27 February 2015

Castle

Conisbrough was a grim little town in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield. And yet it had history. Long before coal was mined on an industrial scale, Conisbrough's location was judged to be of strategic significance. In the eleventh century, as the Normans sought to strengthen their political control of northern England, a castle was built at Conisbrough by William de Warenne, the first Earl of Surrey who had fought with William the Conqueror at The Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Over the next four hundred years, Conisbrough Castle remained an important stronghold and as the year's passed it was modified, extended, repaired and strengthened but by the sixteenth century it had fallen into a state of semi-dereliction and played no part in the English Civil War that tore through the country in the seventeenth century. However, in the nineteenth century a new spotlight was shone on the castle ruins by the famed Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott - in his novel "Ivanhoe" (1819).


Scott wrote of Conisbrough - There are few more beautiful or striking scenes in England, than are presented by the vicinity of this ancient Saxon fortress. The soft and gentle river Don sweeps through an ampitheatre, in which cultivation is richly blended with woodland, and on a mount, ascending from the river, well defended by walls and ditches, rises this ancient edifice, which, as its Saxon name implies, was, previous to the Conquest, a royal residence of the kings of England. The outer walls have probably been added by the Normans, but the inner keep bears token of very great antiquity. It is situated on a mount at one angle of the inner court, and forms a complete circle of perhaps twenty-five feet in diameter. The wall is of immense thickness, and is propped or defended by six huge external buttresses which project from the circle, and rise up against the sides of the castle as if to strengthen or support it. These massive buttresses are hollowed out towards the top, and terminate in a sort of turrets communicating with the interior of the keep itself. The distant appearance of this huge building, with these singular accompaniments, is as interesting to the lovers of the picturesque, as the interior of the castle is to the eager antiquary...

As it happens, Scott may have been wrong to assume that the castle was of Saxon origin. No archaeological evidence supports that stance though I find it difficult to believe that the mound on which Conisbrough Castle still stands was a blank canvas before William de Warenne arrived. And it is worth noting that the name "Conisbrough" is of Saxon origin and means "king's stronghold".

Yesterday, I didn't go inside the castle. I walked past it and down to The River Don. There I noticed yet another pub that has bitten the dust. Now converted to residential units, it was once, somewhat ironically, called "The Castle".  No boozy laughter any more or shiny brass bar rails or pub quizzes. When was Conisbrough Castle built? Rest in Peace.
"The Catle" has gone

12 comments:

  1. I've been to Conisbrough Castle 10 or 12 years ago with Steve, when his mother still lived in Wath-upon-Dearne. I remember it well, also the connection with "Ivanhoe", a story I loved as a child. Not that long ago, I think someone wrote (wasn't it you?) that the small museum has been made over and is now much more attractive. But maybe I'm wrong here and mixing this up with something else I've been reading.

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    1. Your memory is playing tricks Meike. I haven't written about Conisbrough Castle before - apart from a distant photo of the castle last year. Years ago I took a school party to Conisbrough Castle and was amazed to see a nest of hawks in a window recess high in the keep. They had no idea that I was watching them through the reflective glass.

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  2. Ive only seen the castle from the train
    Now i cant remember just where i was going

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  3. How I loved the book (and the movie starring Robert Taylor and the stunningly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor) "Ivanhoe" when I was a little girl.

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    1. Was that in the silent era Lee?

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  4. Poor, poor Mr. Pud. You just don't seem to be able to concentrate! Here you've got a nice castle to think about and you're still obsessed with pub closures. Not being a drinking soul, I cannot know exactly how you feel about your 'pubs'. Here, the common taverns appear to be lowly, cigarette smoke-filled places filled with rough, tawdry, uncouth varieties. I am imagining your pubs as in James Herriot's day, when hard working farmers stopped in and had a pint with other hard working farmers, speaking of crop failures & successes, lambings and life. I chose not to drink as my experiences in childhood were that drinking made smart people do stupid things.

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    1. In England pubs have tended to be different from seedy American bars Hilly. They are meeting places for both men and women. Somewhere to chew the fat, a place that brings a community together. Naturally I bewail their passing - it's a vital part of our heritage being eaten up by modern times.

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    2. Maybe our community granges of times gone by were a bit similar. Seems like modern times may have broadened our horizons but we lost a huge sense of community when we decided we could now hop in our vehicles and jet off to places far from home, no longer needing our neighbors.

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    3. Community granges? I had never heard of these before Hilly. In England a grange was an outpost of a local monastery - usually a farm - bringing food and rent back to the monastery. They had so much poer and control in the middle ages.

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  5. Yes. The loss of the English Pub is something to be pondered upon and mourned. Life and the way we live moves on however and both urban and rural communities are different now. Nostalgic sigh....

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    1. I wish that we still rode horses and that women still wore long crinoline dresses and bonnets and that there was no television to watch and that man had still not walked on the moon. Now that's what I call nostalgia Sir Graham!

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