St. Briavels Castle, St. Briavels, Gloucestershire

St. Briavels Castle, Main Entrance
Publisher: Francis Frith

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Built in the early 12th century, it was the residence of the warden of the Forest of Dean – a royal hunting ground where the game was protected and the king alone allowed to hunt. The castle was in royal possession by the 1160s and was rebuilt, with the small but impressive keep, by Henry II (r.1154–89). The Forest of Dean was important for another reason – it was one of the centres of the medieval iron industry, small scale by present day standards but a vital source of supply for the manufacture of weapons, especially crossbow bolts. The crossbow was the favourite weapon of the mercenaries who were employed in considerable numbers by Henry’s son, King John (r.1199–1216), who built a new hall (now vanished) and an elaborate chamber block at St Briavel’s. . . . Under Edward I (r.1272–1307), thousands of crossbow bolts were produced at the castle in preparation for the king’s Welsh and Scottish campaigns. Edward took care to ensure that his arsenal was well protected, adding the massive twin-towered gatehouse to the castle in 1292.

With the conquest of Wales completed by the end of the 15th century, the castle’s importance declined rapidly and unused buildings were demolished in 1680. The gatehouse became a prison where those accused of committing offences within the forest area were held while awaiting trial. . . . The keep collapsed in 1752, by which time the great hall had also been demolished, and the east tower collapsed in 1777 destroying the adjoining buildings. The castle was still being used as a debtors’ prison until 1842. After centuries of neglect and decay, the surviving buildings were restored and rendered habitable at the turn of the 20th century.
English Heritage

St Briavel’s Castle survives well with its moat, curtain wall, gatehouse and royal apartments in good condition. The upstanding remains are a good example of an enclosure castle of the 13th century. Sub-surface deposits within the castle and moat will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the castle and the wider landscape. Notice boards explain concisely the history and functions of the various parts of the castle, and it can be visited by the public in its present function as a Youth Hostel, providing a valuable educational resource. The enclosure castle of St Briavels is recorded in the early 12th century, but is thought to have its beginnings in the 11th century as a motte and bailey castle. This long history of use and adaptation will provide evidence of changing approaches to defensive problems and castle building over time. It was one of a sequence of castles along the border, built as part of a defensive strategy against the Welsh. In the 13th century it was strengthened in a huge castle building programme undertaken for the conquest of Wales and the Welsh wars of 1277, 1282-3 and 1294-5. The gatehouse can be seen as part of the sequential development of castle gatehouses formed by projecting mural towers on either side of an entrance passageway which culminated in the grand castles of Harlech, Beaumaris, Caerphilly and Tonbridge.
Historic England

Fast forward a couple centuries to when King John would visit and hunt in the forest every November, always lodging at St Briavels Castle. He allegedly expanded and renovated the former fortress—funded by the taxes he increased and collected, as is expected of this notoriously villainous monarch. Some of the surviving rooms, hall range, and curtain wall are thought to have been built by him. Some time after John’s death, the castle was turned into a quarrel (crossbow bolt) factory, and soon it became the national center of quarrel manufacture, the resources provided by the iron mines in the Forest of Dean. The castle’s most iconic feature, its magnificent gatehouse, was built around this time by the order of King Edward I.
Atlas Obscura

Court Room in St. Briavel’s Castle & Interior of the Debtors’ Prison in St. Briavel’s Castle
“The Forest of Dean”, H. G. Nicholls, 1858, pp. 114-115

The outer walls and the moat are perfect ; the circumference of the castle, of horseshoe shape, is small, and the exterior of the outer wall does not seem to have ever had bastions, such as most castles of the fourteenth century possess, but to have had the whole area within crammed with buildings. The principal strength was in the gatehouse, as at Abergavenny ; it had two powerful square flanking towers, having rounded outer angles, three storeys each in height, and with a large oblong tower behind them, wherein the defence was concentrated and the numbers of the defenders were economised. One of the most remarkable features about the castle is a large room, somewhat resembling our old House of Lords at Westminster ; but before this part of the castle could be entered there were the two flanking towers to be carried, as well as the large one beyond, built on to them, now dilapidated ; and then there was, besides, the Keep, which fell down into the moat, late in the last century, and which had its own postern.

