Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Farleigh Hungerford Castle

As we were travelling down to Hampshire (via North Dorset), we came upon Farleigh Hungerford Castle, and of course, couldn't resist stopping to explore. It covers quite a considerable site, and the castle chapel was unsurprisingly incorporated within the castle walls. Because of this, much of the interior of the church is preserved to show how it would have looked when the castle was last inhabited. The castle has quite a colourful history. Originally a manor house of the Montfort family, the manor was known as Farleigh Montfort and in the hands of Reginald de Montfort until about 1350, when he sold it to one of Edward III's soldiers, and in turn it was sold a generation later to Sir Thomas de Hungerford, who promptly changed its name to Farleigh Hungerford.

Around 1370-80, the castle was fortified and crenellated (without licence - this being granted retrospectively by the King in 1381. Who says retrospective planning is a new thing?!) Some 50 years later, the barbican and polyganol outer ward were added by Sir Walter Hungerford, then Speaker of the House of Commons. In the early 15th century his son - another Walter - enclosed the parish church of St Leonard's to use as his chapel, building another church for the parishioners in the village.

Sadly, war did for the Hungerford family and the castle passed to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) and thence to the Duke of Clarence and here was born Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury (whose mother was Isabella Neville, and whose grandfather was Warwick the Kingmaker). Unfortunately she was to be beheaded at the behest of Henry VIII . . . (Don't you just LOVE English history?!)

After the Battle of Bosworth, Henry VII gave Farleigh to Walter Hungerford, grandson of Robert. I think you could describe him as a complex personality. Although he married three times, it would seem he was more of a man's man, if you get my meaning, and kept his third wife under lock and key in one of the towers. Fortunately for her, Walter got his comeuppance and was accused of treason and "unnatural vice" and was consequently executed.

The Civil War had true meaning for Farleigh Hungerford, since two Hungerford brothers were fighting against one another, but the Royalist submitted the castle to his Parliamentarian brother without a fight. Much of the damage to the castle was carried out by a subsequent family, the Houltons, who decided they would take various fixtures and fittings (including the panelling and carved beams) off to their main residence in Trowbridge. Many thanks to the Wikipedia page where the above information was ruthlessly plundered.

The former Priest's house.

This building is completely unchanged, although internally it now houses an interesting little museum rather than a Priest!

This gargoyle on the right reminded me of one of the hounds in the heraldic shield - perhaps it's the hair which looks like ears!

If you double click on this picture you should be able to read it more easily. A fascinating little piece which was found in the Castle ditch - another victim of a Puritan mind and thrown out as being idolatorous . . .

I felt like we were stepping back in time here. Yet another example of how colourful churches once were, Before The War (Civil War that is), and then all those Puritan minds saw idolatory and shame in anything with a vestige of colour or design. In Salisbury Cathedral last week many of the effigies of past Lords and even Kings, had been brutilized and were sans noses or any projecting parts, or had initials dug into their faces. To think we complain about lack of respect these days - it would seem it was ever thus. There are some Hungerford lords interred at Salisbury too . . .

How vivid and colourful these tombs must have been when first erected.

I am not sure about that light - it was overall gloomy down there . . . Cue ghostly music! Note the two little babies in the tiny lead coffins . . .

The towers were pretty huge - it's amazing they're still standing.


Rowan said...

Now this really does look well worth a visit, those painted walls and the tomb are superb. I'm afraid I don't have much sympathy with the Puritan mindset! How sad those tiny coffins are - is that the crypt where they are? The Priests House looks fascinating too. Must get my map out and check exactly where it is!

Kim said...

Fabulous pictures, Jennie and yes, sad little coffins :(

Glad you are home safe and seem to have connection! I hope it lasts :)

lots of love to you all

Kim x

Morning's Minion said...

I do love English history, even though I usually read watered down versions aka historical novels. The Nevilles were an intriguing family--I have several books awaiting time to read them--Sharon Kay Penman, if I recall correctly--that deal with that era.
Isn't it sad that intolerance is usually a part of any reformation in religion or politics?