Text by Mike Edwards
Photographs by Mike Edwards

Did anyone see the dramatization of Henry the VIII on television a while ago?

Actor Ray Winstone, who had real trouble hiding his cockney accent, played Henry, but he certainly looked the part.

Henry the VIII (1509-1547) was a gutsy powerful king. He had the courage and audacity to break away from the Catholic Church, which was the most prolific religious power on this planet at that time.

Henry’s right hand man was called Thomas Wolsey. With the King having skullduggery with various wives, Wolsey slipped from favor and he was kicked out of court in 1530. Where did he go?

Actually, not all that far from Knottingley. The town was called Cawood, just outside Selby. Situated on the banks of the River Ouse, Cawood is a place bursting with history. Just like Pontefract it too had a castle that was pulled down by Cromwell after the civil war. Henry pardoned Wolsey who was to become archbishop of York. The Cardinal had been stripped of his wealth and material possessions. Pretty impressive possessions!

Hampton Court Palace in Surrey was a far cry from his digs in Cawood. With sixty acres of gardens the palace today still remains a labyrinth of courts and cloisters. As you walk around, one cannot help feeling engulfed in history. Gothic and Tudor architecture merge together towered over by lofty turrets and buttresses galore. Centered in this jungle of ornate chimneystacks is Clock Court. Famous for the astronomical clock made for Henry VIII in 1540. This gilded masterpiece indicates the hour, month, day, and the number of days since the beginning of the year. It also shows the phases of the moon. It is obvious the clock was designed before the discoveries of Galileo and Copernicus, as the Sun is shown to be revolving around the Earth.

This stunning mixture of architecture is the result of numerous monarchs’ who have been attracted to Hampton Court. Charles I was imprisoned here in 1647. Later while the king was suffering from a rather extreme haircut, the great lord protector of England, he who didn’t believe in the divine rights of Kings, (Yes Oliver Cromwell.) Went to stay at Hampton Court. His daughter was even married there.

Yes, the serious piece of Baroque edifice above is the same palace. If you look closely at photo 4 you can see the Tudor style ending.

Christopher Wren built it for William III (1689-1702) Wren had a good pedigree. He was also building St Paul’s Cathedral.

Like any ancient building the palace is bursting with ghost stories.

My favorite is the ‘Haunted Gallery’ the actual gallery was built by Cardinal Wolsey (Oh not him again!) linking the chapel to the rest of the palace.

The ghost is supposed to be that of Catherine Howard, (Henry’s fifth wife.) Before she was sent to the Tower of London, for adultery, she was held at Hampton Palace. Apparently she escaped from her room and ran along the gallery begging Henry’s forgiveness. She never got to the chapel, the guards caught her and she was dragged screaming back to her room. Her ghost is still supposed to haunt the gallery.

Even though Wolsey had been pardoned certain people in court were viciously quick to take his place. Before he could enjoy retirement in his ‘Windsor of the North’ he was arrested for treason. Legend has it that he attempted to escape through a tunnel from Cawood Castle to the Ferry Inn. A dubious legend as any tunnel in that area, below the water table would be at risk from the River Ouse.

It appears that God rescued Cardinal Wolsey from the horrors of the Tower. He died at Leicester Abbey on the 29th of November 1530.



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