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The Chapel Lemprière Biography Lemprière Article 1924

Article on the History of Red House
Written by CC Lemprière (1924)

What follows is an extract from an article by C.C. Lemprière which was published in The Carterian, the Magazine of Red House School (which was later renamed The Cavalier), in April 1924. His writings were prompted by plans to excavate the moated site at Red House.

It has been rumoured that excavations are to be begun in the School grounds. It affords an interesting speculation to consider what might be found, and is certainly a pleasant means of fixing certain general dates in boys' minds, if such a hobby at all appeals to them.

It is not, for example, entirely unreasonable to fancy the spot may have been at one time during the Roman occupation the site of a Roman General's seat or country house - say in the days of Severus, Constantius and Helen and Constantine, their son, when York was regarded as, and called, "Altera Roma" i.e. the other capital of the Roman Empire.

Red House is adjacent to the banks of the Ouse, which was the great natural communication between York and the outlying positions of Aldboro and Boroughbridge. It would be defended on the South and West by the great forest from York to Knaresborough, of which Redhouse Wood is but a poor memory today: it would be defended to the North and East by the artificial moat, the natural stream we see today, and the marshy ground of the "ings" or river fields beyond, on which side it would be most liable to attack. If, then, an expert did tell us where to dig, and if, by previous visit to the towns above mentioned and an inspection of the Roman remains - pavements, pottery, bronze work and the like - we were on the lookout for some evidence of the same, and if we ascertained the depth at which to expect them - say an inch for every hundred years - well! we might find something, even if not enough to prove our hypothesis.

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A map showing the area around the modern Red House

It is perhaps a little less reasonable to suppose the spot had an existence some 400 years later as an outlook for the marauding Danish Vikings in the days before Canute and Sweyn; in the days, that is, when an earlier monastery was existing at Nun Monkton. It does no harm to picture the watcher catching sight from Red House of the advancing sails of their beaked galleys, and hurrying through the forest by some well-known track to take the news, while the invaders followed the more circuitous and unknown course of the river in pursuit of plunder. The early monastery, as the history in the village church tells us, was plundered and destroyed in the Ninth Century.

Or again it may, at this period, have had an importance in the fact that just over the river, in the hamlet of the Benings or Beningborough about this same period, was situated the Palace of the Kings of Northumbria, and here would be the spot south of the river, for an outpost whether for friend or foe. It is at least interesting to note that a little higher up, where the School bathing place now is, a suggestion of a ford is to be seen, and with good reason for such a stronghold on the southern bank. It was certainly selected a few years ago by one of the cavalry regiments stationed in York as the best spot for practising a passage of the River Ouse, the water shallowing for some distance either side.

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Red House schoolboys bathing in the shallows of the River Ouse in about 1911. Perhaps this is the location of an ancient crossing point of the River.

What traces one might expect to find of these days - wild, barbaric days some 250 years before the Conquest - one cannot say. The hull of an old boat, fishing oddments, empty shells. We can find live mussels in the sands today, and their contents may once have formed a portion of the outposts larder.

When, however, we make our third jump across the track of time, and span an odd 500 years or so, we come to the very modern dates of the 14th Century, and here we are on firm ground and our suppositions and fancies merge into fact, as our excavations are sure to prove. We know that in 1335 - the 7th year of Edward III reign and some few years before the battles of Crècy and Poitiers and the Siege of Calais - one of the nobilis minores, a certain Robert Oughtred, was of family sufficiently known and sufficiently established here to empark by leave of his Majesty the lands at Scagglethorpe Monkton by the Moor, and place his deer therein......"

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The moated site at Red House in 2004 covered by sycamores. The mound upon which the first "Rede Howse" was built is easily made out, as are three sides of the moat.

And from this epoch to the sale of the estate in 1561 to the Slingsby family and the erection thirty years later of our Chapel and fifty years later of Red House itself is but a step. About 1600AD, Sir Henry Slingsby, following the example of the gentlemen of England of Tudor times, built a bigger mansion outside the old moated defensive site, no doubt using the old materials for the new home.

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Some excavations of the moated site being carried out by staff and pupils of the school. I am not sure if these are the actual excavations previewed by Lemprière as the date on the photo predates the article

C.C. Lemprière
Founder and Headmaster (1902-22) of Red House Preparatory School

Taken from "The Carterian" April 1924