Lowther Dig Diary Three: Digging up the historical evidence of Lowther medieval castle and village

In part three of our dig diary, project lead Sophie Ambler talks about another type of digging, not of holes in the ground by through the archives to discover what if any historical evidence there is for Lowther.

Whilst the archaeologist are at work on site at Lowther, I’m attempting to piece together the site’s history from the documentary evidence.

Our biggest challenge is tracing the origins of Lowther’s medieval castle and village, which we think date to the late eleventh or early twelfth century. For most of England, historians have a phenomenal source for settlement in the eleventh century: Domesday Book. This was William the Conqueror’s enormous survey of landholding, compiled in 1086. It gives various details, settlement by settlement, such as landholders, land under cultivation, notable buildings and households (for an introduction to Domesday and the latest research, listen to this BBC History Extra podcast by Professor Stephen Baxter). Domesday thus helps historians to trace the process by which the Normans conquered England over the twenty years from 1066.

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Frustratingly for us, the area of modern Co. Cumbria doesn’t appear in Domesday Book. Because this region wasn’t conquered by William I, it found no place in the Domesday survey. As discussed in our project’s first Dig Diary entry, the region was only conquered in 1092, by William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle states that William Rufus, following his campaign of conquest, ‘sent many peasant people with their wives and cattle to live there and cultivate the land’. This was, effectively, a process of Norman colonisation. We’re hypothesising that the ringwork castle earthwork and village at Lowther date to this era.

What was this region like when the Normans arrived in 1092? Here, historians have worked hard from patchy evidence for the Kingdom of Cumbria in the tenth and eleventh centuries. This was a Brittonic kingdom (distinct from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the south) but, as Professor Fiona Edmonds has described, parts of the kingdom were ‘multi-lingual and multi-cultural’ (including settlers we might think of as ‘Vikings’ and their descendants). These groups were encompassed by the term ‘Cymry’ (‘inhabitants of the same region’), from which the names Cumbria and Cumberland derive.

Who were the settlers dispatched in 1092 by William Rufus to colonise the Kingdom of Cumbria? There’s no hard evidence, but Dr Henry Summerson has suggested (in his book Medieval Carlisle) that they hailed from Lincolnshire. This theory has found some support from the late Professor Richard Sharpe, although he noted that evidence for a Lincolnshire connection dates to around 1100, so may represent a second wave of settlement.

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Our first major evidence for Norman rule of the region comes in 1130, under King Henry I (William Rufus’ brother). This is found in a Pipe Roll – a record produced by England’s central government detailing the Exchequer’s annual audit, so-called because the parchment membranes were sewn together at the top and rolled up to look like a pipe (read more on the Pipe Roll Society website). The first surviving Pipe Roll dates to 1130. Professor Sharpe used this and other evidence to reconstruct the early Norman administration of the region. He concluded that the Normans formed the shires of Cumberland and Westmorland out of the old Kingdom of Cumbria by 1130, and were administering these shires under the aegis of central government. Even then, however, both counties were run ‘as a territorial unit’ rather than shires proper, overseen by an administrator rather than fully-fledged sheriffs. (You can read Professor Sharpe’s analysis in full here). This is perhaps not surprising, given that in southern England the Normans could co-opt the governmental systems of the Anglo-Saxon state, including shires and shire courts. Cumbria was a different beast.

Is this all to say that written evidence can’t tell us much about the Norman conquest of Cumbria in general, or about our site in particular? Yes and no. It does highlight the importance of archaeological investigation in filling the gaps in written evidence – and suggests how findings from the Lowther Castle and Village project could be significant to both historians and archaeologists in tracing the process of Norman conquest and colonisation and its realities on the ground. On the other hand, we do have written evidence for the Lowther site dating from the thirteenth century onwards, which we can use together with the archaeology to trace the site’s biography. More of this in a forthcoming post!

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Follow the project on Twitter via the hashtag #LowtherMedievalCastle.

Lowther Dig Diary Two: End of Week One at Lowther Castle and Village Excavation

At the end of the first week of four, project lead Sophie Ambler gives an update of what has been going on the excavation.

As we draw to the end of our first week of the Lowther Medieval Castle and Village project, the team has made excellent progress.

Before the archaeologists arrived, the ground staff at Lowther Castle prepared the site – a big task, with the mowing of large areas of the north park. In recent years, the Lowther team has been rewilding the estate, allowing the grass and wildflowers to grow as a haven for wildlife. This meant we needed to balance the demands of the project – ensuring ready access for geophysical surveying – with the requirement to preserve this rich habitat as far as possible.

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The LiDAR and earthworks survey (discussed in our first post) allowed us to identify the principal north-south run of the medieval village along the eastern half of the site, together with the road or routeway connecting it to the medieval castle. This was the area we really wanted to survey and which had to be mowed. Meanwhile, a long strip running down the western side of the site, where we expected little medieval habitation, was left unmown. Walking across the site to the church yesterday, I was greeted by a kaleidoscope of butterflies cavorting in this long grass, and was glad we’d made this compromise!

Day One: Rob Evershed from Allen Archaeology leading student archaeologists on the geophysical survey. This is at the southern of the site, atop the village earthworks.

The geophysical survey is now largely complete. It has been led by Rob Evershed, a geophysical expert from Allen Archaeology, with the help of the project’s student archaeologists from UCLan. Rob first staked out thirty-metre grids, before training the students in the patient and disciplined task of geophysical surveying. As I learned this week, this means dressing ready for the task (no metal can be worn at all – including metal clasps and buttons – as it can interfere with the results) and carrying the equipment at a slow and steady pace across the grids.

Day Four: Rob and UCLan student, Dominic Scott, scrutinising the geophysics results.

The results are still coming in, but have already been hugely helpful. Rob was able to plot services running close to the castle (and thus where we shouldn’t be digging) and spot a target for trench three: what looks like a square ditch, potentially associated with one of the dwellings built along the east-west routeway linking the castle to the main north-south run of the village. As I left on Thursday afternoon, the team was busy opening Trench Three, incorporating the routeway and this anomaly, in the hopes of identifying features and finding dating evidence.

Meanwhile, on Monday the team had opened Trench One and Two at the castle earthwork. It wasn’t possible to use geophysics in this area, because the earthwork stands in woodland and the root systems would create too much disturbance for any results to be meaningful. The earthwork had been heavily overgrown but again, in advance of the project, the Lowther team cleared all the long grass and nettles across and around the earthwork.

Day One: the trench across the nothern bank of the castle earthwork, with Jonny Milton from Allen Archaeology (in the high vis trousers) and Jim Morris from UCLan directing the student archaeologists

This not only allowed the archaeologists easy access but also revealed the earthwork in all its glory. I was struck afresh with its scale, particularly its height, and its shape and features are now far easier to discern. The earthwork is roughly square, with an entranceway on the eastern side (presumably accessed from the east-west routeway from the village). At the south-west corner a significant continuation of the bank protrudes to form a platform. The great bank of a ringwork castle would likely have been surmounted by a timber palisade, and we’re speculating that this platform may have been home to a wooden tower, sited to give wide-ranging views north, east and south. Meanwhile, the western length of the castle was protected by a steep slope running down to the River Lowther.

