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Someries Castle: Ruined Manor Of English Soldier Sir John Wenlock

Someries Castle: Ruined Manor Of English Soldier Sir John Wenlock

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Although very grand, Someries Castle is not really a castle; rather, it is a manor house. It is believed that the estate was purchase by Sir John Wenlock from William de Someries sometime in the 1430s AD. Wenlock started to build Someries Castle on the grounds but did not complete it because he was killed in battle.

Someries Castle, Sir John Wenlock And The Wars Of The Roses

Between 1455 and 1485, a civil war occurred between two royal families: the House of York and the House of Lancaster. This civil war is referred to as the Wars of the Roses , with the white rose representing the House of York and the red rose representing the House of Lancaster. The war erupted as a result of King Henry VI’s weak rule. Although he had inherited the throne from his powerful father, King Henry V , Henry VI wasn’t interested in politics. Some even say he was too incompetent to rule.

As a result, lawlessness spread throughout the kingdom. This chaos led to much intrigue, with nobles and other royals vying for control of the crown. Between these years, some very bloody battles took place, including the Battle of Tewkesbury , the battle in which Sir John Wenlock was killed.

The Battle of Tewkesbury, one of the most decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses, took place on May 4, 1471. Many of the nobles and the forces loyal to the House of Lancaster were defeated and killed. During this battle, King Henry VI was taken prisoner in the Tower of London and murdered a few days later on the new king, Edward IV’s, orders.    

Sir John Wenlock fought in 6 of the significant battles in the Wars of the Roses but is often referred to as the “Prince of Turncoats” because he fought for both the House of Lancaster and the House of York. Upon his death, he was fighting for the House of Lancaster in the Battle of Tewkesbury, however. Wenlock was a casualty of this battle but not at the hands of the enemy. It is believed that he was killed by his own commander, the Duke of Somerset, for his indecisiveness, which caused many of Somerset’s soldiers to get slaughtered during the battle.

Someries Castle Was Wenlock’s “Manor”

A distinguishing trait of Someries Castle is that it is one of the first brick buildings to be built in England. Indeed, the edifice has very impressive and elaborate brickwork. In its heyday, the castle had 25 useable rooms and 23 hearths. There was also a gatehouse and a chapel, which still stand on the grounds today. A garden lies to the southwest of the residence. The roof is gone but the walls of the structure remain.

Brickwork at Someries Castle, one of the earliest brick structures in England. (Forscher scs / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Brickwork at Someries Castle, one of the earliest brick structures in England. (Forscher scs / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Why Someries Castle Was Built?

Sir John Wenlock was a statesman, a soldier, and knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter . Like most nobles, he had intentions of having the manor house built to enjoy it as a luxury and impress his guests. However, when he was killed in battle, work was halted on the manor.

The estate was used by many notables after Wenlock’s death, including Thomas Rotherham and King James I . However, the building fell into disrepair and wasted away due to centuries of non-use. It was also partially demolished in 1742. Only the gatehouse and the chapel remain intact . After centuries of negligence, the manor was renovated and opened to the public in 2008.

Someries Castle is situated in the middle of Someries Farm, and is closely surrounded by stout metal railings, making wide shots of the ruins very difficult. This picture shows the nature of the gap around the sides, and the proximity of the farm buildings. (David P Howard / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Someries Castle is situated in the middle of Someries Farm, and is closely surrounded by stout metal railings, making wide shots of the ruins very difficult. This picture shows the nature of the gap around the sides, and the proximity of the farm buildings . ( David P Howard / CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Visiting The Ruins Of Someries Castle

Located in modern-day Bedfordshire, England, a short distance southeast of London Luton Airport, Someries Castle is accessible by visitors every day of the week from 9 AM to 5 PM. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find. The site isn’t noticeable until one gets very close to it, adding to the mystique is that home is haunted. Although Sir John Wenlock was killed on the battlefield, it is believed that his ghost still lingers on the grounds haunting the remains. Several visitors claimed that they heard strange noises coming from the gatehouse and the chapel.

Upon arriving, there is plenty of parking as long as patrons don’t block the areas designated for farm vehicles. Also, there is no fee to enter. Patrons are welcome to browse the castle grounds . The ruins are an open edifice, with only the walls of the main building remaining.

The site has a garden, but it is inaccessible to the public as it is located on private property. There is an area where visitors can walk or hike which is located near the ruins. The Someries Castle Walk is a trail that stretches for 6.6 miles (10.6 km)and is located near the castle remains.

Top image: Someries Castle Chapel in Luton, England.     Source: Forscher scs / CC BY-SA 4.0

By ML Childs

References

Someries Castle: a medieval magnate's residence and formal garden remains , Historic England, Available online: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1008452

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica , Wars of the Roses, Britannica. Available online:  https://www.britannica.com/event/Wars-of-the-Roses

History.com Editors, Wars of the Roses, HISTORY. A & E Television Networks. Available at: https://www.history.com/topics/british-history/wars-of-the-roses#:~:text=The%20Wars%20of%20the%20Roses%20were%20a%20series%20of%20bloody,age%2Dold%20royal%20Plantagenet%20family

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