To My Mother

Each birthday is a precious gift

            bestowed by Heaven above,

                            Reminding us of God’s concern

His kindness and His love!

Miss you everyday more and more…

Your daughter,


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Sleepy Surrey’s Strongholds

Surrey’s charming countryside is surrounded by larger and more encroaching counties than itself- being Hampshire on the west, the Sussex counties along the southern border, Kent on the east and London and Berkshire northeast and northwest, respectively, with Windsor Castle between them as a part of Berkshire. Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, which primarily serve Greater London, are posted opposite each other on Surrey’s north and south borders. Here, the birth of English (and American) democracy came about with the forced signing of the Magna Charta by King John at Runnymede meadow, only four miles from Windsor Castle, in 1213- over 800 years ago! (You’ll find a memorial pavilion at the highest point here which was erected in 1957!) More castles abound in this small county than one might imagine (nine in all) and over the many centuries, a large number of stately homes and royal palaces which includes one of Henry VIII’s most famous residences, Hampton Court Palace at East Molesey. Peaceful villages appear oblivious to modern traffic but the bustle of nearby London has begun to supersede the pace of life here with motorways that crisscross the county in every direction. Somehow, the rural backwaters of the county hold onto a rather pastoral hush and sandy heaths stretch across much of the landscape which attracts walkers from the aforementioned counties or even further distances. Lethargic tourists may prefer to enjoy the spectacular view from the Hog’s Back, a long ridge running over the North Downs past Guildford, the county’s Georgian capital and home to an impressive keep of a Norman castle- constructed shortly after the Battle of Hastings. The Hog’s Back road is essentially the A31, which originally lead from Winchester through Farnham into Guildford’s High Street and from there into London.

By the 20th century Surrey began to fill up with the affluent from all walks of life and some kindred spirits in the form of rock and pop stars, actors, sports figures and the landed royalty- not to mention former South American dictator, Pinochet. How it came to be referred to as the Stockbroker Belt is a bit of curiosity in and of itself but it is definitely unique in many respects and this is just another indication of what you may expect during a visit. The only thing missing will be- nope, they even have likenesses of the Cheshire Cat in Guildford’s gardens. Expect any and every thing…

After installation of the extended railway systems, barriers between Surrey’s chalky soil, heavily forested North Downs and London were breached and blurred until what was once the poorest county in the south, overall, became an area of rare beauty and rich estates with superlative natural views. This has occurred over many centuries and the result is prime real estate in Wey Valley along the west and havens which nest in secret landscapes along the Weald. Americans may think of West Virginia while traveling through this magnificent green and sandy patch of south England were it not for the numerous reminders of castles interspersed throughout the county. Once you are south of the North Downs these sites are prolific enough to take notice. The rare beauty of this area abounding in heath and hills is topped by Leith Hill in the North Downs and is the highest point in southern England.

The Guildford corridor made way for the bishops of Winchester to build Farnham Castle in the far western reach of the county. It had a magnificent keep built around a shell keep (which still stands although greatly reduced), mural towers (rebuilt during the restoration) and posh interiors in the bishop’s quarters- courtesy of Henry of Blois. Guildford Castle- only ten miles east of Farnham- is intact enough to view much of the exterior remains of the tower keep. Abinger Motte, seated between Dorking and Guildford, north of the Surrey Hills, is remarkable for its location and former size. Northeast of Dorking, seated on a natural sandstone spur overlooking the River Mole, late 14th century Betchworth Castle’s impressive ruins still stand. Only four miles away, Reigate Castle has nothing visible above ground except for a pyramid which hides an underground sallyport but the size of the park-like location, marvelously showcased with markers and barriers, is definitely worth visiting and viewing. Even further east, Bletchingley Castle occupies a ridge south of the village of the same name with stunning views of the Weald. South of Reigate, Thunderfield Castle’s remains are a bit of a mystery with evidence of a simple ringwork but there is a large bailey further to the north. An easternmost site just outside the Kent border along the River Eden, Starborough Castle, once vied with Bodiam Castle for its courtyard configuration and towers with some unique features for such a castle,- alas!- is now gone since the Civil War. Walton-on-the-hill foundations, just south of Wimbledon Stadium, is the closest early medieval earth ringwork to London and was replaced in stone by the 14th century.

At Surrey’s marvelous capital, Guildford Castle’s site overlooks the River Wey in an elevated defensive position. Records of this castle were non-existent until 1173, at which time it was garrisoned against Prince Henry’s supporters but it would be surprising if no castle had been founded here during or immediately after the Norman invasion (i.e. late 11th century). After all, Guildford was once a Saxon burgh guarding a gap in the North Downs and was on the route called the Pilgrim’s Way which was sacked- along with other towns- when William the Conqueror led his army through from Canterbury. At that time it was the only town in Surrey. During Henry II’s reign his accounts show little expense to account for the keep, which is quite substantial, so some form of it may have existed already. Both King John and Henry III often came here to hunt and the castle was, by then, considered to be one of the most luxurious palaces in England thanks to Henry III who loved lavish living. Its decline as a royal residence resulted after the Plantagenet kings came into power and thereafter served primarily as a court house and jail- an all too familiar story for many royal castles.

Guildford’s only obvious survival is that very same keep which is a square Norman tower of standard size in local Bargate stone and sits on the side edge of a large motte created atop a natural chalk spur. Conservation work carried out from 2003-2004 revealed the original crenellations of the tower and can now be seen from quite a distance although the infill remains. As a whole the entire site is quite well kept up, even though it was stripped of roofing as late as 1630. The additional ruins have not fared any where near as well as the tower but some are visible- imparting an apt example of later enlargement, particularly during the Tudor period, with enlarged windows. Patches of herringbone masonry speak of Roman origins and without evidence of a barbican entrance- supports suppositions that the original keep was built quite early. Henry I is the most likely king to have undertaken the task, however, later heightening fortification of the Norman tower has been attributed to King Stephen. If the latter is true then Guildford’s tower, although stripped, may be the only known structure with his undertakings to survive! Unusually, there is scant but obvious evidence of the ruinous shell keep around the base of the motte summit and on the first floor entrance of the tower a mural chapel still exists and is reached through a passage where prisoners’ graffiti carvings cover the walls. By 1381 the castle was a clearing house for prisoners taken during the Peasants’ Revolt.

