Cross Fleury.

Time-honoured Lancaster ... Historic notes on the ancient borough of Lancaster online

. (page 6 of 55)
Online LibraryCross FleuryTime-honoured Lancaster ... Historic notes on the ancient borough of Lancaster → online text (page 6 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

young - . Other bones, some supposed to be human, were also turn-
ed up at the time. While clearing- the wall and preparing for the
insertion of a new fire-place the masons came across an aperture
behind the old range which proved to be an ancient watch-chamber
exactly in shape of a smoothing iron. This apartment has evident-
ly been hidden from view for centuries. In it the watchman could
stand and survey all along one side of the Castle walls, could
readily observe any attempt to scale the same, and could note the
approach of friend or foe from across Lancaster moor. Wisely
enough it was decided to keep this newly discovered chamber with
its fine archway, open, and to have the fireplace a little farther to
the right. Another quaint opening was found at another point
whence arrows could be fired upon the enemy without any danger
of the like deadly darts being returned owing to the curiously de-
vised form of the louvre. Next is seen on the right of the entrance
to the basement another indentation believed to indicate the old
way to the millstone underneath. Then is observed the Roman
altar found in 1797 at a little distance outside the old wall between
Hadrian's Tower and the great square tower of Saxon date. This
altar formerly stood in the apartment first entered by visitors to
the Castle, and on the right of the doorway.

The full text of the inscription is " Deo Sancti Marti Cocidio,
Vibinius Lucius Beneficiarius Consulis Votum Solvit Lubens
Merito." The translation of the inscription, which appears on the
altar alluded to in the earlier portion of our description of the castle,
is to this effect : " To the holy God Mars Cocidius, Vibinius Lucius,
a Pensioner of the Consul willingly fulfils his vow to a deserving
object." This is the rendering given to the ancient stone engraving
by Dr. Whitaker. The pillar is mounted on a suitable table of
stonework and is certainly in its right place and well worthy of in-
spection. Then opposite the door are seen three pikes — pikes
taken from the Scottish Rebels on the 15th November, 171 5, at
Preston, by the Lancashire Regiment of Militia under Sir Henry
Hoghton, Bart. This of course was in the days of the first Pre-
tender. The pikes were presented as the appropriately framed


inscription sets forth, by Colonel Marion, Colonel Whalley, and the
officers of the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the King's Own Royal
Lancashire Militia in April, 1890.

The ground floor apartment was formerly surrounded b)
cupboards, and when these were removed there was found at the
back of one the following- manuscript : —

" This is to inform the generations to come that this Record
Room was finished the 14th day of May, 1810, 49 year of George 3.
The Local melita was assembled at this time at Lancaster for 20
days. Sir Francis Burdett was a prisoner in the tower at this time
put in by the House of Commons for standing up for the rights of
the people. Provisions of all sorts high and working people very
poor. Napolian Emperor of the french had all the nations of Europ
Either in subjection or alliance against England — divorsed his first
wife which was the widow of a french general and now he has
married the daughter of francis the 2 Emperor of Austra which had
been 16 years at war with the french."

Then follow these signatures.

H. Alexander
J. Hill.
S. Fawcett
W. Alexander
J. Rothery


The reverse displays an old Constable's return which reads


" Clayton-le-Woods in the Parish of Leyland and County of
Lancaster, August 3rd, 1807. This is to Certify the Honourable
Bench at the General Assizes holden at the Castle in Lancaster,
August 8th, 1807, that as our Highways are in good repair, our
poor well provided for, have nothing at this time to present by me.

Richard Brighouse, Constable.


