[From Castle Rushen, Armitage Rigby, 1927]
mentioned before, a raised causeway leads from the Gate House to the entrance to the Inner Ward, which is generally called the Keep. I prefer to call it the Inner Ward, because it seems to answer better the purposes of an Inner Ward than those of a Keep. Though in some of the earlier castles the Keep was undoubtedly the house of the owner, it had in later days, where it remained, become a place for storing valuables and a last resort for the owner and family when all was lost. At such a time the gallant owner of a castle, leaving the garrison to whatever fate might befall them at the hands of the enemy, retired to the Keep with his wife and children and principal officers to make a last stand.
A Keep, therefore, was usually a small building, and the entrance generally was some ten or fifteen feet from the ground, approached sometimes only by a wooden ladder or plank bridge which could be pulled up or destroyed when the defenders were safely esconced within its walls. It was generally arranged for passive rather than active defence, the occupants listening, like lighthouse keepers, to the surging waves without. Sometimes the entrance was protected by a forebuilding, which was a covered staircase, so arranged as to afford every possible disadvantage to the attacking party. A Keep was generally floored in two or more stages over its whole internal area, the floors being supported on cross walls where the size made intermediate bearing necessary, and the most usual number of floors was three. There was little provision for comfort, as might be expected in a dernier resort, and no privacy, at all events in the earlier examples. The staircases were generally arranged so that anyone going from the top floor to the basement had to cross the middle floor diagonally, probably to enable the lord to keep an eye on their movements.
The whole social structure of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was such that the lord of a castle could not count on the fidelity of his own retainers. As often as not, the fighting that went on was not for hearth and home, but a quarrel between two noblemen, or a defence against royal troops sent to administer well-deserved punishment to a too independent baron, and it was sometimes hard to say on which side the sympathies of the garrison would lie. Again, in the case of a lord of exacting propensities, it was well to have a quiet resort in the shape of a Keep to which he might retire until the indignation of his tenants was overpassed.
But the inner part of Castle Rushen does not present these features. It is not entirely roofed over, but has an open space or court. This feature alone does not prevent its being a Keep, for there are a few undoubted cases of Keeps with open courts, of which that of Berkeley Castle is an example. More important is the fact that this part of the Castle contains all the first-class accommodation. It is in fact the castle and house of the lord, not merely a place of temporary seclusion in evil times, and it is arranged for considerable comfort and even privacy, as such things went in the middle ages. Though we have noticed the foundations of various buildings in the courtyard, they do not seem to have been the residential quarters of the family, which would at all events have been separated from the main bailey by a second wall and gateway of which there is no sign. It has been suggested that the thickness of the basement walls of the Earl of Derby's house suggest the foundations of an early hall, but an examination of the masonry does not seem to bear this out, and, that if such a hall existed, it was a later addition is strewn by the discovery that the wall supporting the slope from the causeway to the lower part of the outer ward is continued under the floors of the Derby House almost to the curtain wall (see plan).
In any case we shall see an entering the inner ward that it contains ample accommodation for the family of the lord and for a considerable number of retainers. We must not be led away by comparing it with larger establishments like The Tower of London, Warwick, Berkeley, Raglan and other extensive castles. It is necessary to keep in mind that the Lords of Man did not generally find sufficient scope for their energies in this Isle, and in no case was Castle Rushen their principal residence, at all events after 1265, when Magnus died " in the castle of Russin." As before pointed out, it was rather a safe place at which to land on occasional visits, generally of short duration; and during these visits the lord and his family, if they accompanied him, would be content to rough it to some extent. With the exception of the 7th Earl of Derby, who spent some years there in the 17th century, greatly against his will, and built the Derby House, there is no record of any King of Man having spent much time in his dominions. Bearing this in mind we shall see that the Inner Ward is a very complete residential establishment in itself, and that the rest is merely an additional fortification sheltering the various tradesmen, -the stabling and other adjuncts to an establishment of the sort, and incidentally adding considerably to its strength.
