Kissing a Shadow

I seldom explain my poetry, if ever, but I wanted to mention that many poems are spiritual events expressed in a physical world. We are not beyond communicating with the spiritual world because we house a spirit within ourselves. The languages we speak are vastly different, however. Inspiration was a recent dream.The Castle Lady

by Evelyn M. Wallace
mind clouds framed in fear
grasping, but spun out of control
landed in a spray of tears
spluttering and then
gone…down a putting hole

a curio shop in my head buzzes with activity
she asked, what was the theme
awake now and retrograde emotion
momentum eternal it cannot be
we’re separate, together, forever

riding waves of elation now spring
go out and come in measuring
take courage in the shape of a sad smile
stay awhile…

it hurts
kissing a shadow.

All rights reserved by author
March 18, 2015

The Castle Lady

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Wellness = Nutrition + Exercise

kitchen-kuchenBy now you have probably read more than a hundred articles on proper nutrition and diets if you have been online for more than a few years and you follow the health and wellness trends with any amount of fervor. There is almost too much information available and it is impossible to tell which are fads, fiction and downright misinformation versus plain and simple facts. This is why I tend to stick to the tried and true nutritional knowledge that I have acquired through my years of earnestly trying to get and stay healthy rather than simply focus on weight and how I look in a mirror. It’s not only that I think diet and fashionable trends are a bane to the public but sometimes true health just boils down to how you’re feeling rather than how you look. You have to acquire maturity to approach this subject with any amount of success so I’m not going to apologize for what I’m about to write.
espedadaWhen it comes to drastic measures concerning getting control over your weight I still hold to some of the philosophies of Hippocrates. Why ? Because I know they work and that these things are true. He said, “Walking is a man’s best medicine.” I find that to be especially true. That’s why I walk every morning without fail- rain, snow or shine. Some dynamic processes happen, when you walk as regular exercise, that cannot be effected by any other means. I guarantee that if every person on the planet walked to and from work everyday instead of driving they would have to stop manufacturing blood pressure medications. Matter of fact they would probably give up trying to sell antacids and aspirin, as well. We might even put doctors out of business. Hippocrates’ philosophies are as old as the hills but they’ve stood the test of time.
Food52He also said, “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” If that sounds strange to you it soon won’t because people are really starting to get into this branch of nutrition and holistic medicine and are seeing results that they don’t get when they head for the doctor and come away with pills that have more side effects than benefits. One sure way to start using your pantry as a medicine cabinet instead of the actual medicine cabinet is to start studying vitamins. Get a good book or chart on the vitamins from A to Z and look for something that will tell you how to prepare the foods which contain the specific vitamins for maximum absorption, the food sources, the health benefits of each and maybe even information on deficiency symptoms. If you are truly into getting as healthy as you can, the book will become your second bible !
frenchfriesAre fried foods really bad for you ? It depends on what you fry them in, how much you are actually eating and then how your body absorbs them. Is it fattening to eat desserts ? If you make a habit of rewarding good habits by overindulging in carbohydrates you will definitely gain weight. Perhaps dessert can be relegated to special occasions when separated from full meals. Otherwise, don’t make a habit of dessert eating. I adore tiramisu. I have one serving about twice a year or when I wear jewelry.

For many years now traditional doctors have been prescribing iron supplements to people who they say are suffering from anemia but that’s only helpful if the person has an iron deficiency. There are many types of anemia and the fastest way to correct oxygen-carrying deficiency in blood, often the red blood cells, is to increase the general volume of blood content. It’s not a cure but a way of sustaining what can otherwise be fatal if untreated. Anemia often starts with severe blood loss either by trauma or perhaps internal bleeding. Amenorrhea can be a symptom of anemia. Other causes may require increases in liver intake, B 12 or folic acid therapy (the two latter vitamins being interdependent in the case of pernicious anemia) and high protein diets are usually precedent in cases of decreased blood formation anemia because leucocytes (white blood cells) are an important factor as well. Back in the 1970s Russian doctors were giving pangamic acid ( B 15) to retarded children because they believed that it increased blood oxygen supply to brain tissues. Apparently, they were seeing serious good results and yet B 15 is not even mentioned in our books!
Shrimp_cocktailMost people would tell you if you have a banana with milk at night you’re going to become extremely fat but as a matter of fact it may increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep and both are loaded with nutrients which stave off heart attacks, diabetes, depression and even migraines! Once you get into nutrition and healthy eating, being model thin pales by comparison to the robust health you’ll enjoy. Proper diet and exercise as a way of life promotes a special type of beauty all it’s own and you’ll be glad you took the time to be good to yourself. After all, you’re the only one of you we have !
CastleCake_Bundt_basicI read a newsletter recently that honey has a natural constituent in it which, it turns out, compares to Penicillin A. If you check this out on the internet you’ll get conflicting stories some of which are suspicious that bees are being fed antibiotics from the hive. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen. I can tell you that being ultra sensitive to antibiotics, myself, honey has never caused me any problems and I don’t usually go without honey at least once a day. I have heard the reports for many years now that to combat allergies and common colds there is nothing better than tea with lemon and honey and I feel that this is correct because I’ve proved it to myself time and time again. One drawback is that you cannot give honey- at all- to newborn infants but they already have their immune systems in overdrive, anyway. Mom’s milk is all they need for the first few weeks of their life which should tell you something about the nutritional properties of milk. Later on in childhood, milk supplies Vitamin A, B-6, B-12, Riboflavin, D, potassium, magnesium and protein.
castlesmorgasNutrition may be more of a study in health and it’s always best when brought down to wholesome ingredients and educating yourself but exercise in any form will create a balance of health which can’t be beat. However you come to adopt a program of regular physical exertion, make sure that you don’t neglect it. Exercise is the most important part of your personal health program and it’s as easy as putting on walking shoes and going for a mind-clearing walk. Go for it !


