Page images
PDF
EPUB

to her husband, Joscelin of Loraine, who took the name of Percy, but retained his parental arms, “Or, a lion rampant azure," the famous blue lion of the Percies subsequently well known on many a stricken field.1 In 1174, during the Mowbray rebellion, the castle of “Toppecliva " was garrisoned for King Henry II by Geoffrey, bishop-elect of Lincoln, an illegitimate son of that king, who strengthened its timber defences. The payment for this work is entered in the Pipe Rolls, 21 Hen. II,8 where the use of the word “efforciamento ” shows clearly enough that it was simply a question of strengthening and not of rebuilding a then existing fortress. Topcliffe was probably the principal residence of the Percies until the acquisition, by purchase, early in the fourteenth century, of the Vesci castle of Alnwick, yet it never developed any works in masonry, and is one of several examples of early Norman timber castles, being occupied by an important baronial family down to a comparatively late date. 4

Description.—This well-preserved and interesting motte and bailey castle occupies the nab end of a low, natural ridge rising above low-lying and somewhat swampy ground between the river Swale on the south and the Cod Beck on the north, which streams effect a junction a short distance to the east of the fortress. The site is locally known as "Maiden Bower." There can be no doubt whatever that in mediæval times all the land between the two streams and around the ridge on which the fortress stood was a swamp, and that the castle thus occupied a highly defensible position on what would then be practically an island.

1 We are told (Sussex Arch. Soc., vi (1855)) that Joscelin de Alta Ripa, a nephew of Joscelin de Loraine, assumed the ancient arins of the Percies. The story about Joscelin of Loraine having been offered the choice of the name or the arms of Percy is doubtless merely a family tradition. The arms of Loraine differed materially from those of the Loraine Percies. See Round's Peerage und Family History, i, 42. From the notes by the Rev. C. V. Collier, F.S.A.. on the heraldry which once decorated Wressle, a late Percy castle, it would appear that the ancient Percy arms were retained by the Loraine-Percies until the beginning of the fourteenth century. “ In the roll of Henry III,” says Mr. Collier, the arms of Percy are given as azure, a fess engrailed or, for Henry de Percy.”

2 Benedict of Pe!crborough, Rolls Ser., i, 68. Geoffrey Plantagenet, an illegitimate son of Henry II, who appears to have been born about 1158, can have

been little more than a boy at this time, but he was of a very determined and resolute character, as his after life shows clearly enough. He took an active part in the suppression of the Mowbray rebellion, and, with the aid of Roger de Pont l'Evêque, archbishop of York, captured the Mowbray castle of Malzeard (Roger of Houeden, Chrort., Rolls Ser., ii, 58).

3 In operatione et efforciamento castelli de Toppecliva, £7 1os. 2d.

4 The house of Loraine-Percy became extinct, so far as the direct male line is concerned, on the death of Joscelyn Percy, with and last Earl of Northumberland, who died without male issue in 1670. His daughter and heiress, Elizabeth, married Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, whose son, Algernon, 7th Duke, had a daughter and heiress, Elizabeth, who married Sir Hugh Smithson. The latter was created Duke of Northumberland in 1766, and is the ancestor of the present Duke.

The motte, which lies at the eastern end of the earthwork, was originally the nab end of the ridge, but was cut off from the remainder of the ridge by a deep ditch, and the soil thus excavated was utilised in heightening the natural motte, the upper 10 to 12 feet of which is probably artificial. The motte now rises some 45 feet above the low-lying ground between the two streams, viewed from which it is very formidable in appearance. It is completely separated from the bailey by the beforementioned ditch ; but there is no sign that the ditch was continued right round the base of the motte, indeed such a protection would be rendered unnecessary on

the north, east, and south by the fact that these bases of the three-quarters detached motte would rise out of swamps. Unfortunately, the motte has been somewhat mutilated by three very narrow terraces or steps being cut in its sides, this doubtless being done when the earthworks were included as ornament in the grounds of the later manor-house of the Percies to the immediate west of the Norman fortress. This mutilation has, no doubt, slightly reduced the diameter of the summit of the motte, which is now only 27 feet. But it is obvious that when perfect the motte would not be more than 40 feet in diameter at the summit, if so much, a space insufficient to allow of the erection of a detached tower within the stockaded enclosure. It seems probable that the stockade would bear one more small timber turrets on its enceinte in order to provide a certain amount of accommodation in the citadel.

