Saturday, November 24, 2012
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Postcards from England: 4. Towers of strength
The archetypal fortified dwelling in northern England and the Scottish borders is the tower house. They can take various forms, from small buildings, often called pele towers, that were usually used as refuges and occupied only in times of trouble, to large towers, with lots of rooms and several floors and often turrets at the corners. All these tower houses were built to cope with a tough way of life, in which border territory might change hands and raiders could descend at any moment from either side of the border. You needed thick walls, a good look out, and weapons at the ready. One of the best of these relics of medieval border life is Langley Castle in Northumberland, one of the larger, aristocrat examples of the type, the subject of my postcard this month.
Langley Castle was built in around 1350, probably by Sir Thomas de Lucy. It has a four-storey central block and 5-storey towers. There is an impressive array of windows. Some of the larger ones were added in about 1900, some, mainly the smaller ones, are 14th century. Fireplaces and doorways from the 14th century adorn the interior. The battlements at the top of the building are mostly from the restoration of the late-19th century, a labour of love by a local historian, Cadwallader Bates, and his wife, Josephine. This work was still relatively recent when my postcard was produced – the card was mailed in January 1906.† Since then, the castle has found a new life as a hotel.
* * *
† My card was sent from Haydon Bridge to Harrogate, to tell someone that "Mr P and Miss H" would arrive at 4.45 pm, an example of the way people in the early-20th century used postcards for short messages, rather as we might send an email today.