Another Tower, Another Number

Tower in Poland exterior

The ducal tower of Siedlęcin, Lower Silesia, Poland. Photo courtesy of Artur Wosz – see link below for origin

I was struck by this interesting post about wall paintings in Poland.

Part of our training at Longthorpe as volunteers includes telling visitors about the significance of numbers to the Medieval mind.

We have the Three Living and the Three Dead:DSC_0044


The Wheel of the Five Senses:

King with Wheel of five senses, boar

and the Seven Ages of Man.  We also have the Twelve Apostles, and the Twelve Labours of the Month.  What we don’t have is the Nine Worthies.

The blog from Freelance History Writer explains that the Nine Worthies were a group of nine powerful rulers and the greatest conquerors who ever lived. They included three classical pagan heroes (Alexander the Great, Hector, and Julius Caesar), three Jews (David, Joshua and Judas Maccabeus), and three Christians (Charlemagne, Arthur and Godfrey de Bouillon). In medieval art, architecture and illuminations the Nine Worthies motif became enormously popular. Some of the finest examples have survived until today, most notably in Italy, but also in Central Europe.

The blog explores some sites in Poland. One is a Medieval Tower, dating, we are told, from 1313 – 1316.  This is almost contemporary with Longthorpe Tower.  It’s grander, though, since it was “probably built by Duke Henry I of Jawor.  In the 1320’s/1330’s, the said duke commissioned what is considered its greatest treasure. According to recent research it was then that the southern wall of the Great Hall was adorned with paintings depicting the marvelous exploits of Sir Lancelot of the Lake.”

The addition of the wall paintings follows a similar timeline to the addition of the wall paintings at Longthorpe.

Our timeline explains that Longthorpe Tower was built by Robert Thorpe, Steward to the Abbey of Peterborough in about 1309/10, and the paintings were added somewhere between 1320-1340.  Extremely close in dates!  Could it be that this was an international fashion trend?

Even more exciting – the ducal tower has a window seat inside which reminded me of the window seats on our upper floor.  I wonder, could the enlarged Jacobean window behind our till on the first floor have once looked like this?

Tower in Poland

The Great Hall of the ducal tower of Siedlęcin with the unique set of the wall paintings depicting the marvelous exploits of Sir Lancelot of the Lake.   Photo courtesy of Artur Wosz

Window seat April 2018 1

A similar window on the upper floor of Longthorpe Tower.  Photo author’s own.

I was very excited to see how similar these windows are in construction and outline.  It appears that there was an international fashion for this type of construction.

Paintings, too, seemed to be the height of fashion and a mark of status.

Were these decorative features following a trend set at a Royal level?

The Painted Chamber, Westminster was commissioned by Henry III (reigned 1216 to 1272) and the paintings took place over a lengthy period.

More information can be found here,

and here.


22 thoughts on “Another Tower, Another Number

  1. This ties in nicely with Susan Abernethy’s guest post, by Katarzyna Ogrodnik-Fujcik! You may find it in “The Freelance History Writer,” offered by “World Press.” Anyone interested in this would surely want to read the post “Discovering King Arthur: Arthurian Wall Paintings preserved in Poland.”

    I’d seen such towers in my travels, but never knew the treasures they might contain!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was indeed an international fashion trend. Having the walls of your castle adorned with such expensive and fashionable paintings was a guarantee of gaining even more prestige than your social status already assured. Thank you for linking to my post on Susan Abernethy’s blog. We know Longthorpe Tower and its beautiful paintings well. And indeed, yours and our tower and their murals are extremely close in dates. Should you have any questions concerning our tower and its greatest treasure, feel free to email us. Here’s the

    Kindest regards,
    Katarzyna Ogrodnik-Fujcik
    volunteer at the court of Duke Henryk I of Jawor


    • Thank you so much for your reply, Katarzyna, it is very exciting to be in contact with a similar volunteer in another country. It’s also exciting to know that our quiet village was in touch with international fashion trends!


      • Siedlęcin is a quiet village, as well 🙂 The tower was founded on the then ducal hunting territories, near the River Bóbr crossing. The Arthurian paintings, without a doubt, must have raised the Duke’s prestige and standing among other Silesian dukes. If you would like to learn more about the tower, paintings and annual archaeological excavations carried out at the site, I highly recommend this online course (English subtitles available), viewer-friendly with short videos:

        And I cannot agree more – it is very exciting to be in contact with a similar volunteer in another country, especially the one taking care of a similar historic monument 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Katarzyna. I have followed the online course with great interest. I now hope to pass this link to the other volunteers at our Tower. There are many similarities, for example, the proximity of the manor house, and the large cellars in both.


      • Yes, indeed. My post has sparked quite an interest. Together with the readers we have been wondering what precisely Sir Robert’s position was? In the English Heritage text we’re reading he was not a knight. But he must have been wealthy enough to have the walls of his tower adorned with such a luxurious decoration. After all, such paintings were an expensive undertaking. We would be grateful for additional information.


  4. Hi Katarzyna

    Your question does indeed interest me. I have some answers based on the information we are given when we start our training as volunteers.
    In a nutshell, the Thorpe family were originally peasants who gained their freedom during the turbulent reign of King John (see my latest post).
    They worked their way up in a very similar fashion to a famous later medieval family, the Pastons (see my post on the Pastons). Both the earlier Thorpes and the later Pastons used education and the law as a means of advancement. We think that this is why educational themes appear in the wall paintings.

    In about 1293 Robert Thorpe was a lawyer, and by 1300 this same Robert Thorpe is recorded as being the steward of the Abbey of Peterborough. This would be a well-paid position, very responsible and prestigious. The Abbey is just two miles away from the Tower, and what is left of it is now Peterborough Cathedral. This is also an internationally famous site. The Tower is mentioned under “c.1300”

    The Cathedral celebrates 900 years this year.

    This Robert Thorpe built the tower, possibly using off-cuts of stone from the Abbey. His son, Sir Robert Thorpe became steward of the Abbey in the footsteps of his father. He added the paintings between 1320 -1340. Possibly he used the Abbey’s monks who were experienced in writing and painting.

    Like you, I am fascinated as to how these former peasants became so wealthy!


  5. Thank you so much! So there were two Roberts, father and son… I need to introduce some minor corrections to my post, then 🙂 I got it wrong – I thought it was one and the same Robert who founded the tower and comissioned the paintings. I will pass the additional information to my readers. Thank you.
    Happy Easter to Longthorpe Tower from Siedlęcin Tower 🙂


  6. Hi, me again! 🙂 I have checked English Heritage website and have been wondering ever since – is Longthorpe Tower really open only on Saturdays and Sundays? I’m asking for I will probably be visiting England in July and would like to pay a visit.
    Kind regards,


    • Hi there Katarzyna
      Yes, the tower is only open on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays of which there is one on May 28th and the next one after that is August 27th. Do you know what dates you would be here?


      • Hi,
        my plans to visit the tower in the summer have come to naught, but I will be probably staying in England for a few days in October. Is the tower still open to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays in the autumn? I would be most grateful for providing further details.

        Kindest regards,


  7. Hi,
    Sadly I cannot be at the Tower that weekend. I will be on duty the 28th October, which is the last day we open this season.
    It would be great to talk about the towers, I agree.
    If you don’t make it this year, maybe next year.
    If you are definitely going to be there, I could let our volunteers know and our manager so that anyone who would like to come and meet you may be able to.
    Best regards.


  8. Pingback: Longthorpe Tower, a Volunteer's Diary

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