19th Century photographs, Architectural photography, architecture, art, Cotswold, culture, Earl of Warwick, education, England, Henri de Beaumont, history, J. B. Priestly author, James Valentine photographer, Joan of Arc, King Edward IV, Oxford in Oxfordshire, Richard de Beauchamp, Richard Neville "the King Maker", Warwick Castle, Warwickshire England, William Henry Fox Talbot, William the Conqueror
The very last Castle we want to cover is Warwick Castle, in Warwickshire, England. It is located but a few miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, the Shakespearian town on the banks of the Avon River in the very Northern edge of that very English Region called the Cotswolds. (the slightly darker green region on the map below)
The Midlands Region was always a key part for conquerors pushing into Northern England and it was no different for the Norman, William the Conqueror. He established a fortified stronghold in 1086 on where the Warwick Castle foundations sit. (Below a contemporary view of the Castle from Wikipedia, almost a similar vantage point of view to our albumen print)
The imposing Castle, located on a river bend on top of an eroded sandstone hillside used the natural defenses of its height and water well. The surrounding town had a population of about 1800 souls. Originally, a wooden motte-and-bailey stronghold, it was rebuilt in stone (see the comment on the stone color below) in the 12th Century. During the Hundred Years War, the facade opposite the town was refortified, resulting in one of the most recognizable examples of 14th Century Military Architecture.
(The above map is an eighteenth century ordnance survey map of the town.)
The region, in particular the Cotswold portion which comprises the following counties Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire, was the wool center of England during the Middle Ages and of prime importance for trading with the continent at the time. Here are some later literary almost painterly expressions to describe the area:
“The prevailing colour of the Cotswold landscape may be said to be that of gold. The richest gold is that of the flaming marsh-marigolds in the water meadows during May; goldilocks and buttercups of all kinds are golden too, but of a slightly different and paler hue. Yellow charlock, beautiful to look upon, but hated by the farmers, takes possession of the wheat “grounds” in May, and holds the fields against all comers throughout the summer. In some parts it clothes the whole landscape like a sheet of saffron. Primroses and cowslips are of course paler still. The ubiquitous dandelion is likewise golden; then we have birdsfoot trefoil, ragwort, agrimony, silver-weed, celandine, tormentil, yellow iris, St. John’s wort, and a host of other flowers of the same hue. In autumn comes the golden corn; and later on in mid winter we have pale jessamine and lichen thriving on the cottage walls. So throughout the year the Cotswolds are never without this colour of saffron or gold. Only the pockets of the natives lack it, I regret to say.” ( J.Arthur Gibbs in A Cotswold Village )
The author J. B. Priestly wrote of Cotswold stone that – “the truth is that it has no colour that can be described. Even when the sun is obscured and the light is cold, these walls are still faintly warm and luminous, as if they knew the trick of keeping the lost sunlight of centuries glimmering about them.”. The castle has an enormous important history behind it.
Originally it was owned by the Earl of Warwick, Henri de Beaumont. In the 13th Century the dynasty dies out and the title passes on. One of the following owners from the Beauchamp family, Richard de Beauchamp was present at the trial of Joan of Arc (1431) for heresy and at her subsequent burning at the stake in Rouen in Northern France. In the fifteenth century Richard Neville “the King Maker” and 16th Earl of Warwick used it as a prison to hold King Edward IV. Two Plantagenets, George and Edward owned the castle also. After which the property reverted to crown property until the Dudley Family were made Earls of Warwick. The history of the Castle and their owners is full of treason and rebellion. Over the varied period of ownership, alterations and modifications of significant nature were made to the structures by their respective owners.
Notorious other owners include: Fulke Greville, (1554-1628) 1st Baron Brooke, was an Elizabethan poet, dramatist, and statesman to Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. He was granted ownership of the dilapidated Warwick Castle by James I in 1621, but without the many estates and without the title of Earl of Warwick. He is known today for his remarkably sober poetry, which presents dark, thoughtful, and distinctly Calvinist views on art, literature and other philosophical matters. There is also a claim by the Anti-Stratfordian Movement that Greville was the true author of many Shakespearian Sonnets and plays. He is also suspected of being a leading member in the Rosicrucian Order and its first Grand Master. Perhaps that was the reason for his violent death, killed by his own servant. The Grevilles subsequently added important gardens and assembled a superb art collection over the following 100’s of years.The Grevilles were staunch Parliamentarians and the castle came under siege by Royalist forces during the Civil War and held prisoners in the dungeons but it was not taken by the Royalists.
The region was home to many intellectuals and religious men such as William Tyndale who gave the English their new Bible in the English language in 1526 after many tribulations leading to him being burnt at the stake in Flanders, to the likes of John Roberts (1620-1683) the Quaker Religion’s leader. The area was also full of creative people throughout the centuries from William Morris, the 19th Century Arts and Crafts designer and printer as well as John Singer Sargent the American painter. The eminent 20th Century statesman Winston Churchill was born and raised in the Cotswold also. Curiously, the English inventor of an important photographic process, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-) lived and worked at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire and the earliest surviving paper negative in the world dating from August 1835 showed the glass panes in the Oriel window of his Abbey! Fox Talbot developed the three primary elements of modern photography: developing, fixing, and printing.
He set the stage for all other English photographers.
We will now set off to cover the approximately 50 miles or so to Oxford in Oxfordshire (Central Southern England) to visit the great centers of learning through some of our 19th Century photographs.The Christ Church cloisters in Oxford (above) in an albumen print from our archive.
Below are links to other posts in this series. We hope you enjoy them!