Monday, February 27, 2012

Penrith Castle, North East Gateway

North East gateway
Penrith Castle

This gateway into the castle wasn't even the main entrance....and yet the defences built here would have been strong and difficult to circumvent. First off, the draw bar tunnel inserted into the four foot thick wall of the North East corner of the castle, would have provided the door with a strong barrier against which it could be shut. The draw bar tunnel is around 9 inches by 9 inches, providing space for a massive piece of timber.

Above. The right hand side of the gateway, showing the 9 inch draw bar tunnel. 

The thickness of the wall, along with the depth of the tunnel and the size of the tunnel, meant that this would have been a well defended entry\exit into and from the castle.

Above. Close up of the draw bar tunnel in the left hand side of the gateway. 

Above. All that survives of the draw bar tunnel in the right hand side of the gateway. 

The opposing side of the gateway has been much reduced, resulting in the draw bar tunnel on this side being exposed. In the photo above, the door jamb can also be seen.

Above. The stone lintel and the portcullis groove. 

This photo (above) shows what I think may have been the stone lintel upon which the portcullis may have rested when it was lowered. The groove now only exists on one side of the passageway, and only to a height of around one foot.

Above. Close up of the portcullis groove. 

Above. Modern bridge spanning the moat and the remains of the outer gatehouse tower.

Finally....outside of the castle, the moat would have provided a barrier that would have proved difficult to navigate, especially if it were a wet ditch or water filled moat. Standing in the moat, a gatehouse and tower was built, providing control over traffic entering and exiting the castle. The remains of the gatehouse and tower can be seen beneath the wooden footbridge that spans the moat.

Penrith Castle panoramas

Penrith Castle,

February has seen me visiting Penrith again....better camera and more of an idea what I need to be photographing to capture the intricacies of this Royal castle. Consisting of three possible building phases, Penrith castle presents us with the fortified residence of a Bishop (William Strickland, Bishop of Carlisle), the home of a wealthy and influential land owner (Ralph Neville), and finally, a castle and home for future King, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

Above.  The apartment buildings and remains of the North Eastern gate.

The apartments were built along the North Eastern walls of the castle, overlooking the small courtyard at the centre of the collection of buildings and walls. These buildings were built under the tenure of Ralph Neville, sometime between 1396 and 1425 and formed part of the original castle. They are contemporary with the curtain walls on all sides of the castle and the small bridge that would have spanned the moat on the North East side of the castle.

Above. The standing remains of the Red Tower at the Northern tip of the castle. 

The Red Tower, built at the Northern tip of the castle, dates from the tenure of Richard Neville, and would have been built between 1425 and 1460. Apart from some additional internal walls, this was one of the only parts of the castle to be erected during this time.

Above. View of the interior of the White Tower at the North West corner of the castle. 

The White Tower, at the North West corner of the castle, consists of external walls dating from Ralph Neville's tenure, and internal walling from Richard, Duke of Gloucester's ownership of the castle. This complex of smaller rooms occupied the whole of the South Western side of the castle, butting up against the external curtain walls. 

Above. Another view of the apartment buildings. 

Above. Interior wall...about eight feet thick. 

I think these are the footings of all that remains of an internal wall near the Western gatehouse. At this point, the walls are about eight feet thick, with large blocks on the exterior faces, and smaller rubble between them.

Above. Looking North East towards the vault of the Great Hall. 

All that remains of the great hall and the tower that overlooked the North Eastern gateway, is this square platform with a vaulted chamber beneath it. This tower would have been about a storey shorter than its neighbour, the Red Tower a few yards away. This tower was built during Ralph Neville's tenure of the castle, and appeared to have the thickest walls indicating that it was possibly regarded as the centre of the castle's defences.

Above. The North Eastern wall of the castle. 

The photo above shows the exterior walls of the Apartments that were built along the inside of the North Eastern walls. There is a single thick buttress in the centre of the external face of the wall, which may have had a small crenellated turret at its peak.

Above. Detail of the Southern corner of the Apartments. 

The photo above shows the Southern tip of the apartments. Here, a large window has been inserted, most likely at a much later stage in the castle's history. The small overhang near the far right hand side of the wall may have originally had some small open machicolations between the bosses. These are now blocked though.

Above. North East corner of the moat. 

Looking East towards Penrith town centre, the moat survives to a good depth and is very well defined. Unfortunately for us though, the moat only now survives on the North East, the East and a small portion on the Southern corner. 

Above. The castle from the East, inside the moat.

The moat here is about twelve feet deep with gently sloping sides. This would have been a formidable, yet compact castle in its day.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Penrith Beacon

Penrith Beacon

High above Penrith, to the North of the town, peeping over the tops of the plantation, Penrith Beacon can just about be seen. The current pyramidal building dates from 1719, and is built on the site of earlier beacons erected to warn of impending attacks from across the border. 

Above. A view of the Beacon from Penrith Castle.

There has been a beacon on this site from as early as 1296, be that a structure holding a fire or a building. Documents from the mid 1400s detail the beacon being used to communicate with another at Dale Raughton near Kirkoswald, around 7 miles to the North. Penrith Beacon could also communicate with Carlisle Castle and a beacon situated on Orton Scar. These days the beacon would be pretty useless, as it is surrounded by trees that equal or exceed its highest point. When the beacon was in use, the hill side upon which it sits would have been, the Earl of Lonsdale has a plantation on the hill sides.

Detailed in this pamphlet, is information on walks around Penrith, together with a map of the walk to the summit of Beacon Hill. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Millom castle Great Tower, Millom

Millom Castle Great Tower

Millom castle consists of two separate entities. Firstly there are the castle remains, which fall under Scheduled Ancient Monument protection, and secondly, the Great Tower, which is Grade I listed. The best view of the massive tower can be had from the church yard to the South of the castle remains. From here views of the tower are free from trees and other buildings. 

Above. View of the Great Tower from the church yard to the South of the castle.

The tower was built sometime around 1660, and sits at the South West corner of the castle ruins, surrounded by the ruined curtain walls and other buildings. 

Above. View of the Great Tower from the footpath to the church.

The roofless building to the left of the tower, shown in the photo above, may represent the remains of a 17th century gatehouse. Access to this gatehouse is through a well preserved red sandstone arched doorway. This can be seen in the photo above just behind the blue car.

Above. Another view of the Great Tower from the West.

As well as the numerous more modern windows, smaller, original windows can be seen on all four external walls of the Great Tower...some are still in use while others have been bricked up. The tower now has a double pitched roof, but would most likely have had a flat crenellated roof. A 17th century engraving shows the tower with a ruined or possible unfinished top floor. 

Above. The Great Tower from the churchyard, looking North.

It's most likely that the licence to crenellate, given to Ferdinand Huddleston on the 10th of March, 1622, relates to this portion of the buildings at Millom Castle, though it is now thought unlikely that this is in fact a licence to crenellate at all...a mistake possibly attributable to Curwen's writings in the 19th century. The wording of the 'licence' is as follows "Grant to Sir Thos. Metcalf and Dame Elizabeth, his wife of Nappa, Co. York, and to Ferdinand Huddleston, of Millom Castle and Nich. Curwen, of the Holme, both co. Cumberland, and others, of certain recognzances of 500l. each, forfeited by non-appearance of Metcalf in the Star Chamber; also of all fines in the Star Chamber, forfeiture of lands, &c., on account of the above recognizances" and doesn't really seem to represent a licence for Ferdinand to make any physical additions to his home!