It never does to forget that genealogical tables by their very nature are composed of women as well as men! Take Maud Clifford who was born sometime around 1442. Her parents were Thomas, 8th Baron Clifford and Elizabeth Percy , the daughter of Hotspur and Elizabeth Mortimer. It’s this Clifford who was killed at the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 – and as a consequence of his son’s desire for vengeance the new earl became one of Margaret of Anjou’s foremost supporters, the young Earl of Rutland was killed at the Battle of Wakefield and John Clifford gained the by-name “Black Face Clifford.” You can also see why the Cliffords would have joined in a feud against the Neville family thanks to their Percy mother.
Maud who was one of a large brood was married in the first instance to Sir John Harrington of Hornby – which was mildly unfortunate because the Harringtons supported the House of York. Sir Thomas, John’s father being a retainer of the Earl of Salisbury. Thomas and John were both at Wakefield and slain on the 30th December 1460. Maud’s daughters were just four and five but as co-heiresses they became wards of the Crown. In November 1461 Edward IV gave wardship to Thomas Lord Stanley but their uncle James refused to hand them or Hornby Castle over resulting in yet another regional fifteenth century feud.
Meanwhile Maud married Edmund Sutton in about 1465. He was the eldest son of John Sutton, Baron Dudley who changed sides after the Battle of Northampton from being a loyal supporter of Henry VI to being a loyal supporter of Edward IV. Edmund was at St Albans as a Lancastrian but at Towton as a Yorkist. The could had several children including Thomas, who did not become Baron Sutton of Dudley because Maud was a second wife and Edmund already had an heir. A suitable match was found with Grace Thelkeld who was one of three co-heiresses of Yanwath – and with that Thomas, effectively a younger son and confusing matters by taking the surname Dudley rather than Sutton as many of his kin chose to do, disappeared into the northern gentry when Yanwath Hall became his through right of his wife.
However, it always helps to maintain kinship ties and as it happens Thomas’s sons John and Thomas were able to find themselves a very powerful Tudor patron in the shape of their cousin Robert Dudley, Earl Leicester – which is of course why I have been reading about them. It’s also given me another challenge – to see if I can find my own photo of Yanwath Hall in the many out of sync files that I managed to retrieve.
On the 20th March 1470 the Battle of Nibley Green brought the so-called Berkeley Feud to a head. It was to become the last private battle on English soil.
Edward IV was in the north of England at the time tying up the loose ends of unrest there. The Earl of Warwick, increasingly unhappy with his cousin, had rebelled in 1469 and imprisoned Edward in Warwick Castle. In September Edward was released and in 1470 following the Battle of Losecoat which had been fought on the 12th March the Earl of Warwick had fled England for France along with Edward’s brother, George Duke of Clarence.
Meanwhile Thomas Talbot, Viscount Lisle and William, Lord Berkeley took the opportunity to get on with a spot of feuding. Both men believed that they were entitled to the Berkeley estate as well as title and castle. Margaret, Countess of Shrewsbury born Beauchamp was the granddaughter of Thomas, Lord Berkeley who died in 1417 (this is a long story). She and her sister were his co-heiresses via their mother Elizabeth. However, Berkeley’s estates and title passed to his brother’s son James, though it should be added that this wasn’t without dispute. In fact Thomas had enfeoffed Berkeley Castle and his lands to several trustees prior to his death because the line of inheritance was uncertain.
James died in 1463 and his son William inherited the title and the estates.
It wasn’t a straight forward sort of transfer across the family branches because Margaret was married to the Earl of Warwick – so one of the most powerful families in the land. Margaret had imprisoned James’ wife, Isabel, in 1452 when she attempted to appeal James’ claim to a council of Henry VI. Isabel died whilst still in captivity. Its probably didn’t help matters much.
In 1468 Margaret died and her claim was taken up by her eighteen year old grandson Thomas Talbot.
In 1470 William Berkeley attempted to conclude matters by issuing a personal challenge to Thomas. The pair’s heralds agreed a time and a place. The result was the Battle of Nibley Green. William had a substantial force of men which outnumbered Thomas’s. Thomas Talbot and some one hundred and fifty other men died. it probably didn’t help that Thomas forgot to lower his visor in the heat of the moment.
Thomas’s manor at Wotton was then sacked.
Margaret had occupied Wotton which was part of the Berkeley estate so William Wotton regarded it as his anyway. Lord Berkeley in one of his legal petitions accuses the Countess of unjustly keeping possession of his manors of Wotton, Symondshall, Cowley, and some others; of plotting and corrupting his servants to get possession of Berkeley Castle, and finally of compassing his death by means of a hired assassin.
