Monday, 7 April 2014

F is for Farleigh Hungerford

Starting with the local dialect words ... do you know what firk means?  What is flare?  What are you doing if you freggle?  The answers are at the end of this post.
We're over the border in Somerset today, travelling 4 miles west of Trowbridge to the village of Farleigh Hungerford.
The village is dominated by the ruins of a medieval castle.  Farleigh Hungerford Castle was built at the end of the 14th century by the prominent Hungerford family, who over the years played their part at the Court and in significant events in English history.  It is way too complicated to explain in detail in this short post (possible material for a detailed post in the future!) so I'll just give you a brief overview and you can read in more detail here if you want to.
Starting in the 1370s:
  • Sir Thomas Hungerford who built the original castle was the first Speaker of the House of Commons and steward to John of Gaunt.
  • His son, Sir Walter Hungerford, was also Speaker of the House of Commons, close companion of Henry V, fought at the Battle of Agincourt, became Treasurer of England, a member of the Order of the Garter and a guardian of the young Henry VI.
  • The heirs of his son, Sir Richard Hungerford, were both executed when they, unfortunately for them, chose to fight on the wrong side in the War of the Roses!  The castle passed to Richard of Gloucester who became Richard III.
  • Sir Richard Hungerford's third son, another Walter, fought on the right side at the Battle of Bosworth, supporting the soon to be Henry VII, who returned the castle to the Hungerford family.
  • Walter's son, Edward was a successful member of the Court of Henry VIII.  His son, another Walter, allied himself to Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell.  In 1540, Cromwell fell from power and was executed, as was Walter who was tried and convicted of treason and 'unnatural vices'.
  • The castle passed to his nephew, another Edward, who was a Puritan and a Member of Parliament and fought on the side of Parliament during the Civil War. 
  • Move on two more owners to 1673 and the then owner, Sir Edward Hungerford, entertained the Royal Court of Charles II at the castle.  The castle was later searched in 1683 when the Rye House Plot (the plan to assassinate Charles II) was discovered.
  • This Edward was the last Hungerford to reside at the castle.  He sold it to pay some of his debts and over the following years it fell into ruin as stone and contents were used in other buildings. 
Here is a short video which shows what the castle looks like today.

The  village is now split in two by the A366.  The church, which would originally have been contained within the castle grounds is now the other side of the road. 
Unfortunately, the church was locked.  I'd wanted to photograph one of the windows which still contains some original 14th century yellow glass.

Back to the castle and I'll just show you the contents of the crypt - very rare lead coffins of adults and children which have death masks attached.  You have to view the coffins through an iron gate which was installed during the Victorian era; apparently some visitors to the crypt during this time would poke a stick into the coffin so that they could taste the embalming fluid.  Gross!
As you'd expect in a building with such a rich history, there are some gruesome tales which I'd like to share with you.

Sir Edward Hungerford (the one who was at Henry VIII's court) married Agnes who was previously married to a John Cotell.  To leave her free to marry Edward she arranged for Cotell to be killed by two servants at the castle and for his body to be disposed of in the castle ovens!  She went on to marry Edward and was protected from prosecution during his lifetime but on his death was tried and convicted on the crime and hanged at Tyburn.  Her ghost is reputed to be seen near the chapel at the castle.

One of the towers is called the 'Lady's Tower', so named because Sir Walter Hungerford (the one who was friendly with Thomas Cromwell!) kept his wife, Elizabeth, a prisoner there for four years.  He tried to kill her by starving her and she claimed that she had to resort to drinking her own urine and rely on food smuggled in through the windows by sympathetic villagers. She also claimed that he tried to poison her.  She had the last laugh though, as she survived her husband and went on to remarry and have six children.

And one dubious legend - the north-west tower used to have a red conical roof and at one time was known as the Redcap Tower.  The story is that Redcap is the name of malevolent goblins who lurk in ruined castles and who dip their pointed hats in their victim's blood.
Farleigh Hungerford also boasts one of country's last remaining river swimming clubs.  They swim in a part of the river Frome just above a weir which is fairly near the castle.

I'm finishing with the answers to the local dialect words:
  • firk - to worry, to be anxious
  • flare - pig's fat
  • freggle - to fidget 
I'll be back tomorrow with the letter G.


  1. I love how steeped in history everything in England is. We just don't have that here, in a country that's less than 200 years old.

  2. Thanks for another wonderful read! Have you been researching and photographing as you go, or did you already know most of the lore?

    1. I knew most of it already but have researched as well so have managed to pick up some extra interesting information. I've taken most of the photos especially for this challenge, just a few came from my archives.

      Happy to hear you are enjoying the series of posts.