Kenilworth castle has many features that could prove that defence was important. On my visit I saw a 12 metre high Keep. This was used for defence because it had high walls which were also 3 – 4 metres thick. At the foot of the Keep the walls were splayed to make it difficult for attackers to climb. The splayed walls were designed and used for defence because the angle made it difficult for attackers to climb up so it gave defenders more time to shoot arrows. There was no entrance to the lower floor as it would have been too easy for attackers. I do not know this for a fact but it would make a lot of sense to the defenders as they will be trying to make it as difficult as possible for the attackers to attack. On the visit I also saw fishtail arrowslits. These were on the upper floor of the keep as it would lower the chance of the attackers to shoot through them. It also gives defenders more time to get a good aim and they would have been able to see a further distance and warn the rest of the castle about upcoming attacks.
There was only one original arrowslit on the outside of the ground floor because most of them had been renovated into big tracery style windows. Arrowslits were used for defence because they were small enough to not let attackers shoot arrows through. I know that the windows had been renovated because the tracery windows would not have been ideal for defensive purposes. Another defensive feature I saw was the splayed walls.
The great hall also contained defensive features. One of the features was a portcullis was used because when the castles owners felt that they were going to be attacked they would quickly drop the portcullis to prevent anyone from entering the castle through the great hall if they managed to get over the north wall first. The north wall was placed behind the main castle entrance as this was seen as an easy way to attack the castle. There is no others because the north wall was knocked down during a process called ‘slighting’ this could have been a lot worse if the queens steward, Earl of Monmouth, hadn’t have petitioned to have it ‘slighted with as little spoil as to the dwelling house as might be.’
Source two tells me more about how the castle was used for defence. It tells me all about how king john I dammed a river to create a ‘mere’ and also created an outer curtain wall. I believe this source is probably accurate because when I visited the Kenilworth castle site there were remains of both the dam and the outer wall. I also believe it to be true because in other sources and pictures such as source eight there is an old picture from the 1960s reflecting the castle during the 16th century. This includes the outer curtain wall and the mere. Source five explains more about the methods used for defence. It says ‘siege engines were sent from Somerset, Gloucester, Worcester…’ As there was no evidence of this information I cannot be completely sure about the reliability of this source.
There is no evidence left to prove this source and the fact that the siege engines were sent. The only proof we have is word of mouth. This, over the years, could have been altered to make it sound more appealing and sound like everyone was willing to help Kenilworth defend their castle. This source is about the siege of Kenilworth and was written in 1988 about 1265 which could be hard to write about considering the fact that it was not a recent event. It was written by people who write text books to teach pupils about the castle. Source three also tells me how the castle was first used for defence. It says how the first defence was a natural marshy defence which was later improved by damming nearby streams to make a wide moat surround all of the castle and its walls.
However, there is also evidence to suggest that the castle was used for comfort and a symbol of power.
One thing I saw for comfort was the window seats in the great hall. This was seen as comfortable because the owners had somewhere to sit and get the sun without actually being outside in the sun. The great hall was used for banqueting in and is quoted to have once been the sleeping quarters of the servants. This would have been a big room so that the owner could have banquets with a large number of friends over. The floor would have been empty and for plates the banqueters would have used stale bread for plates so that if, after the meal, they still felt a little peckish they could break a little of the bread off and eat it. Another comfort feature was the gardens. This was again designed by the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, he planted an ornamental pleasure garden for the enjoyment and entertainment of his guests. This showed status because it has a large area which probably meant that a person was employed to keep the garden in good condition.
A further feature was Leicester’s Gatehouse. This showed status because the walls were decorated with the Earl of Leicester’s initials and emblems. This was built because the old entrance was not wide enough for horses and carriages. Originally it was just an archway but a century later the new owner filled in the arches to add floors and new rooms to make the castle more spacious and comfortable instead of all being crowded in one place. It also showed status because of the style of the building. It was tall and unique and looks very expensive. It is hard to describe but the building shows that the more money you have the higher and wider the buildings you could build. It looks extremely grand but no access is permitted due to the stability of the building being poor.