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Eighteenth Century Poetry

Disney_CastleTo other themes my fancy now inclines,
Thoughts of the by-gone years, the olden times,
When the strong castle in its lofty pride
Frowned o’er the sleeping woods that stretched beside;
Here the fierce Conqueror from his victory came,

Here Royalty, with all its glittering train
Of courtly knights and dames of noble race,
Graced the fair banquet or pursued the chase

by Sarah Littleboy, a Berkhamsted Quaker

Castle_ChildatHeart-640The Castle Lady

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Return to Fontainebleau

This poem, written by the ever irrepressible Sara Teasdale, will be making its second appearance on this blog with enhancements in the form of images. I originally posted it here April 5th in 2006- oh, how time flies! Fontainebleau happens to be a castle I have visited (thirteen years ago !) so I decided the poem and the castle deserve a second look. Enjoy this renaissance beauty and if you’d like to see more you can visit my official web site – The Castle Lady

Interminable palaces front on the green parterres,
And ghosts of ladies lovely and immoral
Glide down the gilded stairs,
The high cold corridors are clicking with the heel taps
That long ago were theirs.

But in the sunshine , in the vague autumn sunshine,
The geometric gardens are desolately gay:
The crimson and scarlet and rose-red dahlias
Are painted like the ladies who used to pass this way.
With a ringletted monarch, a Henry or a Louis on a lost October day.

The aisles of the garden lead into the forest,
The aisles lead into autumn, a damp wind grieves,
Ghostly kings are hunting, the boar breaks cover,
But the sounds of horse and horn are hushed in falling leaves,
Four centuries of autumns, four centuries of leaves.

Web  Site IconThe Castle Lady

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Easter’s Purpose: Jesus Sacrificed for Redemption of Sin

Easter_ThumperWe have lots of good reasons for celebrating holidays that sound so good when we hear them. Touted most often these days is the chance for a family to come together and act like a family. We once were a nation that thrived on being different, holding up individualism and uniqueness and yet more and more of our holidays are beginning to appear to be a boom time for candy manufacturers or selling anything that will sell prolifically for the stated holiday. Green beer for St. Patrick’s Day ? Stuffed bunnies and egg dyeing for Easter- don’t forget the ham ! What nonsense !
The fact that this has happened to Easter, Passover or Resurrection Sunday is a sad statement of our new millennium quest to be politically correct and still observe our faith. Everything about what should be a high holy day for Christians and Messianic Jews is celebrated by the secular world as if it’s no different than some so-called pagan holiday and is a travesty that ought to end. It’s sad to think that a child can be brought up in the United States thinking that an Easter basket filled with toys and candy is the accepted symbol for a resurrection.
To bring us all back down to reality and the truth I thought I’d mention the name Jesus today. Symbolism can be replaced here with another look at how he died- on a cross. He died to set us free of sin. Jesus broke the most onerous curse that besets humankind so easily- our rebellious sin. We really do have a reason to celebrate if we have accepted that Jesus went through a harrowing ordeal to bring us the greatest gift of all. He did all that and now we can be assured of salvation. In honor of this deed, I will close with a poem by an unknown author. It really says it all for today !

Jesus, the name high over all.
In hell, on earth and sky.
Angels and man before it fall;
And devils fear and fly.

Jesus, oh the magic
Of the soft love sound.
How it thrills and trembles
To creation’s bound !