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The two trenches were sited on the north and western sides of the earthwork. Under the guidance of Jonny Milton of Allen Archaeology and Jim Morris of UCLan, the student archaeologists removed the turf and set about digging. The northern trench runs from the castle interior, cutting through the bank and down along the bank’s steep northern slope. We hope this will allow us to see how the bank was constructed and provide dating evidence. There is still a long way to go, but already the trench has yielded a fragment of roughly made pottery, which will be analysed to see if it is early medieval. Over week two, the archaeologists will continue working their way down through the trench, stepping it out to take account of the steep slope.

Meanwhile, the western trench yielded some curious results: a couple of trays’ worth of Victorian detritus, a stone wall, and a floor surface nicely laid with hand-made bricks: evidence that part of the castle interior was taken over and used for purposes that are so far unclear. The team aims to investigate this phase further and, after thoroughly recording these features, to dig further down in the hope that they’ve preserved features from the medieval phase.

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There’ll be more entries in our Dig Diary to follow, and meanwhile you can follow the project’s progress on Twitter via the hashtag #LowtherMedievalCastle.

Lowther Dig Diary One: Lowther Medieval Castle and Village project

On Monday 26 June the excavation and geophysical survey of Lowther’s medieval castle and Village gets underway, finishing on Friday 21 July. Here, project lead Sophie Therese Ambler from the University of Lancaster explains what she hopes the team of students and academics from the university and University of Central Lancaster with the support of Allen Archaeology hope to find over the next three weeks.

Overlooking the Bampton Valley on the edge of the Lake District, the picturesque ruins of Lowther’s nineteenth-century castle are one of the region’s most popular attractions. Less well known are the earthworks immediately to the north, the remains of a medieval castle and village. Preliminary work suggests the site may date to the late eleventh or early twelfth century. If so, it could provide rare evidence of the conquest of Cumbria by King William Rufus and his brother, King Henry I – a generation after the Normans seized control of the rest of England. The site is potentially of national significance but has never been fully investigated.

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Who built the castle and its settlement, when and why? The Lowther Medieval Castle and Village project brings together historians and archaeologists from the North West to uncover the site’s biography.

The Castle Studies Trust has generously funded a survey and excavation, which will take place from 26 June to 21 July 2023. The project team brings together History at Lancaster University, Allen Archaeology, the University of Central Lancaster (UCLan) and Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust.

In the 1990s, the Lowther Estate commissioned a landscape report and earthwork survey. The report suggested that the Castlesteads earthwork dates to the early Norman era (late eleventh or early twelfth century), and categorised it as a ringwork, a characteristic rural castle form of the early post-Conquest period. It noted that the castle is ‘of considerable archaeological importance, particularly as it was potentially the original fortified site at Lowther’.

The report also suggested the village was integrally linked to the ringwork and ‘likely to have been a planned settlement, established under close manorial control’. The settlement, the report noted, ‘is of considerable importance being a fossilised medieval settlement and it has the potential to significantly inform our understanding of medieval nucleated settlement in Cumbria.’ At the north of the site stands St Michael’s church, which is medieval in origin and potentially related to the castle and settlement.

Lidar image showing the extent of Lowther Castle and Village

The extent and form of the site as a whole can now also be seen in LiDAR imaging (see image above), noting that the circular features are intrusions brought by landscaping after the demolition of the settlement in the seventeenth century. 

The working hypothesis is that the site dates to the Norman conquest of Cumbria. Unlike the rest of England, Co. Cumbria was not conquered by the Normans in 1066. The region was historically part of the Kingdom of Cumbria, which stretched from Strathclyde across the Solway. Then, while the Normans were conquering lowland England, the area from Lowther northwards was conquered by the Scottish king Máel Coluim III. Cumbria was only annexed by the Normans in 1092, when William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus, led an expedition to the area. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the king then ‘sent many peasant people with their wives and cattle to live there and cultivate the land’.

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Could Lowther’s medieval castle and village date from this era? Beyond the estimations provided by the earthwork survey, it has been suggested from place name and field pattern evidence that many medieval villages in this area of Cumbria were planned or remodelled settlements established following the 1092 annexation of Cumbria and peopled largely by colonists. But written evidence for Cumbria in this era is extremely sparse, so it is up to archaeology to test this theory. Whatever the investigation finds, the archaeology at Lowther offers a fantastic opportunity to understand rural castle building and life in medieval Cumbria.

In the first few days of the project, the team will conduct a geophysical survey, before opening trenches across the Castlesteads and settlement earthworks. Visitors to Lowther Castle will be able to visit the dig site – if you are in the area, please do come and say hello.

The team will be posting regular updates on the project in a Dig Diary here on the Castle Studies Trust website. You can also follow the project on Twitter, via the hastag #LowtherMedievalCastle

Meanwhile, further information is available on the project website:

https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/centre-for-war-and-diplomacy/lowther-medieval-castle/

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What’s on at the Castle Studies Trust Anniversary Conference

With our 10 year anniversary conference on Saturday 10 June at the University of Winchester fast approaching as a taster here for the conference here are the abstracts for Dr Karen Dempsey’s keynote and all 15 papers being given.

Keynote

Who cares? Thinking again about medieval castles – Dr Karen Dempsey

The foundation statement of the Castle Studies Group underlined the need to research castles not as an isolated phenomenon, but in a holistic manner that explored their wider inter-relationships with medieval economy, society, and environment. Over the past few decades, castles have received such attention with increasingly more scholarship considering gender and space including a particular focus on the garden. However, despite these excellent additions, castle studies has often appeared to somewhat lag behind theoretically in archaeology. In this paper, it is not my intention to critique this nor do I want give you an historiography of the discipline or even an account of current thinking. I want to root something different into our studies, to offer another way of thinking or engaging with the past. I want to consider care as a structing principle within society and offer medieval castle households as a case-study.

Session One

 The Medieval towers of Central Greece – Dr Andrew Blackler

The great tower, as R Allen Brown once wrote, is the essence of the castle. The archaeological focus on Greece’s classical heritage has overshadowed the existence of hundreds of such medieval towers in Greece. This is a period during which western Crusaders, and Turkish and Arab forces vied with the Byzantine empire for control of the eastern Mediterranean. Whilst some research has been undertaken into major fortresses of the region little is known about the smaller castles, evidence of whose existence survives in these austere towers, often rising to a height of nearly twenty metres.

Most are undocumented, and neither their builders nor function in the landscape is known. The present literature with little hard evidence defines the towers as colonial structures built to control the local Greek population and display the power of western (Norman, Frankish, Italian, Catalan) feudal landlords over their estates. Research by the author over the last ten years challenges this view. This paper discusses how we need to comprehend their architecture, their immediate built environment, and function within the landscape in a much more nuanced way.

