Castles and Churches

Day 2 of our holiday in The Lakes started with a visit to Egremont Castle which happens to be 2 minutes walk from where we are staying.

Situated in the pretty small town of Egremont the castle like many others was built by The Normans but sadly this one is quite ruined. Many parts of Britain which are now considered to be English, Welsh, Scottish historically we’re parts of neighbouring kingdoms and in the period between Romans and Normans, England was made up of numerous lands.

Egremont which is now cleRly in England was part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde of Scotland and the castle was built after the 30 years struggle to push the Scots out.

Egremont Castle Walls

Egremont Castle Walls in what is now a public park.

The castle was not just the local centre of military rule but later became centre for courts, taxes and trade with the local market still being held just outside the castle walls. It was well worth building the castle as the town later came under attack by Robert the Bruce of Scotland (see film Braveheart)!

The main gate house at Egremont Castle

The gate house – the upper floor disappeared 2 or 3 hundred years ago presumably with the water from the moat and drawbridge.

 

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After many centuries the owner of the castle was implicated in a plot against the Crown and the castle was ruined so it could no longer be a threat.

Interestingly nearly 1,000 years ago William The Conqueror rewarded his knights with large landholdings but usually kept their lands scattered throughout the country and the owners of Egremont Castle currently live in there country estate nearly 400 mikes away!

Modern Egremont is now a quiet town.

Egremont Main Street

Main street with the WW1 memorial in view

It does though come to life every September with the annual crab fair which hosts traditional sports like wrestling and the infamous Gurning contest where the general rule seems to be to pull as ugly a face as possible.

Gurning at the Egremont Crab Fair

A face only a mother could love!

Next up was a visit to neighbouring Whitehaven a sea port which used to be one of the busiest until the larger ports of Liverpool and Glasgow put it out of business.

Whitehaven is a planned Georgian town with many elegant town houses.

Georgian Town houses in Whitehaven

Typical Georgian style houses in Whitehaven

It also had an unusual claim to fame in that thus town was built on a city block grid system and it is thought that traders and people sailing to love in America took with them this idea and it became inspiration for the famous street system in New York.

Links with America continue as the Grandmother of President George Washington also lived nearby and often visited. She was also Grandmother to acclaimed English Poet William Wordsworth so obviously she was a special lady.

Whitehaven was also the only place in GB that was invaded by American raiders in The War of Independence by a John Paul Jones who used to live here. Jones was of questionable character and drifted from country to country after various murders and dodgy dealings but he did attain the attack at Whitehaven, spiked the cannons and set fire to 1 of the 200 ships in harbour. Unfortunately for him his invasion didn’t work out as done of his men got drunk in the local pubs and he was chased away by the local militia. He is thought by many to be the last enemy soldier to set foot on our soil though as shown in the local museum has been recently pardoned by the local council and citizens.

Whitehaven Castle

Whitehaven Castle looking none the worse for wear.

The town was also a great coal mining centre with many mines both on land and under the sea. Here is a monument to the miners who had very poor life efficiency with even in the early 20thC there being a disaster that killed over 100 in a single day.

Monument to Whitehaven miners

Monument to Whitehaven miners, many of whom died in mining disasters

 

Our final destination yesterday was to St Bees, an ancient priory 900 years old.

St. Bees Priory

St. Bees Priory

Legend has it that when approached by the Saint in the middle of summer with a request for land on which to build the priory the Lord declared she could have as much land as was under snow the next morning. Miraculously it snowed and the Priory was built.

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In 1981 scientists discovered a body in the graveyard that dated from the 12th C. Amazingly he had not decomposed and it was possible to see what he had eaten as well as his clothing and the fact that he had a noose round his head. Before being reburied it was possible to identify the man as being one of two men, one of whom was s lord who lived in Egremont Castle where I had started my day. There is a small exhibition about this bin the church, I didn’t put up a photo but google St. Bees man and you can see the body of the Knight if you dare!

St. Bees isn’t worth visiting just for the religious centres but for its 300 feet / 100 metre tall sandstone cliffs.

The cliffs of St. Bees

The tallest cliffs in NW England

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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