With adoration to our Saviour,

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Silent Songs of Spring

To start poetry month off with a grand start here are four offerings for Spring:

from Moods, Songs and Doggerels by John GalsworthyButterfly_art_2

Starry-eyed in April morn,
Rain bells glitter on the thorn.
Birds are tuning down the lane
Patter song of fallen rain.
Spring can grieve but Spring can be
Very life of minstrelsy !
Gorse has lit his lanterns all.
Cobwebbed thrift’s a fairy ball,
Earth it smells as good as new,
Winds are merry, sky is blue.

Song on May Morning

by John MiltonButterfly_art_1

Now the bright morning star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that doth inspire
Mirth and youth and warm desire;
Woods and groves are of thy dressing.
Hill and Dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee and wish thee long.

How the Goddess of Spring Came to Scoring

by Charles Kingsley

White were the moorlands,
And frozen before her;
Green were the moorlands,
And blooming behind her.
Out of her gold locks
Shaking the Spring flowers,Scent_of_Rose
Out of her garments
Shaking the south wind,
Around in the birches,
Awaking the throstles,
And making chaste housewives all,
Long for their heroes home;
Loving and love-giving, Came she to Scoring.
-from The Longbeard’s Saga

The Cloud
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,Flowers
As she dances about he sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under;
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

Castle_ChildatHeart-640The Castle Lady

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The Mountain Castle

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

MyBookhouse1935_mariel_wilhoite_turner_art_engravingTHERE stands on yonder high mountain
A castle built of yore,
Where once lurked horse and horseman
In rear of gate and of door.
Now door and gate are in ashes,
And all around is so still;
And over the fallen ruins
I clamber just as I will.
Below once lay a cellar,
With costly wines well stor’d;
No more the glad maid with her pitcher
Descends there to draw from the hoard.
No longer the goblet she places
Before the guests at the feast;
The flask at the meal so hallow’d
No longer she fills for the priest.
No more for the eager squire
The draught in the passage is pour’d;
No more for the flying present
Receives she the flying reward.
For all the roof and the rafters,
They all long since have been burn’d,
And stairs and passage and chapel
To rubbish and ruins are turn’d.
Yet when with lute and with flagon,
When day was smiling and bright,
I’ve watch’d my mistress climbing
To gain this perilous height,
Then rapture joyous and radiant
The silence so desolate brake,
And all, as in days long vanish’d,
Once more to enjoyment awoke;
As if for guests of high station
The largest rooms were prepared;
As if from those times so precious
A couple thither had fared;
As if there stood in his chapel
The priest in his sacred dress,
And ask’d: “Would ye twain be united?”
And we, with a smile, answer’d, “Yes!”
And songs that breath’d a deep feeling,
That touched the heart’s innermost chord,
The music-fraught mouth of sweet echo,
Instead of the many, outpour’d.
And when at eve all was hidden
In silence unbroken and deep,
The glowing sun then look’d upwards,
And gazed on the summit so steep.
And squire and maiden then glitter’d
As bright and gay as a lord,
She seized the time for her present,
And he to give her reward.

written by Goethe in his 55th year (1803 )


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Irish blessings abound…

May God grant you always…

 A sunbeam to warm you,Irish_Fede_Ring

                          a moonbeam to charm you,

a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you.

Laughter to cheer you.

                                Faithful friends near you…

and whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you.


The Castle Lady

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Do you know about International Women’s Day ?