Laboratory analysis of wood and mortar samples (due in March 2023 – sponsored by the Castle Studies Trust) from seven towers on Euboea, an island off the eastern seabord of Central Greece, is expected to throw further light on their construction date and therefore the historical context within which they were built. The conclusions from this will also be presented.

The Lower Thames Fortifications from 1380 to 1872 – Paul Mersh

This paper traces the development of fortifications that were built to defend London from attack along the Thames and their impact on the local area. From the 14th century until the second world war London was defended by a line of ‘outer defenses’ in the lower Thames area. These defenses began with Cooling Castle which was built around 1380 to defend against French raids. This castle was one of the first to be built for cannons.

The defenses were substantially upgraded with block houses in the 16th century, a star shaped fort at Tilbury in the 17th century and gun emplacements in Gravesend in the 18th century. In 1860 the Royal Commission on the Defense of the United Kingdom recommended that the forts at Gravesend and Tilbury be substantially upgraded and three new forts be built in the Lower Thames area. Once again, these upgraded defenses were built to defend against the French. The building of these forts was supervised by Charles Gordon – Gordon of Khartoum.

What dictated the design of these fortifications? There were two factors, one was the
design of ships. The second was improved ships’ guns. It was like a five hundred year
arms race. The building of these later forts had a considerable impact on the local area.

Some £50,000 was allocated for the work on the Lower Thames Forts, this is the
equivalent of £15,000,000 in today’s money. This paper concludes by examining this
impact.

Castles and urban settlements under the rule of Matilda of Tuscany-Canossa in the late 11th and early 12th century Dr Rosa Smurra

The paper aims to explore the connections between Matilda of Tuscany-Canossa’s castles and the emergent communes in Italy.

Castles were of great importance in the establishment of the Canossa dynastic rule (10th-12th centuries)  and the maintenance of their power for at least five generations. Castles were crucial particularly during the period of the emergence of the communes in Italy, which marked a fundamental change in the government and political regimes of all the major cities and towns in northern Italy, including, of course, those under Matilda’s rule, the Canossa last ruler. Matilda of Tuscany-Canossa (1046-1115) is among the most significant female rulers of the European Middle Ages. She was countess and duchess of a vast domain, stretching from Lombardy to Latium, which she ruled in her own right. Although a vassal of the German emperors and bound to them by blood ties, she assisted seven popes, thus determining the fate of the so-called Investiture Controversy and eventually of the whole of Christendom.

What was the role played by the Matilda castles in these circumstances and especially for the nascent communes? How did Matilda’s castles condition these institutional changes?

What was their impact on the establishment and evolution of the network of urban settlements that still characterises the landscape of the Po valley today?

Analysis of a quite rich documentary record produced before and during the Matilda rule and integrated into the GIS platform of a digital atlas exploring both the environment and communication network attempt to answer these questions.

To come along to the conference sign up here: Castle Studies Present and Future: Castle Studies Trust conference Tickets, Sat 10 Jun 2023 at 10:00 | Eventbrite

Session Two

Childbirth in the castle: Alice Thornton’s trip to Middleham, 1644 – Dr Jo Edge

Alice Thornton (1626-1707), writing one of her four autobiographies in the late 17th century, described an incident which took place decades earlier. While travelling on horseback to Middleham Castle in August 1644, she nearly drowned crossing the river. 18-year-old Alice made this trip because her older sister, Katherine Danby, was in labour for the 15th time:

At that time Sir Thomas Danby was forced with my sister and children to be in safety, from the Parliament forces, he being for King Charles the first, to Middleham Castle, a garrison under my Lord Loftus. There she was delivered of her first son Francis Danby. My sister got my Lord Loftus and myself with Co. Branlen for witness.

Summer 1644 was a dangerous time to be in North Yorkshire, especially as a young, royalist woman. Just the month before, Parliamentarian soldiers been victorious at the battle of Marston Moor, and soldiers were garrisoned everywhere. Danby was fugitive, and he and his wife and children had sought refuge at Middleham, owned by family friends and fellow royalists Edward and Jane Loftus.

We know about royal children born in castles – and indeed, Edward, son of Richard III – had been born at Middleham some 160 years earlier. But this wasn’t a birth of a royal, nor one that happened in normal circumstances. This paper will examine and imagine the feminine space of the birthing chamber within a garrisoned castle, using the work of Roberta Gilchrist, Karen Dempsey and Rachel Delman as starting points.

Holding Court at Windsor: the Royal Household under George III – Amanda Westcott

The prevalence of his “Farmer George” persona often obscures the nature of courtly lifestyles that George III facilitated outside of London among his closest aristocratic courtiers and throughout the wider royal household. The study of alternative courtly venues is a helpful approach to the circles of sociability that, from the late eighteenth century, were more frequently gathered in settings beyond St. James’s Palace. Beginning in the early 1780s, when the king and his queen consort, Charlotte, assembled their large family and circle of attendants at Windsor Castle, they likewise convened a community with distinctive spatial features and social structures. Time spent living in the countryside established an integrated network of courtiers supported by shared interests in the period’s rural and leisured pursuits especially accommodated at Windsor, including hunting, architecture and landscape design, music, country house tourism, and the enlightened study of subjects like botany, agriculture, and astronomy. In particular, the gendered elements at court and the organization of Queen Charlotte’s own household provide a unique lens to the castle’s importance as a courtly venue. Themes concerning the royal household’s spatial accommodation at Windsor, as well as the social hierarchies instilled in royal routine there, further aid discussions of the variety of social identities cultivated at this court in addition to the nature of late-Hanoverian kingship at its helm.

Domesticity, militarisation, and lordly power during the British Civil WarsTristan Griffith

This paper will explore the continuing importance of the castle as a lordly seat during the British Civil Wars of the mid-seventeenth century: this builds on the work of scholars such as Coulson, who long ago demonstrated the inadequacy of a binary fortified/domestic dichotomy in the study of structures such as castles and other fortified dwellings. As its principle case studies it will take Skipton Castle in Yorkshire and Lathom House, formerly in Lancashire, both large fortified dwellings which were renovated extensively in the decades before the Civil Wars, and which were turned into fortress garrisons by the Royalists—supporters of Charles I.

At Skipton, the renovations included the reconstruction of the castle gatehouse with a new dining room and neoplatonic grotto, but also additional gunloops; this demonstrated that the castle’s owners, the Clifford Earls of Cumberland, continued to prize both military preparedness and conspicuous luxury to assert their supremacy over the local gentry. During the Civil Wars the Cliffords’ network of gentry supporters formed the basis for the Royalist garrison—most of whose officers were local gentlemen. At Lathom, the seat of the Stanley family, the Countess of Derby levered both her home’s impressive defences and its position at the centre of the Stanley powerbase in Lancashire to hold it against a lengthy and destructive Parliamentarian siege; Lathom’s antebellum magnificence had a definite military result during the conflict—Lady Derby’s supporters held the castle until relieved by Prince Rupert.

