Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Village Below The Castle

Huddled in the shadow of its mighty Norman castle stands the lovely little village of Castle Rising. The neat cottages are constructed of local stone and locally produced bricks and tiles which all have a warm russet tone giving the village a sense of architectural harmony.

In the background of the photo above stands the village church with its distinctive saddle-back tower. Lets start off by having a look in there.

The church was built in the middle of the twelfth century, probably just after the castle and with the same skilful masonry and view to permanence. It has been added to over the centuries and needed extensive renovation during Victorian times but even so much of the original work can still be seen. 

Right in the centre of the aisle stands a large and ancient font, though the lack of carving on two of its four sides suggests that it may have once stood in a corner with the undecorated sides against the walls. But what on earth are those three carved faces on the font anyway?

Grinning cats!!!

Don't ask me why. Maybe someone was just fond of cats. But there's also a rather nice stained glass window with a more usual Biblical theme.

Shepherds encountering the Angel, a memorial to Fulk Greville Howard who, along with his wife The Honourable Mary Howard, supervised the Victorian restoration. Out in the churchyard there's what looks like a Celtic cross....

but it's just a bit too perfect and well preserved to be really ancient. And indeed, closer inspection reveals it to date from 1880 and to have been erected to the memory of Greville Theophilus Howard.

The Howard family name crops up all over the village (they owned the castle too in case you hadn't guessed) and the building above, "The Hospital Of The Holy And Undivided Trinity", was built by Henry Howard between 1609 and 1614 as almshouses to accommodate widows who lived in the local area. 

And to this day the building fulfils the same function. But lets have a bit more of a wander and enjoy some more of the village and its gardens...


Just one more thing to show you... medieval times life was rather different from today and trade took place not in shops but at outdoor markets and annual fairs which were held even in small settlements like Castle Rising. All that's left today is the old Market Cross standing in a green space which is where the market and fair were once held.

Take care.


  1. Very interesting and lovely photos, I like how your blog takes me for a 'day out' in places I probably wouldn't visit / see otherwise.

  2. John, your post today illustrates why we have all missed your blog during your recent time-out. A very informative post, and I loved the scenes from Castle Rising. It seems like a special village.

  3. The older I get the more aware I become of ancestors and the lives they lived, and I guess that is why your posts draw me so, John. Thank you for beautiful photos and all the fascinating information.

  4. Great post. I stared at the final picture for the longest time trying to imagine an open market and fair in place of what is there now. Just could not do it. Must have been pretty neat though.

  5. Well done, John. Wish I could visit Castle Rising in person, but I'm glad to have had your guided tour. Jim

  6. Loving the intro' commentary and a great overview of the landscape about Norman castle. I marvel at the history of buildings you get to see and so admire the artisans of the day. How they achieved what they did with the tools they used and the lack of modern-day cranes and other heavy-lifting implements too. The 'grinning cats' on the front of font perhaps are associated with the over-all 'recurring theme of cats within the castle (Castle Rising), which may indicate a link with Felix, the first Bishop of East Anglia. (see reference on The photo of the beautiful bricked archway to The Hospital of the Holy ... is very nice with the pathway bordered with colourful flowers as you walk through. A lovely walk; it's all so GREEN (still); thanks for sharing John.

  7. Louise: Well, the castles been there for nearly 900 years so it should be there for a while yet - so maybe one day, when you've finished your teacher training.......
    Jack: Special, but not all that special as there are so many picturesque villages in England. Hope to bring you some more in the fullness of time.
    Hildred: Yes, same thing's happening to me. When I was at school I couldn't stand History!
    John and Sinbad: I know I've tried the same exercise in many places and it's difficult to conjure up the scene, isn't it? I've never been wholly convinced by TV and film attempts to re-create those days either.
    Jim: Good to hear from you as always.
    Carole: Thanks for the link. I was vaguely aware of the shadowy figure of Felix but didn't see any cats on my visit to the castle - reason for another visit sometime, methinks.

  8. Thanks for the walk around one of our fav. Norfolk villages, does the post office still have a tea room?

  9. I too wonder why the grinning cats on the font? Castle Rising looks a very pretty village with a fascinating history. I love the church tower:)

  10. The cats on the font are a real enigma - you can bet there's some sort of symbolic meaning there though. The whole village looks delightful - another for the list of places I must visit!

  11. gladys: Nice to make your acquaintance. Yes, I think the tea rooms is still operating, though I wasn't looking for a cuppa and I didn't really look.
    Rosie and Rowan: I think the link that Carole gives above clarifies the reason. The cat may be linked to St Felix who was the person credited with bringing Christianity to the area The Latin for "cat" is "felis" while "happy" is "felix" - hence the grinning moggy.

  12. Your photos are always stunning and I enjoy your 'tours.' I particularly appreciate a look around Castle Rising country. I've come to think that the original location of my Rising ancestors may have been incorrectly recorded, perhaps a generation beyond James Rising who made his way to America. I think I'm safe in believing he lived somewhere near 'Ketelthorpe'--even with an archaic spelling, it seems a unique place name.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).