Google+ A Bit About Britain: January 2014 Google+

Introduction

Get to know A Bit About Britain - an idiosyncratic view of places to visit in Britain, British history - and stuff. Warts and all. Where shall we go today?

Friday, 31 January 2014

Victorian streetwalking and the 60s leads to prison


There’s an entire recreated Victorian Street inside York Castle Museum.  It’s been there since the start of the museum in 1938 and was the brainchild of its founder, Dr John Kirk.  He was evidently an extremely innovative man; nowadays, so-called living museums are all over the place.  And what a fabulous way of engaging with people – especially youngsters like me.  ‘Kirkgate’ – named for John, above, represents a street from 1870-1901 and is based on real York businesses – some of them still trading.  So you can dip in and out of all your favourite stores, like the chemists, toyshop, sweetshop, scientific instrument chappie (Victorian equivalent of an Apple Store, I guess) and (of course) the pawnbroker.  There’s also a taxidermist – every high street should have one - and I’m sure we can all think of a few people we’d like to take there.

Castle Museum, visit York, John Kirk, Kirkgate

When we last visited, in 2013, the museum had not long completed a large refurbishment project, including adding ‘Rowntree Snicket’, an alleyway designed to illustrate the appalling social conditions people lived in during the Victorian era.  A study on poverty in York, undertaken by Seebohm Rowntree of chocolate fame, caused a particular stir when it was published in 1901.  Rowntree not only described the horrifying squalor in which almost a third of the inhabitants of the city lived; his work also demonstrated that even those in work could not afford to sustain what he called ‘bare physical efficiency’  It caused a sensation.  Many found it inexplicable that such a state of affairs could exist at the heart of the British Empire.  Winston Churchill told an audience that the book “fairly made my hair stand on end”.  (Visit Poor Britain for a bit more on this topic.)

Victorian poverty, England, Rowntree

On a lighter note, the idea of refurbishing a Victorian Street appeals to me (think about it).  And they’ve done it very well – though, personally, I found the costumed staff somewhat unconvincing.

Skip a short lifetime to find yourself confronted by a large photograph of Twiggy in ‘The Sixties’.  This is a fun gallery, complete with a nice shiny Lambretta, Beatles’ singles (I really should sell mine), a jukebox and all manner of iconic paraphernalia.  I particularly liked the TV news footage.  Of course, if you can remember it all, then you weren’t there...

1960s, Lambretta, Mods, Rockers, Twiggy

York Castle Museum is housed inside an 18th century prison.  You can now experience the cells and hear the stories of some of the people that were held in them.  These include the infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin, executed for horse-thieving in 1739, and Elizabeth Boardman, who was burnt to death in 1776 for the murder of her husband.  Clever audio-visuals bring the characters to life, in a ghostly way.

York Prison, Dick Turpin, Elizabeth Boardingham

There is an enormous amount to see in York Castle Museum, possibly justifying its relatively high ticket price.  Though it’s one of those tickets that allow you entry for a whole year, I suggest this is a useless gimmick so far as most people are concerned.  In fairness, entry for residents of York is free.  However, it’s a place that I, for one, could happily spend hours in – and have.  There are good exhibitions on social history, containing a fascinating array of everyday objects from times gone by, and on armour and armaments.  I was particularly intrigued by Oliver Cromwell’s death mask.  Even more captivating was an exhibition entitled, ‘From Cradle to Grave’, covering those two (and sometimes three) essentials of human existence – birth, marriage and death.

A final recommendation, though, is not to look forward too much to a nice cup of coffee in the museum’s café, because it may leave a bitter taste.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Trooper Pearson

Trooper Pearson, Kendal, Penrith, hero, Light Brigade survivor
It all started with my chum, Dave.  Not only is Dave an excellent drinking buddy, but he also used to be a gravedigger, often known in these euphemistic days as a ‘burial ground custodian’.  You should see the risk assessment.  But he was in good company – both Joe Strummer and Abraham Lincoln used to be gravediggers: as you probably know, one was a unique world-famous musician with The Clash - and the other went on to become a US president.  People who dig graves have transferrable skills.  Anyway, Dave gave it all up to become a dentist – though he packed that in because it was a bit like pulling teeth.  That was before he met Marion at the cookery class, of course; but not before he had discovered Trooper Pearson lying in Parkside Cemetery, Kendal.