To come along to the conference sign up here: Castle Studies Present and Future: Castle Studies Trust conference Tickets, Sat 10 Jun 2023 at 10:00 | Eventbrite

Session 3

Connecting medieval castles and the Legacies of Slavery: evidence and significance from two English case studies Dr Will Wyeth

This paper presents findings from investigations into the legacies of Slavery at two ruined medieval castles in the care of English Heritage: Beeston Castle (Cheshire) and Brougham Castle (Cumbria). In the context of ongoing public discourse in the United Kingdom around the ways in which the country’s colonial and imperial past is discussed, as well as an established body of research exploring the connections between the slave trade and country houses, it is timely to consider the extent to which monuments from the medieval past are entwined with the profits from Slavery. A recent revision of the guidebooks for both properties has occasioned a closer examination of the lives and legacies of individuals connected to the ownership and restoration these sites in the middle of the 19th century. By constructing a picture of wealth, privilege and society in which these individuals lived over several decades of this period, it is possible to establish with greater confidence the extent to which the legacies of the Slavery form part of the construction these castles’ medieval past in the post-medieval era. The significance of these connections is discussed.

Foundation Myth and ‘Medieval’ Identity: The case of Bungay Castle – Dr Laura-Jane Richardson

Bungay Castle was founded sometime in the 12th century, and overlooks the Waveney Valley, the geographical divide between Norfolk and Suffolk. The Castle was part-excavated by an amateur team in 1935-36, and very little archaeological work has taken place on the site since. In the aftermath of the First World War, Bungay Castle played an important local role reflecting Englishness and heritage identity. In the light of these excavations and a growing awareness of the benefits of heritage tourism at the time, the Castle was used in the development of local mythology and historic misinterpretation during the 1930s and 1940s. This paper will examine the development of these mythologies alongside the campaign to adopt the Castle by the townsfolk, and reflect on the modern relationship between imagined castle life, medieval pasts and heritage identity in this small market town.

Jews’ Towers in England Castles: The Cases of Lincoln, London and WinchesterDean Irwin

In his 1982 article, ‘Jews and castles in medieval England’, Vivian D. Lipman considered the relationship of between Jews and castles. Although some of his conclusions have been challenged by Robert C. Stacey and myself, it is clear that castles were an important part of Anglo-Jewish life between 1066 and 1290. Increasingly, Jews are being included in the presentation of sites to the general public, although this typically follows the ‘Dark Tourism’ route. Heavy emphasis was given to the role of a castle as a prison and site of execution in the recent rebranding of the Tower of London. Equally, Clifford’s Tower (York) understandably focuses on the massacre of 16-17 March 1190. This paper, in contrast, focuses on the towers which were associated with the Jews at the castles of Lincoln (Aaron’s Tower), London (Hagin’s Tower), and Winchester (Jews’ Tower). In so doing, it argues that the Jews occupied a legitimate space within English castles as part of the royal administration of the community. Far from being sites purely of victimhood, castles were generally sites where leading Jew worked with royal officials (often the sheriff) on communal administration. This is an underexplored element of both Castle Studies and Anglo-Jewish history, but emphasises that we should not simply view the relationship between castles and Jews as one of oppression, imprisonment, and violence. Rather, it argues for the inclusion of minority groups within narratives of castles in a collaborative sense.

To come along to the conference sign up here: Castle Studies Present and Future: Castle Studies Trust conference Tickets, Sat 10 Jun 2023 at 10:00 | Eventbrite

Session 4

New theories, old practices? Examining visitors’ perceptions of castles – Lynsey McLaughlin

‘Ask anyone to visualise the Middle Ages and they will, almost invariably, conjure up the image of the castle’ (Liddiard, 2005, xi).

There has been a transition in the understanding of castles in the later part of the 20th century in castle studies. The focus has shifted from one heavily centred around a military interpretation, to placing them in a wider context, particularly considering their role as symbols of status. Whilst this new approach has been largely unchallenged within academia, organisations that open castles to the public have been accused of retaining the overtly military interpretation to lure visitors through the door. My PhD asks whether castle sites really do capitalise on medievalist tropes, and what effect this has on the people that visit. This presentation reviews the results from four castles: Richmond, Corfe, Bodiam and Orford. It considers visitor data, interviews with staff and presentation methods used by castles. The results demonstrate that, whilst the castle and the people who manage it do utilise medievalist tropes, visitors’ perceptions and understanding of the castle are not affected. In addition, tensions appeared between different staff groups over what they perceived visitors wanted. 

The Medieval Castle through a Post-Medieval Lens – Ann Walton

Long relegated to the category of military history, English castles have enjoyed a recent growth in scholarly interest. A survey of recent publications shows that most focus on the medieval history of the buildings, however, as the urban castles of the Conquest approach the end of their first millennium, it is important to acknowledge that they did not wait patiently to become tourist sites but continued to develop over time in both function and appearance.


My paper focuses on the post-medieval life of English urban castles through the case
study of Lincoln Castle, and seeks to answer the following question: In what ways is the survival of urban castles predicated on their ability to adapt to evolving needs and functions, and how did popular and scholarly attitudes towards castles affect their continued use and preservation? In addition to functional and physical alterations made to castles during their post-medieval history, I will explore the role played by developments such as Antiquarianism and Romanticism in the
preservation of these structures, and more importantly, in the shaping of modern perceptions of the medieval castle.

Through this paper I contextualize the post-medieval life of Lincoln Castle within
contemporary social, scholarly and architectural trends. By giving the past five hundred years of the castle’s history the attention usually reserved for the earliest period of its development I will analyze the context of these later stages highlighting the impact of post-medieval castle development on our understanding of the castle as a whole.

1283 in 1983: Castles, Commoditization and the Commemoration of the Medieval Welsh Past – Dr Euryn Rhys Roberts,

Do come to the Wales Festival of Castles. We’ve been preparing it for 700 years” was the cheerful invitation emblazoned on the pages of the Chicago Tribune on 10 April 1983. The Wales Festival of Castles, or Cestyll ’83 (Castles ’83) as it was branded, was a Wales Tourist Board and British Tourist Authority marketing promotion to boost the international profile of Wales as a holiday destination. Yet, what was intended as an uncontentious tourist promotion became a matter of some controversy, with some seeing the Festival as a celebration of the 1282-3 conquest of Wales writ large and the castles of Edward I. Drawing on archival material from local and national archives, this paper sets out to trace the history of the Festival and to provide a commentary on how the medieval Welsh past was used and abused in the early 1980s. On the one hand, it is a story of how competing voices struggled over the image of the castle in Wales, and on the other of how the past came to colour the discourses and practices of those who sought to promote Wales as a holiday destination and of those who felt compelled to protest against the Festival.