The bailey, which is of horse-shoe shape, encloses about an acre of land, and the ditch, with its scarp and counterscarp banks, is still in very fair preservation. As at Nigel Fossard's contemporary castle at Langthwaite, near Doncaster, at the

an

or

1 There is no doubt that this manorhouse was of considerable size. It was roughly horse-shoe shaped, the curving side being towards the east, and measured some 580 feet from east to west, by 550 feet from north to south. It has been stated that the Earl of Northumberland was murdered here on April 28, 1489, by an infuriated mob, but it seems more probable that the murder was committed in or near Thirsk. That grasping and insatiable person, Henry VII, had ordered the Earl to levy an unpopular tax, which the Yorkshire people, by whom his prede. cessor, Richard III, had been greatly beloved, much resented. When the

Earl was compelled to adiit to the assembled people that the royal miser intended to enforce payment of the tax, they suddenly attacked and slew him. The Earl was interred with great pomp at Beverley, his funeral costing, so it is said (Archeologia Alina, N.S. iv, 192), a sum equivalent to about 15,000 of modern money. The enormous procession travelled from Topcliffe to Beverley, spending a night at Wressle, and another at Ieckonfield, two other Percy manorhouses. The Earl was interred in the Percy Chantry of the beautiful East Riding Minster, where his altar tomb still remains.

1

[ocr errors]

Busli castle of Mexborough (West Riding), and at the motteand-bailey castle of Vieux Conches (Eure),1 there is no gap in the bailey ramparts, and the entrance can only have been by means of a light flying bridge of timber, which could be let down or drawn up as desired. Up this bridge horses would be trained to climb (see the Bayeux Tapestry). The timber great hall would certainly, from the first, be placed in the bailey, probably at the south side of the enclosure, with

, windows looking south across to the river Swale, and on this side the slopes of the natural ridge have been scarped away, and are

so steep that the ditch is here discontinued as unnecessary.

WHORLTON (fig. 9). History.--At the time of the Survey? Whorlton was part of the vast Yorkshire property of Robert, Earl of Mortain and of Cornwall, and was then retained by the Earl in his own hands. Although it did not form part of the Survey holding of Nigel Fossard of Foss Castle, it would appear to have been acquired by that energetic and insatiable baron soon after the Mortain rebellion of 1088, and would therefore be held by him in capite. It passed to his son and successor, Robert, the second of the Fossard barons, who, early in the reign of Henry I, gave it to his son in law, Robert de Meynell, to whom we may assign the foundation of the castle. Robert de Meynell, who gave the whole vill of Myton-on-Swale to St. Mary's, York, was succeeded by his son, Stephen. At the time of the accession of Henry II there is no doubt that Whorlton was an earth-and-timber castle of the usual Norman type ; but it may have developed works in masonry during the lifetime of Robert de Meynell II, C. 1200, and is mentioned in 1216 as the castle of Potto.3

Description. This fortress, like the neighbouring castle of Skelton and that of Barnard Castle, was a burgus ” fortressthe seigneural stronghold in this case standing at the western

[ocr errors]

1 At Vieux Conches the probable position of the entrance gate is indicated by a very small hillock just outside the ditch, which De Caumont (Abécédaire, p. 407) mistook for a second motte. But it is improbable that this hillock formed part of the original castle ; it may have been thrown up by the Conqueror, 6. 1040, to facilitate the dismantling of the fortress after its capture by him. Mrs. Armitage, however, who,

like the writer, has visited this castle, says, “I am disposed to think that it was thrown up by the besiegers in order to throw a bridge on to the embankment, as they did from the movable bretasches."

* D.B., 305b, col. 2. At the time of the Survey Whorlton formed part of the manor of Hutton Rudby, and there were there 20 villanes with § ploughs.

3 Fædera, i, 142.

30

Low lying land

liable

to floods

100

200 Feel

YAFFORTH

[blocks in formation]

:

« PreviousContinue »