[From Castle Rushen, Armitage Rigby, 1927]
the South-west portion some alterations which look like the work of 1815 have been made, the most notable being a roomy staircase with iron railings which for many years was adorned with a placard calling the attention of visitors to the " Grand Staircase of the Kings and Lords of Man." In general character it reminds one of the fireproof staircases generally associated with Peabody Buildings and other artisans' dwellings, and with prisons. Though the majority of visitors duly admired it and were properly impressed, we may be thankful the placard has been removed. To make room for this staircase the great withdrawing rooms on the first and second floors and the long room below them were shortened by building a cross wall, and the floors of the shorter portion removed, so that the proper sequence of the various chambers is somewhat interfered with. It does not, however, seem likely that it will be possible to do away with this modern feature, as the spiral stair would not accommodate the hundreds of visitors who daily visit the Castle during the season.
About forty years ago a passage which will be seen indicated on the plans was quarried through the solid base of the Clock tower. It led to some prison cells which were erected at that time between the Clock tower and the curtain wall, and which have been removed during the recent restorations.
Ignoring the " grand" staircase and ascending to the first floor by the open staircase in the court, we find in front the kitchen and to the right the hall. The arrangement of this floor is roughly on the usual plan.
In enlarging an existing building the architect's hand is somewhat tied, which, in this case, is perhaps strewn by the kitchen door being the most evident on account of facing the staircase; but an effort was made to counteract this by moulding the jambs of the hall door, while those of the kitchen door are merely chamfered. The recognised plan for the domestic part of an establishment such as Castle Rushen consisted of a hall, with kitchens at the entrance end, and the family retiring rooms at the other, or dais end, and such is the arrangement here. The plan of the domestic apartments of Berkeley Castle shows the desired arrangement. That of Borthwick shews the same general order of rooms carried out quite differently to suit a special building. The chief want now at Castle Rushen is the buttery, and this, as we have seen, originally occupied half of the open court, and completed the scheme. The kitchen is very small, but the fireplace which has recently been reopened is of the usual enormous size, arched across the full width of the room. The window recess to the left of the fire has been occupied by a sink, of which only the outlet remains. The hall is a plain room, and is curious in not having a fireplace. It has been altered at various times, and may have had one originally, but no indications of this have been found.
On the South: side of this room are two openings which require some explanation. One is a window and the other appears to have been a pantry with a sink. The latter seems to belong to the original keep and did not exist in its open state at the same time as the window on the left and the door on the righted The three plans explain what appear to have been the different stages:-13th century-pantry only; 14th century-the window and door squeezing the pantry, which then became unnecessary, out of existence; 17th century-the enlargement of the window, necessitating the filling up of the pantry with stone; 20th century-reduction of the window to its 14th century size and re-opening the pantry. As the object of the restoration has been to return the Castle to its state from the 14th to the 17th century, the re-opening of the pantry is not strictly correct, but it was felt that any earlier detail should be preserved. The pantry floor was lower than the present hall floor, from which we may presume that the rooms of the older building were less lofty.
- From the dais end of the room one enters the withdrawing room, now unfortunately spoilt by the insertion of the modern staircase mentioned above. Before the staircase was cut off, and when properly illuminated, this must have been a very handsome gallery, but as far as windows are concerned it was miserably lighted. Even the present windows are modern enlargements of the original lights.
The flooring of this and several other rooms is probably unique. It is formed of slate slabs about 12 inches wide by 5 inches thick and 12 feet long, close laid. They come from a quarry on Spanish Head, about six miles distant, still worked for lintels, and sometimes for paving; but this is probably the only instance of such slabs in use on an upper floor. The effect is very handsome, but adds to the general gloom. It may be supposed that the walls were originally plastered and decorated, or perhaps whitewashed, but at best only a twilight effect would be produced. The sixpenny novelette was not in vogue in the fourteenth century, but the ladies did fine needlework, so fine as to seem miraculous when one considers how little light was allowed to penetrate to the presumed scene of their labours.
The fireplace of the withdrawing room is of moderate size and rather plain for the period, but this plainness applies to all the details of the building, except perhaps a few of the window heads. It would seem to have been the intention to erect overmantels of wood or plaster over the principal fireplaces. If the intention was ever realised the overmantels have disappeared, having been probably considered unsuitable decoration for prison apartments.