An outer bailey exists which retains some of its original wall with a wonderful 13th century archway. The keep underwent major conservation work in 2003 when interior floors and ceilings were restored and now houses a museum about the castle’s history and development. The restored garden and grounds of the inner bailey are an added attraction and make up for its reduced size with exceptional beauty when in full bloom. Henry III’s palace remains are two sides of a domestic structure in close proximity along with the main gatehouse. A small portion of the curtain wall remains may be visited in Castle Cliffe Gardens.

Focusing on the tower keep, much can be seen outside and inside. Defense was tantamount and apparent with a ground and first floor entrance configured to only be accessed from the first floor and private apartments were reserved for the King and his Queen even though, later, better apartments were built for him within the bailey. The second level once contributed to its former great height at 70 feet, roofed with lead and the entire structure was whitewashed. A fire greatly damaged the Great Hall in 1254 but building and additions continued on the site for some time as Henry purchased more of the surrounding land to extend the bailies and made provision for Henry III’s son Edward I, who was a mere seven years old when the work was carried out. Those remains can also be seen in Castle Cliffe Gardens.

Very little warfare was carried out at Guildford Castle but it was continually fortified and refortified. One instance was during the revolt of Henry II’s sons in 1173-74 when the French Prince Louis took possession of the castle on the ninth of July in 1216 during the Baron’s war against King John. It was ignored during Simon de Montfort’s uprising after 1260 and it came to be used as a prison when Prince Edward captured a rebel named Adam Gurdon taken at the battle at Alton. From that point on, clear into the 14th century, Guildford was used as a prison of war by the Kings of England governing Surrey and Sussex but not after 1487 when Sussex citizens petitioned parliament to have their prisoners moved to Lewes.

Further afield, Guildford’s bailies encompassed Castle Street, South Hill and Racks Close almost parallel with Quarry Street but further east with a palisade to divide the inner bailey from the outer. Quadrangular by form and definition, its curtain walls were 10 feet in thickness at the foundations but splayed so that the upper portions of wall were slimmer. If you tour the area, you will see very few remains to prove curtain walls ever existed. The gate at Quarry Street is a 13th century build as well but this was, of course, not the original gate and the previous Tunsgate location no longer exists. By the 14th century a new royal hunting lodge had been built on the other side of the Wey and was updated and enlarged after the 1360s. Much of Guildford Castle’s royal apartments and additions within the two bailies were built of stone but with more modern conveniences such as brick windows and fireplaces.

By 1544 John Daborne became the groundskeeper and he and his family remained in this position for the remainder of the 16th century. In 1611 the estate was granted to Francis Carter by James I and much of the surrounding land was used for farming and rented out to others in the ensuing centuries. The house at Castle Arch is attributed as an addition made either by Francis Carter or his son. The Duke of Norfolk purchased the entire estate in 1820 which eventually came into the possession of Lord Grantley of Wonersh by 1885. Grantley essentially sold the property to the town of Guildford and dignitaries corporately known as the Guildford Corporation. Thereafter, both tower and walls remaining were restored and opened to the public as pleasure gardens coinciding with Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee from the previous year in 1888. Since that time the gardens have been an extremely popular visiting and daytrip venue with a seemingly endless variety of colorful bedding and floral arrangements around the keep. A constant theme which prevails is Lewis Carroll’s characters in Through the Looking Glass because he lived nearby in The Chestnuts which was his sister’s house. His stay there lasted from 1868 until his death in 1898. 

Back in 2003 a major renovation project started on the keep which was complete from its foundations to the newly revealed original crenellations on the top. During the year-long process a new floor was put in on the first level along with a new roof, a visitor center was installed which is available to the public from April to September along with a model of the castle as it appeared circa 1300. You can view much of Surrey from the tower roof which is accessible by a staircase specifically restored for this purpose. The castle is open April-September daily, Saturday and Sunday only during October, November and March. Closed during December-February but the grounds are available for visits year round. A small gift shop is available on the ground floor of the keep and info panels help you trace the tower’s history up to present day.

University of Guildford

check out: A Guidebook on Guildford by F. Holling

    Guildford Museum, a charming and attractive historic set of buildings on the castle grounds, was once an old gatehouse of the castle. There are exhibitions free to visit which include a variety of changing exhibitions and permanent collections with some objects dating from prehistoric times. Local history and archaeology are covered as well as a unique needlework collection.

Just up Tunsgate Road to High Street you’ll find Guildhall with its interesting medieval overhanging clock which gives guided tours from spring to the end of summer and further east, up the cobbled part of the street at 155, Guildford House Gallery (t- 01483 444740) which is a 17th century Restoration townhouse with the original interior plasterwork. At ground floor level the façade is actually a shop front as a tourist information center but features of the exterior and interior will amaze visitors with the authentic restoration attributed to John Martyr, once a mayor of Guildford. Originally built by a lawyer by the name of John Child in 1660 this house was converted to a museum mid-20th century but the museum artifacts- paintings and portrait gallery, photo exhibitions and craftwork- are eclipsed by the incredible array of windows including an original oriel and a beautiful staircase with wood carvings. You’ll find wonderful ceiling plasterwork in the Powell Room located on the first floor with the panels divided by ornamental beams. You may also want to check out The Undercroft which dates from the end of the 13th century. This stone vaulted semi-basement is thought to have been a merchant’s shop selling wine or expensive cloths or silk…

