Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Callaly Castles (NU060098, NU052105 & NU052099)

A fair few places have a castle. A handful have two. But three? Well, the little village of Callaly on the edge of Thrunton Wood can claim just such an unlikely total of historic sites. Actually, if you count the original ancient hill fort, then the total if four. Five, in fact, if you include the 12th century pele tower which is incorporated into the current castle.

Site 1 (two castles)
The first site of interest is the lofty prominence known imaginatively as ‘Castle Hill’, the home of some earthy ramparts. This was once an Iron Age hillfort and was later adapted by the Callaly family in the 12th century. There is a school of thought which holds that this structure was never properly finished – perhaps due to a downturn in the family’s finances or an unexpected period of peace. Or, indeed, a supernatural event – see next paragraph but one.

Site 2 (one castle)
In between the Iron Age hillfort’s heyday and the 12th century refurbishment efforts of the Callaly clan, a Norman ‘motte and bailey’ castle may have been thrown up a little to the north of the village. Thereabouts can be found faint traces of earthworks and enclosures which indicate a temporary military presence, the spot once being known as Callaly Camp.

Site 3 (two castles)
Returning to Castle Hill, the Callaly family, having fiddled about on the mound for some time, seem to have eventually set up stall permanently at the current site a little to the west – essentially, the 12th century pele tower which was later incorporated into the present mansion (it may be a little younger and perhaps originally a little larger than a mere tower – theories vary). A supernatural version of events has us believe that the Lord of Callaly’s wife, unhappy at the family’s attempts to establish their stronghold on Castle Hill, resorted to having a servant constantly thwart the builders’ efforts with nightly destruction raids on the work. The cheeky chap in question, dressed as a boar, sent the staff into a superstitious frenzy – so much so that the Lord agreed to commence work at the current, more favourable spot. The substantial effort which we see today was constructed by the Claverings in the 17th century and added to periodically since.

This handsome pile – the building we now know as ‘Callaly Castle’ and more of a country house in reality – is really rather magnificent. It is not, though, open to the public.

I can’t easily provide any images without infringing copyright – but more info and some great pictures can be found here.

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