The low doorway at the North end of the room leading to the Northwest spiral staircase and to the rooms over the entrance is probably not original. The spiral stair was for access to the rooms connected with the defence of the entrance and to the roof defences, and would not be likely to communicate with the more private rooms. The only excuse for doing so would be to provide an escape staircase, of which there are instances, but in this case the door looks like an insertion, though probably made at an early date.
The main spiral staircase is on the East side of the hall, close to the kitchen, and leads to the upper hall and on to the battlements and oratory.
There is a beautiful little solar or office in the South tower entered from the hall, with barrel vaulted and ribbed roof; and in the West tower, and entered from the staircase (originally part of the withdrawing room), is a similar chamber, intended no doubt for a bedroom. It is this chamber which was the scene some years ago (1877) of an antiquarian expedition, the members of which made a most extraordinary discovery, being nothing less than one of the walls of a more ancient castle. We have no intention of jeering at the members of this expedition; indeed it would be most unwise to do so, considering that antiquarian research has as yet by no means reached the adult stage, and that our feeble efforts of to-day will have to bear the brunt of the riper knowledge of a future generation, but we may smile in the most kindly manner at the sort of research which was considered adequate in the eighties. The marvellous thing is that their conclusions were possibly correct to some extent.
That is to say, that the West wall of the original castle is naturally one of the boundaries of this room, as the tower, of which this room forms one of the stories, is built against it. If this is the wall they saw, they were right in supposing it to be more ancient than the other walls of the tower, but their report suggests that this ancient fragment is confined to the West tower, and they apparently never observed it was only part of a wall that is really the main wall of the ward. The wall is very much thicker on the ground story than above, so that in digging into the floor of this room an excavator would come on to the top of the thicker wall and possibly at such a distance from the side of the room that he would suppose it to be an independent wall. On the other hand, they may have come across the wall dividing the large garderobe pit in the basement of the tower from the filled in part of the basement. If this is what they found they might indeed be mystified. As a matter of fact what they found was all very interesting, though absolutely what was to be expected, but the manner in which it was reported leads the unwary to suppose that the floor of this room hides some extraordinary archaeological feature, whereas it only covers the extra thickness of the lower walls. The garderobe with its shoot, large pit, and outlet, which are really interesting, they do not seem to have discovered.
The only reason for mentioning this matter here is that the weird discoveries made under the floor of this chamber have been mentioned in various guides and histories and have fired the imagination of the public, and though it is sad to destroy any romance, it is perhaps worth while in this case to go carefully into the facts, if only to prevent periodical disturbances of the floor.
Before describing the remaining rooms on this floor, which come under the heading of defensive arrangements, we will glance at the domestic portion of the second floor, and shall find that it is almost a repetition of that below. There is a good hall, now used as a museum, with its solar, and a large withdrawing room, with a wardrobe or bedroom opening therefrom as below. There is no kitchen for this floor, though there is a room over the kitchen below which may have been used as a porter's lodge, or perhaps as a stillroom or pantry.
The almost exact repetition of the domestic apartments on two floors is interesting, and we are only able to theorise as to the exact use made of them. The explanation may probably be found in the fact that the Castle was designed not only for military purposes, but also as the Royal residence and seat of Government. It thus divides itself into three sections: the military, the residential, and the official. The military element of course finds expression, in one respect, throughout the other sections, that is to say that defensive strength is nowhere neglected for the sake of comfort or convenience.
Whether the gubernatorial section must be considered as providing residence, as well as offices for the principal government officials, is open to argument. Possibly bachelor officials "'lived in," while those who were married had houses in the town. That they all had certain meals in the Castle is clear from the rules laid down by the Deemsters and twenty-four Keys in 1422, when they informed the Lord that the following officers, viz.: the Governor, the Receiver-General, the Comptroller, the Water Bailiff, the Attorney-General, and sometimes a Captain-General had formerly their diet in the family, where a constant table was kept both for the officers and soldiers; and that the Deemsters never were reputed part of the family. The above-mentioned officials seem to have sat at the high table, the family table on the dais, for the rules go on to say: "Alsoe that noe man sitt at the high table but those that have gentlemen's wages, save the Comptroller." Evidently the Comptroller did not have gentlemen's wages, but was a gentleman in spite of adverse circumstances. Probably the Attorney General was in the same position as regards wages, but he would no doubt be able to qualify financially, as it was laid down that, among other duties, he was "to plead the cause of all widows and orphans, they giving him twopence for his fee."
