Monday 30 April 2012

Z is for Zee Castles’ Summary - Zee End ...

This summarises the tour of Castles that we have visited – starting south of London in Kent and working clockwise ...
The Bayeux Tapestry contains one of the earliest
representations of a castle.  It depicts attackers using
fire, one of the threats of wooden castles.  The Bayeux
Tapestry is an embroidered cloth depicting the
events leading up to the  Norman Conquest of England

Each of the castles has a very different history – some are ruins, some restored, some refurbished, some family homes – while each is open for us to see in its way – we can cross the centuries ....

... walk where the Recorders for the Domesday Book would have walked, seen where the great artists of the day would have painted from, seen history depicted as it would have unfolded ...

... imagine dragons breathing fire, fairies at the bottom of the garden ...

Our starting point in the County of
Kent is shown
However Great Britain and Ireland has so much history and we are fortunate that it is recorded in our castles, mansions, churches, cathedrals, monuments, museums, archaeological sites, great parks, ancient forests, crumbling shoreline ....

Each county and area has a great deal on show – here is a reminder of the 23 we have visited, with some extra photos:

South East England:

Lullingstone Castle, Kent – a property held by the same family for 20 generations, for which the present heir mapped out his future there when he was kidnapped and held hostage in the Columbian jungle.  The World Garden is Hart Dyke’s treasure trove of plants from each part of the globe.

There is a Roman Villa and a Medieval Church within the confines of the village and estate.
An Oast House in Kent

Scotney Castle, Kent showcases two castles – the ruin and the new.  The National Trust maintains and runs the site – there are beautiful grounds, with stunning views. 

There’s a dinosaur’s footprint in the quarry garden below the new house, while the National Trust record their work in three blogs – the Castle Estate, the 19th century restoration of the Walled Gardens and the Scotney Garden...

Dover Castle, Kent – the ‘Gateway to England’; fortified from Roman times, with particular emphasis from William the Conqueror’s reign onwards 1066 – to its refurbishment and restoration in the 21st century.

A village sign -
Alfriston has an interesting past

Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex – a brick-built Tudor castle, which after World War II became the home to the Royal Observatory Greenwich, before being purchased by Queen’s University, Ontario as an overseas International Study Centre.

Beautiful grounds, Elizabethan walled gardens ... in 1066 land – Pevensey Bay, the Battle of Hastings field and Norman Conquest history is nearby.

Knepp Castle, West Sussex -  an example of a very early motte castle (a ruin); a new castellated Gothick mansion, which the present owners, in the 21st C, are turning the clock back to early land management –
The South Downs Way

- i.e. hands-on custodial and guardianship of the landscape, letting nature run free as it would have in Domesday times.

Cornwall (West Country)

Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall – one of Henry VIII’s Device Forts – a well preserved coastal defence castle; there’s also the National Maritime Museum nearby.  On display at the Castle by English Heritage are George Butterworth’s wartime cartoons.

The sculptor Barbara Hepworth's tools
as she left them

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall – a cascading ruin on the cliff’s edge – holding the haunting tale of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table while Merlin’s Cave can be accessed at sea level.  

An added bonus is the custard millionaire’s indoor attraction nearby: King Arthur’s Great Hall, which has featured in many a film, and tv programme.  The stained glass windows, created by a pupil of William Morris, throw kaleidoscope colours onto the round table with its granite thrones recreating the legend of Arthur and his knights.

St Ives Bay - over which the Tate looks

Cornwall also offers much including St Ives with the Barbara Hepworth museum and gardens, the Tate Gallery, the Eden Project and the lost Gardens of Heligan.

West England (Bristol – Oxford area)

The Ridgeway - Uffington Castle ring
fort in the distance on the left

Alfred’s Castle, Berkshire/Oxford borders – Iron Age Hill Fort 6th century BC to 871AD (near The Ridgeway - one of the major pre-Roman tracks)

South Wales and West Wales

Usk Castle, Monmouth, south east Wales – a ruin, which has been modified into a private residence. 
St David's Cathedral, west Wales

However the estate surrounding what remains of the castle offers a place for weddings, horse riding, archery, walks – including the River Usk trail – an idyllic setting for many events.

