Friday, 15 August 2008

To the Manor Born

Something I don't speak of much, but about which I'm rather proud is that I was born in a castle - a real castle with loads of history steeped into its walls and surroundings, and a mention in the Domesday Book. On a recent visit to York, we called in to visit my birthplace, which is now a hotel, conference and wedding venue. Before it became a hotel it was a Carmelite retreat centre.

Hazlewood Castle in Yorkshire (between Tadcaster, the home of John Smith's Ales, and the city of York) was owned by barons and dukes, and retains some of its Norman architectural features. A battle in the Wars of the Roses took place in 1461 on the moor directly in front of the castle, and it was owned by the Catholic Vavasour family until 1908. It has priest holes and underground passages, and the chapel is dedicated to St. Margaret Clitherow, whose statue adorns the doorway.

I was born there because during the Second World War, between 1939 and 1953 it was requisitioned as a maternity hospital. My mum was booked in to Hazlewood Castle for my birth in 1945, just after the war had ended. She had to leave London and travel to Yorkshire, and after I was born, my dad came to visit us at the castle, staying in nearby Tadcaster at the Bay Horse Inn, which is still there!

My mum told me quite a bit about the castle as a maternity home. The large Norman Hall was the lying-in ward, where the expectant mums were housed until they gave birth. Babies were born in a separate, adjacent room, called the Victoria Room (did that Queen go everywhere?!). This room has a huge stone fireplace with ornate chimney breast, and the wallpaper (above) is heavily embossed and decorated with real gold leaf - phew, was I really born in such a grand place?!

The grounds are large and very attractive. There are lots of wooded areas as well as tended gardens and lawns, and near the chapel there is an ancient yew tree , which is being protected and preserved. The drive is long and lined with trees and rhododendron bushes, and my dad used to talk about how, on his first visit, the bus had dropped him off at the end of the drive and he had to walk for what seemed like at least a mile through huge rhododendrons. My mum said that when he arrived, the matron told all the ladies in the ward to smarten themselves up as the King had come to visit. Then in walked my dad! It was a family story that used to come out at family gatherings, as did the fact that there were not enough cots for all the babies, so a bed was was made for me in a large drawer.

Here are a few more photos of Hazlewood Castle, and if I look a bit happy or smug in some of these, it's because I was enjoying seeing my historical place of birth.

"My" castle - the rear lawn with the view to the War of the Roses battlefield.

The main entrance. . . .

. . . and the grand wood-panelled entrance hall ( now the hotel's reception area)

The Main Hall, built on the site of the original Normal Great Hall, and now used for wedding receptions and corporate events. This was the lying-in ward where the mums in waiting were, and where my dad's entry caused a rustle of expectation, until it became evident he was not the King!

I was born in this room. It's now used for civil marriage ceremonies.

Finally, the chapel where newlyweds can go for a marriage blessing after the civil ceremony. The Vavasour family tombs are on the right.


Jackie H said...

Joyce you really did keep that quiet, will I have to curtsey to you the next time we meet!!

Seriously though I would have told everyone if it had happened to me!

So here are my boasts my great uncle Harry was a friend of David Bowes-Lyon, the queen mother's brother and we have some tenuous connection to the Rooseveldt (i.e. US preident) and Rhodes (i.e. founders of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe) families!

Jackie H said...

PS and another of my great uncles was one of President Kennedy's speech writers!

Mellow Yellow said...

No Jackie, you don't have to curtsey - I still do the ironing, you know!!You have some really interesting connections yourself - how about some stories (if you have them) about these fascinating family members and connections - that would be very interesting to hear more about!

Maylis said...

So great to see the place! You had told me about it, and now I can picture it exactly...

Sandyboots said...

i don't have any claim to any fame whatsoever!!! Though my dad was from Yorkshire!!LOL Glad to know you are really a yorkshire lass Joyce!! why did we not know all this before??

Mellow Yellow said...

I guess you didn't know about this 40 years ago Sandra because we were far more focussed on having a good time at college, looking ahead to the future and getting qualified! It's not something I think about or talk about often, but I'm rather proud of my Yorkshire birth (but totally East End of London genes - both parents families came from that area). And as I live in the north it's a very good "in" to be able to truthfully say that I was born in Yorkshire! I've only ever met one other person who was born in Hazelwood Castle - someone on the same OU summer school many years ago.

Barbara said...

Hi Joyce,

I'm very impressed ! I can understand your pride. Not everyone can say that they were born in a castle ;)
I just adore love family stories; you know that I'm nuts about genealogy to start.
That was so funny that your Dad was announced as the King when he arrived :) He had his minute of glory I think !

Arthur Jackson said...


I stumbled across your blog while researching areas throughout Yorkshire where my Father's family is from.

My father, Arthur Jackson (Sr.) was in fact born at Hazelwood as well! I will pass the link along to him.


Mellow Yellow said...

Hi Arthur,

Great to hear from you and to know that someone else out there knows about Hazelwood and that your dad was born there too!

Thanks for getting in touch and for passing on the link to him.


Arthur Jackson said...

Jackie I to was born in Hazlewood Castle in 1948. Art

Arthur Jackson said...

Hi there Jackie this is Arthur Jackson Sr. My son told me about you and this blog. If you like I can send you a news paper article around the time I was born. Art

Mellow Yellow said...

Hello Art - good to hear from you! It was me (Joyce, aka Mellow yellow) who was born in Hazelwood, not Jackie! She's the one who asked if she had to curtsey to me now (answer - no!.

Thank you - I'd be really interested to see the newspaper article you mention & will contact you via you new blog.