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WOW!!  Getting to the end of September and suddenly summer is here. It’s Saturday and Monday is officially the end of summer, but today is another warm day. Not blazing sunshine but very pleasant nonetheless. 

I haven’t been across to Anglesey for a while so today I’m going to Beaumaris Castle. This is different to other castles built by Edward 1, as it was built on a marsh, not raised on rocks. Building started in 1295 and Beaumaris was the last royal stronghold to be built in Wales by King Edward.

The plan of this castle took full advantage of the flat site, not fettered by the usual constraints that shaped the castles of Conwy and Caernarfon (being built on rocky outcrops). It was built using a concentric-walls within walls-principle with four rings of formidable defences including a wide water-filled moat. 

Beaumaris is not as immediately impressive as some other castles, and is not as well preserved as some, but it is a formidable place.

When building work finished in the 1330’s many parts of the castle were not completed, but it is easy to see what an incredible place this was.

This is the outer west wall and the wide moat, the first obstacle facing anyone trying to get into this place 

 

 

 

 This is the south wall and moat with the “Gate next  the Sea”. Where the wooden bridge now leads into  the castle would have been a drawbridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the right hand side of the Gate-next-the-sea is the dock. The channel leading to the Menai Strait has been filled in, but ships would sail up the channel and dock here. The metal rings where they would tie-up can still be seen in the walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Gate next the Sea. This gate contained the first of  15 obstacles to deter any intruders. 

 First was the drawbridge, then 2 parallel “murder-  slots” over the gate passage, then a heavy two-leaved  door.

 After passing through the door is a right-angled turn  to the door into the barbican, it’s interior commanded by a shooting platform running around 3 sides.

 

 

 

 

Once through the gate you enter the outer ward, the open space between the lower walls and towers of the outer curtain and the massive walls and towers of the inner curtain. Here you can see the eight-sided layout of the castle, and it’s complex construction. 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

The north gatehouse. Still an imposing structure, originally the plan was for it to have been about twice this size, with another storey and another 5 windows. 

 

 


 

 The south gatehouse, with the Menai Strait behind.  Not as complete as the north gatehouse, but  probably intended to be almost identical.

 The inner ward covers an area of three-quarters of  an acre, and in 1295 would have been full of huts to  house the workforce.

 

 

 

 

The northern section of the eastern curtain wall. The great hall would have been built here, but little remains of the exterior. There would have been a number of rooms here, and this area would probably have been the main residential suite. 

In the left hand corner was the north-east tower, and on the right-hand side the chapel.

To the right of the north-east tower are the remains of two huge fireplaces, so there were obviously two storeys here.

To the right of the fireplaces is an arched doorway which would have led to the chapel royal.

 

 

 

 

 The chapel royal occupies the first floor of the tower  which stands halfway along the eastern curtain wall.  It has lost it’s colour and fittings, but is still one of  the highlights of Beaumaris today

 

 

 

 

 

 On the left is the ceiling of the chapel royal.

   On the right is the wall passage leading to the    chapel.

 

 

 

 A number of these stone diaphragm arches still  remain intact. They were capable of supporting  a heavy floor, so another chamber would have  been at second floor level.

 The remains of a fine hooded fireplace, which  would have been in a first storey chamber.

 


 

 

 The view looking south across the Menai Strait  towards Snowdonia.

 

 


 

A reconstruction of how Beaumaris may have looked had it been fully completed.

Illustration by Terry Ball, 1987

© Cadw

 

Beaumaris is not the huge imposing fortress stood on a rocky outcrop, but is impressive just the same.

It is wonderful to see the planning of these fortresses, and how mpregnable they were with imaginative defenses built into them.

It is also a wonder that they are still standing, maybe not complete but we can still see the workmanship that was used. How many of todays building will still be standing in 700 years time I wonder?

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Wednesday, the 17th September 2008, one of the few dry days we’d had for some time. The sun was out, though hazy at times, so off to Caernarfon for a wander around the castle there.

Caernarfon castle is another of King Edward 1st’s ring of castles in north Wales. But though castles like Conwy and Rhuddlan are wonderful places, this one is different. Edward started building Caernarfon in 1283 and it still wasn’t completely finished when building work stopped in 1330.

He wanted his master-mason and military engineer to build a castle that would echo the walls of the Roman City of Constantinople

What he achieved was very close to that. Many consider this to be the finest castle that man has seen. 

From the south, across Afon Seiont you get the best view, showing not only the size, but the wonderful multi-angular towers and colour-banded walls.

 

 

 

 The plan of the castle is shaped almost like a figure  8. Divided into two wards, in this view the lower  ward is in the foreground, the narrow waist in the  centre and the upper ward beyond.


 Many of the walls and towers have survived, though  some have been restored. The courtyard buildings  though have mostly disappeared, except for  foundations or toothing projecting from walls.

 

The picture on the left is of the kitchen, or all that remains of it. It is conveniently located next to the Well tower and opposite the Great Hall. In a castle of this size the kitchen would have to cater for about 600 people every day.  

The picture on the right is one of the staircases in a tower. very steep and narrow, I wouldn’t have wanted to run up them carrying a crossbow and other equipment!

 



In the centre is one of the arrow loops, showing the thickness of the walls. This castle has a unique arrangement of arrow loops, allowing bowmen to use their firepower in several directions at the same time, it must have been pretty devastating in Medieval times.

 

This is the upper ward. It is built on the site of a previous Motte-and-Bailey castle and as you can see, it is raised. This was the site of the bailey.


To the left is the Granary Tower, with the North-East Tower just behind it.

The Queens Gate is on the right.

 

 This is the upper ward looking back to the lower  ward.