William Pearson was born on 2nd October 1826 in Penrith, in what was then the county of Cumberland.  Presumably tired of being a leather dresser (this is a trade, not a recreational pursuit), at the age of 22 he ran away to London and enlisted in the 4th Light Dragoons.  He was five foot eight inches tall, with light brown hair and hazel eyes.  Six years’ later, he found himself in the middle of the Crimean War.

The Crimean War began as a territorial dispute between Russia and Turkey.  Britain and France saw a threat to the balance of power and their own interests, came to Turkey’s assistance and declared war on Russia in 1854.  Later, Piedmont-Sardinia joined the British and French.  The Crimean War was, in fact, a much wider conflict than the name suggests, with action taking place in the Baltic and Pacific.  The casualties were appalling – according to one BBC report, 25,000 British, 100,000 French and up to 1 million Russians died, mostly from disease and neglect.  The number of Turkish and Italian fatalities was not mentioned; clearly, they were less important.  One of the many consequences of the war, so far as Britain was concerned, was to highlight monumental military mismanagement which, amongst other things, resulted in a much-needed overhaul of its grossly inadequate medical care.

Mitre Hotel, Lounge Hotel, Penrith, King Street, visit Cumbria
Trooper Pearson was at the battles of Alma, Sevastopol, Balaklava and Inkerman on the Crimean peninsula.  And it was during the Battle of Balaklava on 25th October 1854 that the infamous ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ took place.  The ‘light brigade’ consisted of unarmoured cavalrymen equipped with lances and sabres, whose duties primarily involved reconnaissance and a little gentle skirmishing.  As Alfred, Lord Tennyson suggested in his poem, somebody blundered that day: arguments still rage, but an ambiguous, unclear or misinterpreted order resulted in the Earl of Cardigan leading a charge 673 soldiers up a valley directly into the muzzles of the Russian guns about a mile away, with further enemy artillery on the high ground either side of them.

“Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.”

“Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front of them.”

The result was fairly predictable.  Some of the British cavalry actually reached the Russian guns but, unable to press the attack any further, galloped back the way they had come.  A charge by French cavalry saved the Light Brigade from being completely wiped out, but it was a fiasco of the sort that the British really relish (what might be referred to as ‘FUBAR’ in the US).  Casualties were almost 50%; 118 men were killed outright.  The French General, Pierre Bosquet, famously remarked: “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre.”  The Russians, rather less romantically, thought the British must be drunk.

Crimean War, Charge of the Light Brigade, survivors, visit Kendal
“Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred”.  The noise and confusion must have been indescribable, even for trained men.  Pearson’s horse stumbled over another that was shot dead in front of him, and he was thrown.  Grasping the reins of a riderless horse of the 8th Hussars, he mounted and continued his charge.  An epaulette was shot away.  He talks of “shells, bullets, cannon-balls and swords flying around us” and said that it “makes my blood run cold, to think how we had to gallop over the poor wounded fellows lying on the field of battle, with anxious looks for assistance”.  Remarkably, Pearson was unscathed apart from a small wound to his nose from a shell burst and “a slight touch on the shoulder from a cannon-ball, after it had killed one of our horses.”

Like so many of his comrades, though, it was the conditions they lived in that got Pearson his ticket home.  Christmas Eve 1854 was spent having four toes amputated from his right foot due to frostbite.  He was nursed by nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale (allegedly a hypochondriac, but still the type of person we could do with in the NHS) at hospital in Scutari, then invalided back to the UK.  He was presented to Queen Victoria; then he was discharged as unfit for further military service and given a pension.  He had met his wife, Elizabeth, at a ball in Dover; they married in London on 22nd October 1855 and, after his discharge, travelled north to Penrith.

William Pearson spent the next 25 years as orderly to the inspecting officer of a local troop of the Cumberland and Westmorland Imperial Yeomanry.  In the 1861 census he is shown as “Chelsea pensioner and skinner.”  He and his wife had two sons.  In 1880, he moved to the village of Underbarrow, near Kendal and set up in business as a fellmonger and tanner.  A fellmonger dealt in animal skins and hides.  He kept active, attended a number of veterans’ events and retired in 1906.  He died aged 82 at his home, Church View, Aynham Road, Kendal on 31st July 1909 and was buried with military honours.

