A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 20 February 2017

Not Quite the Siege of Newcastle 1644 – (2) What Really Happened

…and why it won’t make a very good game without serious revision of the narrative.

First thing to know about the Siege of Newcastle is that it doesn’t get a lot of coverage. If you read Peter Young, or CV Wedgwood, or Gardiner, or just about any of the respectable general histories, then you will find either no mention at all or else a casual one-liner about the town having eventually fallen to Parliament. It goes without saying that it was a matter of the greatest importance to the people who lived there at the time, but by the time the place surrendered the war had moved on elsewhere, and the final capture was in any case a foregone conclusion.

What follows is a summary of my understanding of what happened – it will certainly reflect my own limited attention span and the fact that most of my sources are Scottish, so I would not recommend that you base your homework on it without checking further!

Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven
When the Earl of Leven led the Scottish Covenanter army into Northumberland on the 19th January 1644, he expected to reach the Tyne by the 27th. He appears to have had no intention of undertaking any kind of formal siege – the town of Newcastle had surrendered to him without resistance in 1639, during the brief Bishops’ Wars, and there seemed every chance that the same thing would happen now. Leven’s army did not have the best of either luck or weather on their march, and did not reach Newcastle until 3rd February, by which time the principal Royalist in the Northern Counties, the Earl of Newcastle (whom I shall henceforth refer to as William Cavendish, to avoid confusion), had managed to reach the town with some 4000 troops. Leven’s request that the gates be opened to him was dismissed out of hand. Since his heavy artillery was still en route, having been sent by ship from Leith to Blyth, his bluff was called, though he probably had in the region of 17000 soldiers under arms.

William Cavendish, Earl (later Marquis) of Newcastle
Newcastle stands on the River Tyne, at a point where the river was a very serious military obstacle – from Newcastle to the sea there was no crossing point, and there were Royalist forts at the mouth of the Tyne, at Tynemouth and South Shields, which hindered naval blockade of the port. On the western side of the town the nearest ford was at Newburn, some 7 miles upstream, with another at Heddon on the Wall, maybe another 2 miles. Across the river from Newcastle was the town of Gateshead (referred to as Gatesyde in contemporary Scottish accounts), which commanded the other end of the only bridge.

View across the Tyne from Gateshead, showing the only bridge

If Leven were immediately to set up a formal siege of the town of Newcastle, he would have no control of the south bank of the Tyne, and the forts would enable an amount of maritime traffic to persist – blockade or no, boats are known to have continued to take coal from Newcastle to Hamburg, and maybe Rotterdam, and return with supplies including armaments. The wider strategic demands of the war required the Scottish army to be available further afield, and the cost and delay of a siege at this point were not appealing. Without better control of the river, a besieging army could not even seal off the town.

Leven decided to move on – he left 6 regiments of foot and some cavalry under James Lumsden to watch the town, and marched the bulk of his army to the western fords and thence south towards Sunderland (which was favourably disposed toward Parliament), which became his base of operations for a while. He captured the fort at South Shields (though it subsequently changed hands again), and managed to outmanoeuvre Cavendish’s field army (which apparently had left the “blockaded” town of Newcastle pretty much at will) fairly consistently through a short campaign which included the indecisive action at Boldon Hill (see previous game report from last year).

At this point news reached Cavendish of Parliament’s capture of Selby, in Yorkshire, which increased the threat against York, so that he chose to march south to support the Royalist effort in Yorkshire. Leven followed him, and in July both forces were involved in the Battle of Marston Moor, which pretty much destroyed any effective Royalist control in the North. In addition, it resulted in Cavendish quitting the country (he moved to Germany to avoid being humiliated at court, since Prince Rupert managed to place most of the blame for the defeat with him) and may have marked the beginning of some disaffection between Cromwell and the Covenanters.

After Marston Moor, York surrendered, and Leven turned his attention once again to Newcastle, which town’s situation was now hopeless – there was no possibility of a relief force.

James Livingston, Earl of Callander
A reinforcement had been sent from Scotland for Leven’s ragged and weary troops – the Earl of Callander arrived with a further 8000 men, and set about the south bank of the Tyne with some vigour. He recaptured the forts at the mouth of the Tyne, and took Gateshead on 27th July – the riverfront, castle and port of Newcastle could now be fired upon from across the river. With the forts lost, the town was now sealed off, and hunger was added to the miseries of the townspeople.

