« PreviousContinue »
there would seem to exist evidence that Tribault le Tricheur, Count of Blois (932-962), erected such castles.1
However this may be, there is no doubt as to the date of their introduction into England. It is a well-known historical fact that Norman influence began to make itself felt in this country at least a couple of decades previous to the Conquest, and the earliest castles or individual fortresses erected on this side of the Channel undoubtedly owe their origin to Norman favourites of the Confessor. The English nobles lived in twostoried timber houses such as that depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, in which Harold and his comrades are feasting in the great hall on the first floor, whilst the basement apparently forms a large cellar or store room. That such houses may have been protected from the wolves by an encircling stockade or hedge is probable enough, but they were never intended for defence against man.
The first castle to be erected in England would appear to have been that of Hereford, which was built in or about 1048 by Ralph, Count of Hereford, the Confessor's Norman nephew. This is the first castel ” or individual fortress mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and we read that in 1052 Godwin demanded that “the Frenchmen of the castle” should be given up by the Confessor, and later that "the Frenchmen of the castle” aided the English to repel a Welsh invasion. The mere fact that Ralph's fortress was known as the castle " is sufficient to show that to the English it was an innovation, and apparently by no means a popular one. Richard Fitz-Scrob, one of the Confessor's Norman favourites, founded Richard's Castle, 3 c. 1050; Osbern, surnamed " Pentecost," founded Ewias Castle in the following year.
The castle, although entirely unknown to the English, was the great and outstanding symbol of feudalism, the natural
1 See Mrs. Armitage's Early Norman given at 20 shillings. The motte still Castles of the British Isles, pp. 74-5. remains in good condition, with a half
? Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1048 (Peter- moon-shaped bailey two-thirds of an borough) and 1052 (Worcester). The acre in extent. motte of this castle has disappeared, * Ewias Castle is a well-preserved but the bailey remains. The motte, and interesting earthwork, and is the however, is mentioned in the Pipe only castle mentioned in the Survey as Rolls, 11 Hen. I, p. 100, and 15 Hen. II, having been rebuilt by the Normans p. 140.
It is described in a Survey of (D.B., i, 186a). Dr. Round (Feudal 1652, and was then crowned by works England, p. 324) is of opinion that it in masonry (Grose, Antiquities, ii, 18; “ Pentecost castle," referred to in and Duncombe's History of Hereford, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1052, i, 229).
and after visiting the earthwork in 1907 3 This castle is referred to in Domes- the present writer came to the same day (i, 1866) under the name of Avreton, conclusion. A half-moon-shaped bailey and the valet ei castellum,” T.R.E., is lies to the south of the motte.
home and base of operations of a feudal lord, and one of the first acts of the Conqueror was to throw up a castell ” at Hastings.1 The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the construction of this fortress. With that all-inclusiveness for which mediæval pictures are noted, its builders are shown digging the foss or ditch round the motte, ramming the soil of the motte with the flats of their spades, and constructing a palisade round the upper edge. This erection of castles was the leading feature of the Conqueror's modus operandi, wherever he went we read “castellum construxit,"
condidit," etc. He invariably consolidated his hold on a conquered district by erecting castles to overawe it, and to form the base of further operations. And when he parcelled out the kingdom among his favoured comradesin-arms they followed his example. These castles were absolutely necessary from their founders' point of view, alike to hold their new lands against the disinherited and hostile natives and to protect themselves from attack by other foreign lords who, had such a protection been absent, would not have scrupled, during a time of disorder, to seize such lands and add them to their own estates.
But the castles built during the latter part of the eleventh and during the first half of the twelfth century, i.e. from the time of the Conquest to about 1150, were not those whose enormous keeps and massive curtain walls still form such a picturesque feature of our landscapes. Were it possible for us to transport ourselves into Yorkshire in the year 1154 we should see, in the course of our perambulations, a number of stockaded mounds with their palisaded baileys; a few stockaded promontories with or without mottes; a few stockaded mottes devoid of baileys, but at three castles only, at Richmond, at Scarborough, and at Tickhill, should we find any defences in masonry.