From Guildford, if you head for the westernmost part of Surrey directly from the A287 for ten miles, you’ll find Farnham Castle (which borders Hampshire) a half mile north, high above the town center at Castle Hill in Farnham Park. At its highest point you can view and photograph the North Downs! Until 1927, Farnham was a popular stopping point between London and Winchester but by 1933 it was placed under guardianship by the state and was no longer occupied by the bishops. As a former seat of the Bishops of Winchester (gifted to the church by Saxon King Caedwalla over 800 years ago!) it remains a possession of the English Church Commissioners to this day under the care of English Heritage. King Stephen’s brother, Bishop Henri de Blois, first exploited this defensive position during the Anarchy when he fortified all his residences including Farnham in 1138 but he fled the country upon Henry II’s accession and his castles were dismantled. Farnham’s keep and defenses were rebuilt after the bishop’s return in 1158 and restoration continued throughout the last thirteen years of his life. The original square keep was most certainly pulled down by Henry II by 1155 but the remaining shell keep you will see was put up upon de Blois’ return and work was continued, most likely after his death, by his successors, Richard Toclive and Godfrey de Lucy. What remains of the early castle reveals a late Norman structure but the numerous alterations of the site in its entirety have created an obvious incohesive appearance. Not surprisingly, it makes the castle look more interesting from many angles.

Defended very much like a concentric castle, Farnham was surrounded by an outer curtain and quite a bit of the original wall remains although its height is greatly reduced and appears to have been rebuilt even so. Ruins of the square mural curtain towers are still in evidence. Equally as formidable, the surrounding ditch, square mural towers, gatehouse and large shell keep with its expansive triangular bailey and massively thick walls are still quite impressive although much of the interior portions are also quite ruinous. Enough remains of the shell keep for you to be able to see the castle’s former glory in both its early incarnation and the later one.

In the present day you may tour or view the castle which consists primarily of the shell keep with its pilaster buttresses still intact and the foundations of three greatly reduced square towers which still project from the line of the curtain. The 13th century gatehouse of the shell keep, also truncated and ruinous, still shows flanking towers and inside you’ll discover Farnham’s greatest curiosity. Once inside the shell keep interior grounds you’ll find a structure built upon a square platform which was the area of the large square tower erected by Henry de Blois. After the tower was pulled down, earth was piled up against it to emulate the motte. Then the shell keep was erected around the motte and the gap between was filled in presumably to hide all evidence of the original formidable square tower! This, of course, was battered during the Civil War by parliamentary troops.

When you enter the grounds at Farnham you will be greeted with the 15th century rebuilt palatial residential south range. Buildings have always occupied this area, away from the keep, but these brick buildings were commissioned by Bishop William of Waynflete who came into power under Edward III. His additions include the entrance tower, Fox’s Tower (with its corner turrets and castellated parapet) and enlarged porch which includes a stair entrance and screens passage between the great hall and kitchen. Bishop Morley reduced the hall’s size later but evidence remains of the walled-in original Norman arcade of buildings further increasing the interesting architectural appearance. You’ll see the original Norman chapel with its arcade and chancel arch facing the outer bailey and along the east, the restored and altered private apartments surround a small courtyard. These Grade I and II listed buildings can easily be distinguished from the early medieval remains of the bishops’ ancient residence.

The 15th century range continues to be in use and can be toured and is also let for weddings and events, corporate or otherwise. An international business college for a period of time, so much of Farnham’s former palace remains, with sumptuous interiors, that it was ripe for its current popularity for group visitors and revelers. Restoration after the Civil War was carried out by Bishop George Morley and those interiors can still be viewed today. Viewings avail a two-storied great hall in Carolean style which features two balconies with an Episcopal fireplace and flanking consoles- all remodeled during the Restoration. The grand staircase leading to the second floor is by Grinling Gibbons and Morley’s upstairs 17th century chapel has magnificent plasterwork!

T-01252 721194

Just outside Farnham on Reeds Road, a living museum at Tilford called the Rural Life Museum depicts 18th century village life up to the 1960s. Comprising ten acres of gardens, an extensive arboretum and woodlands with reconstructed buildings which include a chapel, village hall and cricket pavilion, the museum displays showcase old-world crafts and trades such as wheelwrighting (repair and replacements of wooden wheels used on carts, etc.). This collection is deemed the finest in England. For the children, the historic playground provides educational entertainment and a well-preserved narrow gauge light railway operates on Sundays. The arboretum has over a hundred species of trees from around the world. T-01252 795571

A mere two miles southeast you can experience Waverley Abbey’s  12th century ruins. This is the very first monastery founded in Britain by the reforming Cistercian religious order. These ruins look so good that it’s a must see for medievalists and romantics alike and has been used as backdrop for films. A small order of French monks settled here in 1128, purposely choosing this quietist of spots by the River Wey. Cistercian settlements in England are rare so this is a chance to see a 13th century vaulted refectory and much more. Admission is free to the public.

East of Guildford you’ll find Abinger Common which looks out east on Dorking and Leith Hill just north of the town. This area was once host to a Norman motte with a castle which covered most of the common. Excavations carried out by Dr. Brian Hope-Taylor in 1949 revealed post holes of two successive but independent towers which surrounded a palisade. This site is located just above an existing Grade II listed church, St. James, a 12th century survival up to WWII, when it was heavily bombed and later, restored in 1950 by Frederick Etchells. Both were most likely built by William Fitz Ansculf ca. 1100 but Abinger Castle was never built in stone and archaeological finds are of a wooden tower house which stood upon stilts, a ground floor of timber left open between the corner posts and a fight platform above it. It has been a subject of conjecture that a gateway along the southwest existed between the gap of the palisade posts. Vestiges of a bridge which connected the bailey with the base of the motte were also revealed.

