On a perfect April day, when the trees were "coming into leaf/like something almost being said," (Philip Larkin)
I visited Castle Rising with Stephanie Nettell. The older readers of this blog will remember Stephanie as the Guardian's children's book reviews editor in the days when we had four foolscap pages of children's book reviews a year....those, as they say, were the days.
We'd had a lovely lunch and set off to this castle, which is very close to where Stephanie lives. I had, to my shame, never heard of it before, but I'm always up for visiting a castle - I like them almost as much as I like cathedrals and this one, as you will see from the picture below, is the most castle-y of castles...it looks like the kind of thing a child might draw.
It was built in the twelfth century by William d'Albini, to show how much he'd risen in the world on his marriage to the widow of Henry I, Alice of Louvain. I wonder whether that was the reason for the name RISING but I think that's a frivolous idea....in any case it's most beautiful.
The walls are intact, although the roof no longer exists. Stephanie and I were each given a wonderful hand- held audio device which took us in order through all the rooms in the palace, pointing out fine details and letting us admire everything in our own time. As a contributor to "DAUGHTERS OF TIME" the History Girls anthology of stories, I was impressed that they'd adopted a 'history girls' approach to the commentary and some of the information was given to us in the voice of a fictitious lady-in-waiting to Queen Isabella. She was the wife of Edward II. As we know he was murdered in a most brutal way. After his death, Isabella was imprisoned here for more than thirty years and was visited in her captivity by her son Edward III.
After her death, it became a hunting lodge for the Black Prince and in 1544 passed to the Howard family, who still own it today.
You can see much of the original fabric of the building and Stephanie and I wondered how the 12th Century folk got up and down those spiral stairs in a hurry and especially at night. They were vertiginous, even with a rope to hang on to....how did ladies manage it in long skirts? Or at night?
After we left the Castle, we went to see the lovely church of St Lawrence in the village of Castle Rising. It's an idyllic looking place and the church stands surrounded by lovely houses and a most beautiful set of almshouses.
I liked particularly the font decorated with three cat faces .....
...and this kneeler, which shows the coat of arms of Castle Rising. I've only photographed one lion but the kneeler runs all along the bottom of the altar rail....there is a long line of little yellow lions, looking very friendly.
I do urge anyone near King's Lynn to go and visit this delightful place. It's quite close to where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be bringing up Prince George and his forthcoming sibling and the shop attached to the Castle is full of wooden swords and small t shirts printed in a chain mail pattern: they'd like those, as would any child.
Many thanks to Stephanie Nettell for taking me there.