Source two gives me information that I could not see on my visit because it tells me who and when the buildings were built and/or renovated. This is helpful because it tells me that the duke of Lancaster was the first person to decorate the castle to look like a palace by adding decorated buildings. The source also tells me that Henry V was devoted to increasing the castles comfort and appearance. He built a royal pleasure and banqueting area on the far side of the mere. This information also shows status. Source 6 supports my idea that Kenilworth was a place of comfort because it states that the Queen came to visit Robert Dudley for 19 days. If the castle wasn’t comfortable than the Queen wouldn’t have stayed so long. I trust this source because it was written during the same year as the queens stay. This, therefore, makes it a primary source.
Q2. “The reality of life in a medieval castle is often lost on the public today. Too often the current owners of the castle are more concerned with attracting tourists than showing the castle as it really was. The medieval castle gets hidden behind a fairytale or ‘Disneyland’ image”
Do you think English Heritage have hidden the real Kenilworth castle behind a fairytale representation?
In some ways the Warwick castle video shows a very similar image to Kenilworth. One example of this is the fact that both of the castles were used mainly for defence than the later owners decided to make the castle more comfortable and shows the owners status. Another similarity is that both castles want to attract tourists. They both host special events to give visitors a good idea of the way the previous owners lived.
However, there are some differences as well because Kenilworth kept all its original features in the great hall such as original windows and the walls which have fallen down have not been rebuilt. Whereas, Warwick castle has concentrated on attracting tourists by redesigning the hall. They did this by adding a marble floor (which wouldn’t have existed in those days.). They also added new windows to the south wall to let in light and they covered the hole in the roof, which was previously used to let out smoke, so that there wasn’t a draught. They also included furniture so that they can sit and feel what the previous owners found ‘comfortable’ and added suits of armour which were more than likely not in the rooms during the century that the room is set in.
In comparison, English heritage try to explain the real history to visitors by keeping the original features but explaining how the buildings were. They do this by having an information board in each of the rooms. This gives a rough description of each room and a picture of how it probably looked. For example in the saintlowe tower on the second floor it has an information board with a medieval picture and description of the room in many languages so that it appeals to all tourists. English heritage also added an audio tour so that any visitors can have a ‘guide’ telling them about each part. The audio tours are in many languages which will also appeal to and attract foreign tourists.
In some areas the castle has been made more attractive to tourists by turning the stables into a cafï¿½ and gift shop and putting seats and tables outside so that tourists have somewhere to sit on a lovely bright day. English heritage hold special events at Kenilworth to get more tourists to visit and to give a rough idea of how it has progressed over the 9 centuries that it has existed.
There was no evidence of alteration for health and safety purposes where some of the spiral stairs were re-concreted to stop erosion. The stairs which were eroding and couldn’t be re-concreted were sectioned off. To get to the different levels of the great hall, wooden steps were added because the floor no longer existed in the main area. The windows were re-plastered to prevent them from collapsing in the saintlowe tower and the keep. The English heritage have strict rules saying no school/children unaccompanied are allowed to walk around the castle plus no-one is allowed to climb the walls because of safety and the preservation of the castle. The English heritage has also built public toilets just outside Leicester’s Gatehouse to keep health and safety in the grounds of the castle.
Promotional material shows that the castle holds many special events such as ‘a medieval living village’. This includes music by Nominus and a display of falconry. In the leaflets it shows a detailed map of all the other English Heritage sites.
The leaflets also give a good description of the castles background and an appetiser into its history. The guide book tells you about its surroundings and the ‘three walks’. It gives you detailed directions and a clearly labelled map. On the internet, the English heritage site tells you about upcoming events and prices. It also tells you about disabled access and cycle routes around the castle. The website also contains a game for children.
Overall, I think that the English heritage haven’t hidden the real Kenilworth behind a fairytale representation because unlike Warwick castle they leave the rooms as they are and give information on the rooms so that the visitors can use their imagination of the layout of the castle and its surroundings. Personally, I feel that leaving the rooms to the tourist’s imagination is better because that way they feel more involved everyone has a different opinion of each room and it allows school children to get closer to the way they used to live through their imaginations.