The curator, Mr. Bingham, has made a very neat oak frame,
in looking-glass form, for the paper quoted above. It is evident
that the scrap upon which the joiners wrote was found by one of
their number or and used for the purpose of notifying the end
of their work, for the Constable's report on the reverse is crossed
over by the pen as of no moment. Ascending the upper part of the
Roman Tower you are pleased to notice that the odd looking
cupboards or range of wall-boxes have vanished, and cases with glass
fronts have been substituted. In one of these are two pipes, one an
old fairy pipe, the consolation of some disciple of Raleigh at least
one century ago. There are a few other relics and a huge piece of
grout, in which are to be seen impressions of twigs, and stones,
and even an ear of corn. This grout is certainly something like
eighty-eight scores of years old. Another item must not be for-
gotten, namely, the pen and ink statement of the court crier of
nearly fifty-four years back, which was found on the under portion
of his seat : — " Tatham v. Wright. September 9th, 1836, 4 o'clock
p.m., Tatham v. Wright. The jury are at this time ' locked up.' "
The case was tried in the Crown Court, the seat having been taken
from the usher's box in that court. It now simply remains for us
to add that another old dungeon has been opened up. This is near
to the Roman Tower and is probably one of a series of dark dungeons
in which prisoners were confined. This one would be under what
was formerly the old Crown Court, now the barristers' room. In
this cave are the pieces of iron to which the rings would be attached
for the fastening of felons, and at the end a door with planks crossed,
studded with ir.on. Alas, what tales this chamber might reveal had
it only a tongue. The thickness of the curtain wall cut through
for the new passage is nine feet five inches at the basement, and here
is seen the original Roman handy-work. This new passage will
prevent visitors having to retrace their steps when visiting the
more ancient parts of the Castle.

The dimensions of the watch chamber are as follow : — The
entrance, 2 feet 6 inches wide ; length 8 feet 6 inches ; width of
parallel of this apartment, 4 feet ; Look-out, 18 inches by 13.


You now ascend the staircase of Hadrian's Tower, a quaint,
dark, spiral passage, which leads you to a kind of trellis-work path-
way of wood and stone, and as you walk along you feel much
refreshed, and, if the day is clear, delighted with the charming
views you obtain on the western and southern sides of Lancaster.
Shortly, another doorway, at the south-western corner, is entered,
and you are on the great keep, a large square pile, called the Lun-
gess tower, seventy-eight feet high, and the base of which is Saxon.
This door was cut in the side of the tower in 1851, in order to allow
Her Majesty to ascend to John o'Gaunt's chair without entering
the prison, and so avoid the risk of unintentionally setting any
prisoner free, in pursuance af the doctrine of English jurisprudence
that such benignity pervades the countenance of the Sovereign
that the very sight of her frees a prisoner. In accordance with
this it is recorded that a criminal on his way to execution at Tyburn
meeting King James I, was immediately released.

This keep is at least eight hundred years of age. Its higher
masonry is in the Norman style. You will observe the apertures
used by the bowmen of old, the holes through which boiling lead
would be poured down upon the enemy seeking to scale the castle
walls, and last, but not least, the elevation at the south-west corner
styled "John O'Gaunt's Chair." This "chair" is ten feet higher
than the keep proper, and in former days it was used as a watch-
tower, and a blaze was kindled in it so as to signal the north—

Till Skiddaw saw the fire that burned on Gaunt's embattled pile,
And the red glare on Skiddaw roused the burghers of Carlisle.

Well may we recall the soul-thrilling language of Macaulay's

" Armada," and again say —

Look how the lion of the sea lifts up his ancient crown,

And underneath his deadly paw treads the gay lilies down !

So stalk'd he when he turned to flight, on that famed Pickard field,

Bohemia's plume, Genoa's bow, and Caesar's eagle shield ;

So glar'd he when at Agincourt in wrath he turn'd to bay,

And, crush'd and torn, beneath his claws, the princely hunters lay ;

Ho ! strike the flagstaff deep, Sir Knight ; ho ! scatter flowers, fair maids,

Ho ! gunners, fire a loud salute ; ho ! gallants, draw your blades ;

Thou, sun, shine on her joyously, ye breezes waft her wide,

Our glorious semper cadem, the banner of our pride.


In the fifteenth century, this great tower had fallen into a state of
decay, or been subject to heavy military attacks, and so it under-
went complete restoration. The work of restoration was effected in
the year 1585, during- the reign of Elizabeth and the shrievalty of
Richard Assheton. There is in the northern wall, near the summit,
a stone containing these letters and the date above, " E.R. 1585.
R.A." The first two letters refer to the Queen, and the second
couple to the High Sheriff for that year.

The walls of the Keep are ten feet in thickness. On its
east side is a pathway leading to some vaults ; first used as dun-
geons, then as stables for the war steeds of John of Gaunt.

The Restoration of the Keep was doubtless decided upon,
when preparations were made for resisting the Spanish Armada.
The Queen's order for restoration was as follows: — "That this
Castle be mayntayned and kepte, because it is a great strength to
the countrie and succour to the Queen's Justices."

In the Tower is the Chapel, and within the precincts of the
Courtyard adjoining, executions have taken place since the passing
of the Private Executions Act.

