May 2015

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23rd May

Herstory has been getting about a bit over the past week! On Wednesday evening, we went with Towton Battlefield Society for a special guided tour of Hazlewood Castle Hotel (left). This magnificent building, now a popular venue for luxury weddings, has had a long and chequered history: its oldest parts date to the mid-13th century, when it was the seat of the Vavasour family. The Vavasours were given licence to crenellate in 1290, turning the building into a fortified manor. The family played no part in the Wars of the Roses (they allegedly locked themselves in the chapel while the Battle of Towton was being fought!); and later, despite being staunch Roman Catholics, continued to prosper into the Elizabethan period when Lady Anne Vavasour was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. (She seems to have been rather a good-time girl, who became the mistress and subsequently wife of Elizabeth's favourite, the Earl of Essex). Hazlewood remained in the Vavasour family until 1908, when it was bought by a wealthy solicitor called Edward Simpson. It was subsequently used as a maternity hospital, and as a Carmelite centre for pilgrimage and retreats, as well as being substantially altered and restored by a new owner, Donald Hart, who bought it in 1957. Mr. Hart was an avid collector who embellished the entrance hall (the so-called 'Flemish Hall') with marble floor tiles, carved wall panelling and a massive stone fireplace acquired from various historic properties around the country, and created the beautiful 'Victorian Room' (which TBS members are admiring, below left) using a wallpaper specially commissioned for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert. It was a fascinating visit, and I'm looking forward to going back there on 16th June to give a lecture on the Battle of Wakefield - so if you fancy having a look round this stunning building yourself, why not come along? You'll find details of how to book on the Events page.

Then on Thursday I went to some rather different castles, as guide for a Heritage Group Travel tour of Yorkshire sites associated with Richard III. First of all we went up to Middleham, and I braved the perishing cold and strong wind to climb right to the top of the keep to photograph the original Middleham Castle (below):

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