Sir John Marley, Mayor and Military Commander of
Newcastle during the siege
Callander placed a pontoon bridge across the river to the east of the town, near Ouseburn, and Leven’s engineers did the same upstream, on the west side. By September there were batteries placed all around the town, there was mining work under way. Then began a long drawn-out series of letters between Leven and Sir John Marley, the mayor of Newcastle. Hostages were exchanged, formal parties were sent to negotiate. Marley merely wished to play for time. He later claimed that any demands he could make on the armies of Parliament, any nuisance he could offer, struck a blow for his king, but there may have been some wisdom in his strategy. Winter was coming, enthusiasm for a siege which would yield little must have been waning among the Scots. The defenders managed a couple of successful sorties, though their resources were very limited, and successfully destroyed a few mines, and some of Callander’s men were returned to Scotland, to help with the growing problem of the Marquis of Montrose. Eventually, Leven’s patience ran out, and on the 19th October a major bombardment breached the walls in a number of places, and this was followed by a full assault. The town fell quite quickly – the invaders were surprised how quickly the streets were empty, as the civilian fighters went home to hide and have their wounds tended to.

The Keep of Newcastle Castle
Marley and a few of the firebrands locked themselves in the castle, and left the townspeople to cope with the aftermath. An attempt to renew the exchange of demands was ignored by Leven, and when the castle ran out of food Marley, too, surrendered. Legend has it that he required a bodyguard to protect him from the ire of the citizens.


So – as a game?

The early period of confrontation in February is not promising – the Scots’ inability to seal off the river and the port is crucial, and after the main army marched south they had enough strength only to mask the town.

By October the forces are overwhelmingly uneven – the Royalists have no food, insufficient troops, old-fashioned fortifications and no chance at all of relief or reinforcement. A siege in such circumstances has, potentially, to quote the Mad Padre, all the fascination of a slow-motion movie of someone being hit by a bus.

I am working on some tweaks to give a more evenly-balanced game! More later... 

The Durham Tower today...

...and the Herber Tower...

...the Walls near Newgate Street...

...and at Orchard Street

Hooptedoodle #252 - Hair, or Why I Never Made It in the Movies

This is not me

When I was five I had never thought about my hair. It was curly and a bit lumpy, I guess, but it was just something that my mother fussed over and brushed into shape. Then I went to school and there was a boy in my class named Alan Pashley. Alan had flat, shiny, black hair – it never moved, and you could almost see your reflection in it. This was my introduction to the world of Brylcreem, the world where some men just had it and other men just didn’t.

I wanted hair like Alan’s – more than anything in the world. I was so envious it hurt.

Denis Compton
At five I was not interested in girls, obviously, but even at that age I was sufficiently aware of the power of advertising to know that they would chase you down the street if you put some branded gloop on your hair. From that time on I always wished I could look like someone else – almost anyone else, in fact. I once tried a secret experiment with a blob of my dad’s Brylcreem, but it just produced a greasier version of the same chaotic, lumpy mess, so I then knew for sure that in my case this was not just a matter of grooming, it was simply that the raw material was hopeless.

Robert Beatty
Things were not helped by the fact that my dad devoutly believed that boys should part their hair on the left, same as they buttoned their coats left-over-right, without regard to which direction the hair grew in. It was a manhood thing.

Johnny Haynes
Like everyone else, I spent my youth agonising about my unattractive appearance – things improved very slightly when I was nineteen and I dared to change my hair, and get it parted on the natural (girl’s?) side. I’ve never been a big fan of the way I look, but you sort of get used to it as the years pass, there are other things to fret about, and you probably reach a stage where girls chasing you down the street would be a nuisance. And, of course, eventually the damn stuff starts to fall out, so the problem will be replaced by another…

Good Grief
Time passes.

My youngest son is now fourteen, and he doesn’t like his hair. It makes him miserable. Now there’s a surprise. Nothing is new. He was horrified by a recent photograph of himself, and when we reassured him that it was actually a good photo, and he looked fine in it, he was furious – our naïve approval of his hated appearance was the final straw. There is almost no limit to the things he has to put up with. No-one has ever been this wretched.