To come along to the conference sign up here: Castle Studies Present and Future: Castle Studies Trust conference Tickets, Sat 10 Jun 2023 at 10:00 | Eventbrite

Session Five

Hornby Castle Wensleydale North Yorkshire:- “An Elite Holiday Home of the Later Middle Ages” Dr Erik Matthews

Fieldwork at Hornby Castle Wensleydale North Yorkshire undertaken since 2010 has thrown significant light on a moated hunting lodge complex developed first by the Dukes of Brittany in the early 12th Century and then “modernised” by the Nevilles of Redbourne in Lincolnshire in the 14th Century. I shall discuss the important role played by the development of castle sites as places of elite bonding and recreation through hunting and other pursuits in demonstrating the status of the owner and developing the essential links with others of the same class as part of a common European wide culture. I will focus in on the information gleaned from Hornby in terms of the Park and its layout, the hunting lodge and its surroundings notably the development of a surrounding “watery landscape” and I shall also reference the evidence of an elite “material culture of taste” which has come to light. I shall draw parallels with the Country House of the Late 17th/18th Century and look for conclusions in terms of better understanding the interaction of the Castle with its surrounding landscape and its purpose.

The Clockwork Castle: Interactions between the castle and the temporalities of the landscape, and their implications for surrounding medieval communitiesArthur Redmonds

The underutilisation of theoretical approaches within Later Medieval archaeology and castle studies has been highlighted by numerous scholars, yet recent studies and this symposium seek to demonstrate new complementary approaches. This paper aims to contribute to this reimagining, utilising a theoretical framework based around Tim Ingold’s concepts of the dwelling perspective and the taskscape to demonstrate the temporal influence of the castle.

These concepts will allow this paper to demonstrate the considerable impacts the presence of a castle might have had on multiple forms of temporality within the landscape. Taskscape as a concept is inherently focused on viewing place and interactions as temporality materialised, and it can be shown that castle builders and occupants were more than aware of the implications of dominion over time. Through centring itself in everyday, seasonal, and more long-term environmental cycles, the castle drastically impacted local social memory, lived experiences, and notions of social order. All became warped according to the social ambition of castle builders, and their place in time.

This holistic scope also allows for underutilised methodological avenues to be explored within castle studies, namely the landscape materiality of the everyday communities surrounding the castle. ‘Big data’ approaches to archaeology continue to allow new avenues of exploration, and spatially located Portable Antiquity Scheme data will be integrated into the conclusions of this paper alongside more orthodox approaches to castle studies.

Overall, this paper will explore a new vision of the castle as a part of the interwoven temporalities of the medieval taskscape.

Countess Isabella de Fortibus and her building works at Carisbrooke Castle – Dr Therron Welsted

Isabella de Fortibus , or Forz, (c.1237-1293), after the deaths of her husband, William de Forz, count of Aumale in 1260 and her brother, Baldwin de Redvers earl of Devon, two year later, became an extremely rich landholder. She is best known for her apparent love of litigation, with many court cases being held in her name, often concurrently.

This paper looks at a different side to her life, her as the builder of Carisbrooke Castle (Isle of Wight), which became her primary residence after inheriting it from her brother. Through looking at the surviving building accounts, it is clear there was essentially a total reorganisation of the castle with many new constructions, in this period.

There has been little critical analysis of the building works undertaken for Isabella since the 1890s when Percy Stone, an architect and archaeologist, undertook a detailed study of Carisbrooke Castle. This paper presents the ongoing research about the castle in the thirteenth century, as part of a current project reassessing Isabella’s life.

The interdisciplinary research behind the paper draws from a wide variety evidence, including the upstanding remains of the castle, both upstanding and archived; archaeological reports; and manuscript material, such as court records, accounts and a survey of the castle undertaken shortly after her death.

To come along to the conference sign up here: Castle Studies Present and Future: Castle Studies Trust conference Tickets, Sat 10 Jun 2023 at 10:00 | Eventbrite




Cannons and palaces? Surely a mistake…?

By Dr Peter Purton

Most people know what a palace is. Defining a castle is a bit trickier, despite half a century having passed since the traditional military version was challenged and replaced by modern castellologists. But most agree that the symbolic and residential roles of a palace must be included in any understanding of a castle. If you look at any plan of a German castle you will see the word ‘Palas’ attached to the main building inside it; this definition reaches down the scale to the smallest Irish tower house, where the modest tower represents the ‘palace’ of a landowner, at least in their own eyes and certainly as seen by the peasants living around them, or their peers living in similar towers nearby.

Medieval rulers began to make use of gunpowder weapons to wage war from the middle of the fourteenth century. I am co-writing, with Dr Christof Krauskopf (who works at the Brandenburg Authorities for Heritage Management and Archaeological State Museum in Germany), a new book studying how fortifications evolved during the first two centuries of gunpowder weaponry.

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It is commonly accepted that over time (for England, most would say this occurred under the Tudors) any military role for castles disappeared altogether, and instead became the exclusive remit of forts and fortresses (Henry VIII’s coastal artillery forts, for example, which despite their English Heritage titles are not castles), while royalty and nobility resided in palaces and country houses. But what happened before this point was reached? Were defensive functions also fulfilled by the palatial castles built by royals and nobles after guns began to make a significant impact on the conduct of war?

Vincennes (Val de Marne, France), the donjon. The outer ‘chemise’ is not medieval. Copyright Dr Peter Purton

Vincennes is an immense royal castle (today at the eastern end of a Paris metro line) commissioned by King Charles V (1364-80) during the Hundred Years War [fig.1]. It is a superb statement of power and wealth reflected in its design and décor. But atop the multi-storey donjon is an unadorned floor whose walls are pierced by loops and windows for crossbows and small guns, and (for avoidance of doubt), the garrison included canoniers in 1379. Across the Channel at the same time, gun loops were being included in castles belonging to English aristocrats: in Kent, for example, a regular target for seaborne attacks, the archbishop’s castle at Saltwood and the parvenu Cobham’s enclosure at Cooling [fig. 2].

Cooling Castle (Kent, England), 1380-85, by Sir John de Cobham. Copyright Dr Peter Purton

Jumping ahead by nearly a century brings us to a time where in England the role of castles during the Wars of the Roses was no longer to serve as the object of siege and defence. A not dissimilar political scenario existed in Iberia, where immensely wealthy noble families vied for control of the kingdom of Castile, and neighbours Portugal and Aragon frequently interfered. Just as elsewhere in Europe, these magnates built magnificent palaces reflecting their status. They also raised private armies to attack rivals. In the province of Madrid is Manzanares el Real [fig.3], built by the famous architect Gruas for the Mendozas, dukes of Infantado (who still own it) from the middle of the fifteenth century. Its walls and turrets sport spectacular ornamentation and the interior is graced by ornate galleries. It is surrounded by what the Spanish call a barrera, a towered lower outer wall liberally provided with gun embrasures. Gaining entry involves going through a pair of (gun-looped) gate towers then taking two turns around the foot of the inner wall.