Records show that the castle was rebuilt in 1140 but by 1153 it was completely destroyed. Along the Roughs, Charles Darwin once studied the activities of worms near a designated play area for children with a log castle folly built just for them. E.M. Forster’s inherited home in Piney Copse Woods is a few minutes walk distance from this site at West Hackhurst. Mere yards away from the medieval wood castle a 17th century manor house, Abinger Manor, was built to the south of the motte and recorded in the Domesday Book. Surrey landowner and writer John Evelyn, rebuilt the home between 1872 and 1873, reusing old materials on a new design by Alfred Waterhouse.

Further southeast Betchworth Castle, a long mile east of Dorking and just outside the Betchworth village, stands on a stone spur high above the western bank of the Mole River in rather picturesque ruins but not as Norman castle. Although documentation is non-existent it is supposed that there was an 11th century earthwork fortress on the site founded by Richard Fitz Gilbert according to the Domesday Survey. Through the centuries it was licensed for crenellation twice. In 1379, Sir John Fitzalan who was Earl Marshal of England (Arundel), had built a castle in stone and subsequently obtained his license for Betchworth from Richard II who was crowned the same year that building commenced in 1377. Later, Fitzalan’s fortified house allegedly received alterations mid-15th century under Sir Thomas Browne who happened to be the treasurer of the Royal Household of King Henry IV and Sheriff of Kent. Whatever was changed or refortified remains to be seen. Association of the Browne family ended by 1690 with the death of Sir Adam Browne who was a second Baronet.

What you can view in the present day are crumbling ruins of a once fortified medieval stone house with formerly tall projecting corner towers and fine stonework- even though in dangerously ruinous condition- along the northeastern side. On the southwest side most of the remains are below foundation level. The entire site is surrounded by iron fencing so no interior visits may be made but much of the remaining edifice is basically gutted so there is much to see on the site, regardless. Actually, most of what you’ll see was rebuilt in the 18th century and parts demolished for stone to be used elsewhere by the time it was in possession of William Fenwick in 1791. Even Sir John Soane, who was hired by the owner Henry Peters, had a go at Betchworth by 1799 which explains its relatively modern appearance. Even so, more demolition and remodeling continued after that and in 1911 an historian said the only medieval feature left was the arch of a fireplace. Along the east side a landscaped garden terrace which survives rather nicely is definitely worth a visit, as well.

Private land.

Only five miles east (A23- A242 junction) Reigate Castle’s site can be found in the center of the town of the same name, just off High Street and seated in what is now a public park. The town below was built after the castle and even though there was a settlement from Saxon times you won’t find much that dates from medieval times. Reigate’s Old Town Hall, which dates from 1708 is located in a prominent position at one end of High Street near the original market place. Most of the town is a Conservation Area, however, which features specialist shops including crafts, antiques, furniture and clothing. There are also gourmet restaurants, cafes and pubs.

The castle is attributed to William de Warenne, the 2nd Earl of Surrey after the Conquest in 1150. He built the castle and the town so the inscription dated 1777 at the gatehouse entry commemorates his legacy (in Latin and English) a reconstruction by Richard Barnes with the old stones. Reigate, named after de Warenne’s nearby deer park (Roe-Gate), was rebuilt in stone in the next century by the Warenne line which, though quite powerful, ended in 1347. The castle faced down a Roundhead siege in the same century and was ruinous again by 1441 but strong enough to make it through the Civil War, even though heavily slighted in 1648. Little original masonry survives today and even the gatehouse is a folly. Nevertheless, it’s quite an impressive site with some surprising vestiges and a lot of speculation surrounding them.

Because Reigate was a Warenne castle it had similarities and has been compared to Conisbrough and Sandal castles- both of which I’ve covered in my Yorkshire entries way back in 2006. This castle site has been made visitor friendly so it doesn’t look exactly like a typical motte and bailey site but what is there astounds. For one, there was a 13th century Augustinian Priory a mere jaunt away from the castle site- which is quite unusual. On site, you won’t find anything left of the curtain wall which surrounded two bailies but a small stone pyramid sits in the center of the oval motte, cordoned off complete with markers, and is supposed to have been an underground sallyport (by most accounts) which goes level with the bottom of the accompanying ditch. During its heyday the castle’s ditches were all dry with no moats but centuries later the outer bailey ditch was filled with water. Mind you, this was well after the Civil War! Reigate’s stone didn’t hold up, apparently but it was continually refortified until the Civil War when it was garrisoned first by Royalists and then by parliamentary forces.

Construction of Reigate started with the motte from a scarped, natural mound which was accompanied with a dry ditch and wooden buildings and defenses. After it was reconstructed in the 12th or 13th century, everything was rebuilt in stone with the inner bailey extended to the north and the outer ward extended to the east. The pyramid that remains in the center is actually referred to as the Barons Cave and is Britain’s oldest as one of Reigate’s few surviving medieval structures. Public tours of it are available on specified days and are very educational just to view. Its original purpose is yet to be determined and the age of it is not known for certain but a written account that dates from 1586 describes it as “an extraordinary passage with a vaulted roof hewn with great labor out of the soft stone.” My own conclusion is that it may be the most exquisitely built sallyport in the history of sallyports or castles! It is certain that it did not exist before the 14th century. An additional road tunnel was built on the site and pedestrianized by 1823. Like many caves there are carvings, depictions and curiosities to be seen on a tour but the art showed up late in the 17th century and it has also been tunneled even later by sand diggers who carved quite a few alcoves into it. Tours of the cave began by late 19th century and the Wealden Cave and Mine Society have worked on and restored areas of the cave since 1991. Most likely the reason that no professional excavation has been carried out at Reigate Castle is because of the compromise to the historical integrity of the site.