Maybe, come to think of it, some things have changed a little. When I was five, or even nineteen, there were very few actual film stars around – the rest of us did not expect to look like that – we all had crooked teeth, dodgy hair, moles, all that. Now the world is run by viral photos on social media – “products” are available to sort out your hair, everyone is expected to have good teeth, wear the right labels, cover themselves in tattoos, circulate hopeful selfies of themselves. If you do not look like a film star, pal, you are not trying. Maybe failure is more absolute, less excusable than it was in my day. Do not be ugly, have a pimple on your nose, etc, because not only will you feel bad about it, but your friends will crucify you on Instagram.

So we are trying to come up with a supportive, workable strategy to help our son. The first, and maybe most obvious idea is that he should get his hair cut rather more frequently, and keep it a little shorter. It might help – at the very least, you would think, he will have less of it to be offended by. He could try to get it re-styled, or set up some heavyweight grooming programme involving gloop and conditioner (and cost, and crap, and frustration, and effort, and wasted time in front of the mirror), but that is unlikely to work out well in the longer run, and merely adds layers of paranoia and hopeless struggle to the existing problem. We need to identify a calm moment, and try to form some sort of plan. Feasible would be good.

I fear that the grooming/gloop approach has become a colossal industry – the default way of life – many and vast are the fortunes made by exploiting personal inadequacy. The world is filled with pictures of kids who miss the point – selfies of 300-pound clones of Paris Hilton abound, daft photos of boys with a poor copy of someone else’s beard stuck on the front – just have a look at your Facebook friends’ friends’ friends…

Prayer for a fine Monday morning: Please send us a little peace. Let us remember that there are people in the world who have far worse problems than untidy hair – let us try to focus, just a little, on things that actually matter. Let us see heartless, exploitational advertising for what it is.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Scenery Scales - Quick Sanity Check...

Different period, same problem - the troops look OK with buildings in a slightly
compressed vertical scale, but the greatly compressed horizontal scale means that
they are always crammed into far too little space. 
While I was constructing my representation of Newcastle, on Wednesday, I observed that the number of towers on the contemporary map is far higher than in my simplified model. Of course, I would expect this, but my attention was caught by a comment in one of my books - it refers to the medieval walls being built in accordance with "best practice of the pre-gunpowder age" - in particular, adjacent towers should be within bowshot of each other, to provide adequate cover.

This reminded me that I had previously run a ruler over my "15mm" Vauban defensive pieces (different period, same idea, similar logic) and been delighted to observe that the lengths of the bastion faces, the straight walls and all that matched up well with the official best-practice numbers out of Chris Duffy's Fire & Stone, which is most convenient, yet a little puzzling in view of the fact that my wargames, like most people's, are a mish-mash of different scales. In short, I'm pleased it works out, but by rights it probably shouldn't, so I had another think about it. There is something conceptually different about grouping representative clusters of buildings into a given area (the area is correct, but the number of houses is not) and placing a wall or a gate (the wall, or the gate - there was only one) in its correct place.

Let's see now - my soldiers are roughly 1/72 scale - what in a more innocent age we used to refer to as "true 25mm" (a phrase as smug as it was meaningless). To help a little with the look of the thing, I use 15mm scale buildings - 15mm is about 1/100 scale, which is the old TT model railway gauge, so the buildings are deliberately undersized compared with the men, but the distortion in the vertical scale is not too bad, and the saving in footprint size (and cost of the buildings!) more than compensates. As I've said before, a small cluster of small houses, to me, looks more convincingly like a village than a single 1/72 scale building. Whatever, I am comfortable with it, though it doesn't suit everyone.

When we speak of scale distortions, of course, all this fades into insignificance against the appalling liberties we take with horizontal distances. My ground scale - the one against which my Vauban bits and my medieval fortifications all fit tolerably well - is one 7-inch hex represents 200 paces. A bit of finger-in-the-air rounding gets us to something like 1/900 scale. So I use 1/72 men, 1/100 buildings and a 1/900 ground scale. Hmmm.

