Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire, England.

Bolingbroke Castle was one of three castles built by Ranulf de Blundeville, Earl of Chester and Lincoln, in the 1220s after his return from the Crusades (the others being Beeston Castle, Cheshire, and Chartley, Staffordshire). After Blundeville’s death, the castle remained in the ownership of the Earls of Lincoln and was later inherited through marriage by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

During the English Civil War (1642–8), the castle became a defensible base for a Royalist garrison and was surrounded by armed Parliamentarian forces in 1643. The Royalists surrendered that winter, and the entire castle was destroyed. The remains of the castle gradually deteriorated and in 1815 the last remaining structure fell. The site was a bumpy field until archaeologists excavated the site in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, the castle is managed by English Heritage, entry is free and it is open year round and is easily accessible from the road. There isn’t much parking as it is located in a small village.

Conisbrough Castle,South Yorkshire.

Conisbrough Castle is located just outside Rotherham in South Yorkshire and is managed by English Heritage. The original Castle was built by William De Warenne, the 1st Earl of Surrey who was the son-in-law of William the 1st (William the Conqueror) sometime in the 11th century . The castle passed to Isabel De Warenne in 1147, and the keep was built by her husband, Hamelin Plantagenet in the late 1170s or 1180s. The castle inspired Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe, published in 1819.

I did not visit, but the nearby Anglican Church of St Peter has stood in Conisborough since the 8th century, and is the oldest standing building in South Yorkshire.

Personally, I always prefer English Heritage places over National Trust, I think it’s because I find ruins more fascinating. I really enjoyed Conisbrough Castle. However, there are a few things to bear in mind if you plan on visiting. Firstly, the parking. I usually look in advance before I travel on what the situation is with parking, but this time I did not. When I arrived at the castle the signposts send you into a privately run car park. I parked up and got my little pot of car park change from my glove box that I keep for such situations. I went to find the machine, but there was not one in sight. The car park requires you to either download an app, or to call and pay by card. Bear in mind that parking is 50p an hour. I thought this seemed like a lot of faff for 50p. I tried scanning the QR code, like the sign said, but nothing happened, so I drove out of the car park and parked on a nearby street. I don’t usually like parking in residential areas as I’ve had bad experiences with people who don’t like you parking in front of their houses, even though you can park where you like as long as there are no parking restrictions, or you aren’t blocking anyone ones access, etc. But, often people get real funny about parking. Anyway, there is plenty of free on street parking, that isn’t outside anyone’s house, if you don’t mind a short walk to the castle. If the car park was English Heritage, I would have paid the money, but as it was a private company, I did not bother. I think this is a bad call from English Heritage. If people don’t have a mobile with them, I know my parents don’t always take their mobile phone out with them, how are you meant to pay? Or if you don’t take your bank card out with you, you can’t pay as there is no machine.

The other thing to consider at Conisbrough is that there are narrow stone stairs in the castle with no lift. If you are disabled or have push chairs, you might not be able to access the castle, but I would double check with English Heritage before you go.

Some of the winding stairs inside the castle.
The parking situation.

Thanks for reading.

Hardwick Old Hall, Derbyshire, England.

The ruin of the old hall

Bess built Hardwick Old Hall in 1587 on the grounds of her father’s medieval manor house.  Bess intended for both the old and new hall to complement each other.  However, after her death in 1608, the Hardwick estate was passed to her son, William Cavendish who partially dismantled the Old Hall in the 1750s.  

In 1789, the lower rooms were still occupied by the house keeper of the New Hall and a family. In the 19th century lead was removed from the roof leading to the hall’s final demise to a ruin.

Visitor Information

The Old Hall is managed by English Heritage. As of 2019, the hall can only be viewed from the outside but there is a small exhibition and shop. Parking is £5 (free for EH and NT members). The EH website states that entry is £6.80, but there was a sign which said the exhibition was free entry when I visited. I assume when the restoration work is complete, there will be a charge again. The EH website also states that the hall is closed Monday and Tuesday, but as only the exterior is currently viewable, I think as long as the park is open (managed by the National Trust), you can have a walk to the old hall ruins.