Margaret denied the charge of intended murder but held fast to her claim to the Castle and manors of Berkeley. She believed that as Thomas Berkeley’s granddaughter by a direct line of inheritance that her various attempts to gain possession were justified and she petitioned to have her rights restored to her. The first petition and reply were referred by the king, (Edward IV) to the Lord Chancellor, to whom the subsequent pleas and counter-pleas were addressed, and in these proceedings, varied by predatory incursions upon each others’ manors and frequent fights between their servants and tenants, five years had passed without any decision being pronounced when Thomas Talbot inherited the feud.
William Berkeley was a Yorkist and Edward IV needed his support so he suffered little punishment being made a viscount in 1481. In 1483 he became the Earl of Nottingham. Berkeley didn’t have any legitimate children so his brother Maurice inherited the estate by which time William had done a Lord Stanley at Bosworth i.e. sat and waited to see what the outcome was going to be before joining the battle. Even worse he’d sent men to Richard III and money to Henry Tudor.
“A Sketch of the History of Berkeley Its Castle, Church, and the Berkeley Family” by James Herbert Cooke, Land Steward to the Right Hon. Lord Fitzhardinge.
Wagner, John A. The Encyclopaedia of the Wars of the Roses
How did you do? It’s probably one of those activities that build over the period of a couple of weeks. It certainly has for me and has been a popular challenge with He Who Is Occasionally Obeyed. No doubt we’ve forgotten a few. If you’ve got more than 50 can I just check that you’re not James St George who built Edward I’s castles?
Anteroom: small outer room – think of it as a waiting room or a connecting room that you have to get through before arriving in a larger room. Ie a large body of men couldn’t rush through an anteroom and attack everyone in the great hall , they’d have to file through.
Bailey: A courtyard defended by the outermost ring of a castle wall is called the outer bailey. Sometimes the bailey is also described as a ward. The outer bailey usually contains ancillary buildings. In very large fortifications that is an outer, middle and inner bailey. The inner bailey is the courtyard nearest to the keep. If a castle is built on a hill the arrangement may be described as an upper and lower bailey – but basically it’s all the same – a way of describing how close a courtyard is to the defensive centre of the castle.
Barbican: A stone building protecting the gateway or entrance of a castle.
Barrel vaulting: ceiling curved like the inside of a barrel.- at its most simple a set of arches side by side. Helps make the walls thicker and stronger. Often reinforced by ribs.
Bastion: Angular projection in the wall – to provide better defensive fire.
Battlements: A parapet with indentations and raised portions (merlons). Battlements are sometimes called crenellations. You would need a licence from the king to crenellate.
Berm: the bit of land between the moat and the curtain wall.
Buttery: Room to store drinks – rather than butter think wine, beer and ale.
Buttress: stone support for a wall.
Cannonier – gun port – demonstrating that castle architecture evolved to reflect the development in weaponry.
Casemate: fortified gun emplacement
Cistern: Tank to store water.
Concentric: Castles built with rings of stone walls one inside the other. Think Edward I.
Crenet: Another name for an embrasure which is the open bit behind an arrow loop where someone can stand and draw their weapon.
Curtain wall: Connecting wall between towers of a castle – or if there are no towers the wall that makes up the main defensive portion of the castle.
Drawbar: The rather large wooden beam used to secure the rather large wooden gates.
Drawbridge: The wooden bridge that clatters down or up so that horses can gallop across the moat into the castle – as evidenced on many a good black and white Hollywood blockbuster.
Drum-Tower: A large circular tower that was usually low and squat.
Fore building: The building infant of the keep – a bit like a pawn in front of the king on the chess board – it’s there for defensive purposes.
Fosse: A ditch surrounding a castle – for those who can’t afford moats or who wish to demonstrate their grasp of Latin.
Garderobe: Castle toilet. The garderobe was often a projection from the wall over the moat or alternatively it was a chute that dropped into the base of a tower which periodically had to be cleared out (lovely.) You would also keep your spare clothes in the garderobe chamber as the smell kept moths at bay….and possibly everything else as well.
Gatehouse: A building protecting the entrance to a castle. Larger castles might have an outer and an inner gatehouse adding to the number of defensive structures to be surmounted by attackers.
Gate passage: passageway beyond the main gate leading through the curtain wall to the outer bailey.
Great Hall: The main room in the building where the castle owner and his family lived. We tend to think of great halls as being part of the keep but there are castles where the great hall is separate to the main defensive structure.
