Saturday, July 16, 2011

Woodstock is not in the 1000 Islands... Or is it?

While not the famed Woodstock Music & Art Fair of 1969, noted architect Ernest Flagg’s rendition of Woodstock Palace as described by Sir Walter Scott in his 1826 novel – Woodstock - The Cavalier: A Tale of the Year Sixteen Hundred and Fifty-one was built on Dark Island in the 1000 Islands in 1903.

Virtually forgotten today, the original Woodstock went through many incarnations between 1007 and 1720. It is first mentioned in connection with the early English Kings Alfred the Great and Ethelred the Unready who lived 978-1016. In 1129 King Henry I had seven miles of wall built to enclose Woodstock Park for hunting. Around 1160 King Henry II turned the hunting lodge into a palace and much to the displeasure of his wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, used it to house his mistress Rosamund de Clifford. This was where he had his first clash with Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was then murdered by forces loyal to the King. King Richard the Lionheart and his brother King John I of “Robin Hood” fame were frequent visitors and King Edward III brought his entire court to Woodstock in 1330. In the late 1400s, Tudor King Henry VII, who restored stability to the monarchy after the War of the Roses, undertook major renovations of the palace at Woodstock. It is recorded that King Henry VIII frequently came to stay and hunt there in the early years of his reign. By the mid-16th Century, Woodstock, which had sunk into disrepair, was used to imprison Princess Elizabeth for nearly a year before she became Queen Elizabeth I of England. During the English Civil War (1642-49) the palace was used as a royalist garrison and was briefly visited by King Charles I. King Charles II used it during the conflict with Cromwell’s armies, who heavily damaged the property. From that point on the palace sank into ruin and was eventually torn down.

In the early 1900s Frederick G. Bourne of New York City hired the renowned architect Ernest Flagg to design a “small” hunting lodge that was unlike any other castle in existence. Flagg, who had just read the novel Woodstock, would use Scott’s description of Woodstock Palace as an inspiration for the new castle because the original was demolished in 1720 at the direction of the Duchess of Marlborough, who was overseeing the construction of Blenheim Palace near the original Woodstock’s location.

Today, Bourne and Flagg’s version of the Woodstock Palace, now known as Singer Castle, has become a popular destination for tours, overnight stays and weddings in the 1000 Islands region. (Blenheim Palace situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England is a tourist attraction as well as the family residence for the Dukes of Marlborough).

The above dispatch and pictures were received directly from Dark Island.