Kenilworth Castle

In this essay I will be talking and explaining about the change from a fortress to a stately home at Kenilworth castle. Kenilworth Castle is located in Warwickshire and was originally a Motte and Baily Castle, it was built by ‘William the Conqueror’ when he came to England, he wanted to build a number of Castles quickly and so the solution was the Motte and Baily Castle. They were quick and easy to build, as there was a lot of wood everywhere for them to use.

The motte (which is French for ‘mound’) was made by digging a circular ditch and putting the dirt in the middle until it reached a height of about 13 metres. Then they would put a wooden fence usually placed at the top of the mound of earth, the wooden fence was known as a rampart, which was made out of a number of wooden poles with pointed ends stuck into the ground. A high-ranking Legion officer would live in the keep at the top of the mound while his servants lived in the bailey at the bottom.

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Later Motte and Bailey Castles were knocked down and re-built in stone by king Henry the 1st in about 1010, this was after a survey in which he realized that there wasn’t enough fortification in his kingdom. It tells us this in the Source Booklet ‘The King carefully surveyed the lack of fortification in his Kingdom and caused strong castles to be raised in suitable places. ‘ On my site visit to Kenilworth Castle we could still see a lump where the old Motte was which was right under the Keep. He manned his Castles with a picked force of strong Knights’ (Source A in Source booklet. William of Jumieges 1072. I believe that he would have been pro Norman because he lived and wrote this in the Norman times. ) This tells us that he only picked the best knights. The fact that Henry had now built big castles meant that the people in near by villages were under constant surveillance, which meant there was less chance of rebellion.

Evidence that there was first a motte and bailey castle can be seen when you look at the hill that the Keep is on top of, this would have been where the motte would have been for extra protection. In the event of attack the most important people would go up there. At the end of the 12th century Kenilworth Castle was just a Keep that was three stories high, one outer wall which had square towers at intervals, a ditch around the outside, a chapel inside the wall, a hall and a watch tower both also inside the wall. The whole castle was made out of red sandstone.

This was then improved at the begging of the 13th century by King John, it now had two walls (I looked at the outer wall where it ad been knocked down and saw that the walls were about 10 ft thick), an outer court yard (this was used for livestock), and a massive shallow lake that stretched all the way around the castle with one bridge over it that was heavily guarded by two guardrooms and two portcullises. We can tell that the castle has been improved on because we can see a ditch just out side the inner wall which at an earlyer stage would have been their first line of defence.

The guide book also gives us a picture of what kenilworth would have looked like befor the improvements and it is a lot smaller. The new improvement meant that there was a lot more space inside the castle walls for livestock, this now meant that the castle ocupants could now last longer in the event of a seige. The massive shallow lake was not only used for protection from the enemy but it was also used for a food supply as fish could be cought from it. There was a secret dock in the outer wall that wasn’t easily seen from the other side of the lake so there was no need to worry about the enemy spotting them.

There were also some small very well hidden doors in the outer wall that enebled one or two men to go out of the Castle in the presence of the enemy and they could swim across the lake and go and get help from somewhere else. The improved castle was still mainly based on defense and not on comfort, the windows were still arrow slits and the living conditions were not very good. The castle was still very much a fortress and was no where near becoming a stately home. The fourth son of King Edward III John of Gaunt now furter improved the castle just before the 1400’s.

He started to open up the windows to let more light in, he also built a massive palace overlooking the lake with big windows. The palace was a lot more comfortable than the rest of the castle. He also built a great hall, this had many uses. It was used for meetings, meals and (sometimes) sleeping. We can see this when we look at source E in the source booklet ‘Here most people who lived in the castle slept, ate and spent most of their time. ‘ (This was written by David Linsell in his book Castles 1066 to 1500) In the Guidebook it tells us that ‘The Great Hall was for meetings, meals and (sometimes) sleeping.

Both these sources are alike but slightly different. In the extract from the source booklet it says that most of the people who lived in the castle slept in the Main Hall but in the information from the Guidebook it says that people only sometime slept in the Great Hall. It had service rooms (kitchens, store rooms) at one end and private apartments at the other. The Great Hall also had two massive fireplaces that would have heated up the whole room very quickly, and it had a number of massive windows that let in loads of light.

We can stil see the remains of the fire places and some of the stone frames for the great windows today, the floor that the fire places were on has fallen down but we can tell there was one there because the remains of the stone beams that would have held up the floor can be seen. The great hall still had a few defensive features like the fact that it had slit windows on the ground floor. The walls were still quite thick and there was a portcullis on the entrance, plus it also had hexagonal towers on the corners. All this would help to protect it from the enemy.

There had also been some little houses built on the inside of the outer wall right near the edge, these had their own fireplace and would hold a small number of people. This is a sign that Kenilworth was becoming a stately home because the Castle is getting better living conditions. Then in the Tudor times the Earl of Leicester improved the castle once again only this time he knocked down one entire side of the inner wall and re-built it a lot bigger with big windows and thinner walls (when I looked at this wall at Kenilworth I noticed that it wasn’t as thick as the outer wall but it was still very thick).

He made the castle look very glamorous and spent a lot of money on it and all of this was done very quickly just for the visit by Queen Elizabeth I. He also built massive gardens by the new main entrance so Queen Elizabeth I could see them when she entered the castle. The reason that the Earl of Leicester did all of this is because he quite liked Queen Elizabeth I and he wanted to impress her so she would get to like him. Kenilworth had now become a stately home in the year1575.

It was a lot grander in that it was more comfortable and it had more light in it. It was no longer based around protection but it was now based around comfort. It was a lot more spacious and the main entrance into the castle had now been moved to the other side and it was made a lot grander, they changed the main entrance so that the Queen didn’t have to make a great detour all the way around the castle to get to the entrance as the new entrance was near the road.

Plus the Tudor gardens were near the new entrance so it would be a pleasant entrance. The Earl of Leicester also improved on the stables, he made them more attractive by making the bottom part of the stable stone and the top part was wooden framed and the gaps between the wood was originally made out of laths and plaster but this was later replaced with brick in filling. I have gathered this information from the guidebook and from my own visit to Kenilworth.

So in conclusion I used my sight visit and the Guide Book to help give me an idea about when Kenilworth Castle became a Stately home. Kenilworth Castle started off as a fortress and slowly over a long period of time turned into a stately home for the visit by Queen Elizabeth I. To begin with the Castle upgraded because the attacking weapons got better but then it started to become more comfortable and pleasant because the threat of attack became less, but the final thing that made Kenilworth Castle change was the visit in 1575 by Queen Elizabeth I.