The Red Kite - the symbol of
Welsh wildlife

Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire, West Wales is a feudal castle, which despite being a ruin is relatively intact; it offers a unique insight into feudal life in the Middle Ages.

Oystermouth Castle, Pembrokeshire on the Gower peninsula in west wales – a fine example, despite being a ruin, to understand the complexities of a fortress castle

The Old Court House, Ruthin,
Denbighshire, built in 1401, following
Owen Glendower's  attack on the town

Welsh Borders - Herefordshire
Croft Castle, Herefordshire – an estate now reflecting the transfer of power in the intervening 1,000 years from Domesday times, lying as it does within the Welsh borders.

A National Trust Property – open to the public and hosting many events. Ancient way-marked walks along tree-lined avenues.

The Malvern Hills, England
Eastnor Castle, Ledbury, Herefordshire – a sham castellated mansion dating from the 19th century (1812 – 1820) – still family owned.

There are magnificent collections of armour, tapestries and paintings on show, while the grounds offer a Rope Walk within magnificent parkland.

Skara Brae, a neolithic settlement, located
in the Bay of Skaill, Isles of Orkney

A Pipe Major playing the
Great Highland Bagpipe
Inverary Castle, Argyll, west Scotland – a family home ensuring that the recording of Scottish history through the ages is not forgotten.

 Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, east Scotland – modernised by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria into a white granite castellated cosy mansion in the 1850s.

Venlaw Castle Hotel, Peebles, in the Scottish borders – now a hotel, which is considered to be an excellent example of the Scottish Baronial style of mansion.  The hotel sits within the Tweed valley offering magnificent walks and fishing sites.

I have also written about Stirling Castle - its skeletons and the forensic analysis to find out who they were; and on its history

North-West England

Raby Castle, County Durham – one of the finest medieval Castles in England – beautifully restored to showcase their treasures ...

The Staffordshire Moorlands Cup.
A similar one is owned by the Duke of
Northumberland and kept at Alnwick.
The cups detail Hadrian's Wall.
... Meissen porcelain, tapestries, furnishings and paintings; while the gardens are a site to behold; the Coach House charts the history of coaches, carriages and their trappings.

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland – formerly a Percy family favourite castle before their allegiances took them to reside at Alnwick Castle.

Warkworth Castle is a scheduled monument, a nationally important historic building and an archaeological site, with a Grade 1 listed building status.  Its Keep is magnificent.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle – the present Duke and Duchess of Northumberland have turned their ‘home’ into a national heritage site, including the magnificent Poison Garden – not included in my A – Z .... but well worth a visit (see my Hotspur, the Duchess and the Poison Garden post)

Statue depicting Robin Hood


Nottingham Castle, Nottinghamshire – historically very interesting, though the castle is a ruin, however the legend of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sherwood Forest remain to entertain..

Little remains of the Castle but the Gate House was renovated by the Victorians to hold its unique museum and art collections.

Then there is the added bonus of a trip to ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’ pub in the caves under the castle!

East Anglia

Lincoln - 16th century: High Bridge

Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire – an estate that has been forward thinking since the 19th century, which continues to this day – there is a lot to offer the visitor here.

The house showcases tapestries, paintings, coronation robes and plate – a veritable treasure trove of historic artefacts – all set within beautiful grounds.

Gainsborough's 'Mr and Mrs Andrews' (1748/49) is in
the National Portrait Gallery -  showing the Suffolk
landscape at that time.

Framlingham Castle, Suffolk - an original Norman Castle much altered over time, now owned by English Heritage and run as a tourist attraction.

It is possible to see the transitions that the Castle has gone through, while the Poorhouse would give a historical insight into changes in our thinking of dealing with women, the poor and disabled.

Hampton Court Palace -
decorative brick chimneys

Home Counties (London area)

Queen’s Castle, commonly known as Windsor Castle, Berkshire, West London – THE CASTLE of Great Britain with an incredible history, over 1,000 years.

Enniscorthy Castle, Co Wexford

Eire – south east Ireland

Johnstown Castle, Wexford, Eire – a machicolated family mansion set in beautiful gardens; with an agricultural museum recording Irish rural history

Zee End of the North, South, East and West twenty three Castles that I have posted about for this A – Z Challenge this year .. here endeth this ABC series of British Castles.