It seems probable that so far as castle planning is classified at present we must call Castle Rushen a concentric Castle. By considering the Inner Ward as a courtyard surrounded by domestic buildings instead of looking at it as a building with an open court in the middle, we get the concentric plan, which consisted of an inner court, around which the domestic offices were arranged, surrounded by a high battlemented wall, and an outer court surrounded by a wall of less height also capable of defence, and about equally distant from the inner wall at all points. Beaumaris Castle is probably about the best example of a concentric castle built as such, but the enormous size of the inner court will at once strike one as being very different from the proportions of Castle Rushen. Too much importance must not, however, be attached to the relative size of the inner courts, a detail which admitted of considerable variation. Allowing for such variation, it will be seen that Castle Rushen fulfils the general idea of a concentric Castle.
The causeway from the Gate House to the inner ward stops at 15 feet from the entrance, leaving a pit 10 feet deep between side walls. Each of these side walls is pierced by a small doorway at the lower level. When the recent restorations were undertaken there was little indication of this pit, as it had been filled up together with the surrounding ground to the level of the causeway. One may be thankful that our forefathers seldom took the trouble to remove walls if their object could be accomplished by burying them. In this case the excellent stones forming the upper portions of the side walls were thrown into the pit to fill! it up, and covered over with gravel. The lower parts of the walls almost up to the ground level were left in situ and buried without injury. It has therefore been possible to restore the upper portions with practically the same stones with which they were originally built. It is not, however, claimed that the restored upper walls are as they originally appeared. It is more probable that they sloped towards the causeway and probably had a pointed or rounded coping, impossible for an enemy to walk on.
The drawbridge which fell across the pit was supported by pivots or bunions placed about one third of the length of the bridge from its inner end. The pivots worked in iron sockets leaded into large blocks of granite. As the head of the bridge rose, the tail or inner end fell into an inner pit within the entrance passage. The exact method of raising or lowering the bridge is somewhat of a mystery. The details discovered suggest that the tail was heavily weighted, so that the position of rest of the bridge was the upright position, and that the machinery was used for hauling up the tail end to the horizontal.
In the entrance passage a recess may be seen on the left side, evidently constructed to contain a wheel, while under the floor of the passage is a pit connected with the wheel recess and made for a winding drum, from which a channel, apparently for the rope, leads to the inner draw bridge pit. In this pit may be seen the remains of two oak posts secured to the side walls, which had some connection with the working of the bridge. So far the exact method used has not been solved. The drawings given shew the indications remaining, and a possible solution, also two methods of raising drawbridges, as given by Viollet le Duc in his Dictionnaire. (Plate H. 1, 2, 3.)
Having crossed the bridge, we find ourselves in the entrance passage, flanked on either side by guard rooms. There are basement stories below these rooms at the level of the main ward, with segmental vaulted ceilings. They are supposed to have been used for prisoners, but it is hoped that they were not. The only access is by a trap door in the ceiling. The floors are not paved and there are neither windows nor loops. They are, in fact, air-tight boxes in which a human being could probably not live more than a few days.
The guard room on the left has a fireplace, and both have garderobes. Each has one loop looking towards the Gate House and; another into the entrance passage. Through the latter a visitor might be questioned before the portcullis was raised. They were also convenient for bow shooting if the answer was unsatisfactory.
It will be noticed that the entrance is defended by a door and two portcullises, besides the drawbridge, and it might be said to be practically impregnable. If, however, a gallant foe succeeded in crossing the drawbridge and breaking down the first portcullis and the door, there was ample preparation for dealing with him while engaged in destroying the second portcullis. Looking up at the ceiling of the passage one observes three square holes in the segmental vault through which the occupants of the room above could shower missiles on the head of the unhappy warrior below. It is generally supposed that molten lead was the favourite medium, but it strikes one as being inconvenient to prepare, and that an arrow or pike would do as well. Even a big stone would be fairly effective.