Hoardings – the wooden structures built out from the top of the curtain wall or towers.
Keep: Main stone tower of a castle. It was also known as a donjon.
Lancet: Long, narrow window with pointed head – good for defensive projectiles. Plus who wants a big draughty window with no window panes in the middle of winter? To be fair many solar windows were lined with thin horn window panes or glass or there would have been shutter.
Loop: Narrow opening in castle wall that was used by archers to fire on attacking soldiers.
Machicolations: Projecting stonework on the outside of castle towers or walls, with holes in floor for dropping missiles on people attacking the castle.
Moat: A deep wide trench round a castle, sometimes called a ditch or a fosse.
Motte: A mound of of soil. Some mottes were only about 5 metres (16 feet) high, but some were over 18 metres (60 feet). The Normans built wooden watchtowers on the top of their mottes. Gradually motte and baileys were rebuilt in stone. Many small motte and baileys date from the Anarchy when Stephen and Matilda fought one another for the throne.
Motte and bailey: basic keep sitting on top of a mound. The mound would usually be surrounded by a palisade. Motte and bailey castles were initially built from wood and were later rebuilt in stone – somewhat reducing the fire hazard. The bailey was a bit of flattened earth near the motte.
Mural tower: A tower built into the wall.
Mural passage: A passage or corridor in the wall itself.
Murder-Holes or meutrieres in the roof or ceiling of a castle – usually leading to a gate house or through a passage into a ward.These were used for pouring scalding water, hot oil or other equally unpleasant stuff on attackers who had managed to enter the outer defences of a castle.
Palisade: A strong timber fence built on top of an earth rampart – usually seen in depictions of early motte and bailey castles of the kind build by Norman Conquerors.
Pantry: room near the great hall used to store food.
Parapet: A low wall on the outer side of the main wall.
Portcullis: Grating made of metal and wood. The portcullis was dropped vertically from grooves to block passage through the gate of the castle – to prevent entry or indeed exit through gateways. Castles often had more than one portcullis so that attackers might find themselves trapped beneath the handily placed murderholes.
Postern gate: the back door – for daring escapes and raids.
Rampart: A defensive stone or earth wall surrounding a castle.
Sally port: Another name for the back door for daring escapes and raids.
Screen(s) passage: Passage way for the transport of food and drink from the pantry and buttery by servants for the enjoyment of those in the great hall.
Shell-Keep: A wall surrounding the inner portion of the castle -think of an onion. The curtain wall is the outside skin, the shell-keep is the layer closer to the middle of the onion.
Solar: The upper living room of castle. The solar was usually situated above the hall and was used mainly as a bedroom. It was often the only semi-private accommodation in a castle.
Spiral staircase: does what it says on the tin.
Tower: Towers usually comes as square, polygonal, or round – and let’s not forget the drum tower.
Turret: A small tower. A turret on top of the main tower was often the main observation point in a castle.
Vice: a spiral staircase – cos why have one self explanatory word when you can have another more complicated one as well.
Wall-Walk: A passage along the castle wall. It can also be called an alure if you really want.
As you may well imagine I am not going to list more than 600 castles! The castles were built at different times and in different political situations. Consequently they reflect the evolution of castle architecture as well as telling the story of various attempts to subdue the Welsh. Kidwelly Castle was initially built during the Norman period for instance. It was rebuilt in stone in the fourteenth century. Chepstow is also originally a Norman Castle. Pembroke Castle was established by the Normans in 1093 but usually lingers in most people’s minds as the birth place of Henry Tudor.
Carreg Cennon, perched dramatically on top of a cliff was built by a marcher lord but extended during the period of Edward I’s rule. Caerphilly Castle was built by the de Clare family.
If you would like to work your way through the full list please follow this link:
The ones that sprung to my mind were Edward I’s “ring of iron” – I think I may have called it a ring of steel in my last post. Edward invested more than £80,000 on his castles which must have been an eye-watering sum in the thirteenth century. The work which began in 1277 when he took on Llewelyn ap Gruffyd and then continued in 1282 when Llewellyn rose again. The Treaty of Rhuddlan in 1284 effectively crushed the Welsh and Edward’s castles meant that it made future rebellion more difficult. The treaty took all the land of the Welsh princes into English royal ownership at a stroke. The castles built after 1282 were overseen by Edward’s architect James of St George. James’s castles are concentric castles – they were of a new design based on concentric rings- so a series of walls and towers rather than just relying on the defensive nature of a keep. The advantage of a series of rings is that not only can you defend the building you can also attack more effectively.
