My Illlustrated Travel Journal with Essays about Roman and Mediaeval History and some Geology


27.3.08
  Henry and William at Carlisle Castle

Because we had German castles for a while now, I'll give you a Norman one for a change. And no, the title doesn't imply a slashy subtext, I very much doubt Henry II of England was wired that way, just ask Rosamond de Clifford.

I've mentioned in another post about Carlisle Castle that King David of Scotland captured it in 1135. David used the unruly times of the anarchy caused by the struggles between Stephen and Maud to attempt and add Northumbria (he was Earl of Northumberland) to Scotland. He finished the stone keep begun by Henry I.

David died at Carlise in 1153, and a year later Henry II ascended to the English throne and put an end to the internal strife for good.

Carlisle Castle, Keep

David's successor was Malcolm IV 'the Maiden' and no match for Henry, who promptly recaptured Carlisle in 1157 and put and end to Scottish ambitions towards Northumbria as well, or so he thought. He added a second curtain wall and the outer gatehouse to the castle.

Malcolm swore an oath of fealty for Northumberland to King Henry, thus further muddling up an already complicated pattern, because Malcom was king in his own right of Scotland and vassal of Henry II for Northumberland, while Henry II, King of England in his own right, was vassal of the King of France for the duchy of Normandy, and the possessions of his wife Eleanore, Aquitaine and Poitou. As Duke of Normandy, he was also liegelord to the Duke of Brittany, a relation not much liked by the ruling house of Brittany.

As Henry's vassal, Malcolm accompanied him on the siege of Toulouse in southern France, where Henry fished in the waters of the French king and proved a very disobedient vassal in his turn. Malcolm, on the other side, much as he called himself King of Scotland, had a bunch of Northmen sitting in Caithness and a bunch of Gaelic clans on the westcoast who didn't accept him as king; the latter were led by Somarled or Somhairle of Argyll. Somarled got killed in the battle of Renfrew and the west was a bit calmer for some time after that, but since Malcolm died shortly thereafter, it was of use only to his brother William 'the Lion' who succeeded him.

Outer Gatehouse

William was a very different character and a lot less willing than Malcolm to swear oaths to Henry, or leave one of the biggest castles in his earldom of Northumberland to him, claiming Northumbria to be part of Scotland.

Henry II over time managed to estrange his wife and antagonise his older sons - or maybe they were simply born a dysfunctional lot - so in 1173, William took his chance with Henry's eldest son, another Henry, who rebelled against daddy, and invaded Northumbria, laying siege to Carlisle while Henry the Son was busy causing troubles in the south.

The garrison of Carlisle was led by Robert de Vaux, who, confronted with diminishing supplies, unwilling soldiers and the aspect of being hanged outside the castle in chains (doesn't that remind us of someone? lol) considered surrender, but William's Scottish army left before they achieved their goal. I wonder if there were fresh problems on the westcoast and/or in Caithness that William abandoned the siege, because he laid siege to Alnwick castle only a few months later. But maybe his army was understrength then.

Battlements on the outer curtain wall

In 1174, William was captured at Alnwick (Susan Higginbotham has a pretty pic of that one in the header to her blog) and any Scottish ambitions to Northumbria ended with an oath of fealty not only for the earldom but for Scotland itself that King William had to swear to King Henry II; result of the treaty of Falaise. Yes, that's another Norman castle, this time in Normandy proper. Those kings got around a lot. (It's also the seat of Roderic's uncle in Kings and Rebels because I'm going to use the conflict between William and Henry as model for the conflict between Villembaud and Robert.)

Henry came once more to Carlisle in 1186 and ordered a room for his private use to be established in the castle. He obviously liked the place. Or maybe he liked the idea that his presence so near to Scotland would have riled William and made him uneasy.

Inner gatehouse with inner curtain wall, and keep in the background

After Henry's death in 1189, Carlisle didn't see a king for a decade because Richard was off to the Holy Land, Germany, and other places more southerly, but John visited Carlisle several times. He wasn't very welcome, because he always raised the taxes. William's son Allexander II joined the rebellious barons in 1216, and it was his men who undermined the outer curtain and managed to win the inner gate, damaging the gatehouse in the process. There was hand to hand fighting in the keep itself until the castle finally fell to the rebels.

But Alexander was not able to earn any lasting fruits from this, and the relationship between Scotland and England remained strained and unruly.
 