There are curious and intricate passages and staircases contrived in the walls of the entrance towers. The great Hall has, unfortunately, been destroyed, but the solar, or lord’s chamber, at the upper end, remains, and was some time ago used as a school- room ; it contains a fine fireplace, above which is the well-known chimney, with one of the most beautiful chimney-tops in England. At the lower end of the hall some servants’ apartments have been left, connected with one of the gatehouse towers, which is nearly perfect, and contains some small chambers of this period, each having its own fireplace and chimney.
“The castles of England, their story and structure, vol I”, James Mackenzie, 1897 pp. 376

Berkeley Castle, Berkeley, Gloucestershire

Berkeley Castle; Steps to King Edward’s Room
Publisher: The Cotswold Publishing Company, Wotton-under-Edge

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The Castle is one of the March Castles, built to keep out the Welsh. It has all the trappings to match: trip steps designed to make the enemy stumble during an assault, arrow slits, murder holes, enormous barred doors, slots where the portcullis once fell, and worn stones where sentries stood guard. It is also a fairytale Castle with its warm pink stone that glows in soft sunset light. Outside, the battlements drop some 60′ to the Great Lawn below; but inside the Inner Courtyard, the building is on a human scale, with uneven battlements, small towers, doors and windows of every shape and size. The surrounding land would have been flooded for defence.
Berkeley Castle

The first castle at Berkeley was a motte-and-bailey, built around 1067 by William FitzOsbern shortly after the Conquest. This was subsequently held by three generations of the first Berkeley family, all called Roger de Berkeley, and rebuilt by them in the first half of the 12th century. The last Roger de Berkeley was dispossessed in 1152 for withholding his allegiance from the House of Plantagenet during the conflict of The Anarchy, and the feudal barony of Berkeley was then granted to Robert Fitzharding, a wealthy burgess of Bristol and supporter of the Plantagenets. He was the founder of the Berkeley family which still holds the castle. In 1153–54, Fitzharding received a royal charter from King Henry II giving him permission to rebuild the castle. Fitzharding built the circular shell keep between 1153 and 1156, probably on the site of the former motte. The building of the curtain wall followed, probably during 1160–1190 by Robert and then by his son Maurice. Much of the rest of the castle is 14th century and was built for Thomas de Berkeley, 3rd Baron Berkeley: Thorpe’s Tower, to the north of the keep, the inner gatehouse to its southwest, and other buildings of the inner bailey.

“A View of Berkeley Castle” in Gloucestershire (from Wikimedia Commons)

FitzOsbern’s castle consisted of a motte which was probably topped with a timber palisade and tower. To the south-east was a small, square bailey which would have been enclosed by a timber rampart. The castle is mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086 with the slightly cryptic entry stating “there are five hides belonging to Berkeley which Earl William put out to make the castle”. This can be interpreted a number of ways but is now generally assumed to mean he appropriated the associated lands in order to support the new castle.
. . .
[In 1326] Edward II’s regime collapsed when the King’s estranged wife, Queen Isabella, and Roger Mortimer, Earl of March invaded and forced his abdication. Edward was initially held at Corfe Castle in Dorset but the local populace was sympathetic to the deposed King’s plight and accordingly he was moved to Berkeley Castle under the supervision of its owner, Thomas de Berkeley. The former King was incarcerated at the castle from April to September 1327. Popular history then suggests he was murdered either by suffocation or insertion of a red hot poker into his anus
Castles Forts Battles

Castle keep, with curtain wall and inner bailey. Late C11 altered mid C12 and mid C14. Original circular keep to north west begun c1067 by Fitz Osborn, Earl of Hereford, with base of shell keep remaining of this period. Shell keep enlarged 1153, Curtain wall to east and south built 1160-1190, including walls of Great Hall, and altered to south west in C14. The whole castle is in an original and good state of preservation and retains most original features down to doors, arrow slits and windows, iron catches etc. Interior completely remodelled 1340-1350 by Thomas, Lord Berkeley, although the work of this period only survives in the inner bailey. Remained largely unaltered until 1920s when 8th Earl of Berkeley modernised and altered the interior and installed many artefacts from elsewhere, for example fireplaces, stained glass.
Historic England

“The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol 1”, James Mackenzie, 1896
A Fore Building; B Edward II. Dungeon; C Edward II. Tower; D Domestic Apartments; E Kitchen; F Buttery; G Offices; H Oratory and Well

