When I was a young girl I loved reading about our fascinating ancestors. When I read the following lines about my great great grandpa George Craner (1829-1904) my curiosity was piqued:
“As a child, George worked very hard on a farm… Most of the cultivation and planting of crops was done by hand. The plowing was done with a one-way plow; one horse and man to guide the plow. George’s parents did not think it was necessary for their children to receive an education through the schools, but believed in hard work and experience. They secured a job for him following a plow, filling a position known as a “Clod-Hopper.” However, there was a lady living in the same community where George was who took a special liking to him, and she paid for him to have a three-year course under a private tutor. That was the only formal schooling he received. When George finished this education, he worked at a castle in England at what was called “Gentlemen’s Service.” It was his duty to see that the tables were in the best of order at any time during the day when his master wanted to eat. He had to shine the silver and glassware. At this job he earned and saved enough money to bring him to the United States.”
Ever since reading this so many years ago, I have dreamed of finding that castle and visiting it! That dream came true on Tuesday, when we went to the Maxstoke Castle owned by Mr. Fetherston-Dilke, who was so kind to let us come, as we had missed the one day a year that it is open to the public. It took a little work to find a possible time, but it was worth it! A few months ago we found out that our good friend Tony T. also has family roots in Maxstoke, so he joined us us for this adventure! The castle dates back to the 1400’s, still has a moat surrounding the castle and has lots of history in addition to being the workplace of George!
Here are some engravings of the castle closer to the time of Grandpa George:
And this is the view of the castle as we drove from the road this last Tuesday.
We drove through the gatehouse into this courtyard, pulled the bell cord–see the Staffordshire knot to the left, and Mr. Fetherston-Dilke greeted us! (We took this photo at the end of our tour.)
We went inside this tunnel to a door that opened to some really steep spiral sandstone stairs up to the top, where we could see views all around the castle property.
Looking down to the courtyard from the tower.
Then he took us on a tour of part of the inside. We went through a long hall to a comfortable gathering spot and went up the stairs to the Banqueting Hall. I was itching to take pictures, but remembered that in the pamphlet it has specified that there was no photography allowed inside. I asked him about it and he said that was true, so I’ve included some photos from the pamphlet. In this room, the Banqueting Hall, there were many of portraits of family through the centuries, armour, swords and items from the 1600s. To the right is a 22 foot long oak Elizabethan shuffleboard made from 2 single lengths of oak. Above the fireplace is inscribed the family motto based on Proverbs 26:20 (valuing peace over strife). I loved the thought that George walked these halls and worked in these rooms and laid the tables in silver and glassware that he polished, that by his hard work here he earned his passage to America.
We then walked through the whispering door…….
….into the Oak Drawing Room, with its amazing carved wooden fireplace…
Gene and Mr. Fetherston-Dilke were so engrossed in conversation we didn’t want to interrupt them for these photos!
What a lovely experience! Then we stopped at some more sites in Maxstoke:
The Castle Farm House, where Tony’s Arnold relatives lived, next to the castle.
Lane named after Tony’s family.
Maxstoke Farmhouse where more of Tony’s Arnolds lived.
Skye Cottage, where Brigham Young stayed when he preached here in the early 1840s.
Darling, petite, Sylvia Hartop, owner of Skye cottage, who greeted us so warmly….
……and wanted us to sign her guest book!
When we mentioned to Sylvia that we had just toured the Maxstoke Castle, she said that was interesting because the Dilke family were the ones who asked Brigham Young to leave the village because his success was causing problems for the local church. Ironic and lovely that a Dilke descendant was so kind to welcome LDS missionaries a century and a half later. It also made me feel added admiration for George who joined the church as a 16 year old on New Year’s Day, 1846, which perhaps took courage with the opposition about. It would be fun to know how those next 5 years went, working at the castle, as a new convert, until he sailed for America at the age of 21.
Lovely day with the kind gentry and sweet lady of Maxstoke, our dear friend Tony and my sweet companion Gene! Cheerio!