MPBW Guide to Dover Castle

Dover Castle


I have noted a series of MPBW guide books that departed from the ‘traditional’ blue guide format (see Deal and Walmer Castles). A later addition to the series was R. Allen Brown’s 1967 guide to Dover Castle (price 2 s). The opening paragraph sets the tone: ‘Few if any fortified sites in England are more impressive than Dover Castle, and few even in Wales, the land of castles’.

R. Allen Brown also wrote a number of ‘blue guides’ including Orford Castle (1964), Rochester Castle (1969), and Castle Rising (1978).

Deal and Walmer Castles

Deal and Walmer Castles


Deal, Walmer and Sandown Castles were constructed by Henry VIII to protect The Downs off the coast of Kent. The guidebook to Deal and Walmer Castles was prepared by A.D. Saunders in 1963 for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works. (See earlier post on Deal Castle.) This guide has a section discussing the castles, and then separate descriptions of the two.

This is one of the new types of illustrated guidebooks emerging from the late 1950s to replace the older ‘blue’ guides. Other examples include: Stonehenge and Avebury (1959), Beaumaris Castle (1961), Monasteries in North Yorkshire (1962), Caernarfon Castle (1963), Grimes Graves (1963), Lullingstone Roman Villa (1963).

The Department of the Environment later produced an illustrated guidebook on Henry’s forts.

Jarlshof: The Ministry of Works



The prehistoric and Norse settlement of Jarlshof is at Sumburgh Head on Shetland. The Ministry of Works ‘Official Guide’ was prepared by J.R.C. Hamilton, and was published in 1953 (second impression 1956; price 1s 6d [= 7.5 p]). The guide is divided into separate sections:

  • The site (including ‘Discovery and excavation’)
  • History
  • Description
  • Table of periods and bibliography

There are 37 pages of text with a fold-out plan inside the rear cover.

The site was placed in guardianship in 1925, and one of its excavators was Professor V. Gordon Childe. Further excavations were conducted from 1949 to 1952, and these informed the present guide.

The guide includes a black and white reconstruction by Alan Sorrell which he had prepared for the Illustrated London News in 1949.

Boat on the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial

Sutton Hoo

© David Gill

The Deben Rowing Club were allowed to carry a boat onto the ship burial at Sutton Hoo this afternoon. I was invited to view the proceedings. The group photograph gives an idea of the size of the mound. The rowing boat was carried up from the Deben and through the wood, led in a procession by the Mayor of Woodbridge.

Sutton hoo

© David Gill

The Mayor of Woodbridge led the procession through the mounds.

Sutton Hoo

© David Gill

‘Three Women in a Boat’ with the Mayor of Woodbridge.

Sutton Hoo

© David Gill

The rowing boat on the Ship Burial with Tranmere House in the background.

Sutton Hoo

© David Gill

The posts mark the prow and stern of the ship burial.

Sutton Hoo

© David Gill

The towing boat leaves the site passing the reconstructed mound.

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey © David Gill

The ruined Cisertcian abbey at Rievaulx came under State Guardianship in 1917 on the death of (Lt. Col.) Lord Feversham on the Western Front in September 1916 [CWGC]. Its acquisition was welcomed by Sir Charles Peers. During the 1920s he removed  some 90,000 tonnes of debris from the site. Following Peers’ retirement some reconstruction work was conducted.

From 1933 the abbey appeared in LNER railway posters (see here). Visitors were encouraged to travel to nearby Helmsley station.

The abbey had been founded in 1132.

Caistor Roman Town

Caistor St Edmund

Caistor St Edmund: line of the southern defences © David Gill

The Roman town of Caistor St Edmund (Venta Icenorum) lies to the south of Norwich. Particularly good views of the site can be gained from the railway. The site is now managed by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust and there are a series of routes (and interpretation boards) to help visitors to explore the site. The line of the walls are easy to distinguish.

Caistor excavations

Excavations outside the southern defences

Recent excavations to the south of the walls have shown that occupation continued outside the walls.

English Heritage Handbook to Ashby de la Zouch Castle

Ashby de la Zouuche


English Heritage was launched in April 1984. The new guidebook series appeared with a red masthead and a picture of the site on the cover (see, for example, Corbridge). However the first guides (known as ‘Handbooks’) continued the tradition of the Ministry of Works / MPBW / Department of Environment ‘blue guides’. Take, for example, the guide to Ashby de la Zouch Castle in Leicestershire by T. L. Jones. It was first published as a Department of the Environment blue guide in 1980, and then republished in 1984 for the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. The title page also included the new English Heritage logo (including the ‘keep’). The Ashby de la Zouch guide has a plan of the site printed inside the rear cover.

Ashby de la Zouche Castle

Title page (1984)