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STONE CASTLES OF THE NORMAN PERIOD
It may be a surprise to some of our readers to learn how very few stone castles there are in England which can certainly be ascribed to the first period of the Norman Conquest, that is to the 11th century. When we have named the Tower of London, Colchester, the recently excavated foundations of the remarkable keep at Pevensey, and perhaps the ruined keep of Bramber, we have completed the list, as far as our present knowledge goes, though possibly future excavations may add a few others.1
It is obvious that so small a number of instances furnishes a very slender basis for generalisations as to the characteristics of early Norman keeps, if we ask in what respect they differed from those of the 12th century. But it is the object of this chapter to suggest research, rather than to lay down conclusions. The four early instances mentioned should be compared with the earliest keeps of France, the country where the pattern was developed. This has not yet been done in any serious way, nor does the present writer pretend to the knowledge which would be necessary for such a
1 The tower at Malling was supposed to be an early Norman keep by Mr G. T. Clark (M. M. A., ii., 251), but it has recently been shown that it is purely an ecclesiastical building.
comparison. But data exist, which, if they were used in the right way, would greatly add to our knowledge.
In the first place, we have a list of the castles built by Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, at the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century, during his lifelong struggle with the Counts of Blois for the possession of Touraine. This list may be regarded as authentic, as it is given by his grandson, Fulk Rechin, in the remarkable historical fragment which he has bequeathed to us. The list is as follows:-In Touraine: Langeais, Chaumont-sur-Loire, Montrésor, St Maure. In Poitou: Mirabeau (N.W. of Poitiers), Montcontour, Faye-laVineuse, Musterolum (Montreuil-Bonnin), Passavent, Maulevrier. In Anjou: Baugé, Chateau-Gontier, Durtal. "Et multa alia," adds Fulk's grandson. Nine of these others are mentioned by the chroniclers: Montbazon, Semblançay, Montboyau, St Florent-leVieil, Chateaufort near Langeais, Chérament, Montrevault, Montfaucon, and Mateflon. Many of these were undoubtedly wooden castles, with wooden keeps on mottes. In many other cases the ancient fabric has been replaced by a building of the Renaissance period. Whether any remains of stone donjons built by Fulk Nerra exist at any of these places except at Langeais, the writer has been unable to find out; probably Langeais is the only one; but French archeologists
1 The only stone castles of early date in France which the writer has been able to visit are those of Langeais, Plessis Grimoult, Breteuil, and Le Mans. The two latter are too ruinous to furnish data.
2 Given in D'Achery's Spicilegium, iii., 232.
This can be positively stated of Baugé, Montrichard, Montboyau, St Florent-le-Vieil, Chateaufort, and Chérament. M. de Salies thinks the motte of Bazonneau, about 500 metres from the ruins of the castle of Montbazon, is the original castle of Fulk Nerra. Histoire de Fulk Nerra, 57. About the other castles the writer has not been able to obtain any information.
THE KEEP OF LANGEAIS
are agreed that the ruined tower which stands on the ridge above the 15th-century castle of Langeais is the work of this count,1 a venerable fragment of a 10thcentury keep.2
Unfortunately only two sides of this tower and the foundations of the other sides remain. The walls are only 3 feet 6 inches thick, contrasting strikingly with the castles of the 12th and 13th centuries, where the usual thickness is 10 feet, which is often exceeded. This points to a date before any great improvement had taken place in assaulting-machinery. The masonry is what French architects call petit appareil, very small stones, but regularly coursed. There is no herring-bone work. The buttresses, of which there are five on the front, certainly suggest a later date, from the size of the ashlar with which they are faced, and from their considerable projection (3 feet on the entrance wall, 2 on the front). There is no sign of a forebuilding. There are only two storeys above the basement. floors have been supported on ledges, not on vaults. The doorway, a plain round arch, with bar-holes, is on the first floor; it is now only a few feet above the ground, but probably the basement has been partially filled up with rubbish. The first storey is quite windowless in the walls which remain. There are no fireplaces nor any loopholes in these two fragments. In the second storey there are three rather small windows and one very large one; they are round arched, have no splay, and their voussoirs are
1 See Halphen, Comté d'Anjou au xiième Siècle, 153.
2 The building of Langeais was begun in 994. Chron. St Florent, and Richerius, 274.
3 It somewhat shakes one's confidence in De Caumont's accuracy that in the sketch which he gives of this keep (Abécédaire, ii., 409) he altogether omits this doorway.