French King Louis took possession of Reigate (along with quite a few other castles along the south of England) in 1216 on a foray from Kent to Winchester and consequently the castle was put into the hands of Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel after1347. He retained possession for fifty years as Lord of the Manor and when the Howards married into the Arundel family they took possession. The castle continued to be occupied until the 16th century, although Henry VIII granted Reigate’s Augustian Priory officially to Lord William Howard during the Dissolution. It would have saved the priory had they not, in turn, converted the 13th century survival into a Palladian mansion for his family by 1779!

The Priory has since housed Reigate Priory School and Reigate Priory Museum from the 20th century with the museum’s collection of local history and artifacts of domestic nature and period costumes- all displayed in realistic settings. Both reside in Priory Park, 200 acres below the North Downs with a lake, beautiful gardens and woodlands with public recreational facilities. Overlooking the town is Reigate Hill, owned by the National Trust, resplendent with walkways and spectacular views over the Weald and South Downs. Reigate Fort, atop this view is one of thirteen mobilization centers established during the late 19th century to protect London from invasion. Nearby Gatton Park and Hall occupies 250 acres of formal gardens created by Capability Lancelot Brown in the 1760s. Comprised of lawns, woodlands, ponds and a large lake- the Japanese portion of Gatton Park was added by Sir Jeremiah Coleman. Gatton Park is also home to the Royal Alexandra and Albert School but the grounds are open to the public on the first Sunday of each month and weddings are booked in the ballroom during holidays and vacations. Reigate Heath is 130 acres of sandy heath land along the eastern portion and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest- a local nature reserve, officially. Beside the clubhouse of Reigate Heath Golf Club you’ll find the recently restored Reigate Heath Windmill which is also known as the Heath Church,- the only windmill in the world also consecrated as a church! The wooden windmill dates from 1765 and in 1880 the brick roundhouse of the disused post mill was converted into a small chapel where services are still carried out. From the hill where the windmill stands there are views of the North Downs, including the chalk face at Betchworth.

Site is freely accessible during daylight hours and the caves are by a guided tour, May – September, for a nominal fee. Car parks exist nearby.

Four miles east, on the A25 road to the east of Redhill and west of Godstone, a medieval conservation area occupies a large escarpment of the Greensand Ridge and Way, consecutively. Bletchingley Castle occupies part of the ridge to the south of the village of Bletchingley just off Castle Street and commands a beautiful view across the Weald. A great Tudor house at Place Farm once formed the gatehouse of Bletchingley Place and was once occupied by Anne of Cleves after her marriage to Henry VIII was annulled.

Bletchingley was granted to Richard Fitz Gilbert who was founder of the powerful de Clare family in the 11th century. Earthwork remains are most likely his work which consists of two baileys with a ring motte between them- a typical Norman castle configuration. No stonework is visible above ground but excavations have revealed the foundations of a 12th – 13th century hall-keep in the form of a rectangular tower on the side of an escarpment. The entire castle was destroyed by Henry III after Gilbert de Clare sided with Simon de Montfort during the Barons War after 1260. John Aubrey wrote that one piece of wall (about) five feet thick remained in 1697. Another historian, Manning, said that the foundations of the wall were visible above ground in the 19th century. Excavations carried out revealed features such as a northwest sited barbican, an undercroft which reached to heights of 2.5 meters and a northeast causeway three meters wide which was the original access to the keep. It was referred to in the Domesday Book as Blachingelei.

A church in the town, (see above) St Mary the Virgin is just north of the crossroads and four monuments in the churchyard are listed Grade II- all tombs. The church retains an 11th century tower of ironstone rubble with ashlar dressings, a north arcade and southern sited chancel chapel which was built originally in the 13th century and altered and rebuilt in the 15th century. The castle can be viewed from a public footpath which runs in front of the motte from an area called Castle Square. With the overgrowth is easier to view in winter. A 19th century Victorian home by the name Castle Hill was built on the estate by heirs in the 19th century quite separate from the castle. It has its own Stable House and Garden Cottage nearby but is not part of the original castle site. Permission must be granted to use the public footpath.  Private land.

Thunderfield Castle’s site is six miles south of Reigate and just east of Horley off Haroldsea Drive at the junction of the A23 and the B2036 locally known as Balcombe Road. It is just north of Gatwick Airport. This early 12th century ringwork and bailey was later modified to a fortified manor house centuries later. Thunderfield was also founded by the de Clare family and once had two moats surrounding an oval plateau (flattened motte) with a large bailey. Along the north a small D-shaped inner barbican guarded its entrance. A Victorian era system of pipes and valves were installed for a running supply of water which overrode the ditches and moats. Another barbican, built later, has been mistaken for a motte because it is seated much higher than the rest of the site and its early 13th century outer ditch and small bailey extend outside the barbican. In 1936 excavations revealed a hearth of a bloomery (an iron smelter used for decorative ironworks) along with medieval pottery covering three centuries from the 13-15th centuries! Tree overgrowth is also a problem here so best to be viewed during winter.

Parking by the side of the road

Three miles east of Lingfield, across the border from Hever Castle in Kent, Starborough Castle at Edenbridge was a quadrangular castle licensed in 1341 to Sir Reginald de Cobham. As a courtyard castle, it was rectangular in shape and had four round towers which were topped with domes but it was irregular and to my mind, quite attractive even though not symmetrical. In the present day the magnificent surrounding moat still exists and its finest surviving feature.

After his involvement in the Hundred Years War against the French, de Cobham became a knight of the garter and Lord High admiral. His son later joined the battle at Agincourt and was entrusted with the captured Duke of Orleans who became Louis XII of France in 1498. He incarcerated the duke at Starborough who was a prisoner at the castle for nearly 20 years before being ransomed!