Sutton Scarsdale Hall, Derbyshire, England.

The derelict shell of Sutton Scarsdale Hall
The derelict shell of Sutton Scarsdale Hall

The last time I visited Sutton Scarsdale was approximately a year ago. The first thing that I noticed on my return, was that nothing had changed in terms of the conservation work that is going on. Understandably you can’t go inside the ruin due to health and safety but it feels like English Heritage have forgotten about this place.

The hall was a Baroque style mansion built for the 4th Earl of Scarsdale in the 1720s. In 1919, a descendant of the famous Sir Richard Arkwright (I intend to do some articles on Sir Richard in the future) purchased the hall, subsequently selling it to a company of asset strippers. Unfortunately this was common practice in the 20th century. I’ve visited many shells and grounds of beautiful halls that were torn down and either shipped overseas, or simply just demolished. Errwood Hall in the upper Goyt Valley, Darley Hall in Derbyshire and Broomhead Hall in Sheffield are just a few.

Changes in social conditions in the 20th century brought about the destruction of many large halls. The upkeep of the buildings was incredibly costly as well as income tax and death duties contributing to loss of wealth. The website Lost Heritage documents 1,998 houses that have been demolished in England.

http://www.lostheritage.org.uk/lh_complete_list.html

Some of the interiors from Sutton Scarsdale are on display at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia. Along with some at the Huntington Library in California after being used as a set for a film, Kitty, in 1934.

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/sutton-scarsdale-hall/history/

Taken from through the fence

Tips for visiting:

The site is managed by English Heritage and is accessed down a small road. The EH website states that opening times are Summer Daily 10am – 6pm, Winter Daily 10am – 4pm. Entry is free and there is a small car park.

Happy exploring.

Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire, England.

The 17th Century Playboy Mansion

Bolsover Castle was built to lavishly entertain guests and is often called the playboy Mansion of the 17th century.

Bolsover Little Castle and the Fountain Garden

Bolsover Castle can be traced back to the 12th century, but that it not what stands today.  The image above is of Bolsover Little Castle, which was built by  Sir William Cavendish in the 17th century as a retreat for entertaining guests. One of which was Charles I. To the right of the image is a statue of Venus in the Fountain garden.

The Stables

Sir William Cavendish loved horses. The building in front is the stables and indoor Riding School, which William Cavendish built to house the many exotic horses that he imported from overseas.

The Star Chamber

A study by the University of Sheffield suggests the Star Chamber was used as an auditorium for aristocratic plays and country house masques.

Colourful wall tapestries
Ceiling of the Heaven Room

The image above was painted in 1619, and is a depiction of Christ’s ascension into heaven surrounded by angels.

The kitchen ovens
The ruins of the Terrace Range

Unfortunately, only the Little Castle and the Stables remain intact today. William Cavendish also built the Terrace Range which overlooks Vale of Scarsdale. It was left to go to ruin by William’s son, Henry.

The Terrace Range
The remains of a fireplace inside the Terrace Range

Tips for visitors.

Bolsover Castle is managed by English Heritage.  The cost of entry for an adult as of 2019 is £11.80 and a child is £7.10.  If they have a special event on, there is an additional charge even if you are an English Heritage member.  On busy days the small carpark gets full, there is additional parking opposite the main car park and there is another carpark if you pass the castle to your right, but the entrance is quite concealed and I didn’t notice it until I had parked up and was walking back to the castle.  There is street parking but like anywhere, this is not ideal.  I parked on the street and someone parked about an inch from my bumper.  Luckily I had left enough room in front of me to get out.  In the summer the castle opens from 10am until 6pm, in winter, hours are reduced. 

Happy exploring.