Visit to Greystoke Castle
Many of you have often had the feeling after leaving the theatre or cinema of being inspired, enthusiastic and elated. They were the same feelings as I left Greystoke Castle with following a tour of the castle and gardens on the Monday of the Blencowe reunion.
It is a rare occasion that the master of the house is your tour guide but Blencowe participants were indeed fortunate to be addressed by a very charming and eloquent Neville Howard.
After being warmly welcomed, Mr Howard really made history live as he related the history of the castle beginning with the wooden pele towers on the site, which were worth little better than firewood after six years, to the existence of the castle as it is today with all the calamities that beset the family and the structure over time.
Mr Howard's sense of history, his sense of humour and his obvious love of his ancestral home was crammed full of history at its very best. The border clashes with the Scots must have been a very interesting part of the Greystoke folklore as the Reaves from the north would plunder and pillage stock from Greystoke and then for the locals to return the favour “with 10% interest".
Memorable during his talk was the incident of a monk attempting to escape from the castle through a secret passage which led under the lake only to be trapped mid lake as the passage was destroyed by the marauders. Consequently, this has led to a number of ghost stories.
I particularly enjoyed the story of Cromwell's army who, after bombarding the castle during the day during the siege of 1660, would cease firing the cannons, advance on foot to the castle ruins and collect the cannonballs ready for another bombardment the next day.
Mr Howard was able to relate the stories of his life on the estate and his wonderful adventures growing up at Greystoke — of how he would disappear for days with nothing but a rifle and adventure on his mind. It conjured up a real Mark Twain image of a young man discovering the responsibilities of life in a real and practical manner.
Many people were able to speak with Mr Howard after the visit and were thoroughly impressed with his humility, charm and interest in Blencowe history -including the burial marker! I know we would all like to thank Mr Howard for giving us a rare insight into the life of one very significant piece of living history.
Blencowe Burial Marker
Early Blencowe burial marker, possibly Adam's, safely stored at the rear of Greystoke Castle
When Neville Howard led us out to view our burial marker stored in the sealed end of a passage running through the thickness of a Greystoke castle tower, I am sure no one expected to see it in such a lofty position well above our heads. It was a special moment seeing it poised as if looking down on us.
After a close-up inspecting of the marker, Mr Howard is certain that it probably belongs to us rather than the Howards. He is quite happy for it to remain in his custody. He offered to return it to us. However, with no suitable location being obvious it is better it remains where it is.