Penrith Castle

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We don’t normally ‘do’ castles, but who in their right minds would park next to one and ignore it? Especially when there are cameras to hand. It was hands that had brought us into Penrith on our way back to Long Meg for our second visit. Being so cold, fingers soon stopped working and started to feel the bite. We needed gloves. I had some…somewhere… but where was a mystery. They are wonderful things, being mittens and fingerless gloves combined. Perfect for wielding the camera. But for all I knew they were still at home.

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As it happened, we found a shop that sold them and that was open early on a frosty Sunday morning. Typically, I then found my gloves in my coat pocket… but these were warmer anyway. And opposite the shops the castle was waiting.

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The ruins now stand on the edge of a park, filled with winter trees stretching bare fingers up to the sun. There is no entry fee… or we would have been poking the cameras through the bars. With a stone circle and the hills waiting, this was no more than an opportunitistic visit.

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The red sandstone was beautiful, though, against the frosted green, coloured by weather and lichen to a richness that added warmth to the frozen day. The castle was not built, as many were, on a more ancient site. Nor was it built on the highest ground in the area. This one was built on the site of an old, Roman fort and the deep, squared banks are still visible today and, on one side, are spanned by a bridge on the site of the old bridge abutment. The usual rounded earthworks of the motte were not required and the castle was laid out to suit the Roman site.

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Ralph Neville was Warden of the West March, in charge of defending the area from incursions by the Scots. In 1396, he was granted the manor of Penrith and began to build his stronghold. These castles were as much a warning and a statement of power as defensive positions, making the political statement of overlordship in the region.

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The castle was enlarged by Neville’s son, Richard, 5th Earl of Salisbury (1400–60). It is thought that the Red Tower, of which a single wall now stands, was one of his additions. Beneath it is a vault, with a wonderful curved ceiling.

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It must have been an imposing building in its day. In 1471, the castle passed to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who was crowned King Richard III in 1483. During his time at the castle, Richard transformed the dour  military building into a more magnificent residence, adding upper windows and a new gateway to the north.

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Richard died in 1485, aged 32, in the Battle of Bosworth Field, the final decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses. He was buried without ceremony in Leicester and his remains were lost… until they were discovered during an archaeological dig  beneath a car-park in 2012. Richard was reinterred in Leicester Cathedral in 2015…much to the chagrin of many from Yorkshire who think the last Yorkist king should have gone home.

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Penrith Castle in 1772

After Richard’s death, the castle passed to the Crown and fell into decay. By  1565, it was already being described as a ruin. At the close of the 17thC, William III gave the castle to his friend, the Earl of Portland. The family sold the castle in 1787 to the  Dukes of Devonshire…. the same Cavendish family who own Chatsworth House and much of the land where we play in Derbyshire.

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So perhaps there was a connection after all… and who knows, maybe we will find, at some point on our travels, that there was a better reason for visiting Penrith Castle than we had at first thought. But we were impatient. Long Meg and her Daughters was waiting.

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About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
This entry was posted in Don and Wen, England, History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Penrith Castle

  1. I love old castles. Of course, I haven’t ever seen a new castle. they are all old, even those that are still occupied. I really miss ruins. We don’t really have anything that old excepting some earth mounds. But we do have some really ancient trees. Not many, but a couple that are some thousands of years old. They are our castles.

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  2. Wonderful post. An important page in the history of England. In fact I was keenly following the news of the recent archaeological dig beneath the car park for the remains of Richard III and the subsequent burial in Leicester Cathedral in 2015. Thanks.

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  3. It always amazes me to visit castles or even to see ruins like this. I always imagine what it was like in it heyday. The activity, Lives of those that lived within the walls, walked the grounds and watched over the land. There essence is still there. You take a step forward but also a step back to the 14th century and their imprint is still there. I always think ‘are they still watching’.

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  4. KL Caley says:

    I love this little town and stop off here regularly on the way to Scotland. It has a fabulous independent bookshop and cafe in the town centre too, that is worth a visit if you have a time. They even wrap up the books for you like they are treasure (which of course they are), I like that. 🙂 Great images you have captured Sue, and so much history too, I remember being a little disappointed in the lack of info when I visited (a long time ago) so may be due a revisit. KL ❤

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  5. I learn more from you than any blogger on WP

    Liked by 2 people

  6. paulandruss says:

    Lovely – brought back some great memories of visiting years ago

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  7. I followed with interest the story around the discovery of Richard’s remains.

    Yes – it’s hard to say no to a wander around a castle. 🙂

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  8. Widdershins says:

    I often wonder who looked out of the gaping windows in ruins like this … who were they, what did they see? 🙂

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  9. I love learning about castles and musing over the pictures. We don’t have them here, so they seem right out of fairytales 🙂

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  10. dgkaye says:

    How fascinating to live in the land of castles. 🙂

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  11. noelleg44 says:

    I remembered reading about Penrith in one of the books I’ve been reading on the War of the Roses, gradually filling in the time before the Tudors. Lovely to see it – thanks for the tour!

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