However, the idea of molten lead is certainly more terrifying, and it was used, according to the Flateyan M S., in the defence of Bute Castle in 1231.* " After this the Norwegians collected reinforcements from all the islands and assembled a force of eighty ships, with which they sailed to the Mull of Kintyre and on to the Isle of Bute, where the Scots had entrenched themselves in a Castle under the command of Siward. The Norwegians surrounding the place, furiously assailed it, but the Scotch defended themselves with great bravery and threw down upon their assailants boiling pitch and lead, killing and wounding great numbers of the Norwegians. Upon this the Norwegians prepared for themselves a covering of boards, under protection of which they undermined the walls, which being built of soft stone were soon overthrown." This siege, besides illustrating the use of molten lead, has a certain local interest, because Olave the Black, King of Man, was assisting the Norwegians in the attack.
The inner portcullis rises into the room immediately above the entrance, the outer rises against the outside face of the wall, but the chains of both portcullises appear in the second floor room which extends over the entrance. This room would be almost filled with the framework supporting the winding machinery.
- The entrance passage opens direct into the open inner court. This open area now measures 24ft. x 30ft., but was originally only 24ft. x 14ft. This alteration in size is the result of taking down the buttery building which occupied the Eastern half of the space.
It is perhaps best at this stage to make clear the growth of the inner ward from the old tower. Referring to plan D, the walls of the old tower built in the Scandinavian regime will be seen coloured black, while the 14th century additions are hatched. The alteration consisted of dividing up the interior of the tower into suitable rooms surrounding an area, and of the addition externally of a rectangular tower to the middle of each of the four sides, that on the North side being a double tower and containing the entrance. The enlargement was so skilfully planned that at first sight the whole building appears to have been erected at one time, but observation of the following points shews that the magnificent pile as it now appears has grown from an older nucleus. 1. The character of the masonry in the parts hatched differs materially from the rest. 2. The mortar used was of different quality. 3. The offset about 20 feet from the ground on the outside of the walls coloured black is continued through the towers, strewing that they are additions. 4. The walls within those coloured black do not start from the original ground level, but have their foundations on a filling in, which has been done since the original tower was built. This filling in is of shore gravel, and was not done at the time of building the tower, as is proved by the discovery that the space within the walls coloured black was paved at about the level of the outer ward. This paving, of cobble stones, still exists eight feet below the present level of the court. 5. The walls coloured black have been thickened 12 inches on the inside to the height of the present first floor, probably to carry that floor. The old facing has been found at several places where the lining has been repaired.
There was then originally a rectangular building 45ft. x 45ft. inside of unknown height. What remains is about 30 feet. The entrance was probably on the North side as now, but how the interior was arranged is uncertain. There were floors at nearly the same levels as the present basement, ground, and first floors.
Though wanting in the general architectural characteristics of a Norman keep, the old tower was probably arranged internally much in the same way. Such keeps had usually three floors, the lowest for stores, the middle for the owner's use, and the upper for the garrison, etc., and perhaps for cooking, which seems, however, to have been often done upon the rook In the larger keeps each floor was divided by cross walls into two or more chambers, and the entrance was generally on the middle floor. It is not contended that the old tower of Rushen was a Norman keep. Indeed the style and the masonry suggest that it belongs to a later period, and, as it is evidently earlier than the 14th century work added to it, it may safely be dated as belonging to the 13th century, and the history of the Island tends to the same conclusion. All that is known of the old Castle is strewn on the plan, and no indication of subdivision or other arrangements has been found, so that the field for conjecture is open to all comers.
A glance round the courtyard will shew that details have been altered since the alteration in the 14th century. Many of the windows have been enlarged, and a corner door has been inserted in the S.W. angle. These alterations were made, either in the 17th century when the 7th Earl of Derby made improvements, or more probably in 1815 when the building was altered for prison purposes. The stone staircase in the open court leading to the first floor, though rebuilt at some time, undoubtedly occupies the position of the 14th century stairs. It is probably narrower than the old staircase, which was roofed over, and ascended between the buttery and the hall as strewn on plan D.
The well in the centre of the court, which is about 20 feet deep measured from the court level, no doubt existed in the old tower. It would be about 12 feet deep measured from the bottom floor of that tower. Its walls were gradually built up as the basement was filled in. When the buttery existed the upper part of the well shaft was recessed into the buttery wall, and was probably open on one side so that water could be obtained either at the courtyard level or in the buttery on the next floor.
