52. British History Arise

@Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England.

I never knew about this place until I visited; ‘The Vicar of Wakefield’, the novel by Irish author Oliver Goldsmith was something which I came to know about, only later; for until then, I knew only one vicar, the priest who gave me handshake after a Sunday Mass; and that would contribute to my ignorance level which had to be obliterated slowly and steadily. This city located by the River Calder, was witness to a lot of wandering from me and should be glad not to see more from me, or might be missing my presence at least upto some extent. The city was even in the Domesday Book and its historic importance is not to be forgotten with that ease. Wakefield was indeed a wonderful place to start being a tourist, along with Leeds which were both in close proximity to each other; beginning from a city which was not even in the list of places to visit or could be visited, became the city most visited in that journey which was more memorable than the greatest trip that ever happened before that. There was life right from the name of the city; enough to awaken me to that field of battle which is life; there was no doubt about the city’s ability to inspire and motivate at a high level.

Right from the Sunday Mass at St. Austin’s Church, it was journey to remember, in all ways possible; for the beauty of that church would surely be exceeded by bigger churches of splendour, but that was a humble and simple beginning with certain amount of beauty. From staring at the Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin, located on a medieval bridge over the River Calder in such a way that it was impossible to determine what it was. Being the oldest of the surviving bridge chapels in England, its importance had no limits though. The chapel which was used for worship until the Reformation when all of Wakefield’s chantry chapels were closed. The bridge chapel is supposed to have survived just because it is a structural element of the bridge. Even when we look at it, they are not to be treated as separate identities; even as there is a contradiction there concerning the bridge and the chapel. Wakefield Cathedral is the other important place of worship, and with the tallest spire in Yorkshire, dominates the skyline of the city as it is the tallest building in the City of Wakefield. The cathedral has Anglo Saxon origins even as it has undergone many changes from the first building on the spot. It is a Gothic structure with small, but beautiful interiors; still quite big considering the size of the churches back at home.

Being at Wakefield Cathedral was quite a feeing and so was staring at the bridge chapel; the need to go more into history then started trying to fly; that desire had got back its wings and it led to one place, Sandal Castle which was a ruined medieval castle overlooking the River Calder. This was where the Battle of Wakefield took place in 1460, one of the major battles of the Wars of the Roses; those series of dynastic civil wars fought for the throne of England between supporters of two powerful rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster with the red rose as badge and the House of York with white rose as badge. The opposing forces were a Lancastrian army and the army of Richard, Duke of York in which the latter was killed and his army was destroyed. There was the feeling of standing on a battlefield where so many were killed and their blood made the land fertile as if it wanted that blood like a vampire hidden in green clothing. This was the first time which I could feel history coming alive right in the same sequence by which I read it; the small world of the ruins of Sandal Castle was more than enough for that feeling, even as the castle before destruction would have provided more of that, but unfortunately, I was born in the wrong century; too late to witness history and also too late to see the greatest events.

During the English Civil War, when Sandal Castle belonged to the Royalists, there were many sieges of the castle and combined with neglect, it was left in ruins. This stone castle which was built over seven hundred years ago, some of it already being part of what was there two hundred years before that. The first castle was built by William de Warenne, the son of one of the noblemen who came to England from Normandy with William the Conquerer in 1066 during the Norman invasion of Britain. He owned the Manor of Wakefield and was in need of a place to defend himself when he came to the city. His faily owned castle almost continuously for another two hundred and fourty years before coming into royal ownership and being demolished. There is the clear description of all this history at the spot of ruins of Sandal Castle. There is a breathtaking view from the top of the mound on which the castle once stood; it is the natural beauty of Wakefield; something which would help someone to be ready before a visit to the Lake District; as this is some beauty which is so magnificient that everything else in the world is forgotten for a minute; even the Sandal Castle and the whole history behind it.

The ruins of a great castle, a battlefield, a river and greenery along with the cool breeze; what could be better than all these at the same time? There are not many things which can substitute to such a situation, but Nostell Priory did come close, even as that was the best it could do. Nostell Priory is a Palladian house; belonging to an architecture inspired from the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio’s works, and is so close to the nature that it made me wonder how it is possible. If this was somewhere back at home, there would be flats made on all these beautiful sides of nature and it would be exploited to the core; but there I saw all of nature, so perfect and as wild as it could get, with even cows roaming around with no fear; they were so fat and they had more order than some people; they were as if following a time table as they walked around. The Priory was a twelfth century Augustinian foundation, dedicated to St Oswald which was abandoned by the monks due to the Reformation and the resulting Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. But a holy presence might have still remained there, as there was so much peace even among the creatures; there was something special about the water bodies and the trees too, as the divinity still seemed to exist in the place.

Except for the historic significance, the Sandal Castle and the Nostell Priory are not to be seen as separate things as they both were that close to the nature that there were doubts about what they really were; other than being inspiration to the poets of nature. The Sandal Castle was too ruined to be called something of an architecture while Nostell Priory had a more significant nature side than the limited architecture which required to pay for the visit, except for the Obelisk which required such a long walk which made me think of walking all the way back home. The different crop fields on the road side and a golf course would contribute to the beauty of nature at a lower level; as the best of them had already become a treat for the eyes and also the soul where it would be stored for the rest of the life; may be to be used in future, somewhat in a situation which is more poetic than what I am doing right now. For the people who don’t know much about this city, it is Wakefield and it is an extraordinary place to visit; for it has everything as long as one doesn’t become too greedy and ask for something which is not fit to be in the city. I would support Wakefield football club about which I know nothing about, just for the love of this city.

Diving out —>