Thursday, May 09, 2013

Wingfield Manor

I first visited Wingfield Manor with a group of friends in 1976 - thirty seven years ago!   In those days it was one of those casual affairs where you knocked at the farmhouse door and asked to look around.  There may have been an honesty box to leave donations, I can't quite remember but all was relaxed and we could wander at will.  I visited again a couple of years later with Paul as I wanted to show him how interesting it was.  In those days we caught a bus from Mansfield to Alfreton and walked to the village of South Wingfield.  Much later we'd visited the church at South Wingfield looking for some of Paul's ancestors but had never been back to the Manor.  It was high time for a return visit.


Wingfield Manor is now looked after by English Heritage but it still belongs to the farmer and there are certain areas where photography isn't allowed as there is a private house and gardens in the middle. Apparently the residents of the house get very irate if cameras are pointed at their private area which is quite understandable.  We booked on a tour and received instructions through the post on where to park and where to meet.  There is an off road lay by a few hundred yards up the road and you walk down to the farm gate and wait for the guides, there are wonderful views of the Manor on the way down.  It is then quite a walk up from the road to the ruins themselves.


As we stood in the meeting place one of the guides described for us a scene of the arrival of a body of people to view the Manor as it was in the 1430s when an earlier twelfth century castle was being reconstructed as a 'palace' by one of the most powerful men in England.  Ralph, Lord Cromwell was Treasurer in the court of King Henry VI and we were asked to imagine his arrival at his hill top residence with an entourage of family, friends and servants almost his whole household moving around the country from residence to residence.

When Lord Cromwell died in 1456 he left no heirs so the property passed into the hands of the Earls of Shrewsbury prominent landowners in the area.

The Great Chambers



One of the windows of the Great Hall
Views over the surrounding countryside

Tantalising peeks at what lies beyond
The Barn

The Undercroft

In the Inner Courtyard we stood as our guide told us of the times Mary, Queen of Scots was confined at the Manor under the keeping of the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury who was the fourth husband of the famous Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, daughter of John and Elizabeth Hardwick and known as Bess of Hardwick.  The guide read a passage from Phillipa Gregory's book  The Other Queen  which described a meeting in the courtyard between the Earl of Shrewsbury and Mary, Queen of Scots although of course a purely fictional encounter the writing brought the whole place to life.


At the outbreak of the English Civil War Wingfield Manor was owned by William Cavendish, Earl of  Newcastle who was the grandson of Bess of Hardwick from her second marriage to Sir William Cavendish.  In 1644 the Manor came under siege by Parliamentarian forces under the Earl of Pembroke, the guides pointed out some of the areas where the walls had been hit by  cannonballs.  The royalist troops surrendered and the manor was captured for Parliament.  After its capture the building, like so many others during the war, was 'slighted' which means it was semi-demolished.  

You can still climb to the top of the tower from which there is a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.

 We took it in turns to go to the top as only about four people at a time can get up there safely.


In 1976 when I first went up this tower with a couple of friends I had a strange thing happen to me.  Given that my birthday is at the end of August and my friends and I visited the day after my birthday and that there were apples on the trees in the courtyard and several windfalls on the floor, when I looked down at two of my friends who were standing under a tree, for a split second I saw white blossom on the trees and their clothes were no longer white and denim blue but deep russet red and mustard yellow.  I've often wondered what would have caused this mirage, probably I was still in haze after the birthday party of the evening before but I've never been able to explain it and often feel rather silly telling the tale but there I've told it anyway.  On our recent visit I went up the tower and looked down at the trees, still bare and blossom-less after the harsh winter and late spring and saw only the rest of the party wandering around under the trees and the guides waiting for us last few stragglers to come down.

The guided tours, which happen only one day each month, last for just over two hours.  There are no facilities on the site and it is wise to take a bottle of water and to wear sturdy shoes. The two hours pass quickly because the guides are so informative and enthusiastic and have such a lot of history to impart and tales to tell.

34 comments:

  1. Scary Rosie, maybe you went back in time?

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    1. It didn't feel scary really, I expect it was just my vivid imagination but I don't suppose I'll ever know:)

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  2. What an interesting place to visit. It's great whe you have an informative guide as they can bring a place back to life, as it were. What a spooky experience in 1976!
    June

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    1. The guides were terrific! One a historian the other an archaeologist between them they had it all covered:)

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  3. It must be interesting to be taken around by guides as you can ask them questions as well as them imparting information to you. I am intrigued by the vision you had all those years ago. x

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    1. The vision or whatever it was was just a split second glimpse and could have been in my mind from something else perhaps - a bit like deja vu. The guides were very good and very interesting:)

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  4. A very interesting place, it looks like a really interesting place to visit and it's nice you were able to return after so many years.