Many thanks for all your comments – I have really appreciated everyone.

Bob Scotney posted on the town of Yarm and its Castle - it is a fascinating read

and while I'm at it - his Z Castle - is for the Z plan Castle ...

Also Bob's Castles give some added history and include many hauntings enhancing the rich fabric each estate.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday 28 April 2012

Y is for the Why Castles are like they are ...

Why are Castles like they are – here is a glossary of terms, with some extra footage for good luck.
Bodiam Castle - built after the owner applied for a
licence to crenellate (to build) 

Why were castles built?  Leaders, Kings and nobles built castles to control their land and peoples, then during times of war to protect them and their family from attackers.  Kings and Lords also built castles to show how big and powerful they were.

Launceston Castle

Norman timber motte and bailey castles – none of these timbers survive in England, although the mounds are still there as in my K for Knepp.  A Norman motte and bailey earthwork castle can be found at Launceston in Cornwall, dated to 1067. 

Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight - a
reconstruction as it would have been
during the 14th C, showing the keep
built on the motte (top) and
bailey at the bottom
The Keep was a great tower and usually the most strongly defended point of a castle before the introduction of concentric defence.  The great tower until the 1500s was known as a “donjon” – with our dungeon becoming a corrupted form.  WarkworthCastle shows a large tower keep.

Curtain walls were defensive walls enclosing a bailey – at Windsor castle there are two stone curtain walls surrounding the two baileys, with the Keep on a motte in the centre – see my Queen’s Castle.

They had to be high enough to make scaling the walls with ladders difficult and thick enough to withstand bombardment from siege engines, which from the 15th C onward, included artillery.

A trebuchet (a type of siege engine)

A typical wall could be 3m (10 ft) thick and 12m (39 ft) tall – though each castle’s walls would vary.  To protect them from undermining, curtain walls were sometimes given a stone skirt around their bases.  Walkways along the tops and battlements would give them further protection.

Barbican Gate at Glencarm Castle,
Co Antrim, Northern Ireland
The Gatehouse – the entrance was often the weakest part in a circuit of defences.  To overcome this the gatehouse was developed allowing those inside to control the flow of traffic.  There were one or more portcullises – a wooden grille reinforced with metal to block a passage – and arrow-slits from which to harry the enemy.

Towers were added to the gatehouse for extra visual and actual protection; extra length meant invaders had to spend under fire and in a confined space.  A barbican was an extra defence and outer building added to the gatehouse, and may have included bridging across a ditch.

A moat was a defensive ditch with steep sides, and could be either dry or filled with water.  Its purpose was two-fold: to stop devices such as siege towers from reaching the curtain wall, and/or to prevent the walls from being undermined.

Caerlaverock Castle, Scotland
Water moats were often found in low-lying areas and were usually crossed by a drawbridge.  Fortified islands could be added to the moat, adding another layer of defence.

Other features would be battlements surmounting the curtain walls and gatehouses, which could comprise several elements: 

crenellations (gaps and solid stone); hoardings were extra wooden constructs allowing defenders to shoot at, or drop objects on attackers below; while machicolations giving a similar use were stone projections.

Until the 12th century, stone built and earth and timber castles were contemporary, with stone being preferred, and as the timber and earthwork sites declined, stone castles could be built where appropriate as conditions changed, and could be ‘made to’ fit the lay of the land.

Caerphilly Castle - used an early concentric design

At the same time there was a change in castle architecture – the Crusaders had learned much about fortification from their conflicts with the Saracens and exposure to Byzantine architecture ... the time had come for composite castles or concentric castles.

Castle design had changed, master masons were the architects and engineers of their day; concentric castles had their buildings in the centre and new castles of this design had no keep; while composite castles were made up of different parts – usually a mixture of old and new.

Caerphilly Castle (above) is a medieval castle in South Wales.  It is second in size only to Windsor Castle; built mainly between 1268 and 1271 and is an early example of a concentric castle with extensive water defences.

Only the richest and most powerful men had the money to build a great castle.  Officers of the king or lord had to buy building materials, transport them, find labourers, pay them and supervisor their work.

