Page images

border. As the Welsh annals give the credit of building the castle to Madoc ap Meredith, into whose hands it fell during the reign of Stephen, it is not impossible that some of the masonry still existing on the motte, which consists of large cobbles bedded in very thick mortar, may be his work, and probably the first stonework in the castle. A sketch made in the 18th century, however, which is the only drawing preserved of the castle, seems to show architecture of the Perpendicular period.' But probably the keep alone was of masonry in the 12th century, as in 1166, when the castle was in royal custody, the repair of the stockade is referred to in the Pipe Rolls. No plan has been preserved of Oswestry Castle, so that it is impossible to recover the shape or area of the bailey, which is now built over. The manor of Meresberie had been unoccupied (wasta) in the days of King Edward, but it yielded 40s. at the date of the Survey. Eyton gives reasons for thinking that the town of Oswestry was founded by the Normans.

OXFORD (Fig. 25). This castle was built in 1071 by Robert d'Oilgi (or d'Oilly), a Norman who received large estates in Oxfordshire.3 Oxford was a burgus in Saxon times, and is one of those mentioned in the Burghal Hidage. Domesday tells us that the king has twenty mural mansions there, which had belonged to Algar, Earl of Mercia, and that they were called mural mansions because their owners had to repair the city wall at the king's behest, a regulation probably as old as the days of Alfred. The Norman castle was placed outside

1 This sketch is reproduced in Mr Parry-Jones' Story of Oswestry Castle. Leland says, "Extat turris in castro nomine Madoci." Itin., v., 38.

2 "In operatione palicii de Blancmuster 21. 6s. 8d." XII., 124. Oswestry was known as Blancmoustier or Album Monasterium in Norman times.

3 Abingdon Chronicle and Osney Chronicle, which, though both of the 13th century, were no doubt compiled from earlier sources.

[graphic][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

the town walls, but near the river, from which its trenches were fed.1 It was without doubt a motte-andbailey castle; the motte still remains, and the accompanying bird's-eye view by David Loggan, 1675, shows that the later stone walls of the bailey stood on the earthen banks of D'Oilly's castle. The site is now occupied by a gaol. On the line of the walls rises the ancient tower of St George's Church, which so much resembles an early Norman keep that we might think it was intended for one, if the Osney chronicler had not expressly told us that the church was founded two years after the castle. It is evident that the design was to make the church tower work as a mural tower, a combination of piety and worldly wisdom quite in accord with what the chronicler tells us of the character of Roger d'Oilly.

Henry II. spent some £260 on this castle between the years 1165 and 1173, the houses in the keep, and the well being specially mentioned. We may presume that he built with stone the decagonal [shell?] keep on the motte, whose foundations were discovered at the end of the 18th century. There is still in the heart of the motte a well in a very remarkable well chamber, the masonry of which may be of his time. The area of the bailey appears to have been 3 acres.


The value of the city of Oxford had trebled at the time of the Domesday Survey.*

In the treaty between Stephen and Henry in 1153 the whole castle of Oxford is spoken of as the "Mota" of Oxford."

1 Osney Chronicle, 1071.

2 See Ingram's Memorials of Oxford for an account of the very interesting crypt of this church, p. 8. The battlement storey of the tower is comparatively late. 3 Mackenzie, Castles of England, i., 160.

4 D. B., p. 154.

Rymer's Fœdera, vol. i.

PEAK CASTLE, Derbyshire.-The Survey simply calls this castle the Castle of William Peverel, but tells us that two Saxons had formerly held the land. There is no motte here, but the strong position, defended on two sides by frightful precipices, rendered very little fortification necessary. It is possible that the wall on the N. and W. sides of the area may be, in part at least, the work of William Peverel; the W. wall contains a great deal of herring-bone work, and the tower at the N.W. angle does not flank at all, while the other one in the N. wall only projects a few feet; the poor remains of the gatehouse also appear to be Norman. It would probably be easier to build a wall than to raise an earthbank in this stony country; nevertheless, behind the modern wall which runs up from the gatehouse to the keep, something like an earthbank may be observed on the edge of the precipice, which ought to be examined before any conclusions are determined as to the first fortifications of this castle. The keep, which is of different stone to the other towers and the walls, stands on the highest ground in the area, apparently on the natural rock, which crops up in the basement. It is undoubtedly the work of Henry II., as the accounts for it remain in the Pipe Rolls, and the slight indications of style which it displays, such as the nook-shafts at the angles, correspond to the Transition Norman period. The shape of the bailey is a quadrant ; its area scarcely exceeds 1 acre.

1 "Terram castelli Pechefers tenuerunt Gerneburn et Hunding." D. B., i., 276a, 2.

2 There are similar nook-shafts to Henry II.'s keep at Scarborough, and to Castle Rising. Mr Hartshorne (Arch. Journ., v., 207) thought that there had been an earlier stone keep at Peak Castle, because some moulded stones are used in the walls, and because there is some herring-bone work in the basement. But this herring-bone work only occurs in a revetment wall to the rock in the cellar; and the moulded stones may be quite modern

« PreviousContinue »