1 “ Dux ibidem (at Pevensey) non diu moratus, haud longe situm, qui Hastinges vocatur, cum suis adiit portum, ibique opportunum nactus locum, ligneum agiliter castellum statuens, provide munivit " (Chron. Monast. de Bello, p. 3, ed. 1846).
2 The picture showing the erection by the Conqueror of the motte at Hastings represents it as being formed of layers of different materials. When the motte at Carisbrooke was opened in 1903, it was found to be composed of alternate lavers of large and small chalk rubble (Stone's Official Guide to the Castle of Carisbrooke, p. 39).
motte still remains at Hastings, but bears no trace
of ever having been crowned by works in masonry. Henry II's stone keep has, in the opinion of the writer, been destroyed by a fall of the cliff. Mr. Harold Sands is of the same opinion.
3 The extent of the stone fortifications existing at Scarborough in 1154 is somewhat difficult to determine. But although the walls of enceinte owe their origin to William le Gros, c. 1136-1140, it is equally certain that both great hall and keep were constructed of timber at the time of the accession of Henry II.
4 This typical motte and bailey castle was founded by Roger de Busli, and is mentioned by Ordericus (xi, ch. ii)
the castle of Blythe. The motte,
Nowhere in the vast county should we find one of those grim but stately rectangular towers which have come to be regarded as the distinguishing feature of a Norman castle, but which, with a few exceptions form merely one of the characteristics of an early Plantagenet castle; we should not find a single Juliet keep, and it is very doubtful whether we should find a single castle where the palisading running round the outer edge of the motte had been replaced by a stone wall, or as Mr. Clark terms it, a shell keep. And we must remember that the date of our imaginary visit is more than eighty years after the Conquest !
Brought up as we have been since boyhood on such works as Scott's Ivanhoe and the late mediæval romance of King Arthur, the word “Norman castle " conjures up a veritable Gustave Doré fortress, with towering turreted keep and enormous curtain walls and a crowd of “noble knights and fair ladies" in the glory of their heraldic arms, in the equal grandeur of their noble names. Just as on a summer's evening a far-off range of mountains, blue and hazy in the distance, calls to us with an irresistible appeal, so in these days of motor traction and wireless telegraphy, there is nothing that appeals to us with greater force than the glamour of the early Middle Ages. But were it possible for us to transport ourselves back into the year 1154, all these beautiful visions would tumble into the mud like a pack of cards.
The Gustave Doré castle would vanish into thin air and in its place we should find a frowsy, evil-smelling timber structure which a sanitary inspector of the present day would at once condemn as unfit for human habitation. A two-storey block of timber buildings in the bailey afforded the main accommodation, and of this block the great hall was the prominent feature. The hall proper was on the first floor level, approached from the courtyard by a flight of timber steps. A long, low apartment, devoid of a fireplace, and lit by unglazed loops in its timber walls, with a thatched roof which did not always keep out the wet, and in which many a bird had its nest, this room was the centre of the daily life of the fortress. A heavy board fixed on trestles ran up the hall, with rough benches on either side for seats. At the dais end, raised a step or two above the rest of the room, was the high table where the lord and lady of the castle sat with the family and guests. After supper the hall became the dormitory of the household, the trestles being removed and beds of fern and dry rushes made along the sides of the room. Opening out of the dais end of the hall was the " solar " or private apartment of the lord and lady of the castle, a luxury which does not appear to have come into vogue until quite late in the eleventh century. Connected with this room was probably a smaller apartment, in which the daughters of the lord slept—the sons would sleep in the hall with the other members of the household. Neckham, in his De Utensilibus, written in the last quarter of the twelfth century, mentions only four rooms in a house, the hall, the chamber, the kitchen, and the larder or store-room. Sometimes, in the lesser important castles, the timber tower on the summit of the motte provided the accommodation just mentioned as existing in the bailey, the latter place merely containing the stabling, outhouses, etc. the summer months the bulk of the cooking was done out of doors in the courtyard of the bailey or the motte; in the winter months it was done in a small room opening out of the lower end of the hall. The domestic architecture of a period invariably gives