The year was 1477 when the eldest son and heir of the Burgh family was betrothed at the age of 13 to marry Anne Cobham who was only 9 years old at the time! Arranged marriages were not unusual during the Middle Ages even though those engaged were often quite young. Edward Burgh was knighted by Henry VII a decade later after the Battle of Stoke Field and Starborough Castle became his estate, Anne became his bride and both were set for life. At its height, Starborough had excellent hunting grounds along with the highest standards of accommodation for the day and was close to London and the court- to say nothing of all the important neighbors. Burghs continued to occupy the castle until it was sold to Thomas, Lord Richardson in 1634 by the last heirs of the Burgh family- four sisters-who were the only family left to inherit after the early death of their brother Robert, the 6th Lord Burgh in 1602. He was only 8 years of age at the time.

After Reigate was seized by Parliament, Starborough was demolished as well and remains of the castle are only stumps of towers few of which have been partially rebuilt or replaced. The original Starborough manor was built by Sir James Burrow in 1754 along the northeast corner of the castle island using materials from the old castle. By 1793 Sir Thomas Turton purchased the castle from the trustees of Robert Burrow, nephew and heir of Sir James, who had also built a new mansion on the site of the ruined castle, as well as the Gothicized pavilion on the moated island. Sir Thomas was made a baronet three years later and served as a Member of Parliament for Southwark, London from 1806 to 1812. Turton cleaned up the moat, preserving its original layout and piped in water from a spring on a neighboring farm. He later sold the estate in 1812 to William Bruce Smith and Burrow’s 18th century house was torn down. Yet another new mansion was put up near the lake by John Tonge circa 1870. After it was sold to James Moore the pavilion was allowed to ruin and the last known owner was R.V. Toynbee in 1933. Starborough is privately owned and still surrounded by that lovely moat.

While you’re at the historic village of Lingfield take a stroll around and take in the medieval church and the punishment cage built in 1773. The local favorite is the British Wildlife Centre which is just down the road. Some restaurants to try are Old Cage pub which dates from 1592 and there is also The Wiremill, an award-winning pub set in a wonderful lakeside location.

     To see Walton on the Hill Castle’s earthworks you’ll want to head back to Reigate and turn north toward Leatherhead until you reach Tadworth. A flat-topped mound on the grounds of Walton Place, once a 13th century manor house, was suggested at one time to be a tumulus or moot hill, measuring 35 by 32 yards and less than 12 feet high with traces of a ditch. However, later, stone foundations were discovered on the mound and along the south, evidence of a moat. In the most recent excavation survey it was positively identified as a motte with unusual surroundings built after the Conquest.

Later alterations of this site included infilling of the ditch all around except for the south and southeast slopes, all of which were steep. Most of the stone discovered is missing but not used for the 17th century manor house which was first owned by Richard de Tonbridge and later by Gilbert de Clare, both of whom were extensive castle builders. The manor house was first a 14th century replacement for lodgings but the castle site was not entirely abandoned- evidenced by the infillings of the ditch. Along the northern side of the motte the ditch slope is especially steep where the mound was altered to aid construction of an access road to Walton Place. By the time it was owned by the Carew family early in the 17th century the manor house was entirely rebuilt and the castle site may have been reworked to form a prospect from which to view formal gardens. An owner of the manor in more recent times, Mr. W.R. Malcolm, stated that hewn stones had been found in shallow excavations carried out on the motte. No actual systematic exploration had been carried out at that time but his report reiterated those before him. Although no more details can be found on this elusive castle it is certain that if a motte and bailey did exist at one time on this flattened motte it would be the closest of such an edifice to London.        Until next time, 

The Castle Lady

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2018 Already !

The Castle Lady

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What are you doing New Year’s Eve?


London is wonderful!





The night life is incredible for this occasion and the

fireworks will be out of this world…

      absolutely mind blowing and beautiful !

“Big Ben at midnight surrounded by fireworks London, UK”

Tower Bridge near the Tower of London


Have a wonderful time !



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‘Tis the Season


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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

by Clement Clarke Moore (born July 15, 1779; died July 10, 1863)


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And Mamma in her kerchief and I, in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,

Gave a luster of midday to objects below;

When, what to my wandering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!

Now, dash away, dash away, dash away, all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So, up to the housetop the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys- and St. Nicholas, too.

And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly

That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump-a right jolly old elf;

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!”

Have a merry Christmas,

from The Castle Lady

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The Road into Bethlehem


Luke 2:4-16 & 21



And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them inside the inn. . .

Have a Blessed Christmas- one and all!

The Castle Lady

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It’s time to give thanks…

Heavenly Father, on Thanksgiving Day
We bow our hearts to You and pray.

We give You thanks for all You’ve done
For the gift of Jesus Christ, Your Son.

With beauty in nature, Your glory we see
Joy and health, friends and family,
For daily provision, Your mercy and care
These are the blessings You graciously share.
Today we offer this prayer of praise
And promise to follow You all of our days.

-Mary Fairchild

Praise be to God, our Father, our friend and host,

The Castle Lady

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Autumn is Here

by William Kimball Flaccus

Churchmen know not why the wild geese arise,
With clamorous, harsh cries,
And drift away to the dream-distant south;
Why there is sleep over all the land, and drouth
Of sap in the deep-rooted trees:
And why dead leaves, swinging upon the breeze,
Bright maple leaves, and the vermeil leaves of oak,
Float softly down, and strew
The austere. russet earth with motley cloak.

Autumn is here, and the gray, brooding sky
Peers through the branches now
On fields that lie
In respite from the green things clambering
Ceaselessly in the wake of the sharp-searing blow.

