The King in the North – a talk

The Friends of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh have organised a talk by Max Adams on his biography of St Oswald. It is at St Aidan’s at 4:00 pm Sunday 24th April. Entrance if £5.00 and includes afternoon tea.

Max Adams lecture poster

Writing a biography of an early medieval king is a challenge, so succeeding in writing an acclaimed one, as Max has, suggests we will be in for a treat. Do make it along if you get the chance.

Thanks for a great season and a special video

It is hard to believe that another season is behind us, yet here we are looking back on amazing times and wonderful discoveries. I would like to thank all those who came along and helped make the season such a success. Thanks to you, our readers, for staying tuned to the blog. Thanks to all of our diggers, the Bamburgh Castle staff, the Brown and Barber families, who hosted us at the Kaims, and all those in Belford who made us feel most welcome. A special thanks, though, must go to our hard working staff, whose constant effort, in all conditions made everything we achieved possible.

Graeme Young, Project Director

As a perfect end to the season our trench three supervisor, Anne Hartog, made one last discovery…

Our end of season lecture is available to view online

Our wrap-up lecture was a great success! We had nearly 40 members of the community, students, and staff members attend. We started the evening with Director Graeme Young discussing our Bamburgh Castle trenches followed by a short explanation of 3-d model rendering and photogrammetry by Outreach Officer Cole Kelly. Finds Supervisor Jeff Aldrich gave us an overview of the small finds from the castle and Director Paul Gething wrapped up the evening talking about our Bradford Kaims site. A big thanks goes out to Phyl Carruthers for coordinating space for our lectures at the beautiful Bell View center in Belford.

Or watch the lecture on youtube.

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Beautiful floor surface in trench one

While half-sectioning what we thought was a large pit feature we uncovered part of a highly organized stone floor surface. It would be extreme to call it mosaic, but the stones are small and arranged carefully. Floor surfaces such as this are not uncommon in the later medieval deposits in trench 1, but we have never run across one associated with an anglo-saxon context.

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Since then we have uncovered more of the floor and sampled the soil above for dating evidence, such as seeds and bone. The surface is cut by several small pits and post holes, which although damaging to our floor surface can provide a better understanding of the stratigraphy of the site.

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Harry and Chris working in trench one

Our 2014 Season Wrap-up Lecture

Please come join us for the final lecture of the season. We will be talking about all the exciting discoveries of this season. If you can’t make it out, don’t worry. We will film the event and put it on our youtube channel. Hope to see you there!

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Free Public Lectures in Belford this Season

This summer during our excavation, which begins 2nd of June and continues to 27th July 2014, we are again going to arrange weekly evening lectures. They will be available free to students and members of the public, but if anyone attending wishes to donate a little towards the venue cost, it will be gratefully received.

The venue is at the Bell View Centre, 33 West Street, Belford, Northumberland, NE70 7QB

Lectures will be at 7:00 pm each Tuesday evening.

The list of the first seven lectures should be below. We will probably arrange a summary of the season’s results during our final week, which begins 21st July.

The Heart of the Fortress, Archaeology of the Inner Ward at Bamburgh Castle.  Graeme Young, 3/6/14

The Burnt Mound Misconception (Part 1): Excavation Strategy.  Tom Gardner,  10/6/14

Flodden 500, Archaeological Investigations of the Battle of Flodden. Chris Burgess,  17/6/14

Bradford Kaims Prehistoric Landscape Project.   Paul Gething,  24/6/14

The Burnt Mound Misconception (Part 2): Environmental Strategy. Tom Gardner,  1/7/14

The Art and Material Culture of Northumbria.   Stephanie Chapman,  8/7/14

The Anglo-Saxon Earls of Northumbria.  Graeme Young,  15/7/14

Carol’s ‘Bamburgh Ghosts’ book now available

I am sure that regular readers will be familiar with Carol Griffiths work in the Northumberland archives, though the various posts of her work here. You may also recall our reporting on the successful launch of her book on the subject a few weeks ago: Bamburgh ‘Ghosts’-Voices from the 18th Century.

The book is full of fascinating insights into the world of 18th century Bamburgh and the work of the Lord Crewe Charitable Trust. Those of you interested in getting their hands on a copy can do so at both the Wynding Well and Clarke’s Store in Bamburgh and at the newsagents in Seahouses. Those not travelling to the region can make postal orders to: The book title, C/O The Vicarage, 7 The Wynding, Bamburgh. NE69 7DB. Cost is £10.00 and £2.50 post and packaging within the UK (Europe £6.50 and Australia/US £9.00). Cheques should be made payable to ‘St Aidan’s Church PCC’.