woman_imageMy introduction to International Women’s Day started with a card I received from my long-time Russian pen pal when we were both teenagers in the late 70s. I had never heard of it prior to her greeting but I have been intrigued with this international event since I first heard about it and very recently delved into researching it in depth. In February of 1913, on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed the first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday of that month. Following discussions it was transferred to March 8th and has remained the global date ever since.
This day is celebrated all over the world these days, just as the name suggests, but its beginnings were in the Russian States back the early 1900s and was a socialist movement, originally. By 1908 the inequality for women concerning legal, business and voting rights issues were debated prolifically and active campaigning for change was accelerating internationally- regardless of party affiliations or ethnicities. That same year. 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
By 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen and concurrently a woman named Clara Zetkin who was Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ (for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year, in every country, there should be a celebration on the same day to press for rights and demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties and working women’s clubs included the first three women elected to the Parliament of Finland and all approved Zetkin’s suggestion.
LesArques_FRFollowing the unanimous decision International Women’s Day (IWD) was honored for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19th March the following year and over a million women (and men) attended the rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work for equal pay, vote, hold public office and end job discrimination. Less than a week later on the 25th of March 1911, the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. A few years later, women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express solidarity on women’s rights issues. When the Russian Czar was forced to abdicate, the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
International Women’s Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across large and developing countries alike and has grown progressively through the years. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. From the momentum it gained through the years, 1975 was designated as ‘International Women’s Year’ by the United Nations. Women’s organizations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on the 8th of March by holding large-scale events honoring women’s advancement while reminding us to be vigilant and active in ensuring women’s equal rights to be maintained in all aspects of life.
The year 2000 marked the 100th anniversary date of this global observance since its earliest beginnings but two years ago marked the official 100th anniversary when it became globally accepted and also official. Third world countries had joined in the solidarity, increased awareness and aid to women in these countries and has become an honored tradition by those who have stepped up to the plate to make a difference. The new millennium has witnessed a significant change in attitude in both women’s and society’s thoughts about equality and emancipation. Those of a younger generation seem to feel that all the battles have been won for women but feminists from the 1970s remember too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in boardrooms, legislative rights, and more visibility as important role models, it is supposed that women have gained true equality.
The struggle which comes to mind in more recent years was brought to light in a movie which Sally Field starred in portraying an actual person, Crystal Lee Sutton, in 1979, titled Norma Rae. In 1973, Sutton was a 33 year old mother of three earning 2.65 an hour folding towels at J.P. Stevens when a manager fired her for pro-union activity. In a final act of defiance before police hauled her out, Sutton, who had worked at the plant for 16 years, wrote UNION on a piece of cardboard and climbed onto a table on the plant floor. Other employees responded by shutting down their machines. She spent the remainder of her years as a labor organizer and quite heavily during the 70s. Eventually she became a certified nursing assistant in 1988 but by the time of her passing in 2009 she had not been able to work for several years because of illnesses. Her struggle to unionize textile plants in the South will be remembered many years from now on the strength of the type of solidarity brought to light through such organizations as IWD and others.
Jetaime_intrepid_JamesJacobsHowever, the unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally among their male counterparts. While we have increased in all the areas which would bring equality to men in our daily lives we have a long way to go before we will be found present in equal numbers in business, politics, women’s education and health. Violence against women is worse than that of men and has increased exponentially in domestic situations. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into universities, women can work and have a family and have viable choices, culturally. Advancement has been slow considering the momentum of the Women’s Movement and it is important that we recognize that the need for solidarity and activism continue so that we can truly say we have achieved the main objective of International Women’s Day which is absolute equality in all areas of life.
In the present day, one hundred years later, the organization has become celebratory of the positive advances we have made and thousands of events are held throughout the world, on the eighth of March, to inspire women and promote achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatrical performances, fashion parades and more. Many global corporations have also started to more actively support IWD by running their own internal events and through supporting external ones. Media giant Google changes its logo on global search pages on March 8th to honor IWD which increases the status of the event. The United States designates the whole month of March as Women’s History Month and is enjoying its 24th annual celebration this year.

Intl_Womens_noceilingsThe website was founded in 2001 as a non-profit, philanthropic venture dedicated to keeping IWD alive and growing. International Women’s Day has gained considerable momentum since 2007 due to greater media attention, events, social networking and corporate support. Now celebrated with various and wide scale activities in almost every country- many world leaders and officials support this event with official statements, announcements and activities you can become involved in and with which to participate. This year Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea will be hosting a webcast live from New York City the following Monday March 9th along with Melinda Gates titled Not There Yet: A Data Driven Analysis of Gender Equality on the web site At the event, No Ceilings will release the findings of The Full Participation Report, an analysis of the gains women and girls have made over the last 20 years and the gaps that remain today. In honor of International Women’s Day, this groundbreaking event will bring together global and community leaders for a compelling look into the status of gender equality since 1995, when the world spoke with one voice to declare that women’s rights are human rights. There will be an online conversation with the hashtag #NoCeilings for those who would like to put forth their views and ideas.

So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make everyday International Women’s Day by doing what you can to ensure the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding. Last week in the Sunday Parade newspaper supplement, a woman was mentioned in an article touting the importance of making a difference right where you are in your community. Ana Maria Chali Calan founded AMIDI (Association of Indigenous Women for Holistic Development) in her small village in the Guatemalan highlands in 2000. There were almost too many issues that affected women in her locality but she decided to improve the standard of living for women, specifically. She started with classes in organic farming, accounting and even a small egg business and then on to installing safe, fuel-efficient stoves in kitchens. Those aided by AMIDI with micro-lending projects have become leaders in women’s rights, are savvy entrepreneurs and have become advocates, themselves, in the fields of health and nutrition. This is the true meaning of solidarity when those who have been helped become beacons in the international community for women.