22.3.08
  Happy Easter

I wish everyone a Happy Easter. May there be lots of delicious food, yummy chocolate eggs, and a warm spring breeze.

The latter I won't get this year; we have snow. In March instead of January.

Lambs at Housesteads

Didn't see any bunnies in England though they are a plague in some areas. Hiding in the bushes when I walked past them, I bet. Plot bunnies, now they were another matter.
 


20.3.08
  Architecture of Imagination

Here are some more photos of York Minster. I've mentioned before that I had the minster in mind for the cathedral in Rhemuth when I read Katherine Kurtz' Deryni Rising. I've now read more books in the series, and the image remains. It is unusual - I do have strong mental images of places about which I read, but usually they are pure fantasy or a mixture of elements of several real places I've seen, not a single one like in this case.

Now to find a transfer portal in York Minster and visit Gwynedd, and meet some characters from the books. *grin*

(Left: Another outside view of the west side.)

As usual, older buildings preceeded the minster, but in this case the first church probably stood at a different place in York. It was built for the baptism of Edwin of Northumbria on Easter Sunday 627, who then ordered the small wooden church to be rebuilt in stone.

The stone church was enlarged over time. It survived the times of Viking settlement but was badly damaged by fire when the Normans conquered the city in 1069. Poor Normans, nobody really wanted them around, and York aka Jorvik had enough of the Nord-men since they sent Erik Bloodaxe packing in 954. But the Normans stayed, and eventually built a new church; it's assumed on a different spot than the Saxon one.

We know about those first versions of the minster from sources, but no archaeological evidence has been found so far.

(Right: Minster, view towards the quire.)

In 1080, the Norman archbishop Thomas of Bayeux started the new cathedral that would, over time, become the York Minster we know today. The first version of this new church was finished in 1100 and much grander than its Saxon predecessor.

During the mid twelfth century the cathedral was enlarged, and in 1215, the transepts were added under the reign of archbishop Walter Gray. His successor extended the western nave which was completed as late as 1360. The quire was completed in 1405, the central tower replaced after it had collapsed, and as last step, the western towers were erected between 1433 - 1472. Thus it took about 250 years to build the Minster we know today.

(Left: View towards the south entrance and the rosette window.)

After that, York Minster has changed but little (it escaped the Baroque interior 'improvements' so common in German churches). In 1984, a fire caused by lightning destroyed part of the south transept which has been restored. Renovations are going on on a regular basis since the 1970ies, and it was in course of the ongoing renovations that the remains of the preatorium of the Roman fort have been found under the minster.

Makes one wonder if the Normans had managed to kick a Roman garrison out as easily as the Saxon one.

(The picture to the left was taken freehand without flash and by use of Remaining View Enhancement. I've used that feature several times for interior shots, but this is one of the few examples where one can actually see the photo has been tampered with by its slightly pixeled texture. It gives the photo a look like an old postcard - I think it has its own charme that way.)
 


15.3.08
  Clifford Tower 2 - A Massacre and A Siege

Continuation of this post.

In the 1170ies, a Jewish community was established in York. Not only was there an increasing demand for credit among the lords, gentry, and even the Church, York also offered a castle - still a timber construction - where the Jews could find shelter in times of danger, or so they hoped.

The crusades (one of which started in 1187) inflamed feelings of antisemitism. It came to a riot during Richard Lionheart's coronation in Westminster Abbey in July 1189. Richard let some of the leaders hang and made it clear that the Jews were not to be molested in his realm. But after he went off to join Philippe Auguste on the crusade, new riots broke out in several English towns.

One victim of the West-minster massacre was Benedict of York, member of a deputation to the king. Troubles were not over for his family, though, because in March 1190, a band of men broke into his house in York, killied his widow and children, set the house on fire, and carried away Benedict's money chests and valuables. The riot soon spread and more houses were plundered and destroyed. The Jews, under their leader Josce of York, sought shelter in the castle keep, with an angry mob milling around outside.

Things got worse when the Warden of the Castle was denied admission because the Jews were afraid he might hand them over to their enemies. The warden returned with armed men led by the sheriff Richard de Malebys who happened to be deeply in debt to the Jews and laid siege to the castle. What finally burst the dam was the death of a monk who got hit by a stone from the keep, and the fact the Jews were short on rations. Facing torture and forced baptizm, many committed suicide, while others died in the flames of the wooden tower which the mob had managed to set afire, the few survivors were killed. About 150 Jews died in the inferno.