Conwy Castle – the castle and walls of Conwy Castle and the town are amongst my favourite locations to visit. Historically speaking, this was where Richard II found himself outmanoeuvred by his cousin henry of Bolingbroke in 1399. In 1646 it was slighted by Parliamentarian troops having held out for the king.
Harlech Castle – These days more associated with stunning scenery Harlech was completed by 1330. It’s another fine example of a concentric circle, walls, towers and a rather fine gatehouse.
And let’s not forget the castles built by the Welsh in response to their hostile neighbours. Dolbadarn was built by Llewellyn the Great as was nearby Dolwyddelan. The circular tower must have been very impressive.
Essentially native Welsh Castles make use of the landscape to create a defensive structure – even today they are isolated. Welsh castles tended to have one tower which was circular or D shaped.
There are hundreds of castles built along the borders between Wales and England. It doesn’t help that the area isn’t particularly well defined. The number of castles and their varied sizes reflects the hostilities that existed not only between the English and the Welsh but between the Marcher Lords themselves. It was only in 1536 that the semi-independent jurisdiction of the marcher lords was abolished. It may be helpful when thinking about the region to think of the Earldoms of Cheshire, Shrewsbury and Hereford – all three having a castle once upon a time. Goodrich Castle springs to mind as does Ludlow Castle and the wonderful Stokes Castle which was actually constructed by a merchant rather than a baron.
Yes – I know I’ve missed places like Powis Castle but in all honesty there are enough castles in Wales and the borders to populate an entire blog let alone a post. If i’ve missed your favourite then I can only apologise – and try and make the challenges a bit more manageable!
The Welsh Marches are the borderlands between England and Wales – they are not a precise area – so there is room for flexibility here. March comes from the Anglo-Saxon mearc which means boundary. Although there was a Norman presence in the marches the Welsh did not take kindly to yet another invader. William the Conqueror created marcher lordships to control the area. This mean that the barons who had their castles on the margins between England and Wales had much more autonomy over their tenants than elsewhere in the country.
The three key towns/cities that demarcate the line of the marches are Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford. The area saw centuries of conflict and as a consequence is heavily fortified with motte and bailey castles – their current condition varies!
And then of course there are the castles of Wales – there are about 600 of them – that’s more per square mile than anywhere else in the country and I certainly shan’t be attempting to name them all – some castles were built by the Welsh themselves but the ones which tend to stick in our imaginations are the ones that make up Edward I ‘s so-called ring of steel.
Your challenge this week is to name as many Welsh and Welsh March castles as you can.
All I can say is that there are a lot of castles in this country and I’m sure I haven’t got them all. I have tried to remember some of the differences between a tower house or pele tower and a castle when I’ve made my list. A pele tower was not designed to be lived in the whole time – it was more of a refuge when reivers and clan enemies arrived on your doorstep. Aydon Castle is actually a fortified manor house rather than a castle but it’s on the list because it’s such a lovely example. The list is in no particular order and I have missed a particular favourite of yours I can only apologise. Please add it to the comments section. I have written about rather a lot of castles over the years. If you select “castles” from categories on the right hand side of the blog you will be able to find them.
Carlisle Castle – first built in 1092 by William Rufus. I don’t think I’ve ever written specifically about the castle although it has turned up in quite a few posts including about Andrew de Harcla who was besieged by the Scots.
Askerton Castle – a fortified manor house rather than a castle. Now a farm.
Dacre Castle – it’s actually a tower house rather than a castle but it looks remarkable like a castle from the exterior.
And that is, as they say, that! If this has wetted your appetite to visit a few castles when we’re all allowed out then I would recommend the Collins English Castles from its Little Books series. Others of you may have your Observers Book of Castles on your bookshelves. It has been very pleasant thinking of all the castles that I have visited – less pleasant trying to identify my photographs!
Pontefract Castle is often described as the “Key to the North.” With that in mind, how many castles can you identify in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Westmorland and Northumbria. I shall list my thoughts in alphabetic order next week but must admit that I’m taking a will leap into the dark- or even oubliette- with this particular challenge.
I will be returning to the Midlands, Wales and the rest of England in due course but we might take a break from wall to wall castling in between times.
If you’re looking for a good book on the architecture and history of castles then Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain is the book for you.
In 1415 there were about 78 peel or pele towers in Northumberland. These towers were essentially private fortifications for protection in the event of Scottish raids – or neighbours you didn’t necessarily agree with. The idea was that you could secure your family and portable valuables until it was safe to emerge or help arrived – beacons were kept on the top of the towers which could be lit to summon help and to worn the surrounding countryside of danger.
