Gleaston Castle today. Entrance to south west tower. Photo Chloe Grainger @castlestudiestrust.org
Some of you reading this may be familiar with other posts I have written concerning what I call the Coldridge theory. For those of you who are not familiar with the theory here is a brief résumé. A number of clues in Coldridge church, Devon have led to a theory that Edward V was sent to Coldridge by Richard III to live incognito as John Evans where he was in time given the position of Parker. An important point here is that Coldridge was owned by Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset – Edward’s half brother. Another lead is that Richard sent one of his loyal followers, Robert Markynfield from Yorkshire to Coldridge on 3rd March 1484 which was two days after Edward’s mother, Elizabeth Woodville/Wydeville, left sanctuary at Westminster after making her peace with Richard III: Robert Markyngfeld/the keping of the park of Holrig in Devonshire during the kinges pleasure…(1). It was at this point that Elizabeth wrote to Thomas, who was then in France with Henry Tudor, telling him to return home …. all was well and that King Richard would treat him well. It was around this time Coldridge, which had been at that time removed from Thomas but would be returned to him when Henry Tudor took the throne, was granted by Richard to one of the most powerful men in Cornwall Sir Henry Bodrugan (2). Following Richard’s death at Bosworth 1485 and around the time news of the so called Simnel Rebellion (early 1487) was breaking, Henry Tudor would send one of his loyal followers, Sir Richard Edgecombe, to Cornwall to arrest Bodrugan and his son Sir John Beaumont, after accusations were made that they had ‘withdrawn themselves into private places in the counties of Devon and Cornwall and stir up sedition’ (3). Bodrugan made his escape and then rocked up in Dublin where he was a participant in the coronation of the youth who was crowned as King Edward (14th May 1487). Only later in Lincoln’s Attainder, November 1487, would the Tudor regime produce a younger boy of about 10 years old who they named – possibly after a cake? – Lambert Simnel – who was clearly a fake. However some historians even today seem unable to grasp this despite historian A F Pollard clearly stating that ‘No serious historian has doubted that Lambert Simnel was an imposter’. Bodrugan had been joined in Dublin by the Yorkist leaders Lovell and Lincoln and following the coronation the latter two left Ireland and arrived – with an army obvs – in Lancashire accompanied by the newly crowned king Edward. Their journey took them to East Stoke, Nottinghamshire, where the matter was concluded at the battle known as Stoke Field fought on the 16th June 1487.
The choir Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Here the Yorkist rebels including Sir Henry Bodrugan and his son John Beaumont attended the coronation of the ‘Dublin King’. Photo with thanks to Diliff @ Flikr.
Following the rebels defeat at Stoke and the deaths of the leaders, the young king Edward, so recently crowned in Dublin, was discovered: ‘And there was taken the lade that his rebelles called King Edwarde, whoos name was in dede *John*, by a vaylent and a gentil esquire of the kings howse called Robert Bellingham’ (4). Well I never! Jean Molinet further reported that King Edward was taken and made prisoner in the town of Newark but after that what become of King Edward/John (Evans) has been carefully blotted out from history (5). However If the Coldridge theory is correct Edward/John Evans, possibly wounded or even disfigured, was returned there to live out the remainder of his life incognito. This Coldridge theory is littered with links and numerous coincidences similar to a jigsaw puzzle with new pieces being discovered and slotted into place regularly and I have now come across yet another possible link which could add weight to the theory that Thomas Grey Marquess of Dorset, half brother to the young Edward V/John Evans, was an important and vital cog in the wheel of this mystery allowing his properties to be utilised in firstly providing a sanctuary, Coldridge, for his young half brother and then a rendezvous point, Gleaston Castle, for the rebels in 1487. It’s thanks to an article in a Richardian Bulletin of June 2022 written by members of the South Cumbria Richard III Society group entitled Simnel’s real march to battle? that made me aware of the ownership of Gleaston Castle and its handy proximity to the feverish activity that took place in that area in June 1487. On reading the article I had a weird sense of déjà vu when I read ‘the army’s most likely route would have to been to follow the coastline past Gleason