I was looking at the PaperTerrain website, and they offer pdf files of groundplan templates for (for example) a Vauban fort. Scaled appropriately to make the heights fit with 15mm, these templates are massive compared with my little fortification models. This is not a surprise, really, but it always takes me aback when I see it. It's OK - I understand it - the models of town walls and bastions and so on are not the sort of objects you "cluster" to represent a more numerous group. There was a wall, and there was a bastion, and they were here, and they are expected to fit the map and the tabletop - the matter of how many towers, of course, is not quite the same thing, but to get some version of the town of Newcastle to sit sensibly in a realistic footprint requires some cheating. The walls are the right height for 15mm (1/100 - which is not too unreasonable for 1/72 scale toy soldiers), but they are the right length for 1/900 - and yet it looks all right. I am forced to assume that, by luck or accident, the manufacturers have used the same numbers as I do, and their compromise works for me. If I used proper, proportional 1/900 scale walls then the soldiers would be in danger of tripping over them, and that really would be laughable.

So I've thought about it, yet again, and it works out all right - yet again. I knew it would, yet it is reassuring. I'll have to remember to check it all again in a few weeks. We all need all the reassurance we can get.


Late Edit, following Archduke Piccolo's comment:

This is an alternative map, an extract from a sketch plan prepared by Sir Jacob Astley in 1639. I have reproduced this by photographing it from Charles Sanford Terry's The Life and Campaigns of Alexander Leslie - a book which I have enjoyed immensely and which I was terrified I would wreck if I opened it wide enough to put it on the scanner! It shows the suburbs outside the Newgate and Pilgrim Street Gate, and also at Sandgate on the river, and gives a fascinating key to how it was proposed to place the artillery to defend the place. Note that Astley's 1000 foot scale is a bit different from the 200 pace scale shown in the William Mathew map I included in my previous post. I do not claim that one map is more accurate than the other - Mathew's is derived from John Speed's map, while Astley was the man who had to prepare Newcastle for defence against the Scots during the Bishop's War(s).

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Not Quite the Siege of Newcastle 1644 - (1) Beginnings and Set Up

It will be a little while until the actual game takes place, but I've made a start on setting up an appropriate battlefield. Because of the short artillery ranges, the ground scale and the small size of 17th Century towns, I have decided to play the game across the table, which has a number of advantages.

My starting point is a contemporary map of Newcastle, dating from 1610 or so. Here it is.

By the time Lord Leven arrived at the gates in February 1644, a number of changes had taken place. The suburbs outside the northern section of the wall had been demolished (they burned for days, apparently), the walls had been put into a good state of repair (they had even been plastered, to make escalade more difficult - my walls have not been plastered...), but were still old-fashioned medieval walls with no frontal protection against artillery, and a sconce had been erected at Shieldfield, north east of the town, to cover the Sandgate area against possible approach along the valley of the Pandon Burn.

Having stared at the map for a while, consulted my various sources and scratched my chin, I have decided to represent the northern side of the town on the table. This represents only part of the assault (which did not take place until October, for reasons which I shall attempt to explain at some point in the next few posts), but it is the easiest section to play as a game, and it does include the location of the primary artillery barrage.

This first post is primarily to show off my very approximate version of Newcastle, and the captions to the pictures will give a little more information. In later posts I'll say more about why the real siege of Newcastle does not lend itself to a game without a lot of fudging - which will involve one of Foy's infamous potted histories - and discuss some new aspects of my rules. One further advantage of setting the field up early, of course, is that I can do some experimenting with particular rule mechanisms to see how they look. The game itself will probably be in a couple of weeks (availability of commanders permitting), and it will be a collaborative, rather than a competitive, effort!

In 1644 Newcastle was a prosperous town of some 11,000 inhabitants. The section
of the town shown is seen from the north, and is rather simplified. The River Tyne is
about 2 hexes beyond the far edge - somewhere behind the chairs. Following the
visible section of the wall round from the left, you can see the Pandon Gate, the
Corner Tower, the Carliol Tower, Pilgrim Street Gate, the Ficket Tower, the Bartram
Monboucher Tower, Newgate, the Heber Tower and the Westgate. Off the table, on the left
the wall loops around to the Sandgate, which is on the riverfront, and on the right it
meets the river near to the Closegate. The bits of white paper are to help me memorise
the names of the key locations. 