In Berkeley Castle the buildings are of several periods. The Norman shell keep, the most ancient part, is irregularly circular in plan, and is flanked by three semicircular towers, and a square one of later construction; its walls are massive and high. There is an external staircase giving access to the keep, and over it a room has been built at a later period which tradition assigns as the scene of the murder of Edward II.; Horace Walpole describes it as “a dismal chamber in the square tower, almost at the top of the house, quite detached, and to be approached only by a kind of foot-bridge.” The various buildings of the castle are contained within the outer wall, facing the keep on its mound, and having six or seven angles and faces. . . . The great Hall is perfect and is a very fine one of the fourteenth century. The kitchen is remarkable, hexagonal in shape with immense fireplaces between the windows, and two recesses for cooking on two of the other sides ; it rises to the full height of the building, with a heavy timber roof added by Henry VII. The bakehouse and oven, the larders, the great cellars for wine, with groined roof supported by pillars in Norman work, are all extant and still in use, the wall of these cellars being in places 13 feet thick where the outer wall has been buttressed. Above the cellars are two beautiful chapels of Decorated period, which had fallen into disuse and perhaps desecration as early as 1364, when they were restored under Papal authority.
“The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol 1”, James Mackenzie, 1896

Berkeley, “Castles Of England And Wales”, Herbert A Eales, 1912
A Outer Ward; B Inner Ward; 1 Kitchen; 2 Hall; 3 Chapel; 4 Keep; 5 Thorpe Tower; 6 Muniment Tower; 7 Parish Church

The keep itself is entered through a vaulted passage in the wall opening by a Norman archway with closed tympanum and flat-headed doorway beneath. One of the ornamented side shafts remains. The inner gate is enriched with mouldings of the chevron pattern. Opposite the entrance is the breach in the curtain already noticed. Originally such buildings as the area contained were probably of wood, two storeys high, and were ranged round the curtain, leaving an open space in the centre. At the present day the southern part is filled with a block of buildings, much of which is of comparatively modern date, and which renders the two southern round towers invisible from this side. In the easternmost of these towers, entered through an ante-room, is the chamber in which — according to Smyth — Edward II was murdered. It contains a dungeon 28 feet deep, reminding us of those at Alnwick and Arundel. The third round tower to the east is reached by a modern staircase ; its base- ment contains a well, and its upper part an oratory dedicated to St. John the Baptist and now used as a muniment room.
“Castles Of England And Wales”, Herbert A Eales, 1912

Thornbury Castle, Thornbury, Gloucestershire

Thornbury Castle from the Church
Pubilsher: A. Prewett & Son, Thornbury

Google Street View (approximate).

The manor house was forfeited at the execution for treason of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, following the Rebellion of 1483, but was restored to the family and inherited by his son Edward, 3rd Duke, in 1498, who made it his principal seat. Plans were laid for the creation of an ambitious and outwardly fortified house and a licence to fortify, crenellate, and embattle the manor house was granted in 1510. With the hall and chapel of the existing manor house forming the east range of an inner courtyard, Buckingham set about building an elaborate palace-castle, which demonstrated the involvement of masons of the highest quality, and was apparently inspired by Richmond Palace, at that time England’s most splendid royal residence. To complement his bold plans for the castle, Buckingham enclosed 1500 acres of parkland between 1510 and 1517.

Edward, Duke of Buckingham, was executed on the orders of Henry VIII following an investigation for treason in 1521 – the Duke’s ostentatious behaviour and wealth, as evidenced by his lavish building programme, having exacerbated the suspicion with which he was viewed – and the estate was confiscated, remaining in Crown ownership until 1554. Henry sent surveyors to make a record of his new acquisition shortly after Buckingham’s death, and their account provides a detailed description of the castle and estate. Although works were not recommenced, the buildings were maintained and periodically used; Princess Mary visited during the 1520s, and Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stopped on a royal progress in 1535. Thornbury Castle was restored to the Staffords in 1554 when it was granted to Buckingham’s son, Lord Henry Stafford, by Queen Mary. The upkeep of the castle proved too expensive, however, and it fell into ruin, eventually coming into the ownership of a branch of the Howard family in 1637 and remaining in their hands until the 1960s.

The east range, comprising the original medieval hall and chapel, was demolished at some point before 1732. No pictorial representations survive of the range, which is described in a detailed estate inventory made in the late C16; archaeological investigation has demonstrated the survival of this part of the castle as a buried feature. Although part of the castle – principally the section of the west range to the south of the gatehouse – served as lodgings and a farmhouse in the C18 and early C19, much of the building was ruinous, and it was not until the C19 that it was brought back into use as a high-status residence
Historic England

Thornbury Castle, West
“M. P. C. Series”

“The ancient castles of England and Wales”, William Woolnoth & E.W. Brayley, jun, 1825