4 Measurements were impossible without a ladder.
of narrow stones alternated with tiles. In these details they resemble the Early Romanesque, which in England we call Anglo-Saxon.
The Tower of London and Colchester keep are some seventy or eighty years later than that of Langeais, and if we attempt to compare them, we must bear in mind that Langeais was the work of a noble who was always in the throes of an acute struggle with a powerful rival, whereas the Tower and Colchester Castle were built by a king who had reached a position of power and wealth beyond that of any neighbouring sovereign.' Langeais is but a small affair compared with these other two keeps. The larger area, thicker walls, the angle towers with their provision of stairways, the splayed windows [of Colchester] the fireplaces, the chapels with round apses, the mural gallery [of the Tower] cannot be definitely pronounced to be instances of development unless we have other instances than Langeais to compare with them. De Caumont mentions Chateau du Pin (Calvados), Lithaire (Manche), Beaugency-surLoire, Nogent-le-Rotrou (Eure et Loire), Tour de l'Islot (Seine et Oise), St Suzanne (Mayenne), and Tour de Broue (Charente Inf.), as instances of keeps of the 11th century. These should be carefully examined by the student of castle architecture, and De Caumont's statements as to their date should be verified. Not
1 It is well known that William the Conqueror left large treasures at his death.
2 The keep of Colchester is immensely larger than any keep in existence. Mr Round thinks it was probably built to defend the eastern counties against Danish invasions. Hist. of Colchester Castle, p. 32. Its immense size seems to show that it was intended for a large garrison.
3 Cours d'Antiquités Monumentales, v., 152, and Abécédaire, ii., 413-431. De Caumont says of the keep of Colchester, "il me parait d'une antiquité moins certaine que celui de Guildford, et on pourrait le croire du douzième siècle" (p. 205), a remark which considerably shakes one's confidence in his architectural judgment.
KEEPS OF THE ELEVENTH CENTURY
having had the opportunity of doing this, we will only ask what features the keeps of Langeais, London, and Colchester have in common, which may serve as marks of an earlier date than the 12th century. The square or oblong form and the entrance on the first floor are common to all three, but also to the keeps of the first three-quarters of the 12th century. The absence of a forebuilding is probably an early sign, and so is the extensive use of tiles. The chapel with a round apse which projects externally only occurs in the keeps of London and Colchester, and in the ruins of Pevensey keep.* The absence of a plinth is believed by Enlart to be an early token. But Colchester has a plinth and so has the Tower. It is, however, very possible that in both cases the plinth is a later addition; at Colchester it is of different stone to the rest of the building, and may belong to the repairs of Henry II., who was working on this castle in 1169; while the Tower has undergone so many alterations in the course of its
1 As only the foundations of Pevensey are left, it gives little help in determining the character of early keeps. It had no basement entrance, and the forebuilding is evidently later than the keep.
2 The Tower had once a forebuilding, which is clearly shown in Hollar's etching of 1646, and other ancient drawings. Mr Harold Sands, who has made a special study of the Tower, believes it to have been a late 12thcentury addition.
3 Tiles are not used in the Tower, but some of the older arches of the arcade on the top floor have voussoirs of rag, evidently continuing the tradition of tiles. Most of the arches at Colchester are headed with tiles.
4 The room supposed to be the chapel in Bamborough keep has a round apse, but with no external projection, being formed in the thickness of the wall. The keep of Pevensey has three extraordinary apse-like projections of solid masonry attached to its foundations. See Mr Harold Sands' Report of Excavations at Pevensey.
"In the course of the 12th century, the base of the walls was thickened into a plinth, in order better to resist the battering ram." (Manuel d'Archæologie Française, ii., 463.) The keep of Pevensey has a battering plinth which is clearly original, and which throws doubt either on this theory of the plinth, or on the age of the building.