Page images
PDF
EPUB

exterior to the vallum. Notwithstanding this feature, it is evident that the Castle and entrenchments were planned together at one time.

The purpose of placing the ditch within the vallum in British forts was, in most cases, dictated by the

[graphic][merged small]

need for driving the cattle within the enclosure in times of peril, and the inner ditch acted as drainage for the area which otherwise would have become an untenable quagmire if banked in like a pond. The same consideration has most likely prevailed at Dyserth; the deep and wide ditches were for the protection of

cattle brought together in time of attack, and they were thus kept from inconveniencing the garrison.

There are precedents for this in some of the castles of the north border (Norham, for instance), and in the entrenched farm of Irby Grange (a medieval manor of St. Werburgh's, exposed to raids from Wales) the large vallum is also external to the ditch as in British examples. This provision for collecting the live stock is a collateral proof of the defensive character of Dyserth. The entrenchments bear scarcely any vestiges of masonry, and were doubtless strengthened with a palisade of cleft oak, as usual in such works.

The outer court of the Castle was entrenched and no doubt stockaded, and would contain the penthouses and farm buildings and rick-yards, and, when strongly occupied, rough quarters for troops, or tents would be pitched in it. The buildings, judging from the scantiness of masonry remains, and the thin walls which were fitted for only a light superstructure, must have been made of timber or of wattle and daub, a material that resists fire much better than might be supposed. A bridge, probably a draw-bridge, crossed the moat to the great gate of the Castle. At the far side of the ditch there must have been some barrier to protect the well-tower on the left of the gate.

This gate was flanked on the proper right by a semicylindrical tower, and on the left by an irregularlysided polygonal tower, the arrangement of whose faces seems to indicate a preparation for a machicolation over the gateway. These towers are now broken down to less than half their original height and lie buried in their own débris to some depth, and the gateway passage is partially choked with rubbish.

Mr. Leonard Hughes, in his excavations, has disinterred the lower parts of the inner gateway, which was of two orders, with an acutely-pointed arch.

There is a large crescent-shaped court, whose wall, embracing the west side of the Castle on the verge of the rock, terminates on the north-west in a square

6TH SER, VOL. XII,

18

[graphic][ocr errors]

Dyserth Castle: North Side. (Sketch by E. W. Cox, kindly lent by Chester Archæological Society)

bastion or outwork, commanding the road from the vale. The south side has an external oblong court, with a projecting angular bastion, at the east end of which is the well, which, as at Denbigh, appears to have had a tower of its own, forming part of the external defences. These outworks surround and prevent access to the main court, the ground external to them being precipitous and difficult, and giving no foothold to an enemy. These outworks protect the weakest side of the inner court, which has a separate curtain wall of its own, defended by towers, and the hall and domestic buildings, all of which are turned towards the part of the hill naturally the strongest.

The main defences of the inner court are on the north side. Here the main walls are from 5 ft. to 8 ft. thick, and, inclusive of the north-east gate tower, are defended by three strong closed bastion towers, so skilfully planned and placed as not only are the north ditch and external approaches (every part being covered by at least two of them) commanded, but their own walls and angles are effectually flanked each by the other, while they cover the interior of the court against missiles from almost any point of attack save one. On this one point is concentrated the fire of five main defences of the Castle and outworks and the whole length of the north wall, while each main tower is capable of separate resistance if the others are taken; and any enemy approaching the north side closely is taken in front and both flanks. The range is calculated for a distance of 80 ft., at which the powerful and heavy crossbows and fixed engines on the towers (with which we know from the list of stores at Carnarvon in 1306 the Welsh castles were furnished) could pierce and destroy any armour. fact that the great outer trench is just 80 ft. beyond the inner defences seems to indicate that both formed one plan of the same period.

The

Although the interior of the Castle is still partly buried in its ruins, enough has been excavated to dis

close the probable uses of its buildings. The round tower on the proper right was most likely the prison; and on the left the guard-room, over which most likely was the chapel. The bases of the gates and doors remain ; jambs have been plainly chamfered, with two orders for the main gate.

The double tower, with a salient angle to the field, which is divided into two by the curtain-wall passing through it, seems to have formed the kitchen. The wide fireplace is only indicated by the smoked wall, the details are destroyed; but a beautifully moulded base of a circular chimney shaft that has been set on a square chimney breast was found near here. The outer portion of the tower may have been the Constable's apartments.

The west half-hexagon tower has the appearance of having been a stable; the wide window has in the sill the sockets for a permanent grille such as were used for such buildings. In the wall, on the left, is a curious square recess, the purpose of which is not apparent. From this tower externally the foundation of a wall ran northwards into the moat, forming a traverse. At the point of junction with the tower is a triangular external chamber with two loop-holes. This defence was built after the tower, and doubtless forms

of certain repairs and strengthenings recorded to have been made to the Castle.

Between the centre tower and the south wall is a pile of formless ruins. On this site lie the pantries and butteries crossing the court. At the south-west angle the foundation of the hall shows it to measure 48 ft. in extreme length, and 25 ft. in breadth; it is furthest withdrawn from the lines of attack, and is covered effectively by the three towers. The door is at the eastern end of the north side, where it would pass behind the screens; the dais at the west end. As there is no trace of a fireplace, we may conclude that there was a central hearth.

Mr. Cox was of opinion, "from the peculiar form of

« PreviousContinue »