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In all probability the main block of the wooden palace in the original castle of Kilton was erected along the eastern curtain, and the kitchen block may have abutted upon the northern curtain. Even when the palisading, about 1160, was replaced by stone walls, the palace would remain as originally constructed.
Sir William de Kylton, the seventh lord of the Kilton fief, took advantage of the intestinal disorder caused by the absence of King Richard I in the Holy Land, to completely rebuild his fortress, replacing the original wooden palace by one of stone, and, owing to the great strides made in siege engines at this time, constructing the outer ward to flank and protect the entrance. This reconstruction was a perfectly natural, though somewhat early, evolution, and it was entirely owing to the peculiarities of the site- a long but very narrow promontory and to the absence of any keep or "Motte," that the new castle became one of the earliest examples in England of the Keepless or Enceintric type of fortress.1 Sir William might have built a rectangular keep similar but smaller than that which was then being erected by Lord Fitz-Randolph at Middleham; but he apparently preferred the comfort of a "palace," and the enfilading of the only approachable curtain of this "palace" by boldly projecting mural towers (which, in themselves, were used as part of the palace) was a remarkably effective piece of work, considering the comparatively early date of the reconstruction.
About 1260, the palace portion of the castle was severed from the rest of the enclosure by a transverse wall with accompanying barbican tower, which was quite in keeping with the alterations subsequently made on the same lines to existing fortresses, and may, perhaps, be almost said to have converted Kilton into an early form of Concentric castle. It is a striking fact that, during its occupation, Kilton was always well ahead of the times in both its defensive and domestic arrangements.
THE WESTERN CURTAIN. Having noticed the slight traces of the outer ward, we may now walk round the ruins of the inner ward. The western curtain presents but few features of interest, and is now largely concealed from view by the trees growing in the fosse, which was part of the Norman castle, and which separated the outer and inner wards. This fosse,
This type of castle can only be properly studied in Wales and on the Welsh borders. Kilton possesses a
unique interest, as it is the only castle of this type in the county of York, with the possible exception of Skipton.
which is some 46 feet in extreme width, and 12 feet in depth, never contained water, being carried across the neck of the promontory until it merged into the ravine on either hand.
The western curtain is the shortest façade of the castle, measuring only 76 feet in length from north to south, and is constructed of poor, small, and irregular stones. A good deal more than half of it remains to a height varying from 16 to 19 feet. At the north-west angle are the ruins of a small rectangular flanking tower. When complete, including the parapet, this curtain has evidently been about 25 feet high for the greater part of its length; but owing to a slight fall in the ground towards the south, it must have been some 30 feet or more in height above the gateway. It presents no features of interest, and contains no loops, windows, or openings of any kind.
THE NORTH-WEST TOWER, which flanked the entrance, may have risen some 10 feet above the rest of the curtain. When complete, it would certainly be furnished with loops-probably three or four, one above the other in the south wall flanking the entrance gate. This portion of the tower, however, is ruined to the foundations. Its western face measures 14 feet in length from north to south, and the tower projects 7 feet 3 inches beyond the northern curtain. Some 3 feet above the exterior ground level a plain plinth, projecting 3 inches, is carried round the base of the tower. The north-west angle of the tower has been robbed of its facing stones.
South of this tower the curtain remains to a height of some 16 feet for a length of 33 feet 6 inches, and has been 4 feet thick. For the greater part of its length it has been stripped of the facing stones, which were poor and small, evidently old material used up in a subsequent reconstruction. Some of the stones are not set on their natural beds, and have, consequently, weathered considerably.
THE ENTRANCE GATE has disappeared altogether, but was undoubtedly at the south-west angle, and would probably be merely a plain arch in the curtain, the gate being secured by strong bolts and bars. Whether the curtain was thickened at this point it is impossible to say without excavation, but it would seem probable.
The whole of this curtain, or, at any rate, what remains of it, dates from about 1214. There is little doubt that Sir William de Kylton intended reconstructing this portion of the castle on the same lines as the remainder of the structure, and, in all
probability, at the time of his death this curtain was partially pulled down with a view to its reconstruction. But Sir Richard de Alta Ripa seems to have, immediately after his acquisition of the fief, become involved in a feud with Peter de Mauley Ist, which caused him to hastily put this portion of the castle together again. Succeeding owners do not seem to have troubled to finish de Kylton's work.
THE NORTHERN CURTAIN is the most interesting external portion of the ruin. At the north-west angle the small tower already mentioned as flanking the entrance appears in the form rather of a large buttress than of a tower, its northern face measuring only 7 feet 4 inches in length from east to west, with a projection of 4 feet 2 inches beyond the curtain. It contains neither loop nor window, and the bottom half of it has been robbed of its facing stones. The plinth already mentioned is here only 19 inches above exterior ground level.
From the north-east angle of this tower the northern curtain remains for a distance of 63 feet 6 inches eastward, in the form of a blank and uninteresting wall some 18 to 20 feet high. It contains neither loop nor window, and is built of small, poor, and irregular stones. It is obvious at a glance that it is coeval with what remains of the western curtain.