What does the prayer book, what the unliving creed,
Know of the slumbering seed?
O let me scorn the priest, let me despise
The silver hard and cold,
And the blood-spattered gold,
And precious stones like venomous serpents’ eyes!

Pendulant crystals flashing from the caves,
And the bright-armored leaves
That tinkle as the wind goes venturing by-
Clearer than diamonds are,
Fairer than golden dish,
They will be all the gems that I could wish.

Incense enough for me will be the pungent breath
Of wood smoke in the air:
And like a princess letting fall her hair,
Light-scudding snow will muffle field and scar
In ermine purer far
Than any mantle that a saint might wear.

This only, this alone is my theology:
Someone there is whom churchmen cannot see.
Someone they cannot know,
Someone who watches the wild geese with me.
Or soul-disturbing stars, or row on row
Of blue aster bowing their heads in the snow.


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Grizel Cochrane’s Ride

It was late in the 17th century at Edinburgh, Scotland that the following story is based on. The Stuarts were struggling to keep their line on the throne despite opposition from every side and was soon to end with the coming of William of Orange. Many noblemen of both England and Scotland were at odds and Oliver Cromwell had wreaked his havoc upon anyone who’d upheld support to the Crown and Royalists and had long since died. The Duke of York, James VII of Scotland (and II of England), and future grandfather of Bonnie Prince Charlie was still in power but not for long.The Castle Lady

Founded on an Incident of the Monmouth Rebellion

by Elia W. Peattie

 In the midsummer of 1685, the hearts of the people of old Edinburgh were filled with trouble and excitement. King Charles the Second, of England, was dead and his brother, the Duke of York, reigned in his stead to the dissatisfaction of a great number of the people. The hopes of this class lay with the young Duke of Monmouth, the ambitious and disinherited son of Charles the Second, who, on account of the King’s displeasure, had been living for some time at foreign courts. On hearing of the accession of his uncle, the Duke of York, to the throne, Monmouth yielded to the plans of the English and Scottish lords who favored his own pretensions, and prepared to invade England with a small but enthusiastic force of men.

     The Dyke of Argyle, the noblest lord of Scotland, who also was an exile, undertook to conduct the invasion at the north, while Monmouth should enter England at the west, gather the yeomanry about him and form a triumphant conjunction with Argyle in London, and force the ‘usurper,’ as they called King James the Second, from his throne.

     Both landings were duly made. The power of Monmouth’s name and rank rallied to his banner at first a large number of adherents; but their defeat at Sedgemoor put an end to his invasion. And the Duke of Argyle, a few days after his landing in Scotland, was met by a superior force of the King’s troops. Retreating into a morass, his soldiers were scattered and dispersed. Many of his officers deserted him in panic of fear. The brave old nobleman himself was taken prisoner and beheaded at Edinburgh, while all the people secretly mourned. He died without betraying his friends, though the relentless King of England threatened to compel him to do so, by the torture of the thumbscrew and the rack.

     Many of his officers and followers underwent the same fate; and among those imprisoned to await execution was a certain nobleman, Sir John Cochrane, who had been made famous by other political intrigues. His friends used all the influence that their high position accorded them to procure his pardon but without success; and the unfortunate baronet, a moody and impulsive man by nature, felt that there was no escape from the terrible destiny and prepared to meet it in a manner worthy of a follower of the brave old duke. But he had one friend on whose help he had not counted.

Edinburgh Castle

   In an upper chamber of an irregular, many-storied mansion far down the Canongate, Grizel Cochrane, the imprisoned man’s daughter sat through the dread hours waiting to learn her father’s sentence. There was too little doubt as to what it would be. The King and his generals meant to make merciless examples of the leaders of the rebellion. Even the royal blood that flowed in the veins of Monmouth had not saved his head from the block. This proud prince, fleeing from the defeat of Sedgemoor, had been found hiding in a ditch, covered over with the ferns that flourished at the bottom. Grizel wept as she thought of the young duke’s horrible fate. She remembered when she had last seen him about at the court at Holland, where she had shared her father’s exile. Gay, generous, and handsome, he seemed a creature born to live and rule. What a contrast was the abject, weeping coward covered with mud and slime, who had been carried in triumph to the grim Tower of London to meet his doom! The girl had been taught to believe in Monmouth’s rights and she walked the floor trembling with same and impatience as she thought of his bitter defeat. She walked to the little dormer window and leaned out to look at the gray castle, far up the street, with its dull and lichen-covered walls. She knew that her father looked down from the barred windows of one of the upper apartments accorded to prisoners of state. She wondered if a thought of his little daughter crept in his mind amid his ruined hopes. The grim castle frowning at her from its rocky height filled her with dread; and shuddering, she turned from it toward the street below to let her eyes follow absently the passers-by. They whispered together as they passed the house and when now and then some person caught a glimpse of her face in the ivy-sheltered window, she only met a look of commiseration. No one offered her a happy greeting.

  “They all think him doomed,” she cried to herself. “No one hath the grace to feign hope.” Bitter tears filled her eyes, until suddenly through the mist she was conscious that someone below was lifting a plumed hat to her. It was a stately gentleman with a girdled vest and gorgeous coat and jeweled sword-hilt.

     “Mistress Cochrane,” said he, in that hushed voice we use when we wish to direct a remark to one person, which n one else shall overhear, “I have that to tell thee which is most important.”

     “Is it secret?” asked Grizel, in the same guarded tone that he had used.

     “Yes,” he replied, without looking up, and continuing slowly in his walk, as if he had merely exchanged a morning salutation.

  “Then,” she returned, hastily, “I will tell Mother; and we will meet thee in the twilight, at the side door under the balcony.” She continued to look from the window, and the man sauntered on as if he had no care in the world but to keep the scarlet heels of his shoes from the dust. After a time Grizel arose, changed her loose robe for a more ceremonious dress, bound her brown braids into a prim gilded net and descended into the drawing room.

