Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Britain's scariest castle
Rather than a location that has been featured in a horror film, I thought I'd introduce you to a location that hasn't been used in a horror film but should have been.
To the best of my knowledge, the only time that Berry Pomeroy Castle in Devon has been featured in a movie it was in one of those ballboilingly witless Comic Strip Presents Famous Five parodies.
Never, so far as I'm aware, has it been recognised for what it is: the greatest unused standing horror film set in Britain.
In the book James Herbert's Dark Places, the great Mr H writes: "It's said that present-day visitors to the site frequently shiver from inexplicable chills, even on bright afternoons."
You can't see it from the main road. You arrive by turning down a long, winding road shrouded on both sides by overhanging trees that entirely obscure your view both left and right. Then, suddenly the road widens, you come to a clearing, and there she is...
True, it is no longer as eerie it was. Built in the fifteenth century, and at one time the home of Edward Seymour, governor of the boy king Edward VI and brother of Henry VIII's wife Jane, it has been a ruin since the early eighteenth century.
For generations after, its origins and history were lost beneath a mantle of ivy and neglect. When I used to visit it as a young boy it was still in total, untended disrepair; you could drive up and wander in at any time, and watch bits fall off the walls. At dusk especially, the atmosphere was extraordinary.
Lately it has been purchased by English Heritage, who have done some excellent renovation (and discovered a splendid late medieval wall painting beneath a thick growth of moss) but also quite a bit of restoration, which always seems to subtract at least as much as it adds. Now you have to pay to get in, everything is signposted and labelled, the dangerous bits are fenced off, and something of the romance has inevitably gone.
But it's still an amazing place; every young boy's dream of a spooky castle, with ramparts, dungeons, narrow concealed passageways, and a wealth of ghost stories which, if I believed in such things, I'd be bothered to tell you about.
If you'd like to see some more great photographs of Berry Pomeroy Castle, please click here.