Castle’. For Gleason Castle was owned, as noted above, by none other than Thomas Grey Marquess of Dorset. Thomas had come into ownership of Gleason castle the same way as he had come into ownership of Coldridge – that is via his lucrative marriage to wealthy heiress Cecilia/Cecill/Cecily Bonville (c.1461-1529). It may be that more importance should be placed on Cecilia’s role in this story than has been done so far. She came from a family of staunch Yorkists – her father William Bonville (b.1442) and grandfather, another William had both died at Wakefield on the 30 December 1460 where they fought for Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. Her great grandfather, yet another William, had been ‘treacherously’ executed after fighting for York at the second battle of St Albans February 1461 (6). Her mother, Katherine Neville, was the sister of Richard Neville, later known as the Kingmaker, who took as her second husband that fiercely loyal Yorkist, Sir William Hastings, bosom buddy to Edward IV. Look no further for why the couple should be involved in what was such a highly dangerous enterprise. Besides a sense of familial loyalty to the young Edward V how much more advantageous for them both to have a Yorkist king – with links to both of them – once again sat upon England’s throne rather than the new Tudor one? This is the crux of the matter and it’s highly likely that the youth crowned in Dublin was the same lad that had been living incognito at Coldridge and also highly likely that he had been escorted to Dublin by Sir Henry Bodrugan, who was but a short time ago the owner of Coldridge but now rebel and fugitive.
Leaving the rebels for a while and turning to Gleaston Castle which stands on the Furness Peninsular in a part of Cumbria that was formerly known as Lancashire North of the Sands. The castle, also known as Glaiston or even Gleanson – was built for John Harrington, Ist Baron Harrington (b. 1281–d. 1347) in the 14th century. Sir John was knighted in 1306 and fought in the Scottish border wars. The castle then descended through several generations of the Harrington family until 1457 when it ceased to be a ‘manorial residence’ and passed through marriage to the Bonvilles (7). When both Cecilia’s father and grandfather fell at the battle of Wakefield on the 30 December 1460 fighting for Richard Duke of York, the castle would pass to her while she was still an infant. Following her marriage the castle, and Coldridge, then became the property of her husband, Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset. Although the reasons for Gleaston being abandoned as a manorial residence are unknown today, Dr Helen Evans and Daniel Elsworth the authors of an in-depth conservation report commissioned by Historic England, and funded by the Castles Studies Trust, have suggested that the abandonment may have been down to the civil unrest in the ‘early part of the reign of Henry VII’ as well as the ‘Bonville’s family’s political affiliation with the Yorkist faction during the reign of Edward IV’ . This civil unrest was of course was the Yorkist rebellion led by Lovell and Lincoln later named erroneously as the Lambert Simnel rebellion. The authors of the report suggest that this pertinent question – which was out of their remit at the time of making the report in 2017 – should be the focus of any future research into Gleaston. Bring it on I say. For if it indeed transpired that Thomas Grey, the owner of the castle, which stood so conveniently close to the landing point of the rebels, was so heavily embroiled in the rebellion to the point that he offered up Gleaston as a convening point then that would strengthen the theory that the young Edward V had been sequestered away at Coldridge – another Grey property. Henry Tudor, who may have been many things, but being a fool was not amongst them, had been informed at a council meeting at Sheen in February 1487 that Thomas Grey was up to his neck in rebellion – which Thomas, acting all offended like, strenuously denied – as you do. Perhaps, unable to get to the bottom of Thomas’ involvement in the plot, Henry prudently had him – now his brother-in-law – placed in the Tower for the duration of the rebellion. Meanwhile Thomas’ mother, Henry Tudor’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Wydeville/Woodville, mother to the young Edward V, also up to her neck in the plot – quelle surprise – was without any further ado sent to Bermondsey Abbey for the duration of her life. And here may be the real reason why Gleaston was finally abandoned. Strangely the castle was never mentioned in neither Grey’s or Cecilia’s wills. Which is hardly surprising considering the castle’s role in the rebellion.
