London’s many plague pits have a certain dark allure – they’re mysterious because so many of them lie unmarked, hidden and forgotten under the city’s streets, buildings and parks. We’ve seen pictures of archaeologists excavating long-lost mass graves uncovered on building sites, with huge jumbles of bones emerging from the soil and centuries-old eye sockets peering out at us. We’ve heard dark tales of homes built over old plague pits, haunted by restless spirits. But upstream of the old city, in a quiet suburb by the Thames, a plague pit lies in plain sight – marked by a yew tree and a little memorial. This is the plague pit at All Saints church, Isleworth, where local plague victims were laid to rest in a mass grave in 1665.
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It may not be the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of England’s great castles, but in the North Yorkshire town of Skipton a fine medieval castle dominates the skyline. Skipton Castle, the earliest parts of which date from the Norman period, is one of the best preserved castles still standing in England. Visitors can pass through the impressive drum-towered gatehouse to explore a fascinating building that was home to many figures involved in pivotal events during the medieval period, and that owes much of its appearance today to a formidable lady who lived there in the 17th Century.
Continue reading “The hidden courtyard of one of England’s best preserved castles”