Conway Castle - one of Edward I's castle
building programme
The simplest timber castle would take 6 – 9 months to finish, depending on the weather.  Stone castles took a lot longer to complete, some as long as 8 -10 years!  They needed warm sunshine to harden the mortar between huge blocks of stone, and dry dirt roads to move heavy equipment and building materials (some might come by river).

Edward I’s castles each required at least a thousand men.  Unskilled and skilled craftsmen travelled far and wide, some from abroad, to work on the project:

Ø the master masons masterminded the construct;
Ø the stonemasons chose, worked and cut the stone to ensure strong walls;
Ø carpenters helped make the scaffolding, and cut the timber for floors and rafters;
Ø ditchers came from low-lying flat wet areas (East Anglia or the Low Countries {The Netherlands}) to dig the castle’s foundations, its moat and other important ditches and ramparts.

St Mawes Castle, Cornwall -
one of Henry VIII's Henrician Castles
on the east side of the Carrick Roads
see my Pendennis Castle

By the 1500s the role of fortifications had changed once more with the development of artillery capable of breaching even thick stone walls.  Henry VIII fearing invasion led to the building of a series of new fortresses known as Device Forts or Henrician Castles. 

These were designed to defend against artillery, and since they were not private residences, but national fortifications, they do not possess what architectural historians have come to see as the defining characteristics of a castle.

University College, Durham Castle - it has been
wholly occupied by the University since 1840

Essentially that covers castles at their basic best ... by the 1600s castles were going into decline – as we have seen some have withstood the test of time and we are able to enjoy them today;

Some are ruins, some have been restored, some are put to new uses: wedding venues, hotels, open gardens, event parks; some were rebuilt as castellated mansions, some restored to their former glory ... as is always the case with the human being – he reinvents .... and we here in England have some of the best on show.

So if anyone can define a Castle ... please start counting ... and put us all out of our misery as to how many there are ... any takers?!

That is Y for Why the Castles – part of the ABC series of Aspects of British Castles.

Bob Scotney very cleverly featured Xanten Castle in Germany for his X post yesterday ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories      

Friday 27 April 2012

X is for X Castles – a potted history

Castles are a type of fortified structure – usually a private residence owned by the Crown, lord or noble.
Portchester Castle, Hampshire was built within a Roman
fort.  Despite adaptation as a medieval castle, it is
the best preserved Roman fort north of the Alps

This is distinct from a palace, which was not fortified; from a fortress, which was not always a residence for nobility; and from a fortified settlement, which was a public defence .... though there are similarities among these types of construction.

Usage of the term ‘castle’ has varied over time and has been applied to structures as diverse as ancient hill forts to more ‘recent’ country houses.

Positioning early on would be on high ground (natural or man-made) for defence of the local area; access to water would be essential – both as a drinking supply, as well as for transport (easier than dirt tracks).

The burh wall at Wallingford, Oxfordshire
Earth and timber forts had their defences strengthened by stone.  The Romans (AD 43 – AD 410) brought us new ways of building, found new sites and made permanent settlements.

A Burh is on Old English name for a fortified town or defended site, sometimes centred on a hill fort; the boundaries of ancient burhs can often still be traced to modern urban borough limits.

Most of these Burhs were founded by Alfred the Great, who reigned 871 – 899, in a consciously planned policy that was continued under his Mercian heirs.   You will recognise some of these boroughs today – Chester, Winchester and Stafford.
Reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon
royal palace at Cheddar, Somerset,
around 1,000 AD

There had been regular attacks from overseas invaders – the Angles and Saxons, then the Vikings – after the Romans had retreated back into Europe.

Skirmishes continued against the local tribes - the Celts, the Welsh, the Scots and the Picts. 

Viking long house - reconstruction -
from the ring castle at Fyrkat, near
Hobro, Denmark
In the meantime the original Vikings were still ravaging the English coasts and sending in invading parties. 

The Normans were descended from their Norse Viking conquerors.  Their identity emerged in the first half of the 10th century, gradually evolving over succeeding centuries.

The Norman "White Tower", the Keep of the Tower of
London, exemplifies all uses of a Castle (as we would
expect in a capital city) including city defence, place of
residence, place of refuge in times of crisis, a prison

The Normans with their quick adaptability expressed in their willingness to take on local men of talent, to marry the high-born local women; ...