The scenery this spacious keep presents to the eye is excellent
on all sides. To the north we have Carnforth, Silverdale, Warton,
and Farleton, and beyond glorious mountains and rich dales.
Westward flows the Lune on its seaward course, and farther we
behold Morecambe Bay, like a vast mirror for the verdure of the
hills to reflect their brilliance therein. On the south are the Royal
Albert Asylum and the Ripley Hospital, with the Wyresdale Fells be-
yond. To the right is Fleetwood with its conspicuous grain elevator.
Then, looking in the direction of Clitheroe, we have Clougha, or
Cloughfa, a name springing from the British word " Glawog,"
meaning "rainy, or abundant in showers," say some Monsignor
Gradwell derives Cloughfa from the Irish Cloglier, a great rock ;
Goidelic, Cloglioi. Another slight turn and we have a view of


Ingleborough and the West Riding- valleys, all seemingly asleep in
the mellow sunlight of a May morning. Lancaster lies below like
a lamb at the feet of a lion, the roofs of her cottages and halls rising
like so many pages upon which a chequered history is written.

We prepare to descend, and soon we are again in the dark
spiral staircase, and, taken by the guide a few paces, we arrive at
the Nisi Prius Court, an imposing place with a Gothic stone canopy
This hall will hold about 2,000 people. Within its area Madame
Goldschmidt's musical voice has rung forth in all its rich cadence,
and, as this shrine of justice has no echo, its acoustic properties
may well be highly commended by those capable of judging. In
this court are two handsome pictures, one on each side of the seat of
justice. The picture on the left is more striking, since from whatever
point you look at it the eyes seem to be fixed upon you. It is a
portrait of Mr. Blackburne, painted by Allen, and presented by
Sir Robert Peel, Bart, in 1802.

The tablets recently placed below each portrait in the Shire
Hall read as follow: — "Thomas Stanley, of Cross Hall, Esq.,
Colonel of the First Royal Lancashire Militia, M.P. for the County
Palatine of Lancaster, 1780-1812." " John Blackburne, of Orford
and Hale, Esq., F.R.S., High Sheriff, 1781. M.P. for the County
Palatine of Lancaster, 1784- 1830."

On the 13th October, 1890, a full length portrait of Lord
Winmarleigh was unveiled in the presence of a distinguished com-
pany, including the Hon. Miss Wilson Patten, Major Bird, the High
Sheriff (who accepted the gift on behalf of the County), the Rev. C.
T. Royds, and others. The portrait is now suspended between the
two just named. The inscription reads thus : — "The Right Hon.
John Wilson Patten, M.P. for the County Palatine of Lancaster,
1830, M.P. for the Northern Division of the County, 1832-74, Lord
Winmarleigh, 1874, Colonel of the 3rd Royal Lancashire Militia,
Vice-Lieutenant of the County Palatine, 1856, Chancellor of the
Duchy of Lancaster, 1867, Constable of. Lancaster Castle, 1879."


Nor would we forget the excellent arrangement in the Shire
Hall of the Coats of Arms of past High Sheriffs of the Count}'.
These shields are all emblazoned on baywood and at present
extend to the commencement of the reign of George I. Below
each escutcheon is the name of the sheriff and date, and at
the beginning of a new sovereign's reign the shield of the
sovereign is much larger. There are no less than fifty-three
shields of sheriffs representing the Victorian reign. The armorial
work has been executed by Mr. Gilchrist, and the skilfulness of the
execution is of the first order. Opposite these and on each side of
the Judge's chair are ten javelins of past sheriffs — five on each side.
Many more are promised and expected and as the architectural
features of the building are favourable to the insertion of these
insignia of office the county hall will shortly prove a most attractive
chamber. The interest taken in the heraldic and antiquarian elements
by Mr. E. B. Dawson, of Aldcliffe, will merit public commendation,
for this Justice has been foremost in the work of exploration and
restoration, unremitting in his attention to it, and its presiding

Passing out of the Shire Hall, a court considered one of the
best in the country, we arrive at the Crown Court. The design is
similar to that we have just emerged from, but perhaps one effect
more beautiful than words can convey is the formation of the arches
which adorn the passages to other portions of the building. Stand-
ing by the seat the judge occupies, you have a fine view of them
and their gently-receding character. Truly they become beautifully
less. The Crown Court is a gloomy place ; despite its ornamenta-
tion and light, it is gloomy, very gloomy. The agony unheard,
the tremor, the perspiration of suspense, and the evidences of black
nature tendered against the occupants of the dock might all have
had a weird aerial influence living permanently in this enclosure.
In the dock, wherein more prisoners have been sentenced to death
than in any other court in the kingdom, owing to the fact that the
Assizes at Lancaster were the Assizes for all the county, there being
no commission at Manchester and Liverpool until of late years,


there is a curious relic in the shape of a branding-iron. This iron
is attached to the back part of the dock ; it consists of a long kind
of bolt, with a wooden handle at one end and the letter M at the
other. In close proximity are two iron loops designed for holding
firmly the hands of prisoners whilst the long- piece of iron was
heated red hot so that the letter, meaning- " Malefactor," could be
impressed. The guide will inform visitors that after the process
the brander would examine the impression, and if satisfactory,
would say to the judge, " Fair mark, my lord." Years ago it
was quite the rule to command prisoners to hold up their hands in
court in order to observe if they had ever had a previous conviction
against them. Over the bench is a fine picture of George 111. on
horseback, presented by Jas. Ackers, Esq., who was High Sheriff
in 1800.

An adieu is bidden to the stately Crown Court, and we are
ushered into the barristers' apartments where the counsellors 'robe,'
and consult the hosts of legal books, dry and musty-looking,
which help to make the twelve-feet-thiek walls a few inches
thicker. Readers will be surprised to hear that some portions
of the Castle walls are as much as fifteen feet in thickness ;
and further, that no intrepid Jackson could escape from the
ramparts, since the coping stones are so arranged as to give
not only a signal as to the game contemplated, but probably a
mortal injury to the would-be fugitive. Once a prisoner escaped
from Lancaster Castle, notwithstanding all this precaution, hut he
did the thing in a very quiet, and, we might almost add, genteel
manner. He was, it appears, busy with some work in one of the
apartments adjoining the governor's house, and, finding himself
alone for a few minutes, he espied the passage in that officer's
house and a coat and hat hanging therein. Coolly enough he went
and relieved the hooks of these articles, placed them over his own
body, and with the air of a gentleman — a magisterial air, perchance
—passed out of the castle precincts without the slightest difficulty.

A few moments more and we catch a glimpse of what was


formerly the old Crown Court, which is only one eighth of the size
of the new or present court, which has been built over one hundred
years. In this old court wherein we stand, George Fox was tried.
We glance upward and notice the record room of the Palatinate,
with its numerous pigeon-holes and parchments of all shapes and
sizes, and of almost all ages, legible and illegible, written in Latin,
Norman, and French. Many were removed to London in 1874,
weighing no less than ten tons ! We may remark that Lancaster
Castle has been the seat of the administration of justice and injzis-
ticc 600 years. For many years it was a debtors' gaol, and many
strange privileges the impecunious ones who happened to be lodged
therein had allowed them in order to amuse themselves, or pass the
time on less monotonously. Preaching, stump addresses, and
musical entertainments were permissible at certain times of the day.
You pass out from the spacious Grand Jury Room, soon reach the
door on the Castle terrace, and are on your way to the Gate-way
Tower, erected by John of Gaunt, in order to visit the Dungeon, the
Well tower, the room in which Henry IV. once held his court, the
old chapel, and to see the two keys of the Castle — one made temp.
Edward III., and the other for Queen Elizabeth — neither of which
is now used.

The Gate-way is believed to have been erected at three
distinct periods. It is said " The Inner Archway filled by the
massive oak door, and immediately behind the portcullis-groove and
vaulted entrance-passage, belong to the thirteenth century ; the
outer archway, with the niche above, and the wall and octagonal
towers up to the niche, are of the fourteenth, probably the part
erected by John O'Gaunt himself; while the upper portion, with
the corbelled or machicolated battlements and turrets, were very
likely added late in the fifteenth century. In John O'Gaunt's time,
the battlements were probably plain and without the projecting
corbeling and turrets that now give such a majestic appearance to
the gate-way. The walls of this gate-way are about six feet thick,
and the roof and floor of the various apartments are of the most
massive construction."


On the one side of the gate-way entrance are the lilies of
France, semi-quartered with the lions of England, cut in a shield ;
a label of three points ermine, the distinction of John O'Gaunt, being
visible on the other. On each side of the gate is an octagonal
tower, 66 feet high. The walls of the towers are pierced at intervals
for windows and also for defence.

