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Lumley Castle


PICTURESQUE castle standing on a green eminence above the ever gracefully winding river Wear; great woodlands sloping down on one side; verdant pastures on the other - a lovely scene of true English beauty uniting the picturesqueness of the past and the present; this is Lumley Castle. Not by any means a ruin, only uninhabited save by a caretaker.

It is large and of a quadrangular form, with projecting turrets, battlemented parapet, and at each corner a great square massive tower, which rises considerably above the mass of the building. Each corner of these square towers is again surmounted by a projecting octagon turret, machicolated. The castle is built of a rich yellow freestone.

The entrance is on the west front. You ascend to the door by a large double flight of steps, and reach a platform which fills the whole space between the towers; it is ninety feet long. The view here is lovely. In front and to the left fall the green slopes of the park. The river Wear winds through the meadows below, partly hidden by a lofty avenue of limes near the ferry, and beyond rise the roofs and tine spire of Chester-le-Street, while, gazing over them, amongst villages and fares, we behold the wild and dusky heights of the west.

The great hall of the castle is very striking. It is sixty feet long by thirty wide, and of proportionate height, but it is remarkably plain and simple as far as architecture is concerned; it has not the grand roof, the wainscoting and tapestry of other baronial halls, but opposite to the entrance, and at each end, hang seventeen large pictures in plain black frames - portraits of the successive ancestors of the family. They are as large or larger than life, the frames being over seven feet high and four feet six inches wide. Some of them represent knights in armour; some in robes; their shields bearing their arms. The first five have shields with only six white paroquets for their heraldic bearings.

The paroquet was a bearing won by the first knight of the Lumley name in the first Crusade, by some romantic adventure of which we know nothing.

From the sixth portrait the shields bear three green paroquets with red legs. Most of the figures wear a sort of turban, and are clad in fantastic robes.

The third portrait has a long band of red cloth hanging from his white turban down beneath his shield, which is held low. The eighth is in scarlet robes with a sandy beard.

This is Ralph, the first Lord Lumley, who built the eastern front of the castle in the reign of Richard II., and who died in defending his king's interests.

Then we have a picture of Richard II., in the bloom of youth, with bright auburn hair (he gained his beauty from his mother, the Fair Maid of Kent). He is sitting in a chair of state in royal robes of scarlet lined with ermine; his inner dress is of deep blue, powdered with R's in gold.

He holds the sceptre in his left hand, and with his right presents to the kneeling figure at his feet a paper - the patent of nobility - for this Sir Ralph Lumley (who is represented as a tall stout man, with long hair and a great beard), received it from him, as we have said. On a scroll at the king's feet are the words, "King Richard II." The background, representing the presence chamber, has curtains with golden lilies on them, and on the frame are "R, R. 2 An'D'ni 1384 Ao. Reg. 8."

The last two portraits are of gentlemen dressed in black venetian robes, with caps and large gold chains.

There is only one lady's portrait, and that is of Elizabeth Darcy, the second wife of the last John, Lord Lumley. She is dressed in black, figured all over with trees and flying birds; the sleeves of the gown are edged with pearls; she wears a funnily shaped point-lace apron, a ruff of point-lace, and a large, long pearl necklace. Her dark hair is crowned with a coronet of pearls.

Aloft on a pedestal at the end of the hall is Liulph, the Saxon fore-father of the Lumleys, on horseback, full life size. His steed is of a reddish brown, and he is in armour, holding a battle-axe in his hand.

He was a noble warrior, who boldly resisted the Norman oppression, but he was at last obliged to retreat to the North and take refuge in the County Palatine. Liulph was the near kinsman of Siward and of Waltheof, the great earls of Northumberland.

Walcher, a Norman bishop, was consecrated to Durham soon after Liulph went there. He was greatly pleased with the virtue and courage of the great Saxon, and became his sincere friend.

The people adored Liulph for his patriotism, and his care for themselves; and it was to this care for them that he finally fell a sacrifice. He represented to the bishop the cruelties and oppressions practised by his officers; and in revenge the latter assassinated him.

The peasantry, enraged at the murder of their powerful protector, rose and murdered Bishop Walcher (who was blameless of the offence) soon after, at Gateshead.

Beneath the statue of Liulph is a large tablet bearing on it the words, THEATRUM MUNDUS - SPECTATOR DEUS, followed by a lot of Latin verses on the word Mundus.

Next to the portrait of Elizabeth Darcy hangs the pedigree of the Lumleys in gold letters, and aloft in a niche the present family crest - a pelican feeding her young from her breast.

In the wall are four niches containing the busts of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary and Elizabeth.

The fireplace, which is opposite the door, is of immense size, with Doric pillars at the sides supporting the mantelpiece.

The dining-room is a noble airy apartment in the Italian style. It has a fine vaulted ceiling of stucco work; in the centre are the Star and Garter of St. George, and around it figures of old men.

The fire-place is of very beautiful white marble; over it is a bas-relief of Winter, and children gathering sticks to make a fire.

The rooms are now deserted and empty, but they are extremely fine apartments. Lumley is, in fact, a palatial residence.

A few rooms only are fitted up for the occasional residence of the Earl of Scarborough, its owner.

Vast woods extend right and left of this fine castle, and in the glen the swift stream brawls over the stones.

A picturesque spot, as we have said, full of memories of a great race and of old times, but now very still and silent.

The grandson of the gallant old Saxon Liulpli - a Crusader - was the first of the family who took the name of Lumley. Sir John Lumley went to the French wars with Henry V. and was killed, with Thomas, Duke of Clarence, in the surprise and defeat of Baugy Bridge, in Anjou.

The Lumleys are connected with the royal family by the marriage of Sir Thomas, son of George, Lord Lumley, with Elizabeth Plantagenet, a daughter of Edward IV. This George Lumley, the father-in-law of the princess, had obtained great wealth by his marriage with the heiress of Roger Thornton, a merchant of Newcastle, who had made his fortune entirely by his integrity and ability, for he came into Newcastle in such poverty that the townspeople still preserve the memory of it in a rhyme:

"At the West gate came Thornton in
With a hap, and a halfpenny in a ram's skin."

But after his death, the lady's illegitimate brother disputed her right to the property, and he and Lord George fought a duel about it in the castle ditch of Windsor, when Giles Thornton was killed by his antagonist. The son of the merchant's daughter and the baron, wedded, as we have seen, a royal princess.

The Lumleys fought bravely at Flodden Field and in the French wars. One died for Richard II.; another suffered for participation in Aske's rebellion; another died on the scaffold; and the son of this last unlucky Lumley, by no means discouraged by the fate of his forefathers, became implicated in the Duke of Norfolk's plot to marry and free the captive Queen Mary of Scotland. Why Elizabeth only inflicted on him a short imprisonment for this offence we know not, but such was the case; and when he was again free he became a great favourite of the Tudor queen. He was one of the judges of the Queen of Scots, and of the Earl of Essex. He lived to receive James I. and entertain him at his castle, and it was here that James, weary of hearing of the long pedigree of the Lumley family, said to a Bishop James, who was expatiating on the antiquity of the Lumley race, "O mon, gang nae further; I did nae ken Adam's name was Lumley."

It was John, Lord Lumley, who had the stone figures of his ancestors placed in Chester-le-Street church, where they range in a row from the west end of the church to the east - a strange memorial of family pride.

But that they were a great race, and descended from a worthy ancestor, we cannot deny.

They took the name of Saville, and the good Sir George Saville has added a new honour to the family of Lumley.

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Picturesque England - Matthew Spong 2004