Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The real roots of our ancestors

Thanks to social media and our mutual friends and interests, I was introduced to the works of artist Martin Williamson. Martin has graciously agreed to allow the reproduction of his beautiful paintings in this Rooting for Ancestors blog. What follows each image I’ve chosen is his description of the painting, and my commentary as it relates to genealogy research. At the end of the post, I’ll provide contact links for Martin, and link you to his online gallery.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, Yorkshire
Martin: Bolton Castle, Wensleydale.
This imposing castle was built between 1378 and 1399 by Richard le Scrope, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton. What is quite staggering is the fact that the castle has never been sold and is still in the ownership of the descendants of the Scrope family. The massive outer walls of this very well-preserved site dominate the hamlet of Castle Bolton that lies at its feet. In its dominating position overlooking the valley, the castle is now a well-established major tourist attraction in the area. Painted on location. Pen, brush and ink with wax resist. 22" x 15"

St. Oswald's Chapel at Castle Bolton
Christy: The Scrope family were Normans who lived in Herefordshire decades before the Norman invasion in 1066. Richard’s Castle, near Ludlow, was built about 1048-1050, and was their administrative center for the Welsh border area. Four generations and about 75-80 years later, my branch of Scropes moved to Yorkshire, to Flotmanby Manor south of Scarborough. Another three generations lived at Flotmanby and all were buried at Wensley Church. Finally, there is mention of Bolton, Yorkshire, with Sir William Scrope, 1259-1312. He is the father of (Lord Henry) Scrope of Bolton and (Sir Geoffrey) Scrope of Masham (14 miles away), both branches of which are my ancestors because their descendants married as second cousins twice removed. Henry Scrope, 1271-1336, married Margaret de Ros (see Helmsley Castle in this article). Their son Richard Scrope was 1st Baron Scrope, Treasurer, Keeper of Great Seal, and Lord Chancellor until 1382, under Richard II. Richard Scrope was the builder of Bolton Castle, and the grandfather of another Richard Scrope, who married Margaret Neville, daughter of Margaret Stafford and Ralph Neville, 1st earl of Westmorland. Bolton Castle’s subsequent history may be found at the link below.

Helmsley Castle, north Yorkshire   
 Martin: Helmsley Castle from North Gate 
This medieval castle ruin is located in the market town of Helmsley, North Yorkshire. Originally it was built in wood around 1120. Now in the care of English Heritage. Painted on the spot. Mixed media. 15" x 11"

Christy: Helmsley Castle was begun by Walter d’Espec (“the Woodpecker”), a prominent military and judicial figure in the reign of Henry I. Walter also founded Kirkham Priory and Rievaulx Abbey. Because he was childless, upon his death Helmsley passed to his sister Adeline d’Espec and her husband’s hands, the powerful de Ros (Roos) family, who were barons, the progenitors of Scottish and English royalty, ancestors of the Neville family, and were Templars and Crusaders. The castle was improved by the de Ros’s succeeding generations, and was “slighted” (destroyed) by Parliamentary forces in England’s Civil War.  

Peveril Castle, Castleton, Derbyshire
Martin: Peveril Castle, Derbyshire.
The imposing ruins of Peveril Castle overlook the village of Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District. The keep was built by Henry II in 1176, making the castle one of the earliest Norman fortresses in England. Now in the care of English Heritage. Mixed media. 15" x 22"

Christy: The earliest-known ancestor of the Peverel name, William Peverel the Elder, born 1043 in York, came from a long line of Welsh people on his father’s side, and a Saxon mother. His patrimony seems to have survived the Norman Conquest, which is quite unusual for Welsh or Saxon landowners, so one might suppose that he fought on the Norman side at Hastings and thereafter. His grandson William Peverel the Younger committed the poisoning murder of Ranulph de Gernon, earl of Chester and had his lands seized by Henry II; and his granddaughter Margaret Peverel b. 1114, married into the de Ferrers family, earls of Derby. Margaret's tomb effigy still exists at the gatehouse chapel for Merevale Abbey in Warwickshire. Margaret Peverel Ferrers’ son William Ferrers, 3rd earl of Derby, rebelled against Henry II and in 1155 lost his title and claim to the lands of Peverel. Two hundred years later, that William’s eighth-generation descendant was Mary de Ferrers. Ralph Neville, second earl of Westmorland (son of Ralph Neville the first earl and Margaret Stafford, married Mary de Ferrers, granddaughter of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, and daughter of Joan Beaufort and Robert de Ferrers.