Now there’s a win/win ! Oh, and …


The Castle Lady

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Heavenly Hills, Dales and Castles of Eastern Hertfordshire

HertfordLocated along the eastern border, the town of Hertford contained two burhs founded in 911 by King Edward the Elder (England’s second king). Hertford Castle was raised, in 1066, beside the River Lea and bequeathed to Peter de Valoignes, the High Sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire by William I. Today it is located in the Town Centre and entrances to the park are located next to the Castle Hall and in West Street. In general form, Hertford Castle originally resembled Berkhamsted- a motte and bailey once surrounded by a double moat, with palisades as barriers. The earthworks of the castle do not compare well considering the motte is much smaller, the moats have been filled in and are not easily deciphered. Hertford, similarly to Berkhamsted, also escaped damage during the first Civil War even though Hertford supported Matilda. This paid off well to Hertford because building of the castle continued later, according to Royal pipe rolls, which state that, from 1171 to 1174, construction continued under Henry II’s direction raising the curtain walls and giving the castle a rectangular courtyard appearance. An octagonal tower along the south was a later medieval addition, as well.
Hertford_Castle_SpeedsPlanBy the end of the 12th century, after Henry II’s reign, Hertford declined in royal favor for some time. Same as Berkhamsted, Hertford endured its only recorded siege in 1216 taken during Louis’ campaign to topple the English throne. Edward III used the castle to imprison his mother, the indomitable Queen Isabella, but he was, in fact, born and raised there! Later, he granted it to her. During the Hundred Years War he also used the dungeons to imprison David II of Scotland and John II of France. Even Richard II was kept here for awhile, along with 18 peasants before he was deposed to Pontefract. The castle enjoyed a revival when the House of York began to struggle to seize the crown after Edward IV was crowned. Construction on his brick gatehouse was started in 1461 and was finished by 1465. This oblong building features shallow angle turrets and just below parapet level you’ll see decorative machicolations, mullioned windows with arched frames and an arcade entrance. Occupation of the gatehouse continued long after the rest of the castle had been abandoned.
Hertford_Castle_Gatehouse_tnAs a matter of fact, through the centuries the castle has enjoyed several revivals but the most enduring was that of Edward IV’s brick gatehouse. Before that Henry II had reconstructed the entire castle in stone during the second half of the 12th century and Richard I employed his regent William Longchamp to refortify the castle when his vassal Robert Valoignes, Peter’s son, had taken control over the daily life of the castle. King John ousted an heir to Robert, his son-in-law Robert FitzWalter and his entourage but was later reappointed to govern thereafter and it remained a strict stronghold to the crown from that time on. The last major overhaul came in 1360 when John of Gaunt was granted the castle and it was his chief country home through most of his life.
During the Wars of the Roses Hertford became a popular castle to bequeath to the queens of England which included Princess Katherine of France, Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville. As much a jail as a residence, it may have been a way of controlling the women of the crown. Henry VI spent a good part of his early childhood at Hertford. Just before the Tudor period was ushered in Richard III granted the castle to one of his strongest supporters, that of the Duke of Buckingham and by the time Henry VIII came into power it was basically a civilian palace, private residence and the gatehouse was the primary residence. Queen Elizabeth was a frequent visitor most likely because she spent most of her childhood in Hertford Castle and Hatfield House- which is seated exactly at the midway point between Berkhamsted and Hertford Castles.
Hertford_CastleBy the beginning of the 17th century it was no longer considered a royal residence and was neglected by both James I and Charles I but granted to William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Salisbury who had built Hatfield House by this time. Even though it was heavily ruined, surprisingly, it was leased to a Sir William Harrington of Hertingfordbury Park. Sir William set about restoration and then reassigned the lease to Sir William Cowper who was a customs collector for the port of London. A list of Cowper’s heirs gained this inheritance for a number of years until 1790 when it was enlarged with a south wing to the gatehouse and converted into a neo-Gothic mansion by the Earl of Hillsborough. This entailed the walling up of the original gateways and the addition of a porch in front. Additional restorations uncovered timber roof beams and partitions on the upper floors. After that time it was considered a Royal Tudor Palace and a private residence. The 18th century façade you will see currently actually dates from the 16th century with new parapets and brick battlements to give it a pristine look which is almost uncanny. Only Hertford’s walls remain as a five-sided enclosure and were reconstructed, in portions. It is easy to discern the original walls from the reconstruction upon close examination. The new gateway and lodge were built by the Marquis of Downshire at the beginning of the 19th century and soon after became the home of the East India Company College and through the years an emergency hospital was established by Reverend Thomas Lloyd, who was a strong charity supporter in Hertford.
HertfordCastleWalls_panoramioWork was carried on by a corporation formed in 1911 leasing the gatehouse from the Marquess of Salisbury and housed the administration adding gardens to the public areas and a north wing was added to the gatehouse upon which the Salisbury estate finally granted the entire complex to the town. It now houses the offices of the town council.
Hertford Museum at 18 Bull Plain, a short distance away, offers free admission during normal business hours, Besides being an historic 17th century house with a reconstructed 18th fascia, it is filled with Hertford’s history on displays. There is also a beautiful knot garden on the grounds and a fascinating gift shop as well.    T-01992 582686–130-4
1812 drawing of Hertford castle by George Shepherd, published by John Harris in The Beauties of England and Wales Free admission with parking in St. Andrew St.
Hertford Town Council at The Castle, Hertford, SG14 1HR
Tel: 01992 552885 E-mail: Web:
Tourist information center at 10 Market Place