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    1. I don't really know why we hadn't been back before now but I was glad to see it again as it is a place I feel drawn to for some reason:)

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  5. Looks a wonderful, evocative place, especially to be guided around. Great photos. Your experience there years ago was very spooky! Abby x

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    1. It is quite a special place with such a lot of history attached to it. I didn't find the esperience spooky at all just intriguing:)

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  6. It sounds a fascinating place. It's a shame so many of these places never recovered from the Civil War, but the echoes of history must be very strong there if you experienced them like you did.

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    1. You do feel the presence of history there, it is quite special, some people do find it a bit spooky especially the undercroft but others don't:)

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  7. What a wonderful place. You clearly picked up an 'echo' all those years ago! Jx

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    1. I like the term 'echo' that's lovely, it was a very warm and happy one:)

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  8. Rosie, I loved this post, fascinating. Wingfield is part of my work patch, yet I didnt know about the manor & tours... I need to embrace what is on my doorstep! Thankyou.

    Lx
    Ps loved the post birthday story - strange goings on!

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    1. You must go if you aren't too far away. There is a booking number on the EH website. The tours are on the first Saturday of the month. Glad you enjoyed the post:)

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  9. Fascinating place and wonderful photos Rosie. I think your "experience" is very interesting - I have had similar myself (including one in Coventry Cathedral!) perhaps we Virgo's are a bit spiritual! xxxx

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    1. Oooh - sounds intriguing, perhaps we Virgo's do pick up on these things! My 'experience' wasn't at all scary - rather it was warm and happy. I wonder what yours was like?:)

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  10. I'm not surprised you had that experience that time when you went in the 1970s, whatever the explanation. These old places capture the imagination, especially when you have time to take in the atmosphere as well as the details of your surroundings. I so enjoyed this post because of the Shrewsbury/Mary Queen of Scots connection with the places in and around Sheffield as well as Derbyshire e.g. the Shrewsbury Chapel in the Cathedral. A guided tour of Wingfield Manor is now on my wishlist!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post. If you are interested in the Shrewsbury/Mary Queen of Scots connection you will love looking around Wingfield Manor. The tours are on the first Saturday of the month and bookable through a number on the EH website.

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  11. What a fascinating place to visit. I get, shall we say a vision in my mind, every time I look at horse chestnuts, when they are in full leaf, my vision is of ladies in dress from tudor times. This has happened to me for years now and I don't know why. Strange things that happen to some of us. x

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    1. What a lovely vision! Isn't it funny how we get these 'feelings' for places mostly they are good but I have one bad feeling which I get if I see the underside of ships or large boats when they are in dry dock. It is a fascinating place to visit:)

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  12. What an impressive building.

    I often see things that other people can't. I just sort of go with the flow these days and accept it.

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    1. It is a wonderful building. I expect it is best to just accept it, I know some people have this awareness that others don't I'm mostly a don't but sometimes things catch me unawares:)

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  13. Those buttresses look very Jane Eyre after the fire, I kept expecting to see Mr Rochester lurking..

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    1. You are right! The 1996 film of Jane Eyre directed by Franco Zeffirelli used Wingfield Manor as one of their locations, I don't remember seeing that film the last adaptation I saw was for TV with t
      Toby Stevens as Mr Rochester:)

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  14. A fascinating post Rosie. I kept thinking about the castle I stayed at in Scotland, Borthwick. That had Mary Queen of Scots connections too, and was extremely spooky!

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    1. I remember your posts about Borthwick Castle! Perhaps all the places connected with Mary have these spooky stories and experiences around them:)

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  15. THis sounds wonderful, I'd love to visit Wingfield Manor - I always associate it with Alison Uttley's lovely book A Traveller In Time. I didn't know you could go and see it though. You've taken some lovely photos - it looks a very atmospheric place.

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    1. The guide who read the extract from Philippa Gregory's book mentioned Alison Uttley's A Traveller in Time when he was explaining about the Babbington plot! I'm sure you would enjoy a visit:)

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  16. Thank you for a lovely post & photos. I knew about the MQOS connection but not the earlier history.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed my post, Lyn:)

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  17. Are there any illustrations that shows what the building looked like before it was ruined at the end of the English Civil War? Also, how much would it cost to reconstruct Wingfield Manor to how it was before the English Civil War?

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    1. I'm not sure I can answer the first question immediately, Paul. I'll have a dig around and see what I can find out and leave another comment here if I find any links on line or to books for you. Second question, I have absolutely no idea but as Wingfield Manor is administered by English Heritage maybe they could give you some idea?:)

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