This castle hath a pleasant seat . . .

A wet grey Bank Holiday Monday, and writing a new post seems marginally more appealing (though perhaps less urgent) than the alternative of clearing the gutters. March was a good month, starting with the Truro launch of Gardens of Cornwall, the great and the good of that county turning out in force to see it on its way. Some entertaining jobs too, including among other things a ghoul, a spaceship and a brace of castles. The first two of these must remain confidential for the time being, though I expect you’ll see them here eventually. One of the castles was the astonishing private residence of what were until the nineteenth century the Prince-Bishops of Durham, men of God who bore a sword as well as a crozier, and whose lands stretched from Durham to the Borders.

The gatehouse, Auckland Castle

A good indication of the style these men kept might be the eighteenth-century gothick deerhouse in the park, complete with an upstairs dining-room from which the bishop’s guests could assess their future quarry.

The Deerhouse

All this was very different from my next shoot where I was working in the redundant jail in Lancaster Castle. A prison for most of the last nine centuries, nothing much has ever been altered, from the medieval dungeons where the Pendle Witches were held, through the cells reserved for unruly Quakers to the Victorian wings occupied until last year.

Lancaster Castle

A cell for two

View through a spyhole

In the shadow of the keep is the Execution Yard. More prisoners were executed in Lancaster than anywhere else in the country, and hundreds of bodies are known to lie beneath the mossy paving stones. The cliff-like walls around it have been occupied by sparrowhawks who continue to do execution among the castle pigeons, whose remains litter the ground.

The Execution Yard

Not to finish on too grim a note, I had to climb the tower of St Peter’s Cathedral to find a good distant view of the castle. Not a good experience for those with vertigo issues, but it did give me a chance to glance into the bell chamber and up into the spire. Now back to those gutters.

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