Castle in Northumbria

It is Easter and all the members of the clan – Guy (16), Toby (12), Esme, Pan and Marjorie (all now 14) are keen to go back to the Peelhouse but it is stacked with grain. Pan’s twin, Peter, is potholing in Yorkshire to the incomprehension of the others as no ponies are involved. Guy has discovered a semi-ruined castle quite near the Peelhouse and a few miles from Thankless, the ancestral home of the Fenwicks who are the traditional enemies of the Charltons.

Publishing history
Burke, 1953, illus Gilbert Dunlop
Reprinted 1959 and 1961

The Marjorie series
Marjorie & Co
Stolen Holiday
Northern Lights
Border Peel
Castle in Northumbria
No Medals for Guy

Summary and critique (Diane Janes)

Castle in Northumbria follows on from Border Peel. It is Easter and all the members of the clan – Guy (16), Toby (12), Esme, Pan and Marjorie (all now 14) are keen to go back to the Peelhouse but it is stacked with grain. Pan’s twin, Peter, is potholing in Yorkshire to the incomprehension of the others as no ponies are involved. Guy has discovered a semi-ruined castle quite near the Peelhouse and a few miles from Thankless, the ancestral home of the Fenwicks who are the traditional enemies of the Charltons.

For once it is not Toby who is prevented from going by his super-protective parents but Marjorie, whose usually lax and negligent parents insist she stay with an old nurse to cram Latin with an elderly clergyman, she having revealed her ambition to be a “Lady Doctor” and cut people up. They wish her to get a scholarship even though, as the others point out, they have pots of money. There is more telling insight into Marjorie’s home life during this discussion on the clan members’ future careers; Guy wishes to be a vet and cure animals to avoid the necessity of cutting them up. It is suggested that Esme run an animal charity.

However, it is not long before Marjorie does turn up, oddly minus Dulcie her pony. Guy arranges for her to borrow  Simon, the gentle pony given by the clan to Thomas in the nearby village. Simon is not spirited enough for Marjorie and she beats him mercilessly. Thomas stands up to her and is supported by Guy provoking another confrontation with Marjorie who runs away leaving a pathetic suicide note.

Woven into the story is the usual preoccupation with food, Guy’s teasing of  the humourless Esme and the renewal of the friendship with Judith Fenwick as well as a meeting with snobbish Sylvia Wade.  She doesn’t really like riding or ponies but likes the extremely smart clothes that go with them. And there is a storm which reveals that Guy’s camping arrangements are less than perfect.

After finding Marjorie and discovering how  she has ingeniously managed to avoid going to the crammer and that her parents don’t know  she hasn’t, one of her punishments is to do Latin for an hour a day with Guy and another is to lend the penniless Judith a beautiful dress. The culmination of the holiday is a May Day Festival at which Judith is a perfect  May Queen in Marjorie’s dress.

There is a perfunctory sub plot, rather tacked on at the end involving Thankless having to be sold to Sylvia Wades’s parents but this comes to naught as an unknown uncle conveniently dies leaving Ralph Fenwick all his money.

Ralph doesn’t actually appear but has arranged to take Marjorie to what Guy considers an unsuitable film. Personally, I’m sorry he doesn’t appear as he has the potential to be a spledidly wicked “Sir Jasper” figure – if he had a moustache, he’d twirl it  – and he would be a great antidote to po- faced Guy. I foresee a long and tempestuous relationship developing between him and Marjorie in years to come.

CONCLUSION
This book has a valedictory air, with discussions on growing up and the suggestion that Guy will be sent to “ the continent” for two years. There is a reconciliation of sorts between Guy and Marjorie at the end, each recognising the strengths of the other. Very satisfactorily we find that Guy’s father has bought the castle in Northumbria so Charltons will finally return to their ancestral lands .

Diane Janes

 

 

 

 

Lorna Hill