If ever a castle looked the Hollywood ideal of a medieval castle it's Warwick Castle with all those towers and crenellations. I have to start with a bit of a grumble though, it's astoundingly expensive. Already slightly put out at the £6 pounds parking fee, I almost fell over when I noticed that they now wanted to charge me £22.80 for a basic entry (which doesn't include the castle dungeon and the Merlin exhibition - that would put it up to £30.60). They do seem to be going for the theme park approach, with jousting, falconry and other entertainments laid on. I had missed all that (having spent more time in near by Stratford on Avon than expected) and, much to my relief, was charged a reduced fee for the last couple of hours of the day. I mainly wanted to see their spectacular walls, which has been on my list of things to visit for a long time.
The front of the castle is impressive but it's beginnings lie at the other end of the castle (which will be pictured later) where there is a small hill. Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, had a fortification built here on the hill in 914, but it was after the Norman Conquest of 1066 that it's history as a castle really began. William charged Henry De Beaumont (later to change his name to Henry De Newburgh and become the first Earl of Warwick) with building a castle here. He built a wooden motte and bailey here with a wooden palissade roughly the area of the current castle. By around 1220 a stone castle and walls had replaced the wooden ones and a gatehouse and turrets had appeared at the opposite end of the palissade, more or less where we see them today. An extensive building program in the 14th and 15th centuries produced the facade below (though without the clock I suspect), the size of the towers on either side have been greatly increased and the barbican was added to the gatehouse which was seen as a defensive weak point.
In we go.
Inside there are some much more modern buildings as the castle continued to be updated into the 18th century.
This is the entrance to a dungeon on the base of one of the towers.
It was certainly a dark dismal place. They'd hung a gibbet from the ceiling for effect and had built in stocks at an infeasible height on the wall. At least I could turn round and leave which is more than many of the original visitors to the room would have been able to do.
There was an exhibition entitled Kingmaker. Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick, was important in deposing Henry VI of England and putting Edward IV on the throne, and the a few years later he was important in putting Edward IV out of the top job and getting Henry VI back in. For this reason he is known as Warwick the Kingmaker. There wasn't a huge amount of history to the exhibition, it was mainly about medieval castle life but well done for all that.
It seems that more and more there is the opportunities for the passing blogger to try on a hat.
If not great light for him to take a photo of himself in it.
In this more modern area of the castle a number of state rooms are on view.
The entrance leads straight into the great hall.
There's an impressive collection of armour in the great hall, mostly purchased in the 19th century. I'll return to this collection in a later blog.
Not all of it is medieval, this rig out is from the English civil war.
Just to keep a bit of Scottish interest, this shield is said to have belonged to Bonny Prince Charlie. Don't worry about the disembodied hand in the top right of the picture, it's only mine.
It's centred with this rather hideous Medusa's head.
There are a large number of swords and old muskets displayed around the hall.
This is one of a number of highly ornate rooms.
Many tables have ornate legs. This one has a whole ornate body holding it up.
The are many portraits in the state rooms.
This painting of Henry VIII is described as from the studio of Hans Holbien .
No trip to a castle is complete without a trip up to the battlements, if possible (even allowing for my dislike of spiral staircases). These crenellations look very crisp for medieval - I reckon there's been a bit of work in there.
There's some more realistic wear and tear on this one.
This is at the top of the 10 sided Guy's Tower which can be seen on the first picture of this blog.
It offers a great view of the courtyard below.
And from here you get a good view of the little hill at the far side of the castle where the original Motte and Bailey castle was built. I just didn't have the time to wander up to that end of the castle.
In 1480, the castle was held for a while by Richard III, who ordered that an additional tower be built in the North wall of the castle, partially for his own defence against possible rebellion within the castle. He died in 1485 and what you see below was all that was done for Richards tower. It does seem to make a good looking North entrance though.
Looking down into the barbican attached to the gatehouse, you get an idea of how difficult it would have been to get through in a battle situation. There is a portcullis at either side of it and trapped in the narrow entrance and invading army would be vulnerable to arrows and boiling oil from above.
When I got down from the battlements, these two chaps seemed to be having a bit of a set to.
On the way out through the barbican, with both portcullis thankfully raised, I had a wee thought about possible dangers from above.