Which brings us back to Dave.  Like me, Dave is tickled by the past and finds there’s more and more of it each day.  So he mentioned Trooper Pearson, and wanted to introduce me because he thought his story might go well on “A Bit About Britain.”  We motored over to Parkside Cemetery in Kendal one drizzly day in November and Dave took me straight to the very handsome memorial.  It was a little faded, so we gently wiped off some of the moss and it came up a treat.  We hope Trooper Pearson, and Elizabeth – who was later buried with him - would be pleased.  An ordinary man who did and saw extraordinary things, like so many others; it’s right to remember one of them.

IN LOVING REMEMBRANCE OF
WILLIAM PEARSON
LATE OF THE 4TH QUEEN’S OWN LIGHT DRAGOONS
AND ONE OF THE SIX HUNDRED IN THE
CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE AT BALACLAVA
OCT 25TH 1854.

BORN OCT 2ND 1826, DIED JULY 31ST 1909

ALSO OF ELIZABETH, WIDOW OF THE ABOVE
BORN MARCH 3RD 1836, DIED JAN 27TH 1925

You can learn more about Trooper Pearson from visiting the Penrith and Eden Museum, which also has his medals.  A plaque on the wall of what was the Mitre Hotel in King Street, Penrith (as at January 2014 ‘The Lounge’ hotel and bar) commemorates where he was born.  My eagle-eyed reader may spot that the wrong dates are shown on the plaque.

Royal British Legion, blue plaques, North West England


As a footnote, the last survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade was Troop Sergeant-Major Edwin Hughes, late of the 13th Light Dragoons, who died in Blackpool in 1927.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Criccieth Castle

Criccieth, places to eat, restaurants, Llwelyn ap Iowerth

I like castles, I really do.  Even scant and scraggy ruins can have a certain allure - a hint of romance blended with an aroma of past power.  It is easy to lose yourself in these monuments of stone, trying to understand a little of their history and the lives of the people that built, lived and died in them.  We are lucky to have so many castles in Britain: there are more than 640 in Wales alone.

It’s unfortunate, then, that Criccieth Castle didn’t do much for me.  Maybe this was due to mixed feelings about the town, where the welcome was sometimes less than cordial – though we did enjoy two excellent meals, in the Spice Bank and the Moelwyn Hotel.  Yum.  


Criccieth, ruined castles, Gerald of Wales

But there are three really good things about Criccieth Castle.  First – position: it is situated on a rocky promontory sticking out into Tremadog Bay, towering over the town and the two beaches either side.  So it has a wonderful silhouette and, when you get to the top, the views from the battlements are spectacular – particularly east toward the distant mountains of Snowdonia National Park.  Secondly, just look at that massive gatehouse – it is, literally, awesome – as no doubt it was meant to be.  It almost makes the castle look top-heavy: there is nothing elegant about Criccieth Castle; it is what it is – a no-nonsense medieval fortress designed to deter attackers.  Thirdly, the castle has a fascinating exhibition about Gerald of Wales, a 12th century cleric and scholar of Anglo-Norman/Welsh heritage, who wrote at least 17 books (all of them best-sellers?), including an account of his Journey through Wales, Itinerarium Cambriae, in 1188.  I hope Cadw, who look after the castle, keep this exhibition going.

Welsh flag, Criccieth, Cadw, war with England
Unlike so many castles in Wales, Criccieth is generally reckoned to have been built by the Welsh, rather than the English.  Though there is scholarly debate about who actually built what, and when, it is believed to have been constructed by Llwelyn ap Iorwerth, also known as Llwelyn the Great, in around 1230.  It was extended about 30 years’ later and considerably developed after 1283, when it was captured by the English.  Criccieth was besieged by the Welsh in 1294 during an uprising led by Madoc ap Llwelyn, but was kept supplied by sea with essential food and equipment from ships sailing from Ireland, and the garrison managed to hold out.  By the 14th century, Criccieth was being used as a prison.  It was finally captured by Owain Glyndwr in 1404, whose forces tore the walls down.  It is said that the fires started that day have left their marks in the stonework – and it is certainly true that some on the western side had a reddish hue about them.

However, for me – and sadly – the walls of Criccieth Castle exude little of these great and tumultuous events.  Don’t take my word for it; hundreds of people love Criccieth Castle, I’m glad I’ve seen it and I’d certainly go again if I happened to be nearby and didn’t need to be somewhere else.