In the following reign a mansion was built there, on the site, as it is supposed, of the more ancient edifice, by Ralph, Lord Stafford. Part of this building was taken down in 1511, by Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, when he conmenced the erection of a new and splendid pile. The attainder and death of the Duke, who was betrayed by his domestics, and sacrificed to the resentment of Wolsey in 1522, prevented the completion of the design ; and this castellated palace has been permitted to decay in its unfinished state. Leland visited Thornbury Castle soon after the Duke of Buck- ingham was beheaded, and he informs us, that the principal front, towards the west, was then nearly finished ; and another, towards the south, completely so : the stately gateway had risen only to the first floor. . . . From a Survey made in the year 1582, it is evident that the whole southern side of the proposed quadrangle was then habitable, and that it consisted of many spacious apartments. A Tower at the south-western angle, which appears to have been the only one ever finished, contained, on the ground-floor, the Duchess’s closet ; on the second story were the Duke’s jewel and bed-chambers ; another chamber occupied the third story ; and over that was a room called the Treasury, wherein the evidences or records were preserved. The chimnies are very curiously and beautifully constructed ; they consist of brick, wrought into spiral columns, the bases of which are charged with the cognizances of the Stafford family. The principal timbers of this edifice were removed in the time of Queen Elizabeth; and the Hall and Chapel, with a range of other buildings, were demolished in the last century.
“The ancient castles of England and Wales”, William Woolnoth & E.W. Brayley, jun, 1825

“History of Thornbury Castle”, Richard Ellis, 1839
Plan of Office on South Side and General Ground Plan, “History of Thornbury Castle”, Richard Ellis, 1839

Mr. Gage, however, in his paper in the Archoeologia states that the survey was made in the reign of James the 1st. He refers to Rudder’s History of Gloucester- shire, who says, “I have been favoured with a more particular description of this Castle, written as conjecture about the time of King James the 1st.” That our readers may the better understand, and be enabled to apply this survey to the present condition of the Castle we annex a ground plan ; the index to which specifies the principal rooms therein described.

Containing these Rooms following.

“The house or Castle of Thornbury aforesaid, is standing, and being within two miles of the river Seaverne which runeth on the north thereof, and is bounded, and adjoyned unto the Church-yard of the Parish Church of Thornbury aforesaid on the south part ; the Park there, called New Park on the U North and East part ; and one small parcel of ground called the Petties, on the West part.

“At the first entry towards the said Castle is a fair base Court, containing by estimation 2½ Acres, compassed about with buildings of stone for servants’ lodging, to the height of 14 or 15 feet left unfinished without timber or covering, set forth with windows of freestone, some having bars of iron in them, some none. At the entry into the Castle, on the West side of the same, are two Gates a large, and a lesser, with a Wyck gate. On the left hand there is a Porters Lodge, containing three rooms, with a dungeon underneath the same, for a place of imprisonment. Next adjoyning unto the same is a fair room, call’d the Dukes Wardropp, with a Chimney therein. Within the same is a fair room, or lodging Chamber, with a Cellar or Vault underneath the same. Over all which are four lodging Chambers with Chimneys.

“On the right hand of the said gates are two fair rooms, called the Duchess’s Wardropp, and over them are two fair Chambers, called the Steward’s Chambers, Within all which is a court quadrant, paved with Stone, containing by estimation half an Acre, encompassed with the Castle buildings, and leading from the gates aforesaid to the great Hall, at the entry whereof is a porch, and to the right hand of a small room called the [sic orig.] On the left or North side of the said Court is one fair wet Larder, a dry Larder, a Privy, a Bakehouse, and Boyling house, with an entry leading from all the same rooms of Office, to the Great Kitchen ; over ail which are Chambers for ordinary Lodging, and over the same again is one long room, called the Cock-loft. The Great Kitchen having two fair flues or Chimneys, and one lesser Chimney, and within the same Kitchen is a privy Kitchen, over which is a lodging chamber over which is a lodging chamber for Cooks. On the back side of which last recited building, are certain decay ‘d buildings, sometimes used for a Bakehouse, and Armery, with certain decay’d lodgings over the same.

“From the great Kitchen (leading to the great Hall) is an Entry on the one side, whereof is a decay’d room called the Scullery, with a large flue or Chimney therein, and a Pantry to the same adjoyning. On the other side of the entry are two old decay’ d rooms, heretofore used for Clerks, on the back side whereof is a little Court adjoining to the said Kitchen, and in the same is a fair well or pump for Water, partly decay’d; between which decay’d cellars, at the lower end of the said Hall is a Buttery, over all which recited rooms are four Chambers, called the Earl of Stafford’s lodgings, partly decay’d, with one room call’d the Clerk’s Treasury thereunto adjoyning.

