Hurrah! Paula’s back at Lost in Translation, and for this Thursday’s Special she has set us the challenge of Creative Intervention. She tells us to interpret it any way we like, but please visit her post for more ideas.
So here we have the remains of Hopton Castle, an upscale medieval tower house that would be a crumbling wreck but for the creative efforts of the Hopton Castle Preservation Trust whose members toiled for 11 years to raise funds to consolidate the remains, and then spent a further five years overseeing the work.
The ruin is full of puzzles. The preservation work revealed hints of 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th century construction, but with no clear evidence for the date of the main surviving structure. It’s been suggested that the Hopton family, who owned it between the 11th and 15th centuries, at some stage deliberately set out to create a faux antique country residence much as the Victorians did with their mock Tudor ‘cottages’. In other words, the Hoptons went in for some creative intervention of their own.
One theory is that it was a hunting lodge. The interior work of all three floors appears to have been very grand, and definitely of ‘lordly’ quality.
photo: Hopton Castle Preservation Trust
Also, the tower was clearly not intended as a defensive structure. As you can see from the photo and the reconstruction, any besieger could simply walk up to the front door. Yet the building it replaced, the first ‘castle’ on the mound was indeed a functioning fortification – a motte and bailey castle typical of the Normans’ early conquest of Britain after 1066. Made of timber, they could be constructed swiftly, and as the need arose, later re-built and expanded into domineering stone fortresses.
But this did not happen at Hopton. The stone walls that replaced the 11th century motte and bailey appear to have been built of poor quality stone, unsuited to withstanding a siege. Meanwhile, the interior fittings and design suggest considerable expense.
So it’s a pretend castle then? A place for Sir Walter Hopton, Sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire, to display his wealth and status while entertaining well chosen guests for a spot of deer hunting?
Perhaps some of the answers lie in Shropshire Council’s five miles of archives that include shelves and shelves of unread medieval documents. In which case, they are likely to stay hidden. Probably forever. The on going local authority cuts mean there is little chance that the necessary scholarly research will ever be done. The archivist was one of the first people to be dispensed with, and for years before the cuts the archives were always under-resourced.
But if we don’t know much about the castle’s medieval history, we do know quite a lot about the bloody siege of Hopton in 1644, wherein Royalist forces attacked the staunch Parliamentarian Wallop family, who then owned the castle. It’s a swashbuckling tale, and you can read more about it HERE.
And you can watch the Time Team excavation.
copyright 2015 Tish Farrell
Creative Intervention Don’t forget to visit Paula for more interpretations of this challenge