When the king's Chancellor learned about the incident, he dismissed the sheriff and the warden for failing to prevent the massacre and imposed a heavy fine on York's citizens.

Since the mob had also destroyed the records of debts due to Jews which were kept in the cathedral, Richard, upon his return from the Holy Land and captivity in Germany, introduced a system of duplicate records. It was not gratitude towards the Jews who paid the major share of his ransom, or any feelings of political correctness, but he wanted to ensure the Jews' fortunes were correctly listed so he could tax them.

Another view of Clifford Tower

York Castle also played a role in the Civil War that broke out in 1642. The Royalists under Henry Clifford Earl of Cumberland took possession of castle and city of York and garrisoned them. The castle was repaired and the walls strengthened so they would support cannons. In April 1644, anti-Roaylist forces marched in from three sides: a Scottish army under Alexander Leslie Earl of Leven from the south, Parliamentary troops under Lord Fairfax from the east, and somewhat later, Edward Montagu Earl of Manchester added a third contingent, bringing the forces that besieged York up to 30,000.

(Left: Model of castle and motte with tower)

The city was commanded by William Cavendish Duke of Newcastle, the caste garrison of about 200 men by Sir John Cobb. Despite bombardement, attacks on the gates and undermining (unsuccessfully, it seems), York held out throughout May and June. Then news came that Prince Rupert was on his way to relieve the city. Rupert did indeed manage to lift the siege, but the day after his forces were defeated by the Parliamentary troops in the battle of Marton Moor six miles west of York. It was the largest and most bloody battle of the Civil War.

On July 14, city and castle surrendered after a re-newed siege. The conditions seem to have been rather favourable, since the Royalists were allowed to march out with full honours. The castle was then razed.

Some rebuilding was going on after the restoration of Charles II, but York Castle never regained its former splendour and role in history. One of the heralidic panels over the gate displays the arms of Henry Clifford Earl of Cumberland (last of that line), and it's argued that Clifford Tower was named for him.

Since the Civil War is too late for me to have better information than what I could find online, I'm not sure about Earl Henry's role in the siege; he seems to have been strangely absent, leaving command to Cavendish and Cobb. I also got the impression the name Clifford Tower was in use before the Civil War and thus the theory that it came into being because of Roger's execution still is valid to me until I can find sure proof in favour of one or the other.

Clifford Tower, another inside view

A final little curiosity about the tower: One of the keepers in the 16th century was one Robert Redhead who became famous for having sold some of the stonework. Ten layers were already gone until anyone noticed the battlements were disappearing. Robert was hanged for that.
 


13.3.08
  Storms, Another Tower, and A Boring Book

Fine, this is the third major storm in three days. I'm tired of the lot, really. The low pressure gives me headaches and I don't sleep well with all that howling going on outside; there's a lot more traffic in my street because the Leine river has flooded the main road, and it's too warm for the time of the year. Can I blame the Woodvilles? It's easier if you can direct your curses somewhere. :)

To the left is another tower, the Altpörtel in Speyer. It's one of the highest (55 metres) town gates in Germany. It once was the west gate of the Mediaeval fortifications; here seen from the town side which is more beautiful. The outside has embrasures instead of windows. The lower part was built 1230-1250, the upper storey with its Gothic tracery was added in 1512, and the roof in 1708. Luckily, the tower survived the wrecking of the town during the Palatine Succession War in 1689 that also damanged the cathedral, and thus remains as one of the few rests of the Mediaeval fortifications.

The Altpörtel stands about hundred metres in direct line from the west side of the cathedral, connected by a street that today is reserved for pedestrians. When we visited Speyer, there was an event going on called Kaisertafel (Imperial Banquet Table) where tables were lined up almost all the way from the cathedral to the tower, and the restaurants and cafés along the street served food. Too bad they didn't use the chance to come up with some Mediaeval receipes; it was all Bratwürstchen, fish 'n chips, pizza and Mcdonalds. Argh. We finally found a café outside the tourist pathes which had some really good cakes and an Alsacien specialty I love: Flammkuchen (it's a bit like a giant, crisp crêpe with bacon, onions and crème fraîche). It shows that Rhineland-Palatinate, the county to which Speyer belongs, is close to France.