Middleham Castle, Wensleydale, Yorkshire
Martin: Middleham Castle.
Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, was built in 1190 and was once the home of Richard III. The extensive site includes a massive Norman keep surrounded by a curtain wall. The ruins are now in the care of English Heritage. Painted on location. Pen, brush and ink with wax resist. 22" x 15"

Christy: Robert Fitzralph 3rd Lord of Middleham and Spennithorne, 1110-1185, has a long line of ancestors back to the ninth century and beyond. Genealogy sites list his death as 1185, but every site also says that Robert Fitzralph built the castle of Middleham “commencing in 1190”—apparently five years after his death. (This looks like a job for the History Police, unless you attribute the work to his wife, Helewisa de Glanville and their young son.) Robert also founded Beauchief Abbey in Sheffield—luckily, though, while he was still alive! His and his son’s (Ranulf Fitzrobert) tomb effigies were dug from the rubble of nearby Coverham Abbey and their photo is contained in the header of this blog. Robert Fitzralph is the great-great grandfather of Ralph Neville, 1st earl Westmorland (Ralph Neville again?? He gets the most hits on this site!).

Clifford’s Tower, York Castle, Yorkshire
Martin: Clifford's Tower, York.
Clifford's Tower is actually the remains of the 13th century keep of York Castle, sat on top of a motte, or defensible mound. The keep is of unusual design, being quatrefoil in plan (four overlapping circles) and is the only example of this kind in England. Today it is a well-known and instantly-recognizable tourist attraction, often photographed in the spring with the motte ablaze with daffodils and the Tower set against a clear blue sky. I have portrayed the Tower rather differently, perhaps hinting at its more brutal past: the name 'Clifford's Tower' comes from Roger de Clifford who was hanged there in 1322. Clifford's Tower is now in the care of English Heritage. Pen, ink, wax resist and chalk. 15" x 22"

Christy: Roger, second Lord Clifford, who was hanged in 1322 by Hugh Despenser the Younger, was my “uncle,” so all Roger’s ancestors are also mine. His sister, Idoine de Clifford, was born c 1300, married Henry de Percy, 2nd Lord of Alnwick, 1st Earl Northumberland, and died 24 Aug 1365. Clifford’s Tower is the keep for York Castle, which was a royal fortress established by William I, and rebuilt in stone by Henry III.    

Dolwyddelan Castle, north Wales
 Martin: Dolwyddelan Castle near Betws-y-coed.
This is s very striking ruin commanding a wonderful position on top of a ridge with stunning panoramic views. Dolwyddelan stands alone in a country of castles as it was built about 1210 by the Welsh princes, not by English or Norman forces. Painted on the spot in mixed media.

Christy:  Dolwyddelan Castle was a native Welsh castle located near Conwy. It was built between 1210 and 1240 by Llywelyn the Great ap Iorweth, Prince of Gwynedd and North Wales. The Welsh castle functioned as a fortress. On January 18, 1283, it was captured by Edward I of England (“Longshanks”) in his conquest of Wales. The castle was then modified and strengthened for occupation by an English garrison.

Chirk Castle, Wales
 Martin: Chirk Castle.
Completed in 1310, Chirk Castle is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I still lived in today. Built by Roger Mortimer, Justice of North Wales for Edward I, the castle commands a prime position overlooking the Ceiriog valley. The castle was sold for 5,000 pounds to Sir Thomas Myddelton in 1595. Sir Thomas's descendants continue to live in part of the castle today, although the National Trust now care for the property. Mixed media on 230gsm paper. 14.5" x 10.5"

Christy: Some reports say that Roger Mortimer (one of many “Roger Mortimer” fathers, sons, and cousins) built the castle of Chirk on land he had been granted in 1282. That Roger died during lifetime imprisonment in the Tower of London in 1326, and his grandson John Mortimer signed over his rights to Chirk Castle to his cousin Roger Mortimer 2nd earl of March (brother of my ancestor Isabella Mortimer Fitzalan), in 1359.  Another version has it that Roger Mortimer 1st Earl of March (rebel against Edward II and one of the regents to Edward III before Roger’s execution in 1330) built the castle in 1295 as part of the Edwardian chain of Welsh castles.

Thank you again, Martin, for being so agreeable about sharing your fine art. Readers, if you enjoy his paintings, please observe international copyright laws and contact him for permission to reproduce the images—or perhaps to enquire about purchasing a print, or commissioning a canvas depicting your ancestors’ landscapes or edifices. Remember: images ©Martin Williamson 2011. This is the link to his contact information. Martin welcomes friends to his Facebook pages, and you'll find that link in his website. 

Christy K Robinson is the author of five-star nonfiction and fiction historical books, as well as author of Discovering Love, Rooting for Ancestors and William and Mary Barrett Dyer websites. You will find her books at http://bit.ly/RobinsonAuthor.

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)

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