27 September, 2007

Photos of the Marches (2)

In which I look at quaint old Herefordshire villages and Roger Mortimer's complex love life


Pembridge lies in northern Herefordshire, 14 miles from Hereford, 7 miles from Leominster and 18 miles from Ludlow.

Pembridge was a Mortimer manor in the Middle Ages, and it's here that Roger Mortimer married Joan de Geneville on 20 September 1301 - he was fourteen, she was fifteen. Despite their youth, they must have consummated their marriage more or less immediately - their eldest child Edmund was born in 1302 or 1303 (yes, Roger became a father at fifteen or sixteen). Roger and Joan had twelve children together, four sons and eight daughters, which points to the closeness of their relationship - Joan accompanied Roger to Ireland during the long periods he spent there, as King's Lieutenant and Justiciar, and must have spent a lot of time with him to become pregnant so often.

Below, views of Pembridge from the churchyard:

It's also possible that Pembridge is the place where Roger and Joan met for the first time after Roger became Queen Isabella's lover; Roger visited Pembridge in November 1326, probably around the time when Edward II and the Younger Despenser were captured in South Wales and before Roger travelled to Hereford to see Despenser's execution. They hadn't seen each other for over five years; Roger had been imprisoned in the Tower of London, escaped and fled to the continent, and Joan and some of their sons and daughters had also been incarcerated (part of Edward II's shameful treatment of the wives and children of his enemies). If they did meet at Pembridge, it would surely have been an emotional occasion, given that they had married here a quarter of a century earlier - and now Roger was the lover of another woman.

Below: the 14th century church and 13th century bell tower

What Roger and Joan said to each other at this time cannot of course be known. Over the next four years, Roger did continue to visit Joan, and she even went to court on occasion - all while Roger continued his affair with Queen Isabella. I sometimes wonder if he found himself torn between the two women? Isabella, beautiful, glamorous and royal, representing lust, excitement, infatuation, ambition and power; Joan, his long-term loyal and constant companion and likely confidante, mother of his many children, representing domesticity, safety, emotional security and marital affection. Terrific material for a novel.

Two 15th century cottages in Pembridge:

The building on the right in the photo above, West End Farm, was built in or just after 1425; samples of timber taken inside show that the trees were cut down in the spring of that year. Brick House, the red one on the left, was built between 1446 and 1454, according to the same dendrochronogical evidence.

Close-ups of the two cottages. Isn't Brick House (the red one) fabulous with all those wonky lines? (Symmetry and straight lines are very overrated, in my opinion.)

Duppa Alms Houses. The plaque says "Forget not your good benefactor Brion Duppa Bishop of Winchester who bielded this hospitoll in 1661". The building has been dated (by dendrochronology) to between 1486 and 1502.

Old houses and pretty gardens on the road towards the River Arrow.

(pronounced 'Webley')

Weobley, 7 miles south of Pembridge, is one of Herefordshire's famous Black and White Villages, so-called because of all the half-timbered houses.

The Olde Salutation Inn, dating back to the 14th century:

Two cottages, one dated 1442, and the other, red one, 1695.

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Weobley. Originally Norman, rebuilt between the 13th and 15th centuries. The north transept and aisle date from Edward II's reign.

The house on the right in this photo is for sale. *Wants*

Some pics of the Herefordshire countryside (one was taken from the car)


Unknown said...

Great pics! See that's why I love England, all the little villages are so full of character! Not to mention the sheer amount of castles!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, both! Liam, hope you get to see lots more of England in the near future! (I'm sure you'll be seeing plenty of Southampton and Hampshire, at least. ;)

Gabriele Campbell said...

Ohh, pretty half timbered houses. Those villages could well be in Germany.

I have some, too.

Anonymous said...

How beautiful the countryside is. We can't match that here in Oz, but we can do majestic and spectacular pretty well.

Love those houses. I wonder if they were built wonky or became that over time?

Thanks Alianore, great photos!

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele: great photos! The Menzhausen reminds me a bit of the Feathers Inn, in Ludlow.

Kate: the English countryside tends to be green and gentle and pretty, and has been 'managed' for many centuries, which is why so much of it looks park-like. I'm sure Oz is just as beautiful in its own way - all those wide open spaces, so unlike England! :)

Carla said...

Kate - My understanding is that medieval timber-framed houses were carefully built in such a way that as the wood twisted the beams would all lock together. This makes the building extremely stable - which is one reason they can stay standing for half a millenium. So they became wonky over time, but not by accident, it was designed in in a very controlled way.

Alianore - ""Forget not your good benefactor Brion Duppa Bishop of Winchester who bielded this hospitoll in 1661". The building has been dated (by dendrochronology) to between 1486 and 1502". Have I missed something here, or was the good bishop playing fast and loose and claiming credit for something that had been built two centuries before his time? Did he refurbish the building or something?

By the way, the archaeological dig at Wroxeter, not so far from the Marches, reckons that half-timbered houses very like those were being built in the 500s AD, so it's a very long tradition in the region :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla: I suppose Duppa took over an existing building and 'renovated' it, and endowed it. His father Jeffrey was also involved in the founding of the almshouses. A few online sites do say that the almshouses were built in the 17c, but the info I saw in Pembridge definitely says that dendrochronology dates the buildings to much earlier.

Thanks for the info on medieval houses - I didn't know that. They were built to last, weren't they?! And wow, I'd never have guessed that half-timbered houses dated all the way back to the 500s! Goodness me, what a lovely long building tradition (and long may it continue! ;)