General view from the north east.

View from The Leazes, where General Baillie set up his batteries. The hexes are
about 200 paces across the flats, so you can estimate that the range is about 800
to 1000 paces from the hills. I believe the football stadium would feature prominently
somewhere in the middle of such a view of the modern city. 

General view from the north west.

Looking from the Castle, towards Newgate Street.

View towards the Newgate, inside the walls - get your ticket for the guided walk...

Pilgrim St Gate from the top of Pilgrim St.

The new fort added by Lord Glemham at Shieldfield - it looks a little more grand
than it really was - it occupies 2 hexes, and was manned by about 300 musketeers.
Somewhere via this link you will find an entertaining little dramatisation of some of the key issues of the real siege - click on the movie and you will meet some of the principal characters - notably Sir John Marley (the town mayor) and the Earl of Leven (the commander of the Scottish army outside).  They are heavily disguised, apparently, but you get the idea. I'll introduce them again in a later part of this short series of posts.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Hooptedoodle #251 - Warm Feet

I am extremely fortunate to have sustained such sound health - I try not to take it for granted, and I suppose I moan a bit, like everyone else, but I really am grateful. All those years of running and hill-walking and playing squash, and a natural tendency to eat sensibly have all helped, I guess, but I am lucky enough to have been assembled with a good engine. I do not know by what justice or serendipity these things happen, but thank you, anyway - whoever.

I take a minimal amount of medication - nothing alarming, but it includes a daily 5mg of Amlodipine (and if I've spelled that incorrectly then I am secretly pleased, since it is evidence that I do not worry about it enough to remember). This little pill is intended to keep my blood pressure down - whether I need it or not is the topic of a gentle debate each year with my GP. Anyway, I take it. The blood pressure is OK, and the only noticeable side-effect of the pills is that I am almost always cold. I wear thermal underwear from September to April and I have developed a very close relationship with a microwaveable bean-bag which has become one of my best friends. My wife has obtained a cunning duvet which has dissimilar weights on the two sides, so that she does not have to suffer the weight and the heat which I need these days.

In short, I am well looked after, and my problems with temperature are trivial, but I have started to take the winters personally.

Not too long ago, the Contesse presented me with a pair of heavyweight knitted bed-socks. Most kind, but I thanked her and rather hurriedly stored the things away in the pyjama drawer. Bed-socks? I had a strong feeling that I would have to get a matching night-cap, Ebenezer Scrooge model, like the wicked uncle in Kidnapped. I have no problem with bed-socks, of course, except that starting to wear them might feel like another step on a slippery slope.

When a respectable time had passed, and the winds of January were getting ever colder, I discreetly dug out the socks one night. Well, just once wouldn't do any harm, would it? I was a bit concerned that they would feel unfamiliar, and would disturb me, but I had no problems. I now recommend bed-socks wholeheartedly, have felt warmer and more relaxed in bed, and have even asked for some more. I am, of course, still playing it a bit quiet. I do not intend to appear in any advertising.

On the coldest days I tend to wear two sweaters at the moment. My faith in knitwear is restored. The Contesse passed me the following picture - as a joke, but it does make you think.

On the hobby front, I have now based and flagged a regiment of Spanish light infantry which the Mad Padre was kind enough to paint for me (thanks again, Mike) and am looking at what painting I should do next myself. I am intending to persevere with my plans for an ECW siege (loosely based on Newcastle 1644), and I'll write some preliminary stuff on that, starting later this week.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Hooptedoodle #250 - Steve Jobs Says No

This is eventually going to develop into a gentle whinge, so whingeophobes should leave smartly. As a background project - more of a private ambition, really, I intend to improve my knowledge of the Thirty Years War sometime soon. I know some bits of the history and some of the names, but my line of thinking is thus:

This was an important period of European history, I don't know very much about it, and I think I probably should know a bit more. It might make me a better, more rounded person (unlikely) and I might find it interesting (less unlikely).

I have Peter H Wilson's highly praised The Thirty Years War - Europe's Tragedy, which I've skimmed and which looks very good. I bought it about 2 years ago. The main problems have been:

(1) The last two years have been a bit hectic for me - very little free time or peace of mind to settle to it, because - with the best will in the world...

