07 August, 2016

Somerton Castle, Lincolnshire

I recently visited Lincolnshire for the first time in my life, though it felt pleasantly like going back to my roots as one of my great-great-great-grandmothers came from Gainsborough, and her grandfather, my five greats grandfather George Marsh, was high constable of Lincolnshire (whatever that means). We also popped over the border into Nottinghamshire and visited Newark Castle, which stands on the River Trent. Another family connection for me: one of my six greats grandfathers, John Winks, drowned in the Trent in Nottinghamshire on 23 December 1760. And more importantly for history, Edward II's great-grandfather King John died at Newark Castle on the night of 18/19 October 1216.

Anyway, I was happy to be visiting Lincoln as I had an idea, from reading it somewhere, that Edward II sometimes stayed at a place called Somerton Castle when he was in the area. I knew nothing about it at all except the name and vaguely that it was somewhere in the vicinity of Lincoln. For all I knew, the castle had vanished centuries ago. Amazingly, Somerton turns out to be about three miles from my dad's house, and is still there, though has been much altered: the medieval castle was incorporated into an Elizabethan house.

Somerton Castle, also much to my surprise, was not merely a place where Edward II stayed on occasion; he was the owner of it. It was given to him in 1309 by Anthony Bek (died 1311), bishop of Durham and the only Englishman in history to be patriarch of Jerusalem, who also gave Edward Eltham palace in Kent in 1305. (Generous!) Bek built Somerton Castle in the 1280s. It now stands isolated down the road from the village of Boothby Graffoe, and is also just a couple of miles away from the village of Coleby, where there's a church called All Saints. One of the rectors of Coleby was Thomas Cantilupe, who later became bishop of Hereford on the other side of the country, died in 1282, and was canonised as a saint in 1320. This was not least because of Edward II's efforts; he wrote often to the pope and cardinals about it. Maybe Edward knew of Coleby church and the Cantilupe connection. There's also the church of St Andrew in Boothby Graffoe near Somerton, where Edward may have worshipped, though the original church was destroyed by a hurricane (??) in 1666.

Here's a pic of Somerton Castle now, and here and here and here, and an aerial pic. It makes me happy that a former residence of Edward II is still lived in 700 years later.

14 comments:

sami parkkonen said...

Nice place. I wonder if Eddie dug ditches around that place, or hunted near by.

Anerje said...

Wonderful pictures! I'd never heard of this castle but how wonderful that it is still lived in!

Dancin Fool said...

How fantastic! Once again you have taught me something about the area I grew up in. I will add it to my list of places to visit next time I am home.

Kathryn Warner said...

Isn't it great? :-) Somerton was literally just a name to me till my dad moved to this area recently. I thought it might be like Hanley Castle in Worcestershire, which belonged to Hugh Despenser the Younger and where Edward II stayed in 1324, which gave its name to the local village but which is now just an empty field. My dad and I nearly fell off our chairs when we looked at the local map and realised Somerton still exists, a few minutes from his house. :)

Karel14 said...

Howdy,
I'm sorry to ask this here, for i do not know whether this is the due place to. But do you happen to know where can i find a readable text of the Poem on the evil times of Edward II?
I found this one (http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/dean-medieval-english-political-writings-simonie), but as english is not my native language, and given the level of archaism on the text, i'm discovering it to be nearly impossible to really grasp the meaning behind every line.
On a side note, you have a brazillian reader to your blog, i'm enjoying reading about Eddie the Sec in here :D

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Karel, welcome to the blog! Glad to know I have a reader in Brazil! :) Hmmm, that's a good question. I've only ever read it in Middle English, unfortunately. I found it in a book with a glossary underneath, but don't know if it's any better than the website...:/

https://books.google.com/books?id=sJpbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA323&dq=on+the+evil+times+of+edward+ii&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi6tOrbhrfOAhUCSRoKHdKSA_kQ6AEIHjAA#v=onepage&q=on%20the%20evil%20times%20of%20edward%20ii&f=false

There's also this book but it's on limited view:

https://books.google.com/books?id=iVgsAAAAIAAJ&q=the+simonie+modern+english&dq=the+simonie+modern+english&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiE6t6wh7fOAhVCWhoKHT4xDz4Q6AEIHjAA

Langobard said...

Thanks for answering in such short notice. I'll take a look on the links you've sent. :)

Kathryn Warner said...

Langobard? A long-beard from Lombardy? :-)

Langobard said...

I found out i actually had a blogger account, even if its 9 years old, back when i aged 14. lol. So i decided to update to a more contemporary hobby, nother words, reading about the langobards :D

Stasher said...

Just came across your post....my grand mother was born in the Tower in Somerton Castle. Her father and family were there because they farmed the estate.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Stasher, wow, that's great! My stepmother is local and she'd never even heard of the castle before!

Anonymous said...

Hello there! I'd love to hear from Stasher who her family were and surnames, and which house they lived in. My great grandfather bought the land and castle, and my grandad and dad and uncle (Edward, Walter and Hugh Battersby) continued to farm it until 1974, when it was sold as we were hit hard for death duties following the sudden death of my grandfather. My grandmother lived afterwards in Bassingham and was a regular chapel goer! I obviously have fond memories of it all, and was intrigued as to where you found the photo of the side view of the house, which I've never seen before outside of the ones we have. It doesn't show the old red diesel pump which we used to fill up the tractors etc. so I'm assuming it must be a later shot. The fond memories are interspersed with regular nights being scared out of our wits because my sister and I were sure we had seen the ''green lady'' who walked the tower at nights....haha. There was supposed to be a tunnel to The Green Man pub in Navenby, but we never managed to find it. Lots of other memories and info if you'd like any. Thanks for a great photo and blog. Very interesting. Marianne Hall.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Marianne, great to hear from you, and what a fascinating comment! I just found the pics by looking on Google Images :-) I don't have any pics of the house myself, sadly. It's wonderful to hear of your experiences of the castle, and so sorry your family had to sell it. Yes, I'd love to hear more! My dad lives in Navenby now, by the way! I had a lovely time there with him and my stepmum in the summer and hope to visit again soon. I must tell him about the mysterious tunnel to the Green Man pub!

Anonymous said...

Hello! I was born in the Elizabethan farmhouse part of Somerton Castle in 1937 and lived there with my parents Katherine and Edward and brothers Walter and Hugh Battersby until I was 18, when I left to start nursing. I remember putting up the blackouts and paraffin oil lamps and candles during WW2, until we got a generator to generate our own electricity, which was bought mainly to run the milking machine. We eventually got on the mains in the middle 50s. The loo was an earth closet down the garden. The lower room in the tower was used for salting the pig, and the next one up for storing the apples. We sometimes climbed out on the top of the tower, and on VJ day 1945 Dad put a Union Flag on top of the weather vane on top of the tower and it stayed there until the wind shredded it to pieces. I never saw the Green Lady mentioned by my niece Marianne, but my eldest brother Walter told my daughter that he was extremely scared of going to the top of the stairs in the house because of what he'd seen up there when he was very young. I went back many times afterwards u til it was sold by my brothers when my father died suddenly in 1969.
Christine Halford neé Battersby