Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Theme Thursday : When Is A Castle Not A Castle?



When is a castle not a castle? I know it sounds like a daft question, but I happen to be rather fond of daft questions (I am a great believer in the adage "never ask a sensible question when a daft question will do"). Now according to Webster's Dictionary (which, I seem to recall, like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby is Morocco bound) a castle is "a fortified residence" and the editors even included a diagram to show the kind of things any self-respecting castle should have: things like turrets and battlements, keeps and dungeons. 


The question was prompted by my desire to include a local castle in my post for this week's Theme Thursday.  But there are not many castles around here. There is a Castle Hill a few miles away in Huddersfield, but the castle in question was demolished about 700 years ago. There is a castle in Pontefract, but there isn't much left of it and, anyway, I always come out in a rash whenever I go near Pontefract. And then there is Cliffe Castle in Keighley. That would do. Surely.





Cliffe Castle started life as Cliffe Hall in the 1820s but in 1848 it was bought by a local mill owner Henry Butterfield. The Butterfield family were local weavers made good and Henry had pretensions of greatness and therefore set about constructing himself a genealogy. He added a few turrets and a battlement or two to Cliffe Hall and renamed it Cliffe Castle. And old Henry Butterfield became part of the landed gentry. So it would seem that a Hall becomes a Castle when you add a few important bits to it. But my problem in including Cliffe Castle in this Theme Thursday post on castles is that those bits have dropped off again. It may be that Henry cut a few corners and - in the best traditions of my native County - decided to "save a bob or two" : but his building work wasn't all that successful and most of his turrets, towers and battlements fell down in the next eighty or so years. So what is left now is the original Hall with a bit stuck on the top. And that takes me back to my original question "when is a castle not a castle"?


When I got fed up of trying to find an answer I transferred my attention to Skipton, a few miles further up the road. Skipton has a castle. A real castle with big gates and wonderfully solid walls. Like any half decent castle it is nearly a thousand years old and it has experienced at least one bloody three-year siege. And I happen to have a postcard with a picture of the main gateway to the castle.





The motto on top of the gateway is DES OR MAIS which, I am reliably informed is Medieval French for "Henceforth". One has to admire self-belief of the real aristocracy : as far as they were concerned they had the right to lord it over everyone else not just for the moment but henceforth. But at least they built their castles with better materials than old Henry Butterfield and they are still standing. Their castles are, without a doubt, still castles.


You can read the other Theme Thursday posts by following this LINK.

31 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I fear you are being somewhat critical as surely the definition of a castle is an Englishman's home?

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  3. Martin : And I always thought that a castle was the name we ordinary folk give to a rook.

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  4. Hah! I learn much from your daftness!

    Did you know that a rook is actually a chariot? I only learned that the other day.

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  5. Ooh, just learned a new word from your little castle picture - 'machicolations' - my dictionary says they're "openings between supporting corbels for dropping stones on assailants". I should have turned my house into a castle and added some before Halloween. They would have been jolly useful.

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  6. A very good daft question... hmmm. I'm sure there are a lot of 'non' castles in America. Hearst Castle comes to mind. It's less castle and more mansion... But then again castle just sounds so much richer.

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  7. I love those vintage dictionaries with the great illustrations. Thanks for answering that question, Alan. I was wondering it, myself.

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  8. the visuals are amazing...i love those old encyclopedic entries as well...and skipton looks the place to be...happy tt alan...superb.

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  9. I love the photo of Cliffe Castle. I know I'm a hopeless romantic at times, but it could be DuMaurier's Manderley. It's just way cool. I always have the best time when I come to your blog, Alan!

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  10. Turrets, battlements, keeps and dungeons!...and don't forget the moat! :)

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  11. Great post, sir! I was hoping to find out the answer to, "What is the difference between a castle and a fortress?" Perhaps, you can enlighten me on that one. Happy TT!

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  12. Another great post, AB and Happy Thursday, too.I too learn much from your so-called daftness.

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  13. I love to learn about various castle s and "yours" were no exception! now, i know a Butterfield---hmm, wonder if somewhere down the road they are related? One never knows!

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  14. Great wonderings here! Thanks for all the 411 and history. Very enjoyable visit.

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  15. Thanks, Alan, for the informative post.... you seem to write in a way that sounds as though I am having a sit and you are the storyteller. Nice. -Jayne

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  16. The only daft question is a question never asked.
    I'm learning more from your questions than I do from my own.
    My daft question is why you come out in a rash every time you go near Pontefract - but I am sure that is a post in itself!
    A very amusing and enlightening post. Surely a castle cannot be a castle if all of the castle bits have dropped off?
    More questions to be answered, methinks!

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  17. Informative and educational and interesting. I am continually amazed by the lengths people go to in their "castles".

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  18. Great post, Alan! (I Loved the "Morocco" joke.)
    Are you anywhere near "Castle Howard" where "Brideshead Revisited" was filmed? I suspect that's not really a castle either, is it?

    DES OR MAIS? How very interesting. I'm going to look that up.

    Kat

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  19. I see by Wikipedia that some Indie artist by the name of Julie Doiron has a cd entitled Desormais.
    Amazing the things you learn on that site.

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  20. What a funny idea--cutting corners on the building of a castle!

    Excellent post.

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  21. yes thank goodness for daft questions, as your loyal readers benefit mightily!

    interesting read and i love the vintage postcard!

    des or mais! and a happy tt to you!

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  22. I don't know if I'd call you daft, but you're definitely never boring.

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  23. A castle is a schloss. Simple.

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  24. Great fun! Yes, some of the 19th & early 20th century U.S. magnates got the same idea--Hearst of course, & another one who comes to mind is James Oliver Curwood, a terrifically successful writer whose stories were turned into such films as "Back to God's Country" & "Nomads of the North." Curwood built a "castle" somewhere in Michigan I believe. I love the reference to "Road to Morocco;" that song is very funny.

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  25. Very cool post, thanks Alan!

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  26. And there is me thinking my home is my castle...

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  27. Thanks Alan that was wonderful! Castles or just big houses they delight this woman from the new world!

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  28. Skipton Castle looks very intimidating; I imagine that "Henceforth" had some teeth to it!

    Which reminds me:

    "Remember, remember the fifth of November..." Penny for the Guy! Hope you've had a great Guy Fawkes Night!

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  29. Well it was a good dictionary search :) Educational (for me:)

    xoxo

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  30. You reminded me of my mother's pregnancy craving Pontefract cakes! Apparently she was mad for them with each of her four pregnancies! Little soft discs of liquorice. I didn't actually know there was a place with the same name! I'm sure I've been to Skipton Castle too but I would have been a young child at the time and don't really remember it. If it has a turret and a drawbridge (or once did) I think it's a castle!

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  31. Once a castle, always a castle,lol. Some of the most haunted stand in bits and pieces,still amazing pieces of history.
    Thanks for sharing.

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