Peel towers were an architecture that resulted from the Scottish Wars of Independence. Some of the peel towers were not ordinarily used as dwellings – rather they should be considered refuges in times of trouble whilst at the other end of the spectrum places like Aydon Castle near Hexham resemble castles.
Preston Tower was built by Sir Robert Harbottle at the end of the fourteenth century. Sir Robert was a man of his time. He was part of the affinity of Sir Mathew Radmayne of Levens and rose in Redmayne’s service. When Harbottle murdered a man in Methley in Yorkshire in 1392 it was Redmayne and his successor who secured Harbottle’s pardon.
You’d have thought that Harbottle would have kept his head down but it wasn’t long before he came to the attention of the law once again when he took part in a raid on the Yorkshire property of Isabel Fauconberg stealing her property as well as the property of her tenants. A commission was set up to investigate but somehow or other Harbottle escaped the consequence of his crimes once more.
Henry IV, having taken the crown from his cousin Richard II, made him constable of Dunstanburgh Castle in 1399 – clearly not having read his cv beforehand. He even managed to acquire one of the wardenship of the east march – essentially turning Harbottle into the law. Perhaps it’s not surprising that since he did so well from the Red Rose monarchs that Harbottle was loyal to both Henry IV and Henry V even when the Percy family rebelled against them. Having bagged himself an heiress in the form of Isabel Monbourcher, Harbottle had risen from henchman to man of wealth and influence. When Hotspur rebelled against Henry IV, Harbottle was able to claim a better share of his wife’s inheritance – so it would appear that luck was on his side as well.
In between times Harbottle had served in Henry IV’s army in 1400 against the Scots and became a member for parliament. In short he had become part of the gentry in the north and had a good stout peel tower to prove it.
Preston Tower has walls which are over two metres thick, is three storeys high and has rooms off the main chamber at each level. It was described by Pevsner as one of the best bits of medieval architecture in the country.
In January the Scots handed King Charles I over to the English. He had surrendered to the Scots int he hope that they would treat him better than the English and as a strategy for sowing political disharmony amongst his enemies. The Scots sold him to the English for £40,000.
On the 15th March Harlech Castle surrendered after a ten month siege. The constable of the castle had been in post since 1644. His name was William Owen who originated from Shropshire. Harlech itself had always been in the possession of the king. Perhaps because it wasn’t readily accessible to artillery it remained unchallenged until the final months of the civil war. This was probably just as well as Owen’s garrison comprised just fifteen men. Owen took himself off to Scotland and after the Royalist defeat found himself in Nottingham Castle. He was required to pay a fine of £400 before being allowed home. However he wasn’t required to pay one tenth of his income in tax as many other Royalists were required to do.
All that remained was to negotiate a settlement with the King and set up a series of laws for the good governance of the three kingdoms – even though no one could accuse what was happening in Ireland of being peaceful. Generals Ireton and Lambert drafted something called the Heads of Proposals. Essentially England would become Presbyterian, Parliament would have control of the armed forces and Royalists would not be allowed to hold office for five years.
Many army officers and soldiers were unhappy about the fact that Parliament would even consider negotiating with the king. It was one of the causal factors that led to the Putney Debates. The so-called “Grandees” who had negotiated with the king were seen as having failed the Parliamentarian cause. By August five radical cavalry regiments had elected agitators to state their views. One of their demands was for universal male suffrage, i.e. a levelling. The Grandees, Cromwell amongst them, invited the radicals to debate their demands – resulting in the Putney Debates which started on the 28th October and lasted for three days.
Unfortunately Cromwell became alarmed at the extent of the radical ideas expressed so the debaters were ordered back to their regiments. A document was drawn up to replace the one which the Levellers had presented. This did not go down well in the radical regiments. On the 15th November there was almost a mutiny which had to be suppressed before matters got out of hand.
Meanwhile – in June Parliament decided that Christmas was a nasty superstitious sort of event. They also banned Easter and Whitsun. As a result when Christmas came around rather than conforming with the new rules there were riots in Kent which swiftly evolved into the Second English Civil War.
The king had decided that he didn’t like the turn of events, the Levellers’ plan didn’t leave much room for a king and he became convinced that he would be assassinated. So he decided to escape Parliament. There was also the small matter of a constitutional monarchy. On November 11th Charles escaped from Hampton Court in the direction of the New Forest – where he became lost. He had aimed to make for Jersey but ended up on the Isle of Wight where he was recaptured.