     Her mother sat in mournful state at the end of the lofty apartment. About her were two ladies and several gentlemen, all conversing in low tones such as they might use, Grizel thought to herself, if her father were dead in the house. They all stopped talking as she entered and looked at her in surprise. In those days it was thought very improper and forward for a young girl to enter a drawing room uninvited, if guest were present. Grizel’s eyes fell before the embarrassing scrutiny, and she dropped a timid courtesy lifting her green silken skirts daintily, like a high born little maiden, as she was. Lady Cochrane made a dignified apology to her guests and then turned to Grizel.

     “Well, my daughter?” she said, questioningly.

     “I pray thy pardon, Mother,” said Grizel, in a trembling voice, speaking low, that only her mother might hear; “but within a few moments Sir Thomas Hanford will be secretly below the balcony, with news for us.”

     The lady half rose from her seat, trembling.

     “Is he commissioned by the governor?” she asked.

  “I cannot tell,” said the little girl; but here her voice broke and regardless of the strangers she flung herself into her mother’s lap, weeping: “I am sure it is bad news of Father!” Lady Cochrane wound her arm about her daughter’s waist and, with a gesture of apology, led her from the room. Half an hour later she re-entered it hurriedly, followed by Grizel, who sank unnoticed in the deep embrasure of a window and shivered there behind the heavy folds of the velvet hangings.


Edinburgh Castle beyond Lothian PaulTomkins, ph.

   “I have just received terrible intelligence, my friends,” announced Lady Cochrane, standing, tall and pale, in the midst of her guests. “The Governor has been informally notified that the next post from London will bring Sir John’s sentence. He is to be hanged at the Cross.” There was a perfect silence in the dim room; then one of the ladies broke into loud sobbing and a gentleman led Lady Cochrane to a chair, while the others talked apart in earnest whispers. “Who brought the information?’ asked one of the gentlemen, at length. “Is there not hope that it is a false report?”

      “I am not at liberty,” said Lady Cochrane, “to tell you who brought me this terrible news; but it was a friend of the governor, from whom I would not have expected a service. Oh, is it too late,” she cried rising from her chair and pacing the room, “to make another attempt at intercession? Surely something can be done!” The gentleman who had stood by her chair- a gray-haired, sober-visaged man- returned answer:

     “Do not count on any remedy now dear Lady Cochrane. I know this new King. He will be relentless toward anyone who has questioned his right to reign. Besides, the post has already left London several days, and will doubtless be here by tomorrow noon.” “I am sure,” said a gentleman who had not yet spoken, “that if we had a few days more he might be saved. They say King James will do anything for money and the wars have emptied his treasury. Might we not delay the post?” he suggested, in a low voice.

   “No,” said the gray-haired gentleman, “that is utterly impossible.”

     Grizel, shivering behind the curtain, listened with eager ears. Then she saw her mother throw herself into the arms of one of the ladies and break into ungoverned sobs. The poor girl could stand no more, but glided from the room unnoticed and crept up to her dark chamber, where she sat, repeating aimlessly to herself the words that by chance had fixed themselves strongest in her memory: “Delay the post- delay the post!”

     The moon arose and shone in through the panes, making a wavering mosaic on the floor as it glimmered through the windblown ivy at the window. Like a flash, a definite resolution sprang into Grizel’s mind. If by delaying the post, time for intercession with the King could be gained, and her father’s life so saved, then the post must be delayed! But how? She had heard the gentleman say that it would be impossible. She knew that the postboy went heavily armed, to guard against the highwaymen who frequented the roads in search of plunder. This made her think of the wild stories of masked men who sprung from some secluded spot upon the postboys and carried off the letters and money with which they were entrusted.

      Suddenly she bounded from her seat, stood still a moment with her hands pressed to her head, ran from her room and up the stairs which led to the servants’ sleeping apartments. She listened at a door and then, satisfied that the room was empty, entered and went straight to the oaken wardrobe. By the light of the moon she selected a jacket and a pair of trousers. She looked about her for a hat and found one hanging on a peg near the window; then she searched for some time before she found a pair of boots. They were worn and coated with mud. “They are all the better,” she said to herself and hurried on tiptoe down the corridor. She went next to the anteroom of her father’s chamber. It was full of fond associations and the hot tears sprung into her eyes as she looked about it. She took up a brace of pistols, examined them awkwardly, her hands trembling under their weight as she found at once to her delight and her terror that they were loaded. Then she hurried with them to her room.

    Half an hour later, the butler saw a figure which he took to be that of Allen, the stable-boy, creeping down the back stairs, boots in hand.

   “Whaur noo, me laddie? he asked. “It’s gey late for ye to gang oot the nicht.”

     “I hae forgot to bar the stable door,” replied Grizel in a low and trembling voice, imitating as well as she could the broad dialect of the boy.

      “Hech!” said the butler. “I ne’er hear ye mak sae little hammer in a’ yer days.”

     She fled on. The great kitchen was deserted. She gathered up all the keys from their pegs by the door, let herself quietly out and sped across the yard to the stable. With trembling hands she fitted first one key and then another to the door until she found the right one. Once inside the stable, she stood irresolute. She patted Bay Bess, her own little pony.“Thou wouldst never do, Bess,” she said. “Thou art such a lazy little creature.” The round fat carriage-horses stood there. “You are just holiday horses, too,” said Grizel to them, “and would be winded after an hour of the work I want for you tonight.” But in the shadow of the high stall stood Black Ronald, Sir John Cochrane’s great, dark battle-horse that, rider-less and covered with dust and foam, had dashed down the Canongate after the terrible rout of Argyle in the bogs of Levenside, while all the people stood and stared at the familiar steed, carrying as he did, the first silent message of disaster. Grizel unfastened and led him out.


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