Rye_House_Gatehouse_ggrph_RobertEdwardsOn the banks of the River Lea, one mile northeast of Hoddesdon along the Essex border, Rye House is often remembered for the Rye House Plot of 1683- a bungled attempt to assassinate Charles II. A short distance southeast of Hertford, the remains of Rye House speak of better days and are reminiscent of Kirby Muxloe in Leicestershire and Tattershall in Lincolnshire- both of which I have covered on this blog.. Sir Andrew Ogard, a former soldier during the French wars, was granted a license to crenellate the house in 1443. Most likely it was reconstructed as a courtyard quadrangle with most of the edifice destroyed by the 18th century. The 16th century two-storied gatehouse and former moat are all that is left but it was built in fashionable brick, save for the stone archway, and shows a passion for display with its decorative corbels, slight battlements, twin oriel windows and a diaper pattern along the walls in bands of blue brick. In its heyday it most likely hearkened to Scottish baronial castles in style and most likely was never built for defense of any kind however, it is considered to be the finest medieval moated site in Hertfordshire and what remains is in quite good condition. Discovery of documents relating to this fortified manor house has kept its historical significance intact.
Rye_House_1777_Forster1Entrance to the castle is provided by a causeway on the south flanked by two re-erected late medieval chimneys which have been listed separately as scheduled monuments in and of themselves. The moat enclosure is quite large in circumference joined to the river on the east by a broad flume (artificial trench). It is also fed by the river along the north with a smaller flume. As a grade 1 listed scheduled monument, the surviving gatehouse has been kept very nicely and is located on the east side of the island most likely reached by an earlier bridge than the existing one. Some former walls remain in ruins to the west south of the gatehouse and some recent restoration has taken place without the aid of excavations. Rye_House_Plot_1823In 1868 a man by the name of Henry Teale developed a pleasure garden on the site including the moat into a part of the ornamental works and he was also responsible for replacing the chimneys, as well.

Hertfordshire blog by Chris Reynolds features old black and white photo of Rye House

BishStort_castle_causewayAbout ten miles east, off the M11, Waytemore Castle overlooks the River Stort along the eastern border at Bishop’s Stortford right in the middle of town. William I established the castle to command the river crossing and later granted it to Maurice, his Chaplain and Chancellor by 1086 but it is speculated to be much older with its origins going back as far as Edmund the Elder ( ca. 901). It is assumed that King John made improvements during his reign since most of the ruins may date from the first decade of the 13th century and documents indicate that the owner of the castle was given a license to crenellate by the mid-14th century. This castle somehow missed being listed in the Domesday Book but Bishop William bought the Saxon manor of Stortford which ultimately became a property of the Holy See of London. By 1060 the castle became a popular retreat of the bishops, hence the name, but by the 15th century they transferred to the palace at Much Hadham not far away. Afterwards, abandoned as a residence by the 17th century, Waytemore achieved notoriety as a jail for nonconformists and was pulled down after the Civil War.
Waytemore_castle_moatEarthworks delineate the position of the bailey and the motte is large and oddly rectangular in shape except for one rounded side along the north. At the summit are the low and bare foundations of a 12th century flint Norman curtain with a square tower keep close to the entrance. Human remains, in the form of bones, have been discovered more than any other type of artifact. Roman bricks and coins were also found so a settlement here by the Romans is also possible. Waytemore has never been conclusively excavated as a result but its use as a post-medieval prison may be a contributory factor. The motte is of incredible size and worth a visit as the site is easily accessible in parkland known today as the Castle Gardens. There you will see several modern war memorials amid a wonderful network of pathways and gardens
Waytemore_1821_motte_&_townAlong the southern side of the motte a gatehouse and steps led down to a barbican and a drawbridge existed crossing from the inner moat to the bailey. Four acres around the property are now bereft but once was laid out with stables, storehouses, a blacksmith and quarters for the castle garrison. A sizable outer moat also existed and was enclosed by a curtain with two gatehouses- one for the garrison and the other leading down to the causeway which has changed through the centuries but still exists.
To see what remains of the stronghold now it is difficult to imagine how important this particular castle was through several epochs in English history. For one, although this castle was always the official seat of the Bishop of London it became a pawn in the political struggle for the crown between Princess Maud (or better known historically as Matilda) and Henry I’s nephew Stephen who usurped his cousin’s crown with all the barons of England’s approval. Known in history books as the Anarchy, the two continued to wage war over the ultimate reign of England. Robert of Gloucester’s support gave Matilda the confidence to return from exile in France to reclaim her throne and because there became two rival factions the first civil war began.
Matilda’s first bid for power began with a bargain struck with Geoffrey de Mandeville II. She promised him the castle at Stortford but only if he would help her fight King Stephen. If he didn’t accept, she planned to destroy the castle. It put him in a tough position because he owned property at Thorley and Saffron Walden and if Stortford became hostile territory it would make it difficult for him to travel back and forth between them. The bishop of London at that time was Robert de Sigillo and he supported King Stephen so he refused to release the castle to Matilda. By 1141 she took charge of England and Stephen was imprisoned at Lincoln Castle. She was never crowned and within a year Stephen took the throne by force again.