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Bamburgh “ Ghosts”-Tales from the 18C The Erringtons of MonksHouse , Bamburgh

Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with Carol Griffith’s work at the Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn, where she has been researching, and transcribing, the extensive archive of material associated with Bamburgh in the 18th century, when the trust was administered by the able Dr Sharp. There will be more exciting news soon, as Carol has produced a book on her work, but in the mean time, here is a further tale from her to wet your appetite.

Graeme Young

Any one who knows a little of the history of this north coast of Northumberland, and especially of Holy Island, may recollect a feint memory of this name. The Erringtons-uncle and nephew, acquired a certain notoriety at the time of the first Jacobite Rebellion in 1715, for their seizing of Lindisfarne Castle, an incident that from a modern viewpoint, seems almost comical.

Local gentry-led by the Earl of Derwentwater of Dilston, and Thomas Forster, nephew of Dorothy Forster, Lady Crewe( whose husband Lord Crewe had rescued the family from bankruptcy and whose Will would dramatically benefit the Castle and local people through the establishment of many charities) were deeply involved in the uprising. Part of the strategic plan was for French ships to rendez vous with the Jacobite supporters Lancelot and Mark Errington, Uncle and nephew, at Holy Island. Mark and Lancelot did indeed take Lindisfarne Castle, by sailing their ship with a cargo of brandy into Holy Island harbour, and allegedly arranging for one of the castle gunners-who possessed barbering skills!-to trim Lancelot’s beard and hair. Lancelot, later returning on pretext of picking up something he had left, overpowered the small force in the Castle, and for one night the Jacobite flag of James II was flown from the Castle. However, the anticipated French support vessels with troops did not appear (they arrived several days too late) and the next day-

In the great civil war the isle was the station of a parliamentary garrison; and in 1715 it was seized by the adherents of the Pretender, who were, however, soon dislodged by a detachment from the king’s troops at Berwick.

‘Holtby – Holy-Island’, A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848),

As is well known locally, Uncle and nephew were taken to Berwick goal, but later escaped, hiding for some time under heaps of Pease sticks in the farm of a relative in Bamburgh, until they escaped. It is reported that Lancelot eventually ran a public house in Newcastle, and died of a broken heart at the failure of the final ’45 Rebellion.

And the brandy on board?

Report of the Comrs of Customs to the Lords of the Treasury, relating to certain brandy seized out of the ship “Mary,” the master of which, Lancelot Errington, had surprised and taken possession of the castle of Holy Island. The riding surveyor on the coast of Northumberland immediately went to Berwick to give notice thereof. He apprehended that Errington (who had for several years been a common smuggler) might have brought stores for the rebels then at Wooller; he (the surveyor) came to the island the next day, when several persons sent by the magistrates of Berwick, with about 20 soldiers, came and retook the castle. Whereupon the riding officer and others made a seizure of the brandy, &c. on board the vessel. The officers of the castle pretended to have made the seizure, but the Comrs were of opinion that the officers of Customs were the prior seizers, and entitled to the officers’ share. 15 Nov. 1715.

Minuted:—“17 December 1715. Read. To be consider’d when the petition from Berwick comes up.”

So more about the Bamburgh connection- The Manorial Court Book of the Lords of the Manor of Bamburgh 1695-1776 (00452/D/2/1) held at Woodhorn County Archive reveals that Mark Errington was called to the Manorial Court at the Castle on 25 October 1714, and again in 1719. By 1719 a John Errington was called, and again in 1721.

Fast forward to 1764, when the Woodhorn Archive reveals a sad and very evocative letter from a Margaret Errington ( NRO 452/C/3/2/3/10).On August 14th she wrote to Mrs. Mary Fewster of Balmbrough from Monkwearmouth Shore-

Time and long absence may have made you in past forget me, though I think you will remember when I lived at monk house I was very intimate in your Family and had respect shown to me from it and all the families in the neighbourhood. But alas Madam now I am reduced to very low yea in a manner to destitute Circumstances-

My children all that were able to help me are dead, I have in a manner lost my sight, am unable to do any Thing for my support through old Age and Infirmities and therefore am reduced to the Necessity of asking Relief from you or of any other you can recommend me to-

Mr. Sharp, whose father I knew very well and who has been at our House when we lived at Monks House I understand lives near you to whose Charity if you can recommend me you will do a Compassionate action-