... and being confident enough to use the literate clerks of the church for their own purposes were able to consolidate their holdings, both in France and England.

King Ethelred II of England had married Emma, sister of Duke Richard II of Normandy; they fled to Normandy – thereafter the Norman-educated mind influenced the future of England.

The Normans in the 10th century began building mainly timber castles in France; the Saxon lords in England began building fortified houses in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Warwick Castle and the River Avon: built by
William the Conqueror in 1068, within or adjacent to
the Anglo-Saxon burh - authorised by Ethelfleda,
daughter of Alfred the Great.  Strategically an important
site on the Fosse Way
King Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066) authorised the Normans to build a motte and bailey castle at Ludlow in about 1050 – so the Normans were used to living and working in England.

In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded, conquered and used stone to build strong, defensive castles.  We know from the Domesday Book that they populated the bulk of England and Wales.

England’s feudal kingdom under Edward I (1272 – 1307) expands the castle growth into north Wales and Scotland to subjugate those peoples.  Edward’s strategic castle building project was one of the biggest in all of Europe.

Edward I's Harlech Castle, Wales design
was influenced by Edward's experiences
in the Crusades (built 1280)

Forays overseas, including the Crusades, opened Royal minds to new building techniques – for instance strong towers, which are later called ‘keeps’.

Fortification changes seen in the Holy Land, northern and western Europe influenced castle builders in England.  

‘Modernisation’ takes place – concentric castles appear in the early 1200s.  By the mid 1300s cannon was on the scene, so gun-ports were added to castle walls.

Once armies were able to go to sea then coastal defences became a necessity.

During this time the role of the King, the nobles, the church  and their peoples were influencing the location of castles as medieval society adapted.  High status features, such as fish ponds, were a statement of power and control of resources.

Leeds Castle - built for show (status) rather than defence.
The landscape has been managed since the 13th century.
The castle overlooks artificial fish ponds and lakes and is
within a medieval deer park.

Also found near a castle, sometimes even within its defences was the parish church.  This signified a close relationship between feudal lords and the Church, one of the most important institutions of medieval society.

During the next couple of hundred years the building of castles was consolidated, with Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) reinforcing the eastern, southern and western English coastal castle defences.

Deal Castle, Kent built 1539/40 - one of Henry VIII
artillery (coastal) fortifications or device forts 

By the 1600s the great age of castle building draws to a close; with many of them being abandoned by the 1800s.  

This was due to insufficient investment for maintenance and the Crown was increasingly selective about which royal castles it maintained, while others were left to decay.

Windsor, Leeds (Kent), Rockingham and Moor End (both in Northamptonshire) were kept up as comfortable accommodation residences; Nottingham and York formed the backbone for royal authority in the north, while Chester, Gloucester and Bristol forming the equivalents in the west.

Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire - after its
redesign at the beginning of the 17th C
Even major fortifications such as the castles of North Wales and the northern border castles of Carlisle, Bamburgh and Newcastle-upon-Tyne saw funding and maintenance reduced. 

Many royal castles continued to have a role as the county gaol, with the gatehouse frequently being used as the principal place of residence (facility), when the Crown was not in town.

There are a few hundred castles listed (including fortified manor houses, halls etc), with many more castles of which only earthworks, fragments or nothing actually remains (albeit they are known about) in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Kenilworth Castle - the recently restored
Elizabethan Knot Garden, designed to
reproduce the appearance of the
gardens in 1575
Today as I have tried to show you through the A - W postings a variety of Castles - there are many to tempt you to visit and many I have not shown.

Fortunately our heritage through these castles as residences today, ruins, ongoing restoration and/or refurbishment is available to showcase our rich history.

That is X for Castles – a potted history of Castles through the ages – part of the ABC series Aspects of British Castles.

Bob Scotney and I both featured Warkworth Castle for our W post – Bob’s link is here.

Added in 2016 to my post on St Nicolas Church, Pevensey ... via Mel of A Heron's View ... re sweat rooms in castles - he sent me off to look for sweat rooms ... but I found this article instead: 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories