bedroom, first fitted out in 1750. The ceiling with its plaster cove and border dates from 1687 but was probably taken from the Great Stairs in 1752. The Red Bedroom contains red and gold wallpaper which has provided a decoration since 1860 when the room was last decorated. The Chinese Bedroom, aptly named after its Chinese décor, and the Bathroom was created in the 1920’s from what was possibly a nursery.

Also to be seen are the working rooms including the Kitchen with its round headed windows which contains the large oak tables displaying a number of objects. The Servants’ Hall and Steward’s Room containing the desk of the Steward who administered the estate from there until 1970.  Next to the Steward’s Room is the Tenants’ Waiting Room where they would wait until being called in to pay their rent.

The stable block and carriage-houses were built in 1824-5, and today house the cafeteria, restaurant and shop, although some of the stalls have been restored.

The gardens consist of different styles which include a traditional Victorian style which is arranged around an 18th-century orangery. The formal lawns are interspersed with areas of shrubbery. The gardens feature a variety of plants and trees, including a number from North America, including red oaks and western red cedars. The gardens also have a walled garden and a Dove-house built around 1753 in order to provide a source of meat for the Hall Kitchen.


Located 13 km from Salisbury in Wiltshire, Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world. 

The first major construction at Stonehenge was a circular ditch, with an inner and outer bank built about 3000 BCE. With its two entrances, the ditch enclosed an area about 100 metres in diameter. Today the banks are visible as low grass earthworks, but a great part of the external bank has been ploughed up. The ditch on the eastern side was excavated in the 1920’s making it deeper than the western side. 

It is generally believed that the first construction there took the form of wooden structures, which were contained within the bank and ditch, whilst just inside the bank were 56 pits, which became known as the Aubrey Holes (named after John Aubrey who discovered them in the 17th century).  These were thought to have held the timber posts. It is believed that the use of timber was replaced by stone around 2600 BCE and an array of holes were dug for them in the centre of the site.  Around the Aubrey Holes, and in the ditch, evidence has been found that it was used as a cemetery with perhaps 150 people having been buried there, making it the largest late Neolithic cemetery in the British Isles.

Stonehenge, as we see it today, with its lintelled stone circle with enormous sarsens (large sandstone blocks) and smaller bluestones (The term "bluestone" refers to the collection of smaller stones) was erected in the late Neolithic period around 2500 BCE. 

The sarsens, some of which weigh over 30 tonnes,  were probably brought from the Marlborough Downs, 19 miles to the north, while the bluestones (weighing up to 3 tonnes) came over 150 miles from the Preseli Hills in Wales. The stones were dressed then erected and held in position by interlocking joints, which can be seen at the top of some of the stones and in the replica found by the display of huts near the museum at the visitors centre.

The sarsens were erected in two concentric arrangements – an inner horseshoe and an outer circle –the bluestones were set up between them in a double arc. It is believed that the stones in the centre of the monument; the sarsens close to the entrance, and the four Station Stones on the periphery were set up about the same time.

Four of the sarsens at Stonehenge contained carvings depicting axe-heads and daggers, probably dating from about 1750–1500 BCE. It is believed that axes were a symbol of power or status in the early Bronze Age. Various stones have fallen or are missing, making the original plan difficult to understand. The earthwork Avenue connecting Stonehenge with the river Avon was constructed about 200 or 300 years later.

Two rings of concentric pits, known as the Y and Z holes, were constructed between 1800 and 1500 BCE which may have been intended for additional stones, although these were never completed.
At the north east of the sarsen circle at the end of Stonehenge Avenue is a rough stone standing 4.9 metres (12 feet) high which leans slightly towards the stone circle. This is known as the Heel Stone, although it has also been known as Frier’s Heel and the Sun-stone. It is possible that this and the low mound known as the ‘North Barrow’ were the earliest part of Stonehenge.

The purpose of Stonehenge is not known with certainty, but it is believed to have had a spiritual connection for the people.  Certainly, the burials found there would seem to indicate this, as would its alignment, as the structure is aligned so that at the Summer Solstice the sun rises about the heel stone and its rays shine into the centre of Stonehenge. Likewise at the Winter Solstice it marks when the short days will turn to herald the return of the summer.

