Charcoal ovens and witch charms (more stone than wood again)

We went to Skipton Castle last Saturday morning (cheapskates, there was a voucher for free family admission in the local paper – Craven Herald).  I was amazed to see how old Swiss army knives are – see them featured on the ancient coat of arms of the Clifford family above.

The castle is in very good nick to say its 900 years old, mind you the walls are 3 metres thick and it held out for 3 years under siege during the Revolution.  Part of the castle is still occupied by the Fattorini family, but the Clifford family managed to hold onto it for nearly 400 years.  Here’s a view from the back showing the occupied quarters (more like half – Ed.)

Anyways, the feature that struck me immediately was the masons’ marks on each window reveal:

It quickly became apparent that these marks are not only masons’ marks, but some are charms to keep something evil out of the castle by protecting the window openings and at least one doorway (couldn’t spot any on a fireplace though, but I’m told there is one such in the oak room above the shell grotto in the East tower of the gatehouse.)  Feast your eyes.  Apparently the genuine mason’s marks help to date similar parts of the castle and its additions and alterations.

This could be what we’re missing these days – perhaps we should get some of these in our house, workshops and woods to stop onslaughts from bankers, trolls, junk mail, deer, rabbits, squirrels and the rest?  I’ve got a glass rolling-pin I’m intending to fill with salt & hang by the fireplace which apparently has a similar preventative effect.

I guess these marks may have been made during the siege as the windows were added in Tudor times (before the Civil War) when they thought war in England was over (never mind, we’re all wise in retrospect.)

I really liked the roof timbers in this room (the kitchen I think, off the banqueting hall).  The room also has a garderobe just off, a view from the outside of which shows why it is also called “the long drop”:

There was a rubbish chute from the kitchen next to it.  This also shows what a good location for the castle was chosen in 1090 – just about impregnable up the North side cliff.

Another thing that caught my professional/businessman’s eye was this:

Any guesses?

I also liked the warm irregularity of this building in the courtyard.  Why don’t they build like that anymore?

Inevitably we had to do a little walk in the woods too.  Skipton Woods are owned by The Castle and managed by The Woodland Trust.  The ransoms (Wild Garlic) are just coming through.


What’s worse than my bark?

What bark is that?

And the above is just a little scary, get those red tips.  Doesn’t look so good for working though but.  And on the same walk we came across this:

I’d just said to my daughter that where we were looked like it had been a stone quarry, there are lots of them round here, very small many of them used to win the wall stones for enclosing the land and robbing the poor.  Much of our landscape looks like this.

Small fields divided by millstone grit dry walls.  So the picture second-above shows where a large piece of stone has been split off using a drill chisel and wedges quite some time ago.

We went to Haworth today for a walk.  It’s only about 20 minutes drive from here, but we usually avoid it like the plague as it is full of Bronte sisters tourists.  We had a good walk round the back lanes, bought a couple of ex-army shirts for work and a good cap with flaps which, though cosy is less full-on than my shearling one which can get too hot at times.  Then we walked back up to the car over the railway bridge.  I like the way the engine driver keeps his tea good and warm!

Delivering two peeled oak gates tomorrow, but mostly enjoying a good break from The Bodgery which was so busy in the lead up to Christmas. So I’m now relaxing installing Linux on my old Mac Powerbook, mending the front mech on me bike, reseating the sound card in the Mac Mini, sawing off the remaining gate post, sawing a few logs, cooking, brewing and generally chilling out … man.

A parliament of owls, and things to be glad and brave about.

This is a bunch of prototypes, only one was owl-like enough – guess which.

The prototypes have ended up strung out on a branch of birch on permanent display, whilst I endeavoured to reproduce the best one for sale.  These resulted from some internet research by Theo, my nephew, so that’s something to be glad about.

Also gladness hence; we run two wood burning stoves, which puts heavy demand on newspaper, and as we only get newspaper twice a week, we quickly run out of the easily burning stuff.  I resort to the recycling bins and dive for newspapers (The Church Times is best, big and untreated, burns a treat) today I got a decent handful in the morning and an armful this evening, pure gladness.

The weather here is really horrible (but nowhere near as bad as in Scotland (home of The Brave, as in “Scotland the Brave” not:

They were brave too.)

OK so lousy weather, nearly decided not to put any wares out for sale this morning, but did.  And out of the handful of brave people who passed by, some bought a deer, some bought a (pre-ordered) butter slab, and even some people who said they would come back and buy something (this usually means we won’t come back and buy anything) did come back and buy some elves and a garlic press.  Something-else to be glad about.

Also, the riving wind, I noticed has brought a branch down from a douglas fir (an export from the Land of the Free), seasonal decorations for the Bodgery, photo to follow, when we get a bit of frost.  Yet another thing to be glad about.

And the key event of the day was a simple spring repair to my metal clarinet, that I started repairing and broke last night.

So all in all a very good day.


And … my daughter has an office move into the middle of London from the outskirts opposite the other outskirts(ish) to where she lives, giving her an extra day a month by shortening her journey.  Whizzo!

It’s an EC!


The answer to the small building quiz.

The building is an outside earth closet, as they were known here.  A double throne room as Mark so elegantly puts it in his comment.  So these were what was used when there was no flushing loo.  The holes at the base were for some skivvy to rake out the soil into the little walled in midden outside the back of the building.  I’m not sure about the wall, perhaps it was there to prevent woodland animals (pigs (hogs)?) from spreading the stuff all around the place.

There are some good lumps of stone for the lintels and corners (some people will know them as quoins).  Millstone grit is very plentiful as an outcrop rock around here and is/was used extensively all around here as a durable building material, so cheap you can even afford to build your EC from it!

The fisherman is in the bottom right-hand corner, next to the rocks that look like the reflection of a heron.