That’s me said the woman in the yellow. A yellow hat, yellow coat and yellow scarf signalled artist in the area from a hundred yards. The sausage dog called Gerty on an extendable lead outside the van signalled an artist in the area with style. Are you Bill by anychance? she asked. I’ve had lots of chats with people coming down here and they all say I must talk to Bill.
The old man brushed the compliment aside and ploughed on, well I better just give you a bit of background…
Would you like a cup of tea or anything? What about a biscuit?
I might have one of those at the end of out chat he said eyeing the small mound of chocolate brownies and flapjack squares on the paper plate, I’m not a Clitheronian.
Yes I hear that. I said we wouldn’t hold it against you…
I’ve been here nearly fifty years and I’ve been interested in the local history right from the beginning. I’ve been coming into Brungerley Park on a regular basis for nearly fifty years and enjoying it. Henry the Sixth was captured you know…
On that bridge? [Amy pointed out of the back door of her van to the bridge at the bottom of the park.]
Well not on that bridge it didn’t exist. That bridge was only built in 1816. There’s a plaque in the middle.
Right. But somebody was captured on that bridge.
Now this is where it’s all been getting confused…
Because people have been telling me, well people keep telling me James the Fifth, Henry the Something was captured on that bridge. All different things. And every time they say it it’s a different number.
This is concrete because I’ve done my research in the British Library on this. Henry the Sixth was captured here in 1465 on what was called the Hipping Stones. Right? Now then I feel sorry for Henry the Sixth in way but this was quite a decisive part in the Wars of the Roses. He’d been hiding and dashing away, the Lancastrians had been beaten from 1461, he been in Scotland and various places. And the Lancastrians were defeated again in May 64, the Battle of Hexham, because he wasn’t a soldier at all, he wasn’t interested in it, he ran away. For several months or so he was hiding in part of Westmorland and Cumberland and Lancashire and Yorkshire and eventually landed up here. Now you know about Boland and all that?
[Silent nods from Amy and me in the van in the vain hope of getting away with knowing nothing about English history.]
So we can be quite precise about the time he was on the run. He was on the run for about a year after the Battle of Hexham.
[Gerty barks. She knew that.]
He was caught and taken prisoner here and then down to London and was imprisoned there for the next six years in the Tower of London, not in a great prison way because it was a Royal residence as well. He was let out for about six months when the Kingmaker, the Earl of Warwick. Yeah?
[Silent unsure nods again. Confident knowing barks from Gerty.]
So the Kingmaker, the Earl of Warwick, swapped sides, he’d been very much a Yorker because there were all family troubles and things like that. Except for that six months when Warwick took him out and let him become King again. As soon as the Yorkers came back and had the last battle and so on he was murdered. He was an unfortunate chap. I mean who would want to become King of England at the age of nine months?
[Low murmuring hmmms from us and barks of agreement from you know who.]
Bill carried on: Things went wrong we were still involved with France and things went downhill. We began to lose in France.
[Manic yapping from Gerty. Bloody know it all.]
Sorry just let me shut this one up. Gerty be quiet. We’re getting history lesson.
Sorry about that she’s not the brightest button.
Well she’s not that interested in Henry the Sixth…
No, she’s more into Henry the Eighth.
Well Henry the Sixth was king at nine months and it was the nobility ruling the country for a very long time and then they had mental health problems as well and all that. But he’s still remembered for two things which involve the country today he founded Eton and the Prime Minister went to Eton and all that kind of thing and he also founded King’s College Cambridge. There was an arranged marriage with a French princess and she was a very formidable character and she ruled the roost from the age of fifteen and so on and so forth. He had a rough life. He had mental problems. His father of course was Henry the Fifth who we all remember won the big battles and so on died within a year of his son being born.
[Gerty lets out a peal of squeals and the conversation takes a sharp turn in another direction.]
The main thing I want you to know about here is the bridge. The hipping stones are here and when they built that and the river backed up that’s when they had to put some extra hipping stones and then they built a wooden bridge but it didn’t last for very long so then they had to build another.
You can see the hipping stones when the river goes low can’t you?
In 1992 the weir was not working because it was being repaired and the river naturally went down because it was a hot summer so for the first time for a couple of hundred years these hipping stones were revealed. The five hipping stones that were put in in 1784 we saw them in 1992 and it might be another two hundred years before we see them again.
What are they made out of?
Just stone. Blocks of stones. Like stepping stones. It’s how they used to cross the river. The river got wider. Before there used to be only smaller stones. It is very rare is that when the stones appear.
Why are they called hipping stones?
Now I’ve just been looking up that and we’ll have to do a bit more research. It’s a fairly well-known word. It’s the kind of word that Judy whatever her name is or Sue on Countdown might know.
We must settle that it was Henry the Sixth captured here.
That’s concrete now.
It really is. So we know how many Lancastrian kings there were right? And how many Yorkers kings? We know that?
[Blank faces filled up slowly again with lack of knowledge.]
Well you’ll not forget this when I tell you. Three Lancastrian kings. Three Yorkers kings.
What was the significance of his capture?
The significance was the War of the Roses had started in 1455 and the Yorkers had won the first battle. They didn’t immediately take over or try to. There was an uneasy peace until 1459. That was partly because his wife, the French princess, who was still only in her early twenties, she had a son so there was possibly another Lancastrian to follow Henry the Sixth. As nothing changes whether it’s the fifteenth century or the twenty-first people were doubtful about who was the father. Henry the Sixth pretended that he didn’t know anything about it at all. It’s that kind of thing that all the nobility worked up against each other you see. It’s a family thing. Clitheroe has been concerned with it again through the man who had the honour of Clitheroe for a long time because of a chap called De Lacy. He lost two sons in the early part of the fourteenth century. One falling from a castle wall and one drowning in a well in another castle so he married his daughter off into the Dukes of Lancaster into the House of Lancaster. They then became Dukes and that’s why when Henry the Fourth became the first Lancastrian King in 1399 the honour of Clitheroe came and stayed with all the monarchs all the way through until Charles the Second gave it back to one of his generals. It’s fantastic stuff really. And there we are. What about you?
So this is me and this is the project called Exploring Landscapes and I’ve been commissioned by this company called Creativity Works. It’s not just me there are another six other artists situated around and we’re all finding out different stories about parks in the area and what goes on here. So this is why I’ve pitched up here. Another part of the commission is in 2013 there is going to be an event and we’re finding out what people would want that to be.
Would you have the authority to have a blue plaque put on the gate to commemorate Henry the Sixth’s capture? In two years time it would be 550 years since it happened.
[Gerty barks in approval.]