BishStort_Waytemorecastle_causewayDuring King John’s reign the castle was ‘dismantled’ and rebuilt under the curious circumstance of an ongoing quarrel between him and the Pope after 1205. For a period of time John freed the manor and town from Church ownership and it became a royal stronghold. After 1214 when he rebuilt the castle at his expense, it became the seat of the Bishop of London once again. After King John signed the Magna Charta in 1215 he visited the town on the 29th of March 1216, but died later that year presumably in battle. Sometime during the reign of John’s successor, Edward III, the castle was restored and repaired again adding leaded lights to the windows and wrought stone for doorways under the direction of Ralph de Stratford, the current Bishop of London. The castle was also crenellated and the chapel of St Paul was built within the castle bailey. Priests brought there were to pray regularly for the souls of Queen Philippa and the bishop. When the bishop and priests abandoned the castle in the 15th century its purpose diminished and fell into disrepair rapidly. Interestingly, dues were still paid on it even by the time of Elizabeth I’s reign but it was merely a prison by then and eventually the entire castle was completely demolished after confiscations by the commonwealth in 1649.

BeningtoNRuins_ggrph_uk_JeffTomlinsonIf you head north on the A1 toward Bedfordshire you’ll find the remains of Benington Castle about four miles east of Stevenage. A red brick Georgian manor known in the present day as Benington Lordship, was built within the elevated enclosure of what began as a Norman castle. Its true origins go back to Saxon times and was founded by the King of Mercia. The ruins you will see were built early in the 12th century and may have been seen as an adulterine castle by Henry II and King Stephen during the Anarchy but is attributed as the work of Peter de Valoignes in the early stages and Roger de Valoignes’ stone fortifications of 1136 which included a stone tower atop the motte. It managed to survive Henry II’s decree of demolition in 1177 because it was back in full use by 1192. Destruction came upon this interesting stronghold by 1212 during King John’s time when Robert fitz Walter rebelled against the crown.
Benington_map3In the present, the earthworks and ruins are a beautiful backdrop for lush, rich hilltop gardens enveloping some of the ruins which linger along the east and north of the motte. The site has a lovely intimate atmosphere filled with herbaceous borders, old roses and graced with lakes and a nursery. The estate offers tea on the veranda of the manor along with facilities for fashion shoots and filming! A twin-towered gatehouse and a summerhouse with surprisingly good curtain walls lead into the enclosure. These are follies built in 1832 by George Proctor making the estate fashionable, once again, after a devastating fire which occurred in 1700. Also within the enclosure are the low foundations of a rather small square keep which was renovated in medieval renaissance with neo-Norman arched entryways. It is located within the village, off Town Lane near the A505-A602 and parking is available on the premises.benington





Walkern_Old_RectoryThe remains of Walkern Bury castle are located a short distance north east of Stevenage. Attributed to Hamo St. Clare, it was built during the Anarchy when King Stephen reigned. This land was central to the St Clare barony of Hertfordshire and he was a follower of Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex- both major participants in this fierce civil war and so Walkern was definitely part of a group of unlicensed castles which were considered adulterine along with Anstey, Pirton, Great Wymondley and Therfield. They are all located within the northeastern area of Hertfordshire and were meant to protect manorial property at that time. Nearly all of them were abandoned by the second half of the 12th century under Henry II’s guidance and demolition.
??????????????????????Walkern may be better described as a ringwork which sits on a small spur along the northern slope of Bassus Green. You’ll find an oval ditch and inner bank which most likely had a timber palisade in the day. The natural knoll measures about 130 by 100 along the interior portion and a narrow causeway can still be seen which joins at the south end and corresponds to a hole along the internal bank.