Stonehenge remained important into the early Bronze Age, when many burial mounds were built around the site on hilltops, forming one of the greatest concentrations of round barrows in Britain - many being visible from Stonehenge itself. 

It is known that Stonehenge was frequently visited in Roman times, as many Roman objects have been found there.  In 1897, a great deal of land on Salisbury Plain was purchased by the Ministry of Defence as an army training exercises area. Stonehenge was in private ownership until 1918, when Cecil Chubb gave it to the nation. Its conservation then became the responsibility of the Nation, and is it is currently undertaken by English Heritage.

From 1927, the National Trust began to acquire the land around Stonehenge in order to restore it to grassland. Today the monument has a new visitor centre which opened in December 2013. The centre is located 2 km west of the monument, just off the A360. Consisting of a museum, containing a number of artefacts found at the site, it holds the reconstructed face of one who lived and died here in Neolithic times. The centre also has a wraparound screen to enable visitors to see Stonehenge at different stages of its existence and at different times of the day and year. It also contains a shop, café and a number of replica huts designed to give us an idea of life during the Bronze Age. 

Newark Castle

Built originally around 1070 as a Norman Motte and Bailey earthwork fortress to replace a Saxon fortified manor which had existed on the site in Nottinghamshire since the 10th century. The castle developed around 1133 – 35 when Henry I granted Bishop Alexander of Lincoln - who was the Lord of the Manor of Newark - permission to build a castle this developed into a stone construction towards the end of the 12th century.

The castle is most famous as the location in which King John died of dysentery on 19 October 1216, although legend says that he was poisoned. Following John’s death, the castle was seized by Robert de Aughy, one of John’s knights who held it against Henry II for 8 days before surrendering it to Henry. The following year the castle was besieged during a bid for the throne by Dauphine Louis, after the failure of which the castle reverted to the Bishop of Lincoln.

The north curtain wall was 3 metres thick with small rooms and passages built in it.  The entrance through the gatehouse led into a cobbled courtyard with a number of buildings including the kitchens and a chapel. The gatehouse was part of the original castle and was built to impress. Within the gatehouse, on the first floor, was the bishop’s private suite. The existing curtain wall was constructed in the late 13th century in order to strengthen the defences. The original one was dismantled and the new one built closer to the river. Two types of stone were used to give it a multi-coloured effect. At the same time two new multi-sided towers were added. As this side of the castle was protected by the river the windows could be large and impressive.

During medieval times goods were mainly delivered by water and the Watergate can be seen at the base of the curtain wall with its steps leading to a large cellar under the Bishop’s Hall.

In the 15th and 16th century the castle ceased to be a defensive structure and with the inclusion of large windows was converted to more of a residence. It ceased to be held by the church in the Reformation when in 1547 it was obtained by the crown and sold into private hands. 

The lease eventually was obtained by Lord Burghley, who transformed it into a comfortable residence and in 1603, it provided accommodation for King James I. 

During the Civil War (1642-46,) the castle held out for the King despite being besieged on 3 occasions. It eventually surrendered in 1645 on the orders of King Charles I following his capture at nearby Southwell on 5 May 1646. Following its surrender Parliament ordered that it should be destroyed but the development of the plaque in Newark meant that this never happened, although many of its stones were removed over the years to produce its current state.

Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the castle was held by Charles I’s widow Queen Henrietta Maria. 

In the early 18th century the castle and site was leased to the Duchess of Newcastle and was held by her family until 1836 when all the land with the exception of the castle was sold and between 1845-8, it became the first monument to be restored at Government expense. 

During the 19th century a cattle market and public baths were situated within the grounds and in 1881 a public library was constructed which is now the Gilstrap Heritage Centre. In 1889 the grounds became a public garden which was designed by Victorian landscape architect H.E. Milner to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.  The gardens underwent a major refurbishment in 1998 and 2000 which took place with the support of the National Lottery Fund.

Today, only 20% of the castle still stands. The curtain wall running alongside the River Trent was rebuilt in the 14th Century and that remains today creating the imposing façade. Within the wall would have been a number of buildings including the great hall, the only evidence of which is the windows that still remain in the wall, although it does still contain two towers, both of which contained prisons.

The views from the town create a very different picture which is one of a ruin as virtually none of the wall remains.  Although the three-storey gatehouse built by Bishop Alexander does remain as the most complete example of a Romanesque gatehouse to survive in England.

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