Manzanares el Real (Madrid province, Spain), photographed at the start of its second restoration in 1975. Copyright Dr Peter Purton

In the end, whether one believes that such defensive measures designed for guns were seriously intended for defence, or were themselves merely ornamental, is a matter of judgement. No evidence survives to explain the intentions of the builders. It is a continuation of the same debate that questioned whether arrow loops were meant to be – or could be – used, recast for the age of gunpowder.

There is an alternative approach: maybe such buildings could be both at the same time, and even the least practicable gun loops might deter raiders (compare Bodiam). In this scenario, there might be no distinction between a palace and a castle and a medieval noble might not understand the argument. Perhaps it was when the cost of defences that would be effective in the new world of the early modern state became prohibitive that aristocrats abandoned the military aspects of their castle-palaces altogether?

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Raby Castle: Mapping the Hillocks

As the Castle Studies Trust funded part of the project to learn more about Raby Castle comes to a close, the funding of the digital modelling of Raby’s exterior, the castle’s curator, Julie Bidescombe-Brown explores what they have found so far which includes a short preview of the model in its glory.

Throughout 2022, the team at Raby Castle has been working with Durham University Archaeological Services on a project funded by the Castle Studies Trust to drone scan and create a digital 3d model of the entire castle exterior. At the project draws to a close, Raby’s Curator Julie Biddlecombe-Brown reflects on the work undertaken over the last year, including both the planned outcomes and unexpected benefits of the work undertaken.

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‘At the time of writing this blog, I am waiting with bated breath for an email that marks the end of a truly game-changing project for Raby Castle. The email will include the final embedded link to a detailed digital model of Raby Castle’s exterior produced over a series of drone scans during the summer months of 2022. The sneak preview given to the castle team was breath-taking. When we applied to the Castle Studies Trust for support for the grant I had no idea of the level of detail that the technology now enabled. My initial application for funding was based on the creation of a digital model that could be used as the basis for future interpretation; a tool for presenting the castle to new audiences. What we have achieved has ended up to be so much more.

For those not familiar with Raby Castle, this beautiful building in the south of County Durham has remained the family home of the Vane family for almost 400 years. Harry Vane, twelfth Baron Barnard is the current owner and along with his wife, Lady Kate Barnard, has set out ambitious plans to ensure the future sustainability of the castle and wider estate. This project reflects their vision, setting out to better understand the estate so that responsible stewardship of rich heritage assets can see the castle enjoyed and studied by future generations.

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Going back to the castle itself: from the exterior, it is one of the most intact 14th century castles in the north of England, adapted over the centuries to provide luxurious accommodation for the two families who have lived here. First, the medieval northern powerhouse of the Neville Family who lost the castle after the failed Rising of the North. It was the Neville family who created most of what can be seen today, their license to fortify the castle having been granted by Bishop Hatfield of Durham in 1378.  Second, the Vanes, later Barons Barnard, Earls of Darlington and Dukes of Cleveland came to Raby after purchasing the castle in 1626. Over two hundred years later, what remains the castle’s most comprehensive history was written by Catherine Lucy Wilhelmina Vane, the 4th Duchess of Cleveland, in 1870,  a formidable scholar and biographer whose engaging narratives combine clear research of the sources available to her, with a delightful peppering of artistic license. Her handbook has also been a useful tool in this project, with descriptions of alterations, anomalies and observations that come with complete familiarity with a site. The Duchess clearly loved the castle and during the late 19th century welcomed guests from across the globe. Earlier generations of her husband’s family down-played the castle’s splendour. Courtier Sir Henry Vane, who bought the castle in 1626 twice received Charles I there; first in May, 1633; and again in April 1639.  Charles is said to have been greatly struck by the size of the castle, and to have rebuked Sir Henry for speaking of it somewhat irreverently as a ‘mere hillock of stone.’  ‘Call ye that a hillock of stone? By my faith,’ said he, ‘I have not such another hillock of stones in all my realms.”

Images of Raby Castle have been captured for centuries. Above: 1728 Engraving of Raby Castle from the southeast. Samuel & Nathaniel Buck. These topographical images, whilst subjective and sometimes inaccurate, have provided a valuable source in considering the appearance of the castle in the past. Such images shed light on demolished features, such as the barbican depicted here on the eastern (left hand) side of the castle which then has the potential to be ‘virtually reconstructed’ on the base digital model,  

You can judge the latest capturing of ‘the hillock’ yourself, by viewing the model funded by this project. Available to the castle team in multiple formats, from a wireframe for digital manipulation to fully overlaid with photographs for a full ‘photo-real’ view, the scan has created a snapshot of the castle at a moment in time but helps us look backwards into its history and forward, securing its future.  The Raby team is working with Heritage Interactive, sector AV specialists to adapt the model to be public facing and engage visitors with the story of the medieval fabric in a new introductory film that we will launch next year. But the model also gives us the potential to add to this; to explore later phases of development in the same way, to isolate, interpret and even digitally rebuild key features that have changed over time, such as the removal of the 14th century barbican in the late 18th century, creating the now slightly confusing Chapel Gateway, or exploring the remains of passages, staircases and windows that make no sense in the current configuration of the building.  

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The base-line data has multiple benefits – in addition to creating new films, we are exploring 3d printing of a model of the castle in jigsaw puzzle-like sections for use with schools and other audiences – what better way to inspire a new generation of castle enthusiasts than to couple the challenge of a puzzle with a superb digital model? The level of detail will also be of huge benefit to the castle buildings team in monitoring condition, working in tandem with our conservation architects who can now view the fabric almost stone-by-stone. This will, we anticipate, not only help us to detect any building changes that might need attention but will also help us in master planning for the future.

A complimentary annex to the project, funded in-house is an archaeological report by Durham University Archaeological Services that will sit alongside the model.  This collation and analysis of source material – including what we have learned about the existing fabric – has been led by Senior Archaeologist Richard Annis who over the course of 2022 has delved into every nook and cranny of the castle – peering under floorboards, climbing disused staircases and opening the door of every built-in cupboard to see what lies behind. This level of survey has never been done and when linked to the model, and an examination of known archival and other documentary sources compiled by a willing group of volunteers, we start 2023 with a far better understanding of this remarkable building than ever before. The report and model will be used together by the castle team including custodian, curatorial, archive and buildings teams,  and of course our conservation architects as we care for and interpret the castle and will be available as a resource to scholars and academics, hopefully inspiring future research.

And of course, there is still research to be done! The project may have answered questions but has left us with many new ones. Over the coming months, or should that be years …  we will continue to explore some of the puzzles of the building, from the origins of some of the towers, to vertical access routes. But what has changed over the last year is that we now have a superb data set as a starting point. Our thanks go to Archaeological Services Durham University and in particular Richard Annis for bringing their enthusiasm, skills, expertise and inquisitive minds to the project, and also, of course, to the Castle Studies Trust which provided us with the funding to enable it all to happen.

