We met up at Malton, near York in North Yorkshire last week for the occasion of Andrew's 30th birthday. Both the Nicholson's and some of my family originate from the expansive county. The Nicholsons hail from around York and the Crawshaw Simpsons, my mother's paternal family, from the old West Riding.
Malton is a smart market town on the River Derwent. It still boasts a thriving livestock auction at the centre, whereas many towns have banished their sales to the margins, like Skipton in Craven, or dispensed with them altogether. Numerous riding stables border the town, so much so, that Malton is sometimes called the Newmarket of the North. Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor to the area. In Chancery Lane, a red brick solicitors office stands solemnly, with a plaque declaring that it was the inspiration for the the premises of Scrooge and Marley (London) in Dickens' A Christmas Carol. There is an array of stylish shops, tea rooms and a sprinkling of traditional ironmongers and country and food stores at hand. We walked across the sloping site of the Roman fort of Derventio, strategically located above the river, which had been a vital trading highway for over a millennium ~ although quiet today. A winding wooden board walk, resembling a gentle roller coaster follows the riverside.
The City of York is thought to have been first founded nearly 2000 years ago by the Roman settlers, who named it Eboracum. There are fascinating buildings from nearly every century round every corner, as well as sophisticated shops, theatre, museums and places to dine. The River Ouse is a grand, yet harmonious watercourse, home to busy tour boats, some commercial and sports and pleasure craft, as well as a selection of residential vessels.
Andrew occasionally volunteers with the Churches Conservation Trust CCT, a nationwide charity protecting and sharing historic churches. Many churches saved by the Trust had previously redundant, or were in danger of being lost. One of organisations busiest buildings is Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, in the shadow of the famous Minster and tucked behind a bustling street of shops. The church is largely fifteenth century and has a wealth of character, including fine stained glass and rare wooden box pews. A number of bubbly and bright younger people help at the church, which is very encouraging. Several of the volunteers of the CCT met up with Andrew and other guests for a charming birthday afternoon tea.
Just up the road is Castle Howard, recognised as one of the grandest houses in the country, set amidst rolling hills and woodland. The great central dome soars up from the playfully decorated central building, a master class of high baroque architecture, initially designed by John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor from 1699. Castle Howard is still occupied by the Howard family, a branch of the Ducal Norfolk Howards, who had a large palace adjoining the river in Norwich during the middle ages, amongst other great residences. The house and grounds are well known as Brideshead, following two screen adaptations of Evelyn Waugh's enchanting novel Brideshead Revisited, based upon some real life events of the 1920's and post war period.
Inside the house, the rooms have have retained their character. Alas, this is not always the case with many historic buildings. There is little legal protection offered for interiors. In this way, many hotel and leisure companies and the like can take on a property and strip anything they wish, including fireplaces. To help sustain the estate for the future, a well stocked farm shop, café and other facilities have been established. We sampled some seasonal Christmas pudding ice cornets before leaving.
Yorkshire as Norfolk, is renowned for its friendliness and hospitality. The Clan Nicholson motto, 'By Generosity' is very true.