“From the lower end of the great Hall is an entry leading to the Chapel : at the corner of the entry is a cellar. . . . The lower part of the principal building of the Castle is called the New-building at the West end there of is a fair Tower : in which lower building is contained one great Chamber, with a chimney in the same, the ceiling and timber work thereof decay’d, being propped up with certain pieces of other timber ; within the same is one other fair Chamber with a chimney therein; and within the same again is one other fair lodging Chamber with a chimney therein called the Duchess’s lodgings with one little room or closet between the two last recited Chambers: within all which is one room, being the foundation or lowermost part of the said Tower, called the Duchess’s Closet, with a Chimney therein, from the which said Duchess’s lodging, leadeth a fair Gallery paved with brick, and a Stayer at the end thereof, ascending to the Duke’s lodging being over the same, used for a privy way. From the upper end of the great Hall, a stayer ascending up towards the great Chamber, at the top whereof are two lodging rooms. Leading from the Stayers head to the great Chamber, is a fair room paved with brick ; and a chimney in the same, at the end whereof doth meet a fair gallery leading from the great chamber to the Earl of Bedford’s lodging on the one side, and to the Chapel on the other side ; the great Chamber very fair, with a chimney therein. Within the same is one other fair chamber, called the dining chamber, and a chimney therein likewise and within that again is one other Chamber with a chimney therein also, called the Privy Chamber and within the same again is one other Chamber or Closet, called the Duke’s Jewell Chamber. Next unto the privy Chamber, on the inner part thereof, is a fair round* Chamber, being the 2nd Story of the Tower, called the Duke’s bed chamber (like unto the same,) being the 3rd Story of the Tower, and so upwards, to answer a like chamber, over the same, called the same again, where the Evedeuts do lye. 1 All which last recited buildings, called the New buildings, are builded fair with freestone, covered with lead, and [sic orig.]

“On the East side of the said Castle is one other Garden, containing by Estimation 1/2 of an acre, adjoining upon the Earl of Bedford’s lodging ; at the West corner whereof is a little void Court of waste ground. On the North side of the Castle adjoyning upon the Chapel, is a little Orchard, containing by estimation half an Acre, well set with trees of divers kind of fruits. All which Castle Buildings, Courts, Orchards, and Gardens Aforesaid are wall’d round about with a wall of Stone, part ruined and decay’d in divers places thereof, containing in circuit and quantity, by estimation, 12 Acres of ground or thereabouts. On the East side of the said Castle, adjoining to the utter side of the Wall thereof is one fair Orchard quadrant, containing by estimation 4 Acres, paled about well, and thick set with fruit trees of divers kinds of fruit. “

Since the period of this Survey, all the older parts of the Castle, comprising a great number of rooms as therein mentioned, have been wholly destroyed
“History of Thornbury Castle”, Richard Ellis, 1839, pp. 24-32

Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester, England

Gloucester Cathedral, East Window
Publisher: Francis Frith & Co, Reigate

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At the time of its installation in the 1350s, the Great East Window was the largest window in the world. Today, it is still one of the greatest landmarks of English, and indeed European, medieval stained glass. It measures 22 metres in height and 12 metres in width. In fact, it is as big as a tennis court! The window was created as part of the reconstruction of the Quire following the burial of King Edward II and fills the entire wall behind the high altar.
Gloucester Cathedral

Chedworth Roman Villa, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Chedworth Roman Villa, North Wing looking East

Google Maps.

Chedworth Roman Villa is a Roman villa located near Chedworth, Gloucestershire, England. It is one of the largest Roman villas in Britain. The villa was built in phases from the early 2nd century to the 4th century, with the 4th century construction transforming the building into an elite dwelling arranged around three sides of a courtyard. The 4th century building included a heated and furnished west wing containing a dining-room (triclinium) with a fine mosaic floor, as well as two separate bathing suites – one for damp-heat and one for dry-heat. The villa was discovered in 1864, and it was excavated and put on display soon afterwards.

The villa at Chedworth was discovered in 1863, when a workman found fragments of paving and pottery on the site. Originating in the first half of the 2nd century AD, it was progressively enlarged over the next 250 years before being abandoned after the collapse of the Roman government in Britain in the 5th century. Excavations have revealed colourful mosaic floors, including one in the dining chamber which depicts the four seasons, and several mosaics in the bath complexes.
National Trust

Photo (blank back) of one of the bath houses. Undated.