Photo Story: The Lantern of Warwickshire

"This part of the castle was that "lantern", where Elizabeth would once have been able to look back at me from those windows. If you look closely, you might see the remnants of those fireplaces. The setting winter sun lights those windows again and casts its glow on all that remains of the people long since gone."

After finally unpacking my many boxes, doing a few necessary tasks and finishing quarantine, I at last had an opportunity to turn my mind back towards my photography. Now in my home county of Warwickshire (England), I decided to gather my beloved camera gear and take a Saturday pre-Christmas afternoon trip to a local site of interest: Kenilworth Castle.


For those of you who don't know, Kenilworth Castle was once an incredibly grand castle and of real importance to English history and the story of the monarchy. Originally built in the 12th century, much was added to it over the centuries. Monarchs stayed here (most famously, Elizabeth I in 1575) and it was destroyed (sadly) by Oliver Cromwell in the 1600s. The stories this place can tell are incredible.


With a flask of hot mint tea, I walked along the old path to the castle entrance. My first stop was to buy a hot cheese and potato pasty that I ate in the cold air as I admired the old building and considered my shots. It was quiet but several families enjoyed picnics at benches, a small pleasure in these very limiting COVID times.


As soon as I could, I unpacked my camera and headed off around the perimeter of the castle, trudging on the damp grass. Alone, I gazed up at those silent and battered walls, immense towering window frames gazing back down upon me. How long these walls have stood here! The low winter sun cast a golden light over the ageing stones: another day, another century. Ancient graffiti could be seen - I saw some from 1881.


A local volunteer, so very passionate about the castle's story, engaged me for what must have been an hour. He told me the fascinating human stories of this place, largely about Elizabeth I and the 90 days she spent here, before leaving suddenly at 9pm one summer night. A wing of the castle was her residence and in the pitch black night of the 1500s, the fireplaces and 24ft windows glowed bright and could be seen for miles around in an era of no streetlights. A famous local Warwickshire resident, Shakespeare, is known to have called it 'The Lantern of Warwickshire'.


As the cold began to freeze my hands, I set up my tripod to capture the shot you see above in the gentle warmth of the sun. This part of the castle was that "lantern", where Elizabeth would once have been able to look back at me from those windows. If you look closely, you might see the remnants of those fireplaces. The setting winter sun lights those windows again and casts its glow on all that remains of the people long since gone.


As the sun went down and I headed back to the car to head home, I was struck by what the man told me: that this place will be gone completely in 900 years. I glanced back at the immense towering structure and what was once an enormous moat, now dry. We may know history, but if only we could know the true hearts of those who once lived, just as we live today. What would they think of what it had become and indeed, what we have become?


This is the start of my photography from my local area and I'll be updating my website in due course! Have you ever visited a place that fascinates you? Is there anywhere local to you that you like to visit or really want to check out? Let me know in the comments!


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