Visit Criccieth Castle’s website.

For a bit about the English conquest of Wales, see Whatever happened to Wales?


Criccieth Castle, visit Wales, English conquest



Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Changing rooms

York Castle Museum is a lot of fun.  I’ve been there several times and it never fails to delight.  The museum was founded in 1938 and is housed in 18th century prison buildings constructed on the site of the Norman castle.  The galleries include a full-size reconstructed Victorian Street, ‘Kirkgate’, much of it based on real businesses and people.  Plus, there are some wonderful rooms, recreated from past eras, where you can take a trip back in time and/or marvel at how quaint/tatty/awful it all once was.  I guess it depends on your age and state of mind; nostalgia’s not what it used to be.  If some of them look horribly familiar, it is merely indicative of your wide knowledge and vivid imagination.  Or perhaps you like period dramas.

York Castle Museum, Victorian parlour, how people lived, British social history

Take a look at the Victorian parlour.  Now tell me you don’t remember a time when it was common to have a piano in the house, lace mats all over the place, hideous gilt-framed pictures on the wall, a good china tea service and one of those multi-tiered tables in the corner?  You still have all of that?  Well, bless you; you’re looking great.

York Castle, Dales farmouse, how people lived, British social history

The early 20th century farmhouse seems more alien to me – it actually looks older than the Victorian parlour.  But I liked the dog and was impressed that he remained so still, and quiet, whilst people took their photographs.

York Castle, 1940s, how people lived, Ascot heater, British social history

I’m certain they’ve got the 1940s kitchen all wrong.  Surely, Ascot heaters were much, much later than that?  Perhaps this is cutting-edge stuff.  But you still see clothes driers with pulleys to haul them up to the ceiling today – don’t you?

York Castle, 1950s Britain, social changes since 1950

The living room from the 1950s was immediately recognisable, despite me being much too young to ever experience anything like it...  The TV, the Coronation Coach, the tray, train set (a Hornby?), electric fire, leather pouffe, décor – all very familiar, yet so far removed from a living room of the 21st century.  You can almost see father, pipe clenched between his teeth, reading the newspaper on the settee; of course, he is wearing a jacket and tie.  Messy though - mother must be down the pub.

York Castle, 1980s, mum's kitchen, growing up in Britain

And, finally, a kitchen of the 1980s – I’m assuming that decade, though in many ways it could be the 1970s.  Apart from the Vesta ready meal, the contents of the kitchen cupboard and worktop don’t seem that far away.  But you won’t find coffee sets and kitchen units like that in too many showrooms these days.  Microwaves only really took off in Britain in the 1980s and 90s – though invented in 1947, the first domestic ones were not sold here until 1974; I’m proud to say that I learnt to use one just the other day.


We can all recognise that these rooms are manifestly from another age.  But I’ll bet the perspective is very different, depending which side of 30 you’re on.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Wharram Percy

Wharram Percy, DMV, deserted villages, England, visit Yorkshire
We tend to see towns and villages as more or less permanent things.  Yet most settlements are relatively recent, and the world is littered with places that have been lost - abandoned communities, traces of vanished civilisations.  In a crowded little place like Britain, they are all around you; some known, others long-forgotten.  Deserted villages are a national feature – apparently we have about 3,000 of them.  Some neighbourhoods have been destroyed intentionally, perhaps savagely; others have faded away due to disease, emigration – or for reasons we will never know.

Wharram Percy is reputedly the most famous and intensively studied deserted medieval village (DMV) in England.  I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised there was no one there when we visited.  It was about 25 miles from York, then a drive along a narrow country lane off the B1248, a little south of Wharram-le-Street, to a small car park where there was just one other vehicle.  Clambering out and pulling on boots, we heard aircraft wheeling and diving above.  They seemed to be putting on a show and it struck me as quite a contrast with the old path to a medieval village, which had been busier hundreds of years ago, but which was windswept and empty now.  So off we went, coming upon the DMV after about ¾ of a mile.

