The seventeenth of September, 2012: This Important Part Of The Kingdom

Just a bijou Clutterbuckette today, as I’ve been very busy being nose-deep in digitised books as I research the final few chapters of my book on the history of Leeds (pre-order it now! Even though I patently haven’t finished it yet!).

Leeds Castle attracts more than 500,000 visitors a year, which would be great for the city of Leeds, if Leeds Castle was in the city of Leeds, but, of course, it isn’t; it’s in, or anyway near, the small Kent village of Leeds.

The proprietor of the brilliant Leeds guide My Life In Leeds (declaration of interest: I’m on there) informs me that the website attracts a steady stream of geographically illiterate (is there a word for that?) castle-fanciers. Fair enough; it’s an easy mistake to make.

But you’d think that the author of Annals Of Leeds, York And The Surrounding District, Containing, In Chronological Order, All The Most Interesting Events, That Have Occurred In, Or Relate To This Important Part Of The Kingdom; From The Earliest Period To The Present Time, Collected From The Works Of Numerous Authors, Newspapers, &c, &c (Joseph Johnson, 1860) would know better, wouldn’t you?

You’d be wrong.

“In this year [1139],” he tells us, “Leeds castle was besieged and taken by king Stephen, in his march against the Scots.”

He’s half right, except that the castle in question was – as you will have surmised – the one in Kent, not the one in the city of Leeds (which stood about where the Scarbrough pub is now, and was one of history’s most boring castles). If he besieged it in his march against the Scots then he was going a bloody funny way about getting to Scotland.

Besides, he’d routed the marauding Scots at Northallerton the previous year – in the Battle of the Standard – so there wasn’t any need for him to stop off at Leeds on his way home. Unless he wanted to buy some wool or something.

The siege and capture of Leeds Castle, Kent, was part of Stephen’s war with the empress Matilda. No need to drag Leeds into it at all.

So there, John Mayhall. Consider yourself well and truly bearded in your lair.

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