Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Warwick Castle

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.


Claire said...

wow, I love this post, when I was younger we used to visit castles and houses as a family but I haven't for years. You're right though, so expensive!!

joanne fox said...

You can often get two-for-one deals for Warwick Castle with Tesco clubcard. If you take your own food and drink too it keeps the price to a more reasonable level. The falconry displays are fantastic, but I think they are seasonal, so best to plan ahead, and also for the jousting. It is a great day out, and you can literally spend all day there. I go every couple of years as it's not far from me. I go on the train though and avoid parking charges! Do I sound like a skinflint? Oh dear - well, we're all counting our pennies these days!

The Glebe Blog said...

It was already expensive back in the 80's, I seem to remember lying about the age of our eldest.
At least you got some great pictures for your reduced rate Sandy.
Warwick Castle is at least authentic, you can pay as much for a pseudo mock up these days.

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

Wow, neat stuff! You have the greatest things to see over there. I must say, wearing that helmet you all of a sudden look like someone a person better give some respect to. I've often wondered how they could create such fine metal working in a suit of armor given the times they were made and the technology available then.

Sandy's witterings said...

Thanks Claire and welcome to my blog. I've been to my share of castles and house in the last few years, having done a few in my childhood as well.Scottish national trust and Historic Scotland (which count in their English counterparts) membership helps, so paying for the odd independant from time to time doesn't seem so bad usually.

Welcome also Joanne, A little common sense skinflinting is to be admired so worry not about that here. Unfortunately I'm not best placed to take full advantage of a two for one offer. It was a weekend of no planning ahead so dived into the carpark when I found it - Should I go back again, the car will definately be parked elsewhere.

Jim, I think they're aiming at the low end of the theme park market which is where the price comes from. On the whole though, I'm pleased to have seen such a magnificent real castle.

Sandy's witterings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandy's witterings said...

John, your comment sneeked in there while I was answering everyone elses.
I have a white plastic helmet at work. I agree I might command more authority with a steel one with a visor - must go to the stores to see if they've got one.
I think the skills for fine blacksmithing have been around for a great many centuries. Granted modern equipment would certainly have made the job easier and quicker. Perhaps because of the modern equipment we loose a lot of the skills required to make these items the old way.

Linda said...

You must have had suit of armour fatigue by the end of that visit!
I'm also finding entry prices pretty expensive these days. Sometimes I stump up and sometimes not. I have to admit I decided not to pay to see the Mary Queen of Scots exhibition in the Museum of Scotland last week.

Sandy's witterings said...

Linda, nobodies ever shown me enough suits of armour to produce fatigue in that area yet.

I'm not sure if I get excited about Mary Queen of Scots to the tune of £9 or not. I'm sure to be passing before it finishes so it may be a spur of the moment decision.

Louise said...

Another interesting post. I visited Warwick Castle a few years ago and didn't like it as I thought it was gimmicky and expensive, but that's not surprising given who own it! I'd had a nice day there once when I was a child and thought I'd like it more as an adult, but I was wrong, I have no desire to go again"

Sandy's witterings said...

Louise, different tourist attractions are set up for different sorts of tourists. This one's not really aimed at me, though I can see through the gimmicks and what is there is great and genuine. Still, I think for me that Warwick Castle is done and a return visit is unlikely.