an unusually fine one, is some 75 feet in height, and about 80 feet in diameter at the summit, on which are the foundations of a polygonal shell keep erected by Henry II, as is proved by the Pipe Rolls of 1178-9, the cost being £123 125. 5d., equivalent to some £2,500 of modern money. The entire bailey was probably walled in at the time with which we are dealing, viz. the year 1954. Existing architectural detail shows that
the lower portion of the gatehouse was erected during the last quarter of the eleventh century, and possibly the curtains were commenced in IIOI, when Ordericus (Hist. Ecc., iv, 33 : xi, 3) tells us that Robert Belesme fortified the stronghold. The bulk of the bailey walls, however, were probably constructed by Henry I, and the Pipe Rolls, 31. Henry I, 33, 36, mention expenses connected with this work,
a us a clue to the habits and manners of that particular time. The barons of the Norman period, in spite of their highsounding and now historic names, were not exactly the sort of people one would now-a-days ask to dine with us. Take the roughest and most brutal Durham pit-lad you can find, invest him with absolute and uncontrolled authority, and you would have a very fair sample of the Norman baron of the time with which we are dealing. There would be exceptions, of course, we are speaking of the average It would be indiscreet to enter into details, but in those days it was not fashionable to wash, handkerchiefs were unknown, common decency, not to speak of privacy, was conspicuous by its absence. To cut matters short, the Norman baron was a verminous person in the ordinary meaning of the word. The less said the better of the morals of that period. The virtue of no girl or young married woman with any pretensions to good looks was worth a moment's
purchase; it was an acknowledged perquisite of the ruling
; classes to take what they chose in this line. The revolting cruelties practised upon prisoners, not only during the terrible intestinal warfare of the time of Stephen, but in every one of the many rebellions of the days of the four Norman kings, prove clearly enough how brutal, bestial, and horrible were those days. Nor were the women any better than the men. It is recorded that a high-born Norman lady would relieve the tedium of a long day, when her lord was out hunting, by having an unoffending servant-male or female---stripped and soundly thrashed in the courtyard. It relieved the tedium of the day! The Norman barons had their redeeming features; they were at least men. They had to be, for it was a case of the survival of the fittest, and the castles they erected reflect the brutality of their builders.
Having now put on one side the erroneou; idea that the Norman castles were stately stone structures, let us endeavour to ascertain what fortresses were in existence in the North Riding at the time of the accession of the first of the Plantagenets. The writer is not prepared to contend that he is in a position to enumerate all the castles erected in that district between the time of the Conquest of the North and the year 1154. It is possible, indeed probable, that the sites of one or two may have been entirely obliterated owing to the cultivation of the soil. Local records dealing with the savage and troublous times of the four Norman kings are scanty and incomplete ; we are, as it were, looking through a glass darkly, and the history of the existing earthworks marking the site of a Norman castle is often difficult to ascertain. It need, therefore, be a matter of little surprise to us if several castles have disappeared altogether, leaving no trace of their one-time existence either in earthworks or in records.
Nor is it at all easy to say definitely when such and such a castle was erected. Domesday gives us no assistance; it is as capricious in its mention of castles as it is of churches; neither were taxed, consequently they did not enter into the raison d'être of the Survey. We are almost entirely dependent upon historical inferences, and valuable though they be they are but inferences. The question, "What castles existed in the North Riding at the time of the Survey ? ” is a difficult, if not impossible one to answer. Richmond we know, from existing architectural detail, was completed, with its massive