Fairy Tale Castle, Bloody Battlefield

Enjoyed my second outing this weekend just gone.  And this time the boys were happy for me to spend the weekend away!  Who are these children??  Don’t know how often I’ll be able to do these outings, but I’ve compiled a growing list of the places I’d like to visit.  This is something I’ve always wanted to do, visit as many historic sites as I can.  I guess because, in our earlier home-ed days, we did a lot of visiting of historical places, the boys are now happy to be left to do their own thing; as they said, this is more my interest, and now that they’re older, I can indulge myself.

The place I chose for this month’s visit was Bodiam Castle, in East Sussex.  I was originally only planning a day trip, but after a bit of research, realised that the castle isn’t that far from the site of the Battle of Hastings.  It seemed almost criminal not to visit that too while I was in the area.  So, an overnight stay it was.

Bodiam Castle is the most magical, beautiful castle I’ve seen yet.  It’s a 14th century moated castle, built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a knight of Edward III.  When Richard II ascended the throne, he gave Sir Edward permission to build the castle, as a defence against French invasion during the Hundred Years War.  The castle has no keep, and its corners and entrance are marked by towers.

The castle passed to Sir Edward’s son, John; he died childless and the castle passed to his cousin, Richard Dalyngrigge, who also died without leaving an heir.  In accordance with John’s will, the castle and its estates passed to Richard’s sister, Philippa, who was married to Sir Thomas Lewknor.  Because Sir Thomas supported the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses, when Richard III (House of York) became king, Sir Thomas surrendered Bodiam Castle without much resistance.  However, when Henry VII of the House of Lancaster became king, the castle was returned to the Lewknors, who retained ownership of the castle until the 16th century.

At the start of the Civil War, the castle was in the possession of John Tufton, a Royalist, who sold the castle to pay fines which Parliament had imposed on him.  The castle was then left as a ruin, was partially restored then donated to the National Trust in 1925 by Lord Curzon on his death.

Wood sculpture by cafe

The walk from car park up to the castle

Sir Edward's unicorn badge

'Murder holes' in the ceiling of the Postern Gate.  All sorts of icky stuff would be poured through murder holes onto the enemy

Struggled up very narrow steps, wide enough for only one person going up or down, stopping off at a couple of floors, made it to the top of the castle -- worth the climb for the spectacular view ...

Minced back down the steps, clinging to the railing -- only later realised I hadn't taken pictures of the steps; obviously concentrating too much on not taking the 'fast' way down!  How on earth people, especially women in long gowns, managed to get up and down those steps was beyond me; they wouldn't have had the luxury of the railing to hold on to!

There were 'guides' dressed in medieval costume, giving talks and also ready to answer any questions ...

View from the bench where I'd sat to enjoy an ice cream ...

I spent the night in a nice little hotel in Battle, a small and pretty town with lots of friendly people.  On Sunday, I went to Battle Abbey, literally just down the road from the hotel I'd stayed at.

'Pilgrims Rest', built in 1420 on the site of an original 12th century building, which was probably used as a 'hostel' for the workforce that built the abbey

The most decisive, most famous battle ever fought on English soil was the Battle of Hastings in 1066, where Duke William of Normandy defeated King Harold of England. Today, the site, about 100 acres, shows no visible sign of the battle, and no relics have been found.  Once inside the abbey, there are 2 routes to the battlefield – a short, easy walk, or a longer, more involved one, which takes about 40 minutes – decided to take the longer walk as I had enough time.

The field where the English and Norman armies met

Some really interesting cloud formations that weekend ...

In 1070, the Normans were ordered by Pope Alexander II to do penance for the killing they’d done in their conquest of England.  The result was the abbey that William built on the site of the Battle of Hastings; the high altar is the supposed spot where King Harold was killed.  The abbey could be seen as the Conqueror’s act of atonement for the bloodshed … the abbey’s chronicler later wrote that the fields had been “covered in corpses, and all around the only colour to meet the gaze was blood-red”.  But one can also argue that the impressive building is an undeniable symbol of Norman success.

Entrance to the Ice house or cellar, can't remember the exact name; but it looks like the entrance to a hobbit hole

Chapter House, completed about 1100

The place where Harold was reputed to have died

French memorial to King Harold

The green sign partway down on the left is for the hotel where I stayed, that close to the Abbey

The abbey was dedicated to St Martin, known as the ‘Apostle of the Gauls’.  One of the richest monastic houses of medieval England, it flourished for over 400 years until 1538, when it was virtually destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII.

In 1721, the estate passed to the Webster family, and remained in their possession for about 250 years.  The family trustees put the estate up for sale in 1976; the government purchased the battlefield and the remaining monastic structures, and today, it is managed by English Heritage.

I found it most interesting, walking around the battlefield, and it was easy to imagine what had happened there.  It was hard work though, in that the day turned out hotter than I’d been expecting, but worth it.

Yet another perfect outing, in so many ways, so glad I did it.