We built a Pew in Balmbrough Church as the Neighbourhood will tell you-for which we never had any Thing-if you can make that after so long a time any advantage to me you’ll further oblige me- the Bearer is my Daughter. These with my Prayers for You and your Family are all from

Your humble and obt’ Servt

(Mrs Fewster was the wife/widow? of a Mr Fewster who had been an important tenant in the Manor of Bamburgh. Records at Woodhorn in Dr Sharp’s own hand (00452/J/36) reveal an intriguing village dispute at the time of an early Court in 1748-

July 1747

I was at Balmbrough view’d the Hall-House and Garden there, upon which I obtained Dr Eden’s Consent to allow Mr Fewster to charge us with lime for rough casting the Northside of the House, he leading it; and to divide the garden with Ja.Callender, he being at the expense of the said division.

b. p17 July 5 1748

I met Mr Rudd at Alnwick and went with him, from thence to Balmbrough where on July the 6th we held a Mannour Court at the Castle. The same evening we settled the dispute between Mr Fewster and Calender the Gardiner abt the Nurseries Herbs etc; in Mr Fewster’s part claim’d by Calender. And the next day we kept a Court at the Mannour house)

In an undated Note circa 1765 the Archive reveals a further development regarding poor Mrs Errington(NRO452/C/3/2/19/31). A note in Dr Sharp’s hand gives the context to this family tragedy-

John Younghusband of Sunderland in the Parish of Balmbrough bought a pew in Balmbrough Church, which had been publickly put up for sale-

About 44 years ago Mark Errington who then lived and farmed at MonksHouse (an extra parochial place bounded on three sides by the parish of Balmbrough and on the fourth side by the sea) and which pays no sort of Parish Rates either to Balmbrough or to any other Parish) built a pew in Balmbrough Church with the consent of Rev Dr Beaumont, the curate thereof. About 4 years ago John Dawson who married a daughter of the said Mark Errington put up the said pew for sale (which was some years after he and his mother in law Margaret Errington (widow of the said Mark) had left Monks House and quitted the farm) When this pew which was put up for sale as abovementioned, it was purchased of the said John Dawson by John Younghusband of Sunderland. Some time after this the said Margaret Errington claims the property of the pew on pretence her son in law had no right to dispose of it without her consent and has employed an Attourney Francis Blakiston of Sunderland to acquaint the said John Younghusband by a letter date July 7 1765 that she is determined to assert her right to the same and to oust John Younghusband of the possession thereof unless he will immediately direct his application to him as her Attourney”

The letter written by Francis Blakiston still exists (NRO452/C/3/2/19/3)-

I am told that about 4 years ago John Dawson of Warkworth took occasion to sell you a Pew in Balmbrough Church belonging to his mother-in-law Margaret Errington that the purchase money is 4 guineas. The Purpose of this thereof is to inform you that the said Dawson had no legal authority to dispose of the said pew nor the least right thereto, that the said Margaret Errington who is the proper owner thereof is forthwith determined to assert her right to the same and oust you of the possession unless you immediately direct your application to me as her Attourney and come to some agreement about the Premises. I await your answer

There the mystery remains unresolved; there is no further correspondence in the Dr Sharp letters held in the Lord Crewe Papers at Woodhorn. We are left with many teasing unfinished threads – did the impoverished Margaret receive the value of the Errington pew? Surely the issue was with her son in law John Dawson, rather than the hapless john Younghusband, who had presumably bought the pew in innocence? Did her Attourneys letter have any effect? And how could she afford his fees? And it is surprising that an Attourney dwelt in (North) Sunderland in the mid 1700s; the Trustees Solicitor/Attourney was Thomas Adams who practiced from Alnwick. Was the sale of church pews common? And was the daughter, bearer of Margaret’s letter to Mrs. Fewster, the widow of John Dawson-let us hope that she gave her mother solace in her poverty and blind old age. And how intriguing that Mark Errington, Jacobite supporter and nephew of the “pirate” Lancelot Errington, had had the wealth-and piety-to erect a pew in Balmbrough Church.

