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.

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† 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.


Joe Treasure said...

I like the thought of the postcard as email. The technological changes sometimes obscure these continuities. Could an Edwardian Londoner put a letter in the afternoon post to say he'd be late home for dinner? I'm sure I've come across that sort of thing in fiction. He couldn't upload a picture of himself at his desk, of course, but a nice picture of a castle might be just as good.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Joe: I am sure I've read something similar about the Victorian/Edwardian postal service.

I have a small pile of old postcards, and several of them bear practical messages about arrivals by train or similar arrangements; there are also "thank you" messages ("thank you for sending on the coat").

One message seems to be written in shorthand - not quite an encrypted email, but nearly!

Stephen Barker said...

As a fellow postcard collector I would agree that a lot of the messages are quite ordinary giving the time of arrival etc just like a phone, email or text message today. In the larger cities and towns as there were multiple collections and deliveries throughout the day into early evening it is quite possible that a card posted in the morning would be delivered in the afternoon.

I have at least one card where the address written is simply the name, street and then Local as
the card would have first been sorted locally rather than at regional postcentres as is the case today.

My favourite message is where the sender has written it in a square spiral pattern. not something you can do with a text!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Stephen: I'd not really describe myself as a postcard collector - I just have a few postcards that I've picked up here and there. I can feel the bug beginning to take hold, however.

I like the idea of the square spiral. I have one where the words are arranged in vertical columns, which is quite fun.

When I was at university I received a postcard addressed simply: "PW, CCC, OXON". The postpeople seemed to have no problem working that out, but, again, it was from a local sender. (I wish I still had this card.)