St Martin's, church ruins, Yorkshire Wolds, Bit about Britain
The village once stood on the west side of a valley called Deep Dale.  It had two parallel main streets and the houses fronted the streets – the ‘toft’, which was an area of land including the house and any outbuildings, with the ‘croft’ – an enclosed area of land used for crops or grazing stock – behind that.  Now, there is nothing much to see except the shell of the church, St Martin’s, a reconstructed fish pond and the remains of an 18th century farm complex.  The humps and bumps in the turf show the location of buried walls and some of these, including the outline of two manor houses on higher ground, have been highlighted by archaeologists. Useful information boards have been placed around the site, to explain various features and show how the village might once have looked.

Despite the attention Wharram has received, practicalities have meant that excavation has been relatively limited.  Even so, an enormous quantity of material – animal bones, pottery shards, metal objects – has been found.  And the experts have discovered a considerable amount about the place.  The site was farmed long before a village emerged – a community like this is usually preceded by thousands of years of human activity and occupation.  Ancient man has left his mark all over the nearby landscape and it is believed there was, at least, a Bronze or early Iron Age ranch at Wharram.  Evidence of two Romano-British farmsteads have been found on the site, which continued to be in use during the 7th-8th centuries before a village formed in the Late Saxon Period – around 9th or 10th centuries.  The community peaked between the 12th – 14th centuries, survived the Black Death, famine, Scottish raids and declined in the 15th century when the local landowners, the Hiltons, wanted the land to graze sheep.  The last families were evicted by 1517.

Lost villages, England, North Yorkshire, medieval burials
The church of St Martin is actually a typical English parish church, despite its ruinous state.  Built on the foundations of an earlier Saxon church, it grew in prosperous times and shrank when things were bad.  It continued to be used by the parishioners of nearby Thixendale until as recently as 1870, when they got their own church – but I have also read that St Martin’s was attended right up to the 1950s.  The grave markers you see now date from the 18th century.  But nearly 700 medieval skeletons have been excavated from the cemetery, and studied.  They show that children were commonly breast-fed up to the age of 2, helping to explain a relatively low rate of infant mortality.  DNA tests on TB sufferers showed they had been infected by other humans – not the cattle that hunkered down at the other end of the house.  One particularly remarkable discovery was the skeleton of an 11th century man who had suffered a severe blow to the head; however, the injury had been treated by carefully cutting away bone to relieve pressure on the brain, following which the patient went on to live a (presumably happy) life for many years.  So much for primitive medical care.

Places like Wharram Percy will not appeal to everyone; it lacks the cachet of a stately home, or even a dilapidated castle; there is no gift shop or café.  But it is a curious sensation to walk in the footsteps of a long-gone community, where children used to play and generations went about their lives with no concept of an end to it all.  These were our ancestors; I wonder who will be looking back at us in the centuries to come.

Wharram Percy can only be reached by foot, as explained, and there is no shelter – you need to dress accordingly.  It is also on the Yorkshire Wolds Way, a footpath running just short of 80 miles between the Humber and the coast near Filey – so you could make a weekend of it…


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Temple Bar

Temple Bar Gate, Paternoster Square, visit London
Mention the Temple Bar and my thoughts inevitably turn to a pub.  It was close by East Lane (or East Street) market in London’s Walworth Road, where far too many pints of Bass IPA were sunk after work, often whilst playing endless games of space invaders.  Who said men can’t multi-task?  Sadly, the pub’s closed now, as is Carter Place Police Station, which used to sit conveniently - and reassuringly - next door.  But the market, where it was rumoured you could buy anything if you had the right cash, is still going strong.

None of which is anything whatsoever to do with the Temple Bar that you’ll now find between St Paul’s Cathedral and Paternoster Square.  In fact, this construction is Temple Bar Gate.  Temple Bar is the point where Fleet Street turns into the Strand (or vice versa) and marks the boundary between the City of London and the City of Westminster (and vice versa).  The name comes from the Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar, situated a few feet to the south.  The bar was erected – probably in the form of a chain between posts – in the middle ages to help regulate trade; it was never a defensive barrier, or part of the City walls.  By Tudor times, at least, Temple Bar had become a gated wooden house, possibly used as a prison, and the background to many historical scenes and processions.  Even now, on some state occasions the monarch waits at Temple Bar for permission from the Lord Mayor to enter the City – a piece of ritual that dates back to the celebration of the defeat of the Spanish Armada during the reign of Elizabeth I in 1588.