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The Castle Studies Trust five projects for 2023

The Castle Studies Trust have awarded five grants totalling £35,000 to support research into castles. This is a record amount for the Trust, and as we enter our tenth year as a charity, we could not have managed this without our supporters.

We will bring you updates from these projects throughout the year as the teams get stuck in. But first, let’s get to know them a bit better. They are from across England, Scotland, and Wales and take different approaches to understanding castles.

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Bamburgh

A stone building with a square tower in the middle. It stands on an outcrop, prominent in the landscape. In the foreground is a beach.
Bamburgh Castle on the coast of Northumberland. Photo by Michael Hanselmann via Wikimedia Commons, licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Standing on a rocky outcrop on the coast of Northumberland, Bamburgh’s history stretches back to the early medieval period when it was home to a palace of the Kings of Northumbria. Bamburgh Castle itself was owned by royalty at various points, and rebuilt in the 18th century.

Bamburgh is a massive site: its history has been illuminated by excavations, and there is still more to learn.

Dr. Joanne Kirton and Graeme Young of the Bamburgh Research Project plan to carry out a geophysical survey and a masonry survey of the castle’s outworks.

Dunoon

The mound at Dunoon Castle. Photo by Rosser1954 via Wikimedia Commons, licensed CC-BY-SA 4.0.

A castle at Dunoon was first mentioned in the late 13th century but may be older. The ruins visible today date from the 14th century. It stands on a hill on the coast of the Firth of Clyde. The castle was besieged and captured multiple times over its centuries-long history and became a royal residence.

Despite the castle’s royal links, little is known about its layout and dating. Dr. Manda Forster’s team at DigVentures will carry out geophysical surveys (resistivity and magnetometry) of the mound and the area around it to find out where there may be buried walls, foundations, or other archaeological remains.

They will also organise workshops for the local community to learn how geophysics work. So as well as learning more about the castle, they may inspire the next generation of archaeologists!

Lowther

Google Map of the medieval Lowther Castle

The present Lowther Castle was built in the 17th century, but a few hundred metres north lie the medieval remains of a castle and possible deserted village. Lancaster University Archaeology Unit surveyed the earthworks in the 1990s, but there has been no other archaeological investigation since.

Being able to date the site would be a crucial step in understanding the Norman influence in the region. Could this be part of the remains of the Norman conquest of the Kingdom of Cumbria in the late 11th century?

Dr. Sophie Ambler has devised the project to carry out geophysical surveys at Lowther Castle followed by excavations. Working with the University of Central Lancashire and Allen Archaeology, this aims to establish the site’s building chronology.

Picton

Picton Castle in 2021 by Ruth Sharvile, via Geograph. Licensed CC-BY-SA 2.0.

Pembroke’s Picton Castle is a medieval building with later alterations and additions. It is uncertain when it was built and by who, but it is likely to have been established in about 1300 by Sir John Wogan. Picton has an unusual layout but may have parallels with French medieval castles.

Neil Ludlow and the Dyfed Archaeological Trust will carry out a measured survey of the building, recording its structure and creating a photographic record of the site. This will be an invaluable resource to understand the site, and help show the castle’s development over the centuries.

Wigmore

Photo of Wigmore © Philip Hume

Wigmore was amongst the early castles established in England in the wake of the Norman conquest. It was founded by William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford and later became the home of the Mortimer family. They were an influential family in the Welsh marches, and they developed the castle to reflect their growing power.

Small-scale excavations at Wigmore and geophysical surveys in the 1990s demonstrated the archaeological potential of the site, but what is missing is a reconstruction of how it looked during its heyday.

Chris Jones-Jenkins will create a reconstruction of how Wigmore Castle used to appear. This will draw on archaeological and historical sources to bring the reconstruction to life. You may also have seen Chris’ work with his reconstructions of Ruthin and Holt.

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Header image: Bamburgh Castle by Michael Hanselmann via Wikimedia Commons, licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Is the Wirk a Castle? Evaluating previous excavations

Delayed by the pandemic, at long last our 2020 project to see if the Wirk, in the Orkneys, was a castle is now complete. Project leads Sarah Jane Gibbon & Dan Lee look at what they found.

A programme of archaeological fieldwork funded by Castle Studies Trust was undertaken at The Wirk, on the island of Rousay, Orkney by the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology during 2020-21 (UHI Archaeology Institute). The Wirk comprises the remains of an upstanding stone-built tower with the site of an adjoining hall range to the east, which are stylistically considered to be 12th century in date. The site was part of a high-status Norse settlement with a medieval chapel nearby (below the present St Mary’s kirk) and Norse hall further to the south at Skaill (Research projects – Landscapes of Change: Archaeologies of the Rousay Clearances & the Westness Estate (uhi.ac.uk)). The project aimed to characterise The Wirk with geophysical survey, undertake evaluation excavation to assess the hall and recover material suitable for radiocarbon dating.

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1.    Clouston’s excavations at The Wirk in the 1920’s showing investigations in the tower (Credit: Orkney Library & Archive, used with permission).

The Wirk was excavated in the 1920s by J. S. Clouston, who had excavated at other Norse castle sites in Orkney. Later dates have since been suggested for the The Wirk (16th century), however the date of the buildings, their function and the relationship between the tower and range remained open to debate. Clouston’s excavations focused on the tower and exposed the remains of a hall and ancillary buildings upslope to the east. He made a detailed plan of the site showing the tower and hall. Few finds were recovered but they did include a highly decorated stone finial now on display in Tankerness House Museum, Kirkwall. The impressive tower survives today, but the hall is not currently visible in the neighbouring field.

1.    Clouston’s plan following his excavations, detailing the hall to the east of the tower, with Trenches 1 and 2 (after Clouston 1931, Early Norse Castles)

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Geophysical survey in 2020 was used to characterise the buried remains of the hall range and identified additional features in the vicinity (Geophysical survey at The Wirk reveals buried walls of the hall – Castle Studies Trust Blog). Evaluation excavation in two trenches in 2021 targeted the eastern hall range and located substantial wall footings just below the ground surface (part of an ancillary building in Trench 1 and the southern external wall of the hall in Trench 2). Excavations concluded that the tower and hall range were built at the same time (contra some earlier interpretations by Clouston). Clouston just exposed the footings of the hall walls, without fully excavating around them, but his plan of the site was proved to be very accurate. The hall may have had raised wooden internal floors, certainly in the lower western part, perhaps supported by an internal scarcement (although excavations were too limited to be conclusive).