The Castle at various times has been inhabited and visited
by Rovaltv. In 1206 King John held his Court in the Castle, receiv-
ing there the French Ambassadors ; and receiving also the homage
of King Alexander of Scotland for a portion ol' his territories held
under the Crown of England. Henry IV. for a time held his Court
at Lancaster ; and Edward IV. after his defeat by the Earl of War-
wick, fled to York, and thence to Lancaster, "where he found the
Lord High Chamberlaine well accompanied for his conuoye." In
August, 1617, James I., on his return from Scotland to London,
passed through Lancaster, staying one night at the Castle. Charles
II. visited Lancaster Castle on the 12th August, 1651, when on his
way from Worcester, where he had been defeated. He was march-
ing with the intention of meeting Cromwell, and while in Lancaster
Castle he released all the prisoners therein confined.

The dungeon is a dungeon indeed a veritable inferno of
gloom, that sort almost capable of being cut with a knife.
There is not a ray of light. Death in her angrier form has reigned
here. Many feet below ground you descend, and note the iron rings
to which the sufferers were fastened — fastened to the floor; note also
the two heavy iron doors with their double locks. We have the
angular roof pointed out to us, and learn that the angle appears to
have been first supported by a heap of clay on the the top of which
wattles of hazel were placed. Then a bed of Roman concrete was
poured upon the wattles and embedded them. Many were visible
in the cement within recent years, but few now remain. The clay
being dug out the chamber was found with an impervious roof. On
the right, as we ascend the steps of the dungeon, we see a deep open-
ing, and ascertain that it leads down to a well, and so gives name


to the Tower. Another Roman altar, chipped much on one side, is
shown, and we are informed that it was found amongst the rubbish
removed from the south side of the Castle when the present female
penitentiary was erected. The Well Tower is ascribed to Constan-
tius Chlorus, a.d. 305. (The Romans left Britain in the 5th cenury.)

The upper rooms over the gateway are then visited. The
first was formerly the apartment set apart for the use of the Constable
of the Castle. It was in this chamber that Henry IV. once held his
court. The next room to this was used as a chapel. At the far end
of it there is the mark where once was fixed a large cross. Its
removal made the wall appear as if burned. Some visitors to the
Castle have been shown the inscription on the right of the corridor
leading from the chapel, so neatly carved by means of a nail or
knife. It is as follows : "John Bailey, committed April ye 15th,
1 74 1, by Brindle, for kissing Then followed the figure of a

fiddle well executed. There are, of course, many objects of interest
never shown to the great hulk of visitors, but what is shown is well
worth the charge made.

When Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince Consort visited
the Castle in 1851, the then Constable, William Hulton, Esq.,
presented to his Sovereign the keys of the Castle, the larger key
being that of the ancient gate of the gate-house of the Castle, erect-
ed by Edward III., the smaller key was that of a lock which was
affixed to the same gate when the fabric was repaired in 1585.

During the visit of the Queen and Prince Consort, with
several of the Princes and Princesses, the Mayor at that time, Mr.

H. Gregson, planted an oak tree in commemoration of the event,
and a brass plate on a pillar of the terrace records the circumstance.

The tree is now a very fine one.

As you walk round the exalted terrace of the castle you per-
ceive at the south side remains of the old moat, and you picture to
yourself the time when, as Stukelev says, " the castle was sur-


rounded by an indestructible mass called the ' wery wall,' made by
the Romans ;" and as wery seems to be a perversion of nveridd
[Caer Werid, the green city of the Britons), il is probable that this
wall was covered with green, and so styled the wery wall,
or Castle green wall. We have the name of Wirrall or Werrall,
which gives name to a hill near to Glastonbury Abbey, and this
name is said by some to be a contraction of "Weary-all." But
one term is British or Cymric, and the other Saxon, and the simi-
larity in the first syllable of each word is not much to go by unless
supported bv similar dates of origin. In the neighbourhood o\
Bridge Lane there are still remains of this ancient Roman wall. If
you have an antiquarian eye you will perceive on the Castle Knoll
that is, the land slope rising" in front of the Gate-way Tower-
that there are mounds and defined marks still traceable which
silently proclaim the fact that many things lie underneath awaiting

Online LibraryCross FleuryTime-honoured Lancaster ... Historic notes on the ancient borough of Lancaster → online text (page 6 of 55)