Temple Bar, dragon, Fleet Street, the Strand, London monuments.
Temple Bar Gate survived the Great Fire of 1666, but Charles II wanted it replaced and a new one, (probably) designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built of Portland stone, was built.  In place by 1672, it cost £1,500.  A grand central arch was flanked by two pedestrian gateways, with statues of Charles II and his executed father, Charles I, set into niches on the eastern entrance and statues of James I and Elizabeth I (some say it is James’ wife, Anne of Denmark) on the west, leaving the City.  As its predecessor had been, the new Temple Bar Gate was a showcase for the heads of traitors, mounted and displayed from the roof; the last such gruesome use was in 1746, following the Stuart rebellion of the previous year.

In 1878, it was decided to widen the road.  But instead of demolishing Temple Bar Gate, the enlightened folk at the Corporation of London had it dismantled, stone by stone (about 2,700 of them); each stone was numbered and carefully stored.  This seems to be a remarkable decision for the time; it must also have been quite unusual.


Where is Temple Bar, City of London boundary
Lady Meux, reputedly one-time banjo-player and barmaid (though definitely not in Walworth Road – I’d have remembered), persuaded her husband, Sir Henry Meux, a wealthy brewer, to purchase the dismantled Temple Bar Gate in 1887 and rebuild it at their pile, Theobalds Park, in Hertfordshire.  Henry died in 1900, but Lady Meux – Valerie – used to entertain in it; allegedly.  She died in 1910, the family sold the estate in 1929 and the once-proud Temple Bar Gate gradually deteriorated.  A report of 1981 in ‘History Today’ talks of its collapsed roof, broken windows and walls daubed in graffiti.  However, there is a happy ending – kind of.  A Trust was set up in the 1970s with the aim of returning the structure to the City of London and, in 2004, the restored and rebuilt Temple Bar Gate was officially opened in its new position, where you can see it, and walk through it, today.  It cost just over £3 million.  I gather you can rent out the room over the top for dinner parties.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Rosslyn Castle

Rosslyn Castle, St Clairs, Landmark Trust, visit Scotland
Is it Roslin or Rosslyn?  I’m not sure; the nearby village is Roslin, and the Chapel almost 100% Rosslyn, but the Castle can’t seem to make up its mind how it wants to be spelt.

In any event, Rosslyn Castle is often overlooked by those making a pilgrimage to the more infamous Chapel; which, when you think about it, is a curious reversal of fortunes.  Unlike the Chapel, the Castle is not a tourist site, open to the public.  But if you follow the path south of the Chapel between the graveyards, you’ll see the remains of the medieval fortifications at the end, and they are worth the short walk.  The ruins loom at you from across a stone bridge spanning Roslin Glen, far below - which is also an alternative approach.  It is an unexpected dramatic, and possibly romantic, sight.  Once across the bridge – which replaced the medieval wooden drawbridge – your journey comes to an end: unless you are staying the night; because you can – if you book it.

A castle was built here probably around the early 14th century, near the site of the Battle of Roslin where the Scots defeated the English in 1303.  It was, of course, the home of the St Clairs, barons of Rosslyn since the 11th century.  The castle was largely destroyed in a seige of 1544 during the ‘rough wooing’, in which Henry VIII of England attempted to control his northern neighbour by forcing the infant Princess Mary (later Queen of Scots) to marry his son, Edward.  The attempt came to nothing – but Mary did apparently stay at the castle in a more peaceful moment in 1563, when she was an adult.  The largely rebuilt Castle was completely battered by Cromwell’s artillery under the command of General Monck in 1650, after which only the east range of the living quarters remained habitable.  This was restored in the 1980s and you can now have a holiday there.  Visit the website of the LandmarkTrust, which cares for the property.


Roslin Castle, haunted, mysteries, Scotland

Before you do, I should add that, perhaps inevitably, Roslin Castle has its own share of mysteries.  Given its 800-year, often violent, history - and its neighbour - you’d expect no less, would you?  It seems a peaceful spot now, but the Castle's enigmas allegedly include a sleeping lady who knows where treasure is hidden, ghosts of a black knight, a dog - and a curious story about the removal of ancient documents from their hiding place, to be lost forever or kept secretly in the Vatican.  Which brings me neatly to the film, the Da Vinci Code; scenes near the end of the movie, where Sophie Neveu (played by Audrey Tautou) discovers her heritage - assisted by the intrepid Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) - were shot outside the Castle.