Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Kenilworth Castle - Posting 1

 I usually separate postings if there's a lot of photos, into the Insides and the Outsides of buildings. There isn't that option for Kenilworth Castle as there's no roof! This posting is about the castle itself, and the next one will be about the Seige of the castle in 1173 (performed yesterday by 6 re-enactment groups.)

For almost five centuries, Kenilworth Castle served as a royal residence. The Kings and barons who created and lived in its buildings are among the most familiar names in English History.
It once stood at the heart of a 1,600-ha (4,000-acre) hunting ground, and surrounded by a vast man-made lake, it represented a rich prize to the generations of royal and almost-royal great men who owned  it: among them Geoffrey de Clinton, John of Gaunt, Henry V, and Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. 

Even in melancholy decay its influence has been far-reaching, thanks, in part, to Walter Scott’s best-selling romance, 'Kenilworth', which brought the castle new fame.
Geoffrey de Clinton, Henry I's treasurer, began the massive Norman keep at the core of the fortress in the 1120s, and under Henry II Kenilworth became a royal castle. King John greatly strengthened it between 1210 and 1215, enlarging the surrounding watery 'mere' which effectively made it an island stronghold.

This meant it could withstand an epic siege in 1266, when rebellious barons held out against Henry III's siege engines for six months, succumbing only to starvation.

 The delightful thing about Kenilworth Castle is that you are free to scramble around on the ruins and climb to the very tops of the towers if you have the energy.

The groups who were re-enacting the seige of the castle, seemed to enjoy wandering around in costume afterwards, giving us all the chance to have some unusual photos.
Ok, so this gentleman/knight was having fun striking a pose, looking all handsome and powerful into the distance, but there again,  I was having equal amounts of fun taking his photo.

Queen Elizabeth 1st at Kenilworth.

Queen Elizabeth I had granted Kenilworth Castle to her favourite, Robert Dudley, in 1563 and he spent a fortune transforming it into a luxurious palace fit to receive his queen and her court. 

The following extract is from the Kenilworth Castle website. (Copyright © Reading Museum Service (Reading Borough Council). All rights reserved.)

Queen Elizabeth I by an unknown artist

"The queen visited him there several times on her famous summer progresses away from London. Her fourth and final visit lasted for 19 days, from 9 to 27 July 1575, the longest she had ever stayed at a courtier’s house. In her honour, Leicester built sumptuous apartments especially for her use, with large airy windows with superb views, huge fires and a whole chamber dedicated to one of the queen’s great passions – dancing. Decorated with dazzling plasterwork, hung with rich tapestries and furnished sumptuously, this would have been the summit of Elizabethan luxury. Leicester also devised the most lavish series of entertainments for the queen, and took as much care with the surrounding landscape as he had with the buildings, embellishing his park with bowers, arbours, seats and walks. He wanted Elizabeth’s privy, or private, garden to be as magnificent an outdoor space as the interiors he had created for her. 

Two detailed accounts of the festivities survive, one written by the poet and actor George Gascoigne, the other by Robert Langham, keeper of the council chamber door. It is from Langham, a minor official, that we have the description of the garden. Although it was designed as a privy garden, closed to all but the queen’s closest companions, one day, while the queen was out hunting, Adrian the gardener allowed Langham to sneak inside. Langham’s account is written in the form of a long letter, in a curious style which has provoked a great deal of debate. Although he cannot have visited the garden for more than a few hours, Langham left an extremely detailed description of its features. The accuracy of his account is borne out by archaeological evidence, which confirms that an eight-sided fountain once stood at the centre of the garden, just as he claims."

Photos of the reconstructed garden. ( A tour of the garden is here if you want more information.)

The tower which was built by Dudley for the Queen's visit in 1563 has this rather long drop to the grounds outside the castle. I suspect a dunny.

Above right: really thick walls to withstand attack.
 Graffiti through the ages.

The shots below are some more of the stones, window arches, and below ground rooms.

To the left are the underground rooms and above is the light pouring through a doorway from a window high up in the wall. Possibly a dungeon? 

Looking back through the remains at a row of arches over doorways.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of yet another school visit, in the first form (I think) of Chipping Norton School. I'd never been to a real castle before, though we had studied them in history - I remember it was magical, made the lessons come to life and really fired my imagination!