???????????????????????????????What remains of this castle was actually the earliest form of medieval fortifications in England which pre-dated the invasions. You can read more about these in my tutorials on castles that I put up in 2008. Comparatively speaking, there are few in the country with only 200 recorded examples which are distinguished normally from later earthworks because of the absence of a bailey or two. Less than half of these ringworks also have baileys which indicates that they were rebuilt as motte and baileys at a later date. Walkern is a part of those few and is an intact example of such. Its archaeological evidence is invaluable as a subject for further research. A World Heritage Site committee were given a tour of the castle site in 2013.
owners: Mr. and Mrs. CHA Bott T- 01438 869668

therfield_stmarychyd_buryhall_bkgrnd (2)Therfield Castle’s remains, seated ten miles north of Walkern, appears to have been left unfinished and in the Domesday book Therfield was referred to as the possession of the Abbey of Ramsey, most likely because of the church built there and the village which surrounds it. However, evidence of the earliest human occupation can be found in the meadow situated west and northwest of the churchyard and known as Tuthill Close. You’ll find ditches that appear to have been moats and a mound which is referred to in ordnance surveys as the Castle Mound. There was also a larger enclosure to the south according to the written local records of Reginald Foster, a local teacher. H.C. Andrews, in a paper entitled “Therfield and it’s Castle”, reaffirms that a strong fortified post, over-looking the Icknield Way most likely was an early castle. He drew a comparison between Therfield and Pirton and his conversation with a visiting antiquarian suggested that digging might unearth definite traces of Iron Age man. Others who have excavated and investigated many iron age remains doubt the accuracy of these conclusions. In fact, no underlying structures were found during excavations conducted here in 1958. Neolithic round barrows are fairly common in the general area but no such records exist to support the idea of such simple structures in the village although barrows have been cited on Therfield Heath which is a mile north of the village.
One discovery during the 1958 survey was a timber-revetted clay rampart and unfortunately in 1960 the earthworks in the bailey were leveled, leaving only the wet ditches and low ramparts in the field boundaries to reveal its original layout. If you visit you will find what remains in the village center off of Church Lane by the water tower. It is very close on the north side of the 13th century churchyard and rectory grounds. One section of the old moat is still referred to as Tuthill Moat and contains a large amount of water. Most likely Therfield Castle was 12th century built during the Anarchy and the fortress was heavily slighted before the 13th century after the accession of Henry II. It would have been considered an adulterine castle, of course. Not far away is…

Anstey_british-hist_fig4 Anstey Castle, an impressive-sized late 11th or early 12th century motte and bailey castle. It is unlikely it was ever rebuilt in stone and that is why it is unconscionable that it is compared to Berkhamsted. With an extremely wide but low motte (30 ft high) and a wet moat, this former glory exists on the grounds of an ancient church and Ermine Street near the river Quin, four and a half miles northeast of Buntingford.
In the Domesday Book, Eustace, Count (or Earl) of Boulogne is listed as the owner who received the manor after the Norman Conquest. His sub-tenants adopted the name which was the usual custom and so Nicholas de Anstey strengthened the castle against King John during the Magna Carta war but was compelled in 1218 to destroy his additions once peace returned. This was by order of King John but may have been carried out by Henry III by 1225. Documentation of this castle ceased in 1377.
AnsteyCastlesite_Lorraine_KeithBowdlerSituated on the south end of a broad spur the remains are adjacent to a Norman church, St. George’s. No traces of masonry survive, though at least one stone building may have existed because trace amounts of trapezoidal uncut flint were found atop the motte at the beginning of the 20th century during an excavation carried out by R.T. Andrews. To the northeast of the motte is an L-shaped bailey which surrounded a rampart along the northwest and east with a barbican. There is another mound along the bailey and east of the motte which is square shaped and landscaped but with no amount of height or width that would make it a part of the original. It is considered a later ornamental addition. The motte survived the onslaught of an American bomber which crashed into it in 1944!
Visible from a churchyard.

ArburyBanks_SEArbury Banks, a very high hill fort southwest of Ashwell was possibly constructed during the late Bronze Age ca. 1,000- 700 BC. Far north on the border with Cambridgeshire, it is one of a series of six similar hill forts along the northern part of the Chilterns including Wilbury Hill Camp which is southwest of Letchworth, further west. Excavations which were carried out in the 1850s traced Arbury Banks’ horseshoe-shaped ramparts identifying two opposed north and south entrances. In addition, further evidence disclosed several enclosures inside the fort. The area may have been a possible location for the Battle of Watling Street, where a small Roman band destroyed Boudicca’s army.

Hell hath no fury like…


The Castle Lady

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