Welcome back everyone! Time for another travelogue, I think. Well, the sun has been shining today, so it would have been churlish to have stayed in all day (even though I do have an exam in, like, three weeks or whatever). So off I popped to Beeston Castle!
I haven’t been here for nearly seven years, when it was a pretty grim day, so right off the fact that it was nice and summery went in its favour. It wasn’t particularly hot, but as the castle is perched high on a rocky outcropping, the walk up to it was certainly, er, sweaty…
The castle was largely begun by Earl Ranulf III, sixth earl of Chester, in the 1220s. Ranulf was one of the great medieval barons, with lands stretching across England to Lincolnshire, largely due to his support of both King John and the young Henry III. He played a significant part in defeating Prince Louis’ invasion from France in 1218, and also took part in the fifth crusade. His other castles include Chartley, in Staffordshire:
and Bolingbroke, in Lincolnshire:
Earl Ranulf died in 1232 without heirs, so his castles passed to the crown. Bolingbroke was the birthplace of the future Henry IV, forming part of the Duke of Lancaster’s holdings. Just thought I’d mention that!
The massive twin drum towers of the gatehouse are mirrored in Ranulf’s other castles, although given Bolingbroke’s ruinous state it’s perhaps a little less obvious. Anyway. Beeston was largely abandoned in the fourteenth century, leaving behind a largely unmodified high medieval castle structure.
During the Civil War, however, the castle saw some more action, lying as it did between Royalist Chester and Parliamentarian Nantwich. In 1644, the forces of Parliament besieged the castle for a year, before the Royalist garrison surrendered. In 1646 the castle was slighted to prevent it being fortified again, and in the subsequent Romantic movement of the eighteenth century, the ruins began to attract tourists. As well as a wonderful collection of ruins, the views across Cheshire from the crag are pretty breathtaking, too:
So much history! I enjoy ruins like you wouldn’t believe. I think the main thing that I like about them is that each building ‘ruins’ differently. I mean, castles were usually built to established militarily defensible designs, and abbeys were purposefully set out in exactly the same way so that a monk would feel at home no matter where he was, but over the years with the ravages of time and robbers, these buildings that looked so similar in their heyday all begin to take on unique aspects. That’s part of it, of course. Somewhat independent of the actual ruins aspect, though, I really enjoy being where history happened. For instance, we all learn about stuff like Henry VIII and his somewhat boisterous home life when we’re in school, but to actually stand on Tower Green where Anne Boleyn was executed is pretty amazing. But not just for the ‘famous’ stuff – pretty much wherever you go there is history to be found, and I’ve become something of a heritage nerd the past few years in seeking out as much as I can!