Clitheroe Castle

I went to Clitheroe Castle this afternoon. It’s been on my mind since I spent last weekend giving The de Lacy Inheritance a final edit.

There’s been a castle on the site since shortly after the Norman Conquest. The original would have been a timber structure and this stone keep was built around 1187 by Robert de Lacy, so at the time my novel is set it was only a few years old. Much of the story is set in and around the castle and in the photo below you can clearly see that it is built on an outcrop of limestone.

The small keep originally stood within a protective curtain wall with a gatehouse to the eastern side and within the bailey there were other buildings (possibly wooden) including the chapel of St Michael. Sadly no trace of these remain.

There are a couple of stories that account for the hole in the side of the keep. One says that the devil through a rock from Pendle Hill. The other says it was made by Cromwell’s army so that the castle couldn’t be used as a stronghold against them.

The site has recently undergone some redevelopment and now has a new and very interesting museum that has a range of exhibits about the history of the area as well as the castle.

Polishing!

No, not the furniture, the novel.

The de Lacy Inheritance was originally due for publication last autumn and I hadn’t looked at the text since around this time last year. I thought I was happy with it then, but when I opened up the file at the end of last week, wondering if I could lift a quote that might serve as a shoutline for the cover, I began to see things that needed changing. At least I thought they needed changing. I think the truth is that I will never be completely satisfied with what I’ve written and could go on taking a word out here and putting a comma in there for ever.

So I’ve spat on my finger and plastered down its unruly hair. I’ve wiped the imaginary smudge from its cheek and like a good parent I’ve let it go. Now I have to wait to see what someone else will make of it. Someone who doesn’t love it like I do and can see its faults. I’m hoping its going to get an A* and won’t need too much remedial work before it’s ready for print.

Out of the darkness into the light.

It’s been reassuring these past few days to notice that the daylight is lasting until almost 5pm and that when the sun does shine it has a quality that promises springtime. Today is an important celebration of light. It is Candlemass.

Candlemass is a Christian celebration that marks forty days after the birth of Jesus Christ – the day on which his mother Mary would have gone to the temple to be purified. The tradition of purification following childbirth has only very recently declined and although in later years it was marked as a thanksgiving ceremony it was (and may still be) surrounded in superstition. After I was born my mother’s neighbour would not allow her to visit her house until she had been ‘churched’ lest she should bring in some bad luck or evil spirit.

Candlemass is also associated with Jesus as the light of the world and is one of the ceremonies that survived Henry VIII’s Reformation. He proclaimed in 1539:

‘On Candlemass day it shall be declared, that the bearing of candles is clone in memory of Christ, the spiritual light, whom Simeon did prophesy, as it is read in the church that day.’

You’ll notice that he did not make reference to the purification of Mary.

The day is also associated with the predictions of the coming of springtime. If any of you still have any holly lurking from Christmas it should have been taken down last night:

‘Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletoe;
Instead of holly now upraise
The greener box for show.’

An old European (German I think) proverb relates that if the badger comes out of his sett on Candlemass Day and finds snow he will ‘walk abroad’, but if the sun is shining he will return to his hole. Which is why some of you may be celebrating Groundhog Day. Let us hope for snow and for an early Spring.