Sunday, 12 January 2014

Huntington Castle

It was a lovely sunny day on Saturday, and I got the chance to go out and about again.
This time it was to Huntington Castle, which I'd wanted to visit for years. I had been to Huntington before, many years ago, but we only got as far as the pub, the Swan. I seem to remember a conversation where the landlady told us about the eleven cats they had - and how she thought there must be a beacon visible only to cats that guided them all there!
On the way to Huntington, we stopped off at Brilley Church, a pretty little place, heavily restored by the Victorians.
Huntington is spread out a bit as a village, and at one point we found ourselves driving very slowly behind two men in ambulance uniform who were walking along the lane. Then they turned into a farmyard - and the farmyard and open barn were full of people and small kit cars. There seemed to be some sort of rally going on.
We went first to the church, through another farmyard. The church is about the same age as the castle, and is dedicated to St Thomas a Becket, which is an unusual dedication. I've only ever been to one other church named for that turbulent priest, and that was in Oxford.
It was so dark inside that we left the door open so we could see. The original windows are tiny, and the later, bigger windows are very dark stained glass. On one side, the pews are enormously solid wood, with more conventional and more modern pews on the other side. There's also a chimney visible on the outside, but no sign of a fireplace inside (but I bet that the local squire had his pew there once, and his own little fire keeping the family warm during the service).
The nice chap in the farmyard we went through told us that the castle was right next to the village hall. We parked at the Swan (and two cats slunk away as we got out of the car - the beacon is obviously still working!)
A little way down the road and round the bend we came to the village hall, a quite modern building, and there was the castle, rearing up above the road, covered in trees. There's a public footpath running through it - and in its time it must have been very impressive. It was too spread out for me to get a good photo, but there are a couple of lengths of exposed masonry, and some large mounds. One is described as a motte in some of the literature I've seen, but I'd guess that it's actually the remains of a large tower, grassed over (and liberally sprinkled with blackberry bushes and thorn bushes). Paul Remfry, who has done a lot of work on the more obscure Marches castles, has a good article about the history of the castle and the remains at Though this would not have been an obscure castle when it was built. I think it's probably bigger than Grosmont, and was owned at various times by the de Braose family (who also held Hay Castle), the Bohuns and the Mortimers, all of them important Marcher families.
There's a good sized dry moat, and on one side, a very steep drop to a stream - it would have been a difficult castle to besiege.
After that, we headed up to Kington again for a substantial lunch at the "greasy spoon" cafe - egg, chips, bacon, beans, and mug of tea were just what we needed after a morning's castle and church spotting. There was a party of bikers in the cafe, and we overheard them discussing the problems of a long journey through Wales, and how they wished there could be some way of "in flight re-fuelling" for the bikes. We were imagining Wallace and Gromit coming by with the motorcycle and sidecar, and carefully matching speeds as Gromit poured a jerrycan of petrol into the tank of the other bike!
We had a wander round the back alleys of Kington, too, and found the Arrow Brewery on the main road (with a picture of the Tardis on the front of the pub), and the Arrow Mills which has a really big mill leat round the back of the Co-op. Kington has all sorts of interesting little corners to explore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The event at Lower House, Huntington was a sporting trial.