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Published: November 6th 2018
Somehow the name Bolingbroke and a load of them remind me of the character of Shakespeare in the comedy Upstart Crow written by Ben Elton . The word is used rather in a derogatory fashion referring to a part of the male anatomy . If you have not watched Upstart Crow you really need to. If you watched Ben Eltons creation of Blackadder then this is in the same vein with the same sense of humour . If you cannot say Bolingbroke without smiling then what can I say ?
It is an Autumnal day here. I both love and hate Autumn. I love the crisp brown leaves on the ground which invite me to kick them. I hate to see the bare trees. I enjoy the cold crisp mornings when it is nice to cuddle under the duvet and not have to get up. I dislike the grey , dank mists that cling to everything and make everywhere feel armed with a wetness. Today is the latter rather than the former. We wake early. There are no birds singing and it is dark . Not an inviting morning. That is another thing I hate about Autumn. Dark mornings -
dark evenings. The alarm pings into life and I make breakfast . I head for the shower and we make plans for the day. Today is the day Gabby goes for her habitation check and service . We have an hours drive ahead of us to Newark. We have concluded we cannot sit around all day waiting for her and there is nothing left to see in the town. We pack an overnight bag and make the decision to head for something to see and stay in a hotel picking Gabby up tomorrow.
The plan was a good idea . A cunning one as Baldrick would say. I trawl the internet for something to do. Now that at this time of year is hard to do. Everywhere is closed. After the half term holiday the National Trust puts almost all their houses to bed. Yes in my head I know they have to find time to catalogue every item, check them for damage, clean them and put them safe. I accept that they need to check for infestations of beetles and for mould but why oh why can they not stagger this job. Why is it that when I
check Gunby I find it closed for the season? Why is everything shut ? They will clean and catalogue through November , put up the Christmas decorations and get ready for the Christmas visitors and then shut up shop again through all of January and most of February. There are still an army of us pensioners with nothing to do who would love to visit a National Trust property or an English Heritage one during the winter months but we are denied. I for one am getting annoyed with that . I guess though I will fail to change anything even if I protest very loudly. In the end I come up a free site - Bolingbroke Castle . We can drop Gabby off and drive to Spilsby to see what remains of the castle. Not a lot to be fair . That is the reason it is free and access available at all times. From the air it looks impressive. From the blurb I read I realise I will have to use a fair amount of imagination on this one.
We drive the long way round to drop Gabby off avoiding hills at all cost due to her
failing handbrake . We arrive at just after 8am and book her in . We get a warm welcome and whilst Glenn walks round her with the reception staff I find the coffee machine and make a quick espresso to liven me up. Glenn joins me with a capuccino and we ask when the work will be completed . Later this afternoon we are told . We explain that we will ring back around mid afternoon and probably/possibly stay overnight at a hotel. That was perhaps a mistake which lost itself in translation . It must have sounded as if we definately were not returning that day.
The drive had proved interesting with each village along the way commemorating the end of the first world war. Cenotaphs were decorated with garlands of knitted poppies , fences were covered with netting on which were attached more knitted poppies. Tommy the soldier was displayed with pride . Extra large poppies attached to lampposts . Some with names of dead soldiers attached to them. Nottinghamshire villages remembered. Lincolnshire did not . We drove through the flat wolds of Lincolnshire . Isn't that a lovely word? From the Middle English wald or Old English weald or a forest. Not much in the way of a forest these days the Lincolnshire wolds are flat ditched lands with a watery heritage. The fields look empty . The crops taken in. The villages stone. We stopped off for breakfast in small farm cafe on the side of the road . Welcomed were told to sit in the back where it was warmer. We ate full English washed down with hot milky tea. I swapped my tomatoes for Glenns black puddings . It felt like one of those indulgent treats you have from time to time.
Our aim next was to stop at Bolingbroke castle. There was very little in the way of car parking . Just a rough piece of ground full of puddles after the early morning rain. The gate was open and we had the castle all to ourselves and one man and his dog. There once was a moat around the castle . It was still there behind the bullrushes . The coots could just be heard as they hid from us. We entered the castle via what was once the main gateway. Two towers opposite each other. We read the information boards which told us this was the way in. We imagined what it must have looked like. Imagining Beeston Castle which was built by the same person at the same time . Beeston however was on top of a hill overlooking the Cheshire Plain and was in a much better state of repair . The castle had been built from the local green limestone which proved to be porous and over the years deteriorated quite rapidly. Inside we could see that the castle was irregular in shape with five towers around its perimeter. Much archaeology had taken place over the years and much had been uncovered in the interior but sadly all had been filled in again and little could be seem apart from humps in the ground.
The information boards told us that the area had been fortified by the Saxons in the 6th and 7th century. As early as the 12th century a motte and bailey castle had been erected on the site nearby. Ranulf the Earl of Chester built this castle around 1220 after he returned from the Fifth Crusade. Sadly he died in 1232 without any mail heir and all his lands and titles were given to his sisters . The castle passed to John of Gaunt in 1361 and his wife Blanche of Lancaster was born in the castle . Their son Henry Bolingbroke was born here and it was he that became King Henry IV. in 1399. So an illustrious history for the castle . However as was the way with castles by the 15th and 16th centuries the castle had fallen into disrepair . During the civil war Bolingbroke backed the wrong side . The Royalists garrisoned in it and in 1643 it was badly damaged and recaptured the following year by Cromwells forces. As with other castles it was slighted following the war to prevent its use again. This sadly meant decline quickly followed and in the end the towers were torn down and dumped in the moat . The castle became nothing more than a source of stone for the locals and a romantic ruin.
However despite all the problems of not much being left of the castle we still managed to walk around the bases and entrances to each of the towers. As we walked round each tower we were told of its origins on the information boards. The clerks tower where the clerks carried out all the administrative actions for the castle . The Auditors Tower where the affairs of estates were sorted . The Kings Tower , the Kitchen Tower and the Receivers Tower. All required a certain degree of imagination.
What was it like as a castle ? Well it was no Beeston nor was a it a Bodiam . But it did make for a half hour of musing about history, about Henry and the connections the royal families made. It gave us something to pass a short while away before heading for somewhere altogether different and possibly less enjoyable.
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