(2) ...it is a big book. Substantial. It is a serious piece of work, to be approached with appropriately monastic dedication. Anything less would be selling both me and Dr Wilson short.

So I decided that I might be better to start with something shorter and higher level, so I can find some kind of timeline or skeleton on which I can hang a more detailed study. This is the Foy Approach to problem solving - start with some one-liners and a nice map or two, and then find where are the hooks and trapdoors to get closer to the details.

So I purchased CV Wedgwood's volume on the subject - a bit long in the tooth now, maybe, since it dates from 1938, and our collective view of Germany has evolved a little since then, but Dame Veronica is always a comfortable read, I find, if somewhat over-partial at times. I bought a paperback, American edition which set me back some £12 or so. It is smaller than Wilson's book, and I have actually started reading it. Good so far. The plan is, once I've finished it, to return to the worthy Europe's Tragedy with a few more lights on and greater enthusiasm.

One (debatable) brainwave was the idea that I might augment my efforts with an audiobook - I listen to audiobooks a lot when I'm out in my van, so I thought that might be useful. We might discuss how an audiobook would work without any maps to hand, but you can see what I was thinking. So I went to the excellent website of Librivox, and downloaded a suitably hefty, three-part freebie, which is an unabridged reading of a translation of Schiller's great standard history.

Now that is a very fair pedigree, you have to admit. I could feel the scholarship gland swelling just at the idea - sadly, the reality was less happy. The product is free, so it almost seems above criticism, but I could not warm to the narrator, the language (translated, at that) is ponderous in the extreme. Indigestible. I found I could drive along quite happily, thinking about something else, while the pearls of Schiller droned on in the background. So I'd run it back a bit, and try to locate the point at which I had lost the plot (so to speak), and the same thing would happen. I also had a faint worry that I might become a danger on the roads if I paid more attention to the goings-on in Germany.

In truth, the main problem is the text - in whatever tongue, Schiller's work comes from a period when it was necessary for historians - nay, scholars of all types - to write in a lofty and long-winded manner which demonstrated their stature and their great wisdom. The actual transmission of knowledge seems so much a lesser objective that at times I wonder whether they even thought it was necessary.

Schiller/Librivox - strike. Not for me.

Being a stubborn sort of fellow, or a slow learner, if you prefer, I located an unabridged audiobook version of CV Wedgwood's history, narrated by one Charlton Griffin. I listened to an extract, and it really sounded very promising, though the issue about the maps remains, of course. Good-oh - so how do I get one?

Well, my friends at Amazon offered me a free download copy, no less, but I would have to subscribe to Audible, which is Amazon's audio-book version of the age-old book-of-the-month-club racket, and would cost me £7.99 a month indefinitely thereafter. No, thanks - I do not care if I then have access to 200,000 audiobooks - I do not wish to even think about 200,000 audiobooks. I swerved that solution.

Next up, I found that I could download the same book for about £8 from iTunes. OK - after some thought, I did this. It comes down as M4P files, which will only play on an Apple device and which cannot legally be converted to more mainstream MP3. In fact I had a pretty good idea this is what would happen, and I do have an iPhone and an iMac, and we have the iTunes player app installed on various other devices, but not, alas, on my van. I could, of course, hook up my iPhone to the van's BlueTooth, or even just plug the beggar in, but it is more hassle than I would choose.

Now we get to sanctimony, so I tread warily here. I can understand that audio and music files should be protected in some way, not just to boost Apple's profits, but to maintain any chance of the recorded music industry surviving. It is customary at this point to bleat on about how I have purchased these files, and thus am the owner, and should be able to play them on anything I want - I would quite like it if this argument carried some weight, but the reality is that I have paid £8 for a set of files which are intended only to play on Apple kit or via Apple's licensed software. I knew this before I bought them, and that is what I have bought - I have no further rights.

On the other hand...