 Edwards son, known as Edward of Caernarfon, was  born in the castle and became the first Prince of  Wales in  1301.

 The large circular slate dias was placed there and  used for the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of  Wales in 1969. The slate was from a local quarry  which has now closed.

 Modern investitures had started again in 1911. This  is a fantastic setting for these ceremonies.

 

 

This is an old cannon standing in the “waist” between the two wards. The Queens Gate is in the background.

 

 

 

 


 

 This is one of the covered wall-walks. very dark and  narrow.

 

This is one of the walk-ways around the top of the castle, this one is between the Black Tower and Chamberlain Tower.

 The view from  the lower ward. On the right are  the  foundations of the Great Hall. What a pity  that this is all thats left, it must have been  an impressive place 100ft long.

 The Chamberlain Tower is on the right with  the base of the Queens Tower in the right  foreground.

 Left centre is the Kings Gate. The immense  strength of medieval  fortifications are in  evidence here. When completed, intruders  would have had to  cross a drawbridge, pass  through 5 doors  and under 6 portcullises,  with a right- angled turn from the main gate  passage to a smaller passage, along the south side of the gate house, before entering the lower ward over a drawbridge!

 

 

The view from the Queens Tower, looking up Afon Seiont to the hills beyond.

 

 


 

 

 

 The Eagle Tower is the greatest of all the castles towers.

 Everything about the tower is designed on a grander  scale. 

 Like some other towers it’s built with a basement and 3  storeys, with the 3 lofty turrets giving it it’s special  appearance.

 

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

A view of the top of the Eagle Tower from the Well Tower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything about the Eagle Tower is on a grander scale. 

The rooms, as in other towers are 10-sided, but these are 30 to 35ft across. 

The stone eagle is still perched on top of the west turret, but is very weathered now.

 

 


 The view from the Eagle Tower. The town wall is in  the foreground.

 The view then extends across the Menai Strait to  Anglesey

 

 

 

The town walls looking towards the castle from the shore of the Menai Strait.

The gate in the background (after the tower) is known as the Porth-yr-Aur, “The Golden Gate”.

Most of the wall is still intact, and there are eight towers and two twin-towered gates.

 

 

 

 Another view of the town wall showing 2 towers, and  on the right part of St Mary’s chapel.

 St Mary’s was built into the wall in the 14th century.

 

 I’ve spent over 4 hours looking round this wonderful  castle, and still haven’t seen everything. 

 There is so much to see here, including interactive  displays, gift shops and the museum of the Royal    Welch  Fusiliers. It’s well worth a visit if your heading  to north west Wales.

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Finally I’m adding a post of a day out I had in July, one of the very few nice days we’ve had since May. Anyway, for a change I decided to have a few hours in Conwy, which is only 3 miles from where I live. 

 

Conwy is a small town dominated by a magnificent castle, and enclosed within town walls.

The castle is one of the ring of castles built in north Wales by William 1, to keep the Welsh subdued. Work started in 1283 and it was completed, along with the town walls in 1287.

Originally the walls were rendered and were white. It must have been a wonderful but frightening sight in those days.

 

The town was laid out in a grid pattern within the walls, and retains the same pattern today. Much of the town is still within the walls. 

The picture on the left is the smallest house in Britain, which is on the quayside. It is 10ft 2ins high, 6ft wide and 8ft 4ins from back to front. Very few people cn stand upright in it’s rooms, but the last permanent occupant was a local fisherman who was over 6ft tall!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The picture on the right is Aberconwy House which dates from  the 14th century. It’s a rare example of a timbered stone built merchants house and it i said to be the oldest  dwelling in Conwy.

 

 St Mary’s Church is the only building which pre-dates the castle, well part of it does. It is built on the site of a Cistercian Abbey dating from 1185.

Part of one of the walls are said to be from the Abbey, which was moved further up the Conwy valley to Maenen when William chose this place to build his castle.

 

 

 

 


 

 

The statue of Llewelyn the Great is in Lancaster Square. Llewelyn was a great Welsh Prince and founded the Abbey in 1185.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 And so, on to the castle, which still dominates the town and the surrounding area.

 

This is the Kings tower, where William 1st had his personal chambers.

 

 

 

 

Also in the Kings tower is his personal chapel. It’s not very big, but then it was for the King and his personal retinue. He probably didn’t use it when others did, because above it is a little watching room. Here the King could sit and watch proceedings through a small window.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the left, the slightly curving room is the Great Hall. It is 150ft long, and is curved rather than the usual rectangular shape because of the shape of the rock outcrop on which the castle is built.

The smaller room at this end of the Great Hall is the castle chapel.

 

 


 

 

 This is just a photo to show how thick the walls are. 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

From the castle you can look down onto the suspension bridge across Afon Conwy. The bridge was built by Thomas Telford in 1822 and was a toll bridge. It was in use until the new road bridge was opened in 1958.

The other bridge which can just be seen is the tubular Railway bridge which was built by Stephenson in 1849.

Two great structures which try to compliment the castle, and certainly don’t detract from it.

 

The town walls are 3/4 mile long and are still mostly intact except for a short stretch by the quayside. You 

 can take a very pleasant walk around the  walls.

 

 The original gates in the town walls are still  in use, and as you can see, they were not  constructed for modern traffic. It just adds  to the attractiveness of this World Heritage  Site. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 From the new road bridge is a great view  down the estuary. In the background is the  Great Orme, where Llandudno nestles beneath it.

 On the right is Deganwy, with it’s marina.  The strange shaped hill is the remains of an  ancient castle.

 And so it’s back home, and the wonderful  sunset behind the castle which I see from  the end of my street.

 


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