There is one last secret about the Errington family I have uncovered-in attempting to find out more about Mark and his family, I turned to the IGI (www.familysearch.org). That revealed that Mark Errington of MonksHouse was christened at Bamburgh in 1689 (making him 26 at the time of the ’15 Rebellion). His parents were Francis Errington, married to Elizabeth Blackman. Francis himself was christened at Bamburgh in 1656, and died on 21 Feb 1720. His parents were Gilbert Errington, married to Margaret Babbington. Gilbert was born in West Denton in 1611, dying on 28 November 1686. Astonishingly, the IGI reveals quite clearly a further 6 generations of Erringtons in a direct male line, all born at West Denton, Newcastle, back to the earliest ancestor Edward Errington, born in 1416, and married in 1446 (name of his wife and date of his death, not recorded). An amazing direct male line through ten generations….how sad that Mark’s widow should end her days in penury, desperately seeking to recoup the value of a Church Pew built by her husband in better days, farming at MonksHouse….

With thanks to Woodhorn Archives

Carol Griffiths

 

The West Ward’s mystery building

A collection of cut and dressed masonry lies around the central turret of the cross wall between the East and West Wards, on the West Ward side. This little collection has intrigued us since we first saw it, but rather receded in interest as excavation in our trenches got under way. Carol’s theory, based on her archive work and discussed in the ‘The strange story of Bamburgh Castle Chapel‘ below. That a building shown on 19th century photographs was a late 18th century church, brings them back into focus, as it is very likely, that at least some of this material represents the remains of this structure.

The building itself is depicted on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (c. 1870) and appears to be present on the 2nd Edition (c. 1897), but had been demolished by the 3rd edition (c. 1920). The tithe award map of 1846 does appear to show structures against the cross wall, between the two wards, but its far from clear what it is depicting. Cartographic evidence would then date its construction no later than the mid 19th century, but it could of course be much earlier, and date back to the 18th. The structure was not large, being in the order of 20m long, compared to the 30m of the Inner Ward chapel, and seems to have a single pitch roof and be built as a pent against the cross wall.

 

Bamburgh castle, circa 1870

Bamburgh castle, circa 1870

 

Could this be a formerly overlooked chapel? On the positive side of the argument it does have rather Gothic windows along one side, but some other characteristics count against this interpretation, such as the orientation, being north-east to south-west. This factor should not be seen as definitive though, as many late-modern churches display all manner of orientations, so this is not a clearly diagnostic factor for the era. The best evidence for its function comes from the 25 inch to the mile, 1st Edition OS, where it is labelled as a laundry. This is good evidence for its role towards the the end of the 19th century, but of course without knowing when the structure was built we cannot rule out that it had a previous life. And if this leaves some of the early records as a little enigmatic, then is a little mystery really such a bad thing?

Some thoughts on the chapel

The castle chapel, now a ruin in the north-east corner of the Inner Ward, has been the subject of a quite a lot of archaeological work during our time at the castle. In fact we are working on a publication (supported by the Royal Archaeological Institute and by the Mick Aston Archaeology Fund) that will bring together the various phases of work that will be published later this year.

The chapel under excavation in 2004. Two trial trenches were located to investigate features identified by geophysical survey.

The chapel under excavation in 2004. Two trial trenches were located to investigate features identified by geophysical survey.

Excavation has been undertaken both within the chapel and in the former flower beds along the north, east and a short stretch of the south sides. Broadly speaking what this tells us is that we have a post-medieval ruin built upon the foundations of a former medieval building. No early, or modern, laid floor surface survived anywhere within our trenches. What we did identify was an earlier trench, a little less than a metre wide, dug inside the medieval foundations. This would appear to be an antiquarian ‘wall-chasing’ trench, excavated to follow and expose the earlier foundations. This may well date back to the Sharp era as, the antiquarian, Cadwallader Bates reported that the medieval chapel foundations had been found when a huge volume of wind blown sand was excavated from the Inner Ward. It was clearly onto these earlier foundations that the masons began their reconstruction efforts in the late 18th century, as shown in the transcriptions from the previous blog.

We have no evidence that the reconstruction was ever completed, certainly no drawing, painting or photograph, that we know of, shows the church as anything but a ruin. My own pet theory is that at some point the reconstruction effort was turned into an antiquarian vision of a ruined chapel. A deliberate folly!

The chapel, we see today, is a relatively plain rectangular structure with a semicircular apse. The chancel and nave were demarked, one form the other, by a simple narrowing of the rectangular main body of the building, by a pair of buttresses. Its hard to imagine this simple building containing an organ loft and fireplace, though the windows can still be seen within the apse. Perhaps the nearest we can get to resolving this is to imagine a relatively tall building, with a half-height organ loft, perhaps above the chancel, and a small fire-setting in one of the walls to warm the organist on a cold winter’s day. Nothing wrong with a little bit of a mystery though!

Graeme Young