On the other hand, it is worth bearing in mind that Steve Jobs, before he became a lay saint, was not the least sanctimonious person in history. It should also be remembered that an operating system upgrade for one of the early iPhones (or it might have been an iPod - I don't actually care which) deliberately deleted any non-iTunes musical files from the customer's device, even if he had purchased the tracks legally from some other source. I believe Apple did get into hot water over this, and rightly so, but the logic was originally that Mr Jobs felt he should protect Apple's financial position by making it impracticable for i-device owners to buy their music elsewhere (though there was no such Term or Condition of use accompanying the sale of the device), and - primarily - because Apple thought they could get away with it. Given the background, I do not find the idea of someone ripping them off so terrible.

If anyone has any idea how to convert M4P files into MP3, so I can listen while I'm driving, then - entirely out of academic, theoretical interest, of course, I would be happy to learn. Not that I would ever do such a thing, you understand.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Auldhame Castle - Boots and Old Stones

Auldhame Castle as it is today, on the edge of a cliff - view from the North West
There is no escape - relentlessly, true to yesterday's post, I dug the boots and the camera out, the thermal underwear and the weatherproof trousers, and I walked the 600 yards through the woodland from my house to Auldhame Castle. Before you ask why I have never visited the place before, I can only say that I seem to have been busy.

Auldhame Castle was a fortified house built, probably on or near the site of an earlier building (which may have been some form of religious retreat - see later), in about 1530, by Adam Otterburn of Reidhall, who was sometime Lord Provost of Edinburgh (from 1538 until his term of office was ended by the Rough Wooing), Lord Advocate to James V of Scotland and later secretary to James' second wife, Mary of Guise. Adam was murdered in Edinburgh in 1558.

Since he also had a residence at Reidhall (or Redhall), in Edinburgh, Auldhame may have been the family farm or a country seat, but it was a substantial structure. It was an L-shaped building - the North wing faced onto the cliffs over the Forth, on the East Lothian coast, and much of that is still standing and recognisable; the South-East wing has mostly disappeared - about all that remains is the entrance door.

Trouble with neighbours? - Tantallon, the seat of the "Red" Douglas family, is
just across a field and a little bay from Auldhame. Since Otterburn advised
James V on a treason charge against the Douglas household in 1528, it seems
odd that he chose to build next door to them. The field in the foreground is
called Old Adam, and it is here that the burial ground was discovered in
2005 - I had read that "Adam" was a corruption of Auldhame, but I prefer to
believe it is named after old Adam Otterburn

Entrance to the vanished South wing
This photo is borrowed from elsewhere - note the cloverleaf motif

Vaulted cellar area below the remaining building

In these parts, the ivy always wins in the end

Good heavens - could that be a ghostly hand waving - can you see it too...?

The flat area on which the house was built is bounded by a bank (and
the footings of an old wall, somewhere under the trees), built on top of a sandstone face
The ground is hard to figure out, because of the subsequent growth of the forest, the
progressive collapse of the cliffs in front of the house, building of more recent
walls and field structures and a fair amount of anti-tank defences left
over from WW2 - the beach here was a source of constant worry as an invasion site
(from Norway?)

This  is not a sandstone cliff - it is WW2 concrete!
No-one really knows when the building ceased to be used. One theory is that Cromwell's boys slighted it as part of a general reduction of defensible buildings in the area after the Battle of Dunbar, another is that it was already derelict by then, though it was not very old. Auldhame appears (as Oldham) on John Speed's map of Scotland in 1610 - there was almost certainly a village (probably of timber huts) in addition to the Castle. This has been swept away - nowadays the hamlet of Auldhame comprises a line of terraced farm cottages on the A198, and the large 19th Century Auldhame House, which has no connection with (and is half a mile from) the old Castle.

Just as a reminder, this is what it is supposed to have looked like around 1600
 - viewed from the same angle as my first photo - the cliffs were further away then!
During the time I have lived nearby, there was a major archeological dig (2005) in a corner of one of the fields of Auldhame Farm, next to the wood containing the castle. A Christian burial site and some form of religious building were examined, and after some debate it was decided that they probably dated from the 8th or 9th Century, possibly contemporary with our local saint, St Baldred, who is thought to have lived at Auldhame. St Baldred is a complex subject - if you can be bothered, I recommend you check him out on Wikipedia. Apart from surfing across to the Bass Rock on a rock, he also managed to be buried in three separate places - a tricky fellow.