THE STABLE TOWER.-At the east end of this wall are distinct indications of the former presence of a small rectangular tower, evidently of the same date, now ruined to the foundations. Without excavation it is impossible to say exactly what were its dimensions, but it would appear to have projected some 10 feet beyond the curtain, its northern face measuring some 13 feet in length. For distinguishing purposes, we may call it the stable tower. It was probably furnished with loops. flanking the curtain both east and west.
For some 20 feet east of this tower the curtain is ruined to the foundations, but has evidently been 7 feet thick. Everything points to this wall, from the east wall of the stable tower to the west wall of the north tower, having been built soon after the completion of the latter, probably about 1205. The original Norman curtain (circa 1160) stood some feet southwards of the present curtain, and abutted upon the west wall of the north tower some 30 feet from its north-west angle. In order to bring the west wall of this tower (which contained a well-stair) within the enceinte, Sir Wm. de Kylton pulled down the original curtain, and built a new, stronger, and loftier wall, which he threw boldly outwards or northwards.
Some 20 feet east of the east face of the stable tower a fragment of walling 6 feet long still remains to a height of 3 feet, and is 7 feet thick; the stones are large and good. For some four yards eastward the curtain is ruined to the foundations, and the ground externally falls away very steeply from the site of the wall. From this point it is thrown boldly outwards to bring the west wall of the north tower within the enceinte.
Abutting upon the west wall of the north tower a portion of this curtain, some 35 feet in length and varying, according to the ground level, from 2 to 16 feet in height, still remains. The ashlar work-only a fragment of which remains in situ-has evidently been excellent, but practically the whole of it has been wrenched away from the cement, leaving the rough rubble exposed to view. The exterior ground level has been falling gradually throughout the whole of the northern curtain just described; but at this point it falls much more steeply, and the base of the northern curtain, where it abuts upon the north tower, is some 25 feet below the base of the north-west tower. It seems probable that the curtain would not be less than 50 feet in height at this point.
THE NORTH TOWER must have been the most striking feature of the castle externally, and when complete cannot have been less than 60 feet high externally, and some 45 feet high internally. Only the basement now remains, to a height varying from 17 to 21 feet.
The western face, owing to the throwing outwards of the northern curtain at this point, now projects only 8 feet, although before the curtain was altered the projection would be at least 30 feet. Here some magnificent masonry still remains. The stones are fine and large, several measuring 21 inches by 13 inches, and the majority 19 inches by 10 inches. A bold massive plinth, with a projection of 5 inches, ran round the three exterior faces of the tower, and owing to the subsequent throwing outwards of the curtain may now be seen inside as well as outside. This plinth is 4 feet 6 inches above the exterior ground level, where the western face of the tower meets the northern curtain, and over 7 feet at the north-west angle, owing to the ground falling away steeply. The footings below the plinth have been very massive, but only three facing stones (each measuring 21 inches by 10 inches) now remain, the rest having been wrenched away.
The northern façade of this somewhat irregularly shaped tower measures 44 feet 6 inches in extreme length from east to west, including the very boldly projecting footings. Unfortunately here the whole of the facing stones have been removed, leaving the interior rubble exposed to view. Some 26 feet from the north-west angle of the tower a buttress turret, the north face of which measures 10 feet 6 inches in length, projects from the main body of the tower. This turret does not appear to have been a garde-robe, as the usual cleansing chamber is absent; it may have been hollowed out, possibly commencing on the first floor level, and have contained small mural bedchambers.
The east face of the tower projects some 28 feet beyond the northern curtain. Some very fine ashlar work still remains here. The bold plinth already referred to is conspicuous, and at the north-east angle is 11 feet 6 inches above exterior ground level. The base of the footings of the tower at this angle is 15 feet below the base of the northern curtain, where it abuts upon the tower. This is, of course, caused by the steep fall in the ground here, at a gradient of rather more than I in 2.
This large tower, although actually forming part of the "palace," would somewhat resemble a rectangular keep in external appearance. It apparently, from the striking similarity in the masonry and workmanship, is coeval with the north-east tower, and dates from 1194-1200. The curtain east of it is ruined to the foundations for a distance of some 18 feet.
THE APSIDAL TOWER, some 18 feet east of the north tower, appears to have measured 16 feet from east to west by 13 feet from north to south, projecting some 6 feet beyond the curtain on the east, and some 8 feet on the west. This portion of the curtain appears to have been strengthened about 1210, and the apsidal tower erected. It is evidently coeval with this strengthening of the curtain, at any rate on the east side, for it is bonded into it. Only the footings of the tower now remain, but the workmanship and material is magnificent. The apse commences, on the east side, 2 feet 8 inches north of the junction with the curtain, and several of the stones measure 20 inches by 14 inches. A huge tree grows out of the centre of the tower, and having already dislodged several feet of fine ashlar work, threatens to pull down what little now remains of it.
The juxtaposition of the north tower and this apsidal tower would lead one to hazard the conjecture that there was a postern