A segmental arch in the East wall of the court is a noticeable feature which has caused a certain amount of confusion and given birth to many wild theories. Dr. Oswald in his " Vestigia"* has a good deal to say about it, and perhaps it is well to deal with him before going on to our own ideas.
He states that his information was derived at first hand from Captain Holloway, R.E., who carried out alterations in 1815 with the object of fitting up the building as a prison. The information was to the effect that the entrance to the original Castle was in this recess, that it consisted of "a beautiful low pilastered arch of the early Saxon period," that it was defended by a portcullis, and that there was a " morticed recess" on one side containing an oak beam for barring the door. That Capt. Holloway took an intelligent interest in the structure is evident from the fact that he first discovered that the building was of two periods, but that his Archaeological knowledge was not deep is strewn by his assigning the 14th century North front to the Norman period. Considering his vague ideas about architectural periods, one is of course not surprised that he readily dated an arch as Saxon, but it is rather remarkable that he should go into niceties and fix it as Early Saxon.
One is also haunted with the idea that Capt. Holloway and Dr. Oswald were talking about different recesses. There is no information as to whether the conversation occurred on the spot or even in the Isle of Man. If not on the spot it would be so easy to be talking about the sally port in the curtain wall and to be supposed to be speaking of the recess in the inner court. Much of the information given may well have applied, with modifications, to the sally port. When one considers that about 45 years elapsed between the alterations and the publication of " Vestigia," it becomes evident that there was ample time for error to creep in.
Again, we can only judge the value of Dr. Oswald's information by considering his object in quoting Capt. Holloway, which was to prove that the figures 947, found on a balk of oak during some alterations to the Derby House, represent the date of the building of the Castle. Was this a case where enthusiasm quickened memory? Whatever the explanation may be, we can probably dismiss the idea that there ever was an opening in this recess other than the garderobe shoot still existing.
But Dr. Oswald goes very much into detail and somewhat shakes one's self-confidence by his very circumstantial description of the surroundings. He goes on to describe how Capt. Holloway found in the arch a cavity for a portcullis, and how he turned it into a flue. A flue was certainly found during the recent restoration, but had, as certainly, never been connected with any arrangement for a portcullis, but was an old garderobe shoot from the battlements. The other great find was a recess containing a beam of oak 14 feet long and 16 inches square, truly a magnificent bar for a small doorway. All that can be said about this is that no sign of such a recess was found during restoration, and yet the information is very particular: "The oaken barrier was in excellent preservation, dry and crusted over white with lime.... The engineer informed me that rollers of metal were found under it, upon which it must have been drawn out and in." Was this an after-dinner story invented by the Engineer to amuse Oswald, or did he mix up the particulars of the various doorways? The thinning of the wall to about 3 feet 6 inches at this point strikes one as constituting an unnecessary weakness so near the ground level, and the wall outside is suggestive of some disturbance; but in spite of all this, the examination of the recess has been so exhaustive that it is certain that Dr. Oswald was mistaken. As to the oak beam, the size seems absurd as a bar for a door. Were it half the size, or a quarter, it would be a very respectable bar, even in the middle ages. The matter of the inscription on the bar is dealt with in another chapter.
The result of recent examination of this recess suggests that it was a cesspit connected with a garderobe on the battlement. Its inner wall was probably removed by Capt. Holloway to make room for a wash-house, the garderobe flue being utilised as a smoke flue. The alterations led to the disturbance of the outer face of the wall, and from the outer ward a long slate lintel may be seen, similar to those used for flooring some of the upper rooms, which was inserted just above the disturbance, to support the upper part of the wall while the lower portion was disturbed. There is little doubt that, in order to effect the alteration, the outer wall below the lintel was broken through. This was probably because the direction of the garderobe flue had to be altered.
* Manx Society, iv., p. 45.
*Manx Society, Vol. v. (pp. 91-99.)