Sunday, September 04, 2011

Down narrow lanes

Down narrow lanes, through fragrant woodlands and yew walks , hidden away behind the trees we found it.......

....not even sure we were heading in the right direction we finally came upon the gateway beckoning us in.  What would we find?

The board gave us little idea of what was waiting for us nestling perfectly in its place in the surrounding countryside.

The ruins of Acton Burnell castle appeared across sweeping grass.under the branches of the Cedar tree

The soft red sandstone of the building looked warm against the cool green of the grass and trees. Followers of the late 18th and early 19th century aesthetic movement of the Picturesque would certainly have loved this place. I'm sure it would have appealed to their romantic sensibilities.

So too would the readers of  early Gothic novels - especially in the rather eerily overwrought cemetery and churchyard just over the wall.  I was thinking of the parodic Northanger Abbey or the proper Gothic Dracula or Frankenstein.

The semi-fortified castle was built between 1284 and 1293 by Bishop Robert Burnell,  Edward I's Lord Chancellor. It is said that King visited on more than one occasion and held a parliament here during one of his visits.

Although the building has a licence to call itself a castle it is more a fortified manor house although by the time of its building. fortification, probably against incursions from over the Welsh borders, wasn't much of an issue.

The building was once three stories high and would have had within it a great hall, solar, bedrooms and chapel. In the early19th century the manor house became a folly in the garden and parkland of the new Acton Burnell Hall built in 1814 by the Smythe family.

The 19th century hall is now one of the campus buildings of a private educational college for 13 to 19 year olds from across the world.

Just outside the village we found another historic gem.

Langley chapel is a 17th century Anglican church which still retains all its original furniture on the inside.  A huge old key had been left in the lock so visitors could let themselves in.  I was so busy turning the key and wondering what I would find inside - too many thoughts of Gothic novels or parodies thereof  - that I forgot to take a photo of it!

 Inside it was starkly puritanical and devoid of any ornament.  There was no alter but a communion table with benches around for people to sit during the communion ceremony.  There were also two pulpits....

...a series of box pews and a desk at the back for the church musicians. The quiet setting of this chapel and the musician's desk took my mind away from the Gothic to the Rural and Hardy's 'Under the Greenwood Tree'.  I know I should have been thinking of a local author and not one from Dorset but I can't for the life of me remember if Mary Webb wrote about church musicians in any of her novels about life in rural Shropshire.

As I left I took a photo of the Shropshire countryside outside and as I added the photo below I've just realised that if you look closely you can see the key in the door after all!

I turned it firmly as we left otherwise no doubt the chapel would be full of swallows, rabbits and little field mice - now that sounds more like Beatrix Potter!


  1. ooh what an interesting tour! We haven't visited either of these places so I have really enjoyed your photos! I love the view from the chapel door.

  2. I can see the key! I like the simplicity of the church although I think it would be even better with the introduction of a few wild animals!

  3. I remember Acton Burnell, we sat and drew there, thanks for the visit.

  4. The castle sounds like a very spooky place from your own words!

  5. What amazing buildings! Definitely a place to visit if I'm ever in that corner of the world.

  6. We visited Langley Chapel a couple of years ago. It's a glorious spot, isn't it?

  7. What an amazing little place. That red sandstone is very unusual. Beautiful. xxx

  8. Louise - it was a hot August afternoon outside and cool inside:)

    Simone - it was a very peaceful place - I'm sure a few little mice would love it:)

    Mac n' Janet - I can imagine you sitting there sketching - it is a lovely place:)

    Michela - the castle wasn't spooky in itself - just the yew trees and the cemetery full of stautes next door to it:)

    John - there is so much to see in that small area just south of Shrewsbury:)

    Morning AJ - yes it is in a lovely position and we had the place to ourselves on a Bank Holiday Sunday:)

    Diane - the pinky red sandstone was very pretty. I was there on my birthday which made it extra special:)

  9. The chapel really does look stark. Is it still in regular use?

  10. H - the last regular service was held in 1871. the chapel is now a scheduled and listed building cared for by English heritage:)