The castle then passed down through the Grey family until Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk was executed for treason in 1554. As a result, Gleaston Castle became royal property before it was bought by the Preston family in the 17th century, and then passed to the Cavendish family.
Interior of south eastern tower. Photo Chloe Grainger @ castlestudies.org
Now in a ruinous state and with a 19th century farm incorporated into parts of it, in its heyday it was a substantial building with walls 9 foot thick in some parts, consisting of a large hall and three stone towers joined by a curtain wall. Built at a time when that part of Cumbria – or Lancashire North of the Sands as it was then known – was subjected to regular Scottish border raids although it was probably also built as much to reflect wealth, status and comfort as defence with what archaeologists believe, a ‘pleasure garden’ in a landscaped area to the north. Think more fortified manor house than rugged castle. One hundred years after its abandonment it was reported to have become ruinous by the antiquarian John Leland who wrote ‘there is a ruine and waulles of a castell in Lancastershire cawlyd Gleston Castell sometyme longinge to Lord Harrington now to the Marquis of Dorset’. Evans and Elsworth also go on to say that while it is assumed that Gleaston Castle was dismantled after its use as a manorial residence ceased ‘17th and 18th century leases suggest parts of it were still habitable in those periods’. Although the location on the Furness Peninsula today appears to be remote, this is misleading, as historically access was easy either by boat or by crossing the sands of the Morecambe Bay estuary at low tide – a mere short walk (8)
A three D model of the castle can be found here.
To return to the rebellion. There is some debate as to where the rebels actually landed. Some believe it was Piel Island, or as historian David Baldwin prefers, somewhere else in the Furness Peninsula although this is not of overly importance to us because wherever it was would have been in close proximity to the castle. Baldwin also repeats the local tradition that the rebels spent their first night camped on Swarthmoor near Ulverston. Their route thereafter would have taken them via Newby Bridge, Kendal, Sedbergh and through Wensleydale (9). However Michael Bennett states the landing place was Foulney Island, ‘a safe natural haven which even at low tide was six fathoms deep’ and mentions ‘allies in the neighbourhood‘ (10). These allies would have included Sir Thomas Broughton who had fought for Richard III at Bosworth in 1485 and since making his escape from that place had been holding out in Furness Fells. Thomas’ brother John and the Huddlestons of Millom would also have been counted in the welcoming party. A further suggestion that Furness Harbour was the landing place was made by both Molinet who told of the rebels disembarking at a ‘harbour known as Furness’ and in Lincoln’s Act of Attainder which mentioned a ‘great navy in Furness in Lancashire’. Bennett mentions that the Abbot and convent of Furness, owners of the harbour as well as Furness castle, were slightly less than welcoming and at the most may have provided the rebels with food and supplies alone (11). The fact that the father of one of Henry VII’s most trusted agents, Christopher Urswick, was a lay-brother at Furness may have had some input in their reluctance to aid the rebels more than absolutely necessary. However, as mentioned above, wherever their landing place was should not bother us too unduly – wherever it was would have placed them but a short distance away from Gleaston Castle and a sheltered spot for meeting, greeting and getting their acts together. Bennett goes on to repeat the Swarthmore tradition, which lay less than 10 miles away from his choice of landing place, and agrees with Baldwin that their most direct route would have been via Newby Bridge, Kendal, and Sedburgh.
However, Gleaston Castle, if Gleaston Castle was indeed the rendezvous point for the rebels, was left behind by the rebels who continued onwards with their journey which reached its bloody and tragic climax at Stoke Field. The story of the Battle of Stoke is readily available elsewhere. I would recommend Michael Bennett’s Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke and Stoke Field David Baldwin.
EDWARD, EARL OF WARWICK – HIS LIFE AND DEATH.
A Portrait of Edward V and Perhaps Even a Resting Place?- St Matthew’s Church Coldridge
A PORTRAIT OF EDWARD V AND THE MYSTERY OF COLDRIDGE CHURCH…Part II A Guest Post by John Dike.
SIR JAMES TYRELL – CHILD KILLER OR PROVIDER OF A SAFE HOUSE ?
Those mysterious childrens coffins in Edward IV’s vault….
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