Excavations in Trench 1 exposed the wall footing of the ancillary buildings at the eastern end of the hall (Credit: Dan Lee)
Excavations in Trench 2 exposed the substantial southern wall of the hall (Credit: Dan Lee)

A significant assemblage of c.13th century worked and moulded red sandstone was recovered from Trench 2 nearest the tower. The red sandstone is interpreted as ecclesiastical in origin and likely to have originated from the former medieval kirk nearby, rather than the hall. The Wirk was unlikely to have been an ecclesiastical building due to the raised floors and association with the tower. Radiocarbon dates from material (charred grain) found in deposits abutting the southern external wall of the hall returned Late Iron Age dates (Pictish period mid-7th to mid-8th century AD). This material is most likely derived from the disturbance of earlier activity at the site during the construction of the hall, hinted at by the surrounding geophysical anomalies, rather than dating the hall itself. It was concluded that the tower and hall are contemporary and likely to be 12th century in date, based on architectural style and stratigraphic relationships observed during the excavations.

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Featured image: View of The Wirk during excavations (foreground) looking south to St Mary’ Kirk and Skaill (Credit: Bobby Friel @TakeTheHighView)

Raby Castle 3D Digital Model Nears Completion

As we draw towards the end of the year, Julie Biddlecombe-Brown, Curator at Raby Castle checks in on the 2022 research project funded by the Castle Studies Trust as this chapter draws to a close.  

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What a busy year 2022 has been and yet, this project has been one of the highlights. Working with Durham University Archaeological Services, the castle exterior was fully scanned over the summer and the scans imported into specialist software that enables us to view and fully manipulate the images. The quality of the scanned images are superb and can be used in multiple applications;  as a base model for 3d imaging (shown below) or overlaid with the HD photographic detail to provide a record of every elevation, down to the individual stone, providing inspiration for new visitor-facing interpretation and vital data for the castle architects. The team at Durham University have shared the incredible detail captured on the scans with their counterparts at Raby – demonstrating how the drone was able to access areas that have previously been very difficult to view; testimony to the skill of the drone pilot but also enabling an unrivalled view of the battlements – even into the machicolations.

Alongside the images, Raby Castle has benefitted from the experience and knowledge of Durham’s Senior Archaeologist Richard Annis in reviewing the complex interior of the building against historic plans and research notes compiled by Raby’s dedicated volunteer group. With the scans and historic plans to hand, Richard has explored the building from top-to-toe, focusing on intersections between the medieval fabric and later interventions. This has identified spaces known to the castle team which had not appeared on any of the earlier plans, enabling detailed measurements to be taken as part of the broader survey.  In addition to the overall survey which will be of immense benefit for the quinquennial survey and subsequent building monitoring and maintenance, this project sought to produce a 3d digital model of the castle that could be used to demonstrate different phases of the castle’s history. The team at Durham University Archaeological services have produced a Terra model (below) which will now be separated into phases for the conclusion of the project in December. The castle have engaged audio-visual specialists Heritage Interactive to work with them to produce new interpretation for visitors that will incorporate the models and the research findings.

Image of Raby Castle from 3D Digital Model

Special thanks from the Raby Castle team are owed to the Castle Studies Trust Trustees who visited in October to check on progress. The afternoon spent at Raby was valuable for both the Trust and the Castle, drawing on expertise and debating anomalies in the castle architecture. The discussions will feed into the final report being produced by Durham University Archaeological services alongside the model. We look forward to sharing the end results once the final report and model have been completed.

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A large and eclectic crop of fascinating applications asking for over £100,000 for the Castle Studies Trust to Consider

The deadline for grant applications passed on 1 December. We’re going through the various projects now. Altogether the 15 projects, coming from all the home nations and one from Ireland, are asking for over £110,000. They cover not only a wide period of history but also a broad range of topics.

We will not be able to fund as many of these projects as we would like. To help us fund as many of these projects as possible please donate here:

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In a little more detail here are the applications we’ve received:

Bamburgh, Northumberland: The aim of the project is to better understand the outworks to the north of the castle, by using various geophysical survey techniques and a preliminary survey of the masonry remains, it will include a 3D model of the recently excavated Elmund Tower and provide materials for interactive displays.

Barnard Castle, Co Durham: The aim of the project is to try and understand a lot more about the outer ward of the castle, using a variety of methods including geophysical survey, aerial survey and test excavation

Cavers Castle, Roxburghshire: Through a combination of building survey and excavation to try to understand the early form of this important baronial castle.

Dunoon, Argyll: A community-led geophysical survey project to understand better the form and scale of this important castle that was the seat of the Lord High Stewards of Scotland. The original castle dates back to the 1200s and the remains above currently ground date from the fourteenth century.

Fun Kids, Castle Podcasts for 7-13 Year Olds: To produce a series of 8 podcasts for children aged 7-13 to engage children to explore a what, how and why of 8 castles. The series will focus on a variety of castles and build awareness of less common castles that families can explore.

Galey, Co. Roscommon: Geophysical and topographical surveys to explore the possible motives behind the placement of, as well as immediate landscape context, morphology and any attached settlement and industrial activity, that occurred at a lakeshore-sited late medieval Gaelic-constructed tower house castle.

Hartlebury, Worcestershire: The seeks to explore what looks like a possible civil war bastion ditch, which seems to have been partially revealed in a 2022 drone survey of this former bishop’s palace with remains dating from the fifteenth century. This will be done through geophysical survey and excavation.

Lowther Castle, Cumbria: Through a combination of geophysical survey and excavation to try to learn more about this ringwork castle and settlement, thought to date from the late eleventh century. the aim is to try to discover if it dates from this period and was therefore a Norman plantation; and also its history after its foundation.

Millom, Cumbria: The project will involve a drone survey to assess the condition of the 14th century fortified manor combined with a geophyisical survey to understand if there is any link between it and the nearby church and monastery.

Muncaster, Cumbria finds assessment: To make a complete assessment of the finds from the 2021 excavations which took place near the 14th century tower along with two nearby kiln sites.

Muncaster, Cumbria geophys and archaeology survey: To carry out a geophysical survey of the area surrounding the castle and to investigate a large stone feature in the cellar of the castle to understand its purpose and possible date

Northern Frontier, Beacon Hill Yorkshire: A geophysical survey of Pickering Beacon Hill, a siege castle used for the siege of Pickering in the lead up to the Battle of the Standard (1138) to better understand the landscape at the time and see how much life was disrupted during the period known as the Anarchy.

Picton, Pembrokshire: The aim of the project is to achieve a full understanding of the form, functions and affinities of the medieval part of Picton Castle through a building survey. It has an unusual plan with no close parallels within Great Britain, but shows some affinities with castles further afield including, possibly, Gascony in France

Snodhill, Herefordshire: Excavation to explore the early masonry defences and attempt to resolve the entrance arrangements and to do a geophysical survey of the Eastern Bailey

Wigmore, Herefordshire: To provide a digital reconstruction drawing of Wigmore Castle using a mixture of archaeological and archival evidence

We will not be able to fund as many of these projects as we would like. To help us fund as many of these projects as possible please donate here: Kindlink Donation Form App

The applications have been sent to our assessors who will go over them. You can see how the assessment process works from our blog back in January 2016: How the Castle Studies Trust Selects its Projects – Castle Studies Trust Blog