Some pretty half timbered houses in Speyer

Carla, I gave up on Jack Whyte's The Knights of Black and White. After his Arthur series which I liked, that book was a sore disappointment: Telling instead of showing, stilted dialogue interrupted by entire paragraphs of backstory and history, too many instances of As You Know Bob; and Whyte left out the chance to get some action in by glossing over the battles. In a book about the First Crusade. I want battle scenes in that sort of setting, especially with the MCs being Templars. I also wasn't enthused about the premisse Whyte used, the idea of an ancient order that existed all the way back before Jesus was born, Jesus' role as Christus as result of propaganda, lots of Catholic Church bashing, and the whole shenagian we know from a certain bestseller. Though I would have accepted it as alternate history if presented in a more interesting way. But this book is going to the second hand store and I'll stay away from the rest of the trilogy. Pity, he missed the chance to present an engaging tale about the real First Crusade which is less well represented in fiction than the famous Richard Lionheart / Saladin clash.
 


6.3.08
  Another Tower in York

This one - today known as Clifford Tower - we can thank William the Conqueror for. Well, not the tower as we see it today, but the first installment of a motte and bailey castle he had built in 1069. Since William and his Normans weren't the most popular guys in the area, the wooden, earth wall fortified castle saw a lot of action and some destruction and rebuilding in the following years.

Clifford Tower, York

The castle was still a timber construction when King Henry II received King William's homage for Scotland in 1175. It was in 1244, with a big bunch of Scots milling at the borders (again), that King Henry III visited the castle and ordered it to be rebuilt in stone. It took some 20 years to accomplish; the bailey received a curtain wall and two gateways, and the motte was crowned with a stone keep, then called King's Tower.

A model of the tower, displayed inside the keep

King Edward I used the castle to keep his treasury while campaigning against the Scots in 1298, and so did his son Edward II in 1322. Ed II had problems not only with the Scots but with assorted rebels in his own realm. He defeated some of them at the Battle of Boroughbridge and had them executed at York. One, a Sir Roger Clifford, was hanged in chains outside the King's Tower which then was named Clifford's Tower. It's not clear whether he was hanged and the body displayed that way, or whether he was hanged there by his wrists to slowly die and rot which would be a writer's choice (*grin*). Whatever way, it was a demeaning punishment for a nobleman. Maybe Alianore knows more about the incident.

Clifford Tower, inside view

Our dear Queen Isabella has been to York, as did her daughter-in-law Philippa who married Edward III in the York Minster in 1328. During those times, the castle served as administrative seat, but already in 1358 the heavy stone keep was damaged because the ground gave way.

Another shot of the tower, this time against the sun

In 1484 the castle was in such poor repair that King Richard III ordered parts to be replaced, but since he didn't find a horse in the battle at Bosworth, his orders were never executed.

(Continued here)
 


4.3.08
  Squirrels and a Tower

That little guy is up to no good, I'm sure. If it's not covering up for Constance's gnomes, it's squirreling away a plot. Or the bones of a Roman. After all, I found the fluffy tailed critter near the Roman multiangular tower.

Grey squirrel in the Museum Gardens

Eboracum was built as legionary fort - that is, larger than the auxiliary forts at the Hadrian's Wall and the Limes - in 70 AD. A town soon developed around the fort and was protected by a wall. The Roman walls formed the basis of the Mediaeval town defenses.

Roman multiangular tower

The multiangular tower was erected during the time the Emperor Septimius Severus spent in York in 209-211 AD. Severus strengthened the walls and added a number of towers. One can't blame him; he had a lot of troubles with the tribes.

The tower that once stood in the west corner of the fortress has ten sides and rises to 30ft. The upper part with the different stones and archer slits is Mediaeval, but the lower rows of stones are Roman.

Another shot of the tower

It kept the tribes out, but not the Danes in 867. The Danes restored the walls and towers and added another layer of finds to the York soil some of which can be seen in the Jorvik Museum. During the Middle Ages, the town walls were fortified several times, and gates added, like Monk Bar Gate.

More would be left of the town walls if not part of them had been dismantled in 1800. Which proves that George II had less power than some of his Mediaeval predecessors who'd have put the heads of the members of that Let's Tear Them Walls Down They Cost Money-coporation on spikes to display on the walls.


Look, squirrel brought a friend. Notice the gleeful grin - he's just hidden a plot about Septimius Severus and his dysfunctional sons, plus assorted other characters and a battle or two. I bet the wee rascal has a red squirreled friend or two in Germany. But whatever comes out of it; the idea is shelved for now.
 


The Lost Fort is a travel journal and blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, Flanders, and the Baltic Coast. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, and some geology, which are illustrated with lots of photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


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