At the same Court stringent rules of livery were laid down for the two Castles (see p. 21). For instance, we see that the Comptroller was allowed " one Quarte Beere, one candle in Somer, and JO in Winter j Horse at Hay and six Bowles Oates, with one page." Higher officials were allowed some bread in addition, and larger quantities of Beere, etc., but these allowances surely were for private refreshments between meals, or for breakfast in bed, and not measured out for meals in hall, an arrangement which would entirely rob the dinner of its ancient glories. We like to imagine the Governor at his best at dinner-the cares of State laid aside for the day, the stern demeanour relaxed. We can imagine him quietly chaffing the Attorney-General on his vigorous defence of the charming widow for whom he was pleading in Court during the morning, telling a good tale about his experiences as a knight in Ireland, and then retelling it with more elaborate, if less truthful detail, then daring anyone to say it wasn't true, and gradually becoming slightly incoherent, then more so, until he finally joins the rest of the company under the table and is carried off to his own chamber by his pages.
From our childhood we have been taught that such were the correct table manners of the middle ages, but if the miserable pittance of a gallon per diem represents the Governor's total liquor allowance, we can only imagine him sitting grimly at the board, dull care in every line of his face, as he calls to mind the fact that he lowered the tide in his flagon very considerably in the early morn, after a thirsty ride, and recognises that he must drink warily if the allowance is to see him through the meal. How he would squash any sign of merriment from below the salt, how cutting his remarks about people who don't know when they have had enough. The whole idea is revolutionary and impossible.
But perhaps the allowance was for consumption " off the premises." Undoubtedly the garrison lived outside, except when on duty, and no doubt most of the officials did likewise. They would have houses without the walls, where their families lived, and it is possible that the allowances were to be enjoyed there. The Castle having its brewery, bakery, chandlery, etc., would supply as part wages, not only those who lived permanently within its walls, but also the garrison and officials in their own homes.
However this may have been, it is certain that " a constant table was kept both for the officers and the soldiers," and probably the lower hall was used for this purpose, being more convenient to the kitchen, while the upper hall was perhaps reserved as an audience chamber for the Lord or his Lieutenant.
The planning would not seem to have worked very well, as it would be necessary for the ladies of the household to retire to the upper room through what was called the marsh, being the portion of the room not occupied by the dais.* It was probably so called because in still earlier days, when a hall was on the ground level and had an earth floor covered with litter on which beer, gravy and other liquids would be constantly spilt, it would probably at times be an actual marsh; also, of course, like a marsh, it was a place of rushes. In a liberate roll of 37 Henry III, the sheriff of Southampton was ordered to widen the doorway of the King's hall in Winchester Castle for the entrance of carts, which suggests that it was cleaned out periodically like a cattle shed.
As to the furnishing of the hall at Castle Rushen, we may suppose that on the dais there would be a large and heavy table of beech or oak planks with fixed or loose seats behind it against the wall, and light trestle tables down the sides of the room with forms between them and the wall, for the retainers. These tables and forms were removed between meals. The walls round the dais would generally be wainscoted, the wood being painted in green and red with some gilding, for it was usual to paint even oak in the middle ages.
As no fireplace has been found in this room, charcoal or peat was probably glowing in a brazier in the middle of the marsh on cold evenings, or there may have been a flue of wood and plaster which was a not uncommon arrangement. For light they probably had rows of long candles stuck on beams, or iron candlesticks fastened to the walls.
The trestle tables being moved after dinner, the company would gather round the fire until weariness made them seek comfortable corners of the room and dry litter for the night. At the period of the rebuilding of Castle Rushen the higher officials would probably no longer sleep in the hall, but either go home if they had homes near, or retire to their withdrawing room, which may or may not have been subdivided into cubicles with curtains or boards. They probably had beds, or, at all events, mattresses, and these on the rushes would be very comfortable. Though carpets had been introduced into England in the 13th century, they were still a very rare luxury in the 14th, and it is not likely that they were used in Castle Rushen until the Derby House was built. Rushes must have been plentiful in the marshes surrounding the Castle, and the supplying of them was one of the taxes imposed on certain estates. The doorways of most of the rooms are arranged with a step down into the room to allow of a thick bed of litter which would be warmer than a carpet, though it had the great disadvantage of being an excellent breeding ground for fleas.
Eleanor of Castile is supposed to have introduced carpets into England. Matthew Paris tells of the indignation of the Londoners at the luxury and rudeness of the Spaniards who came over in her suite; " they remarl;ed that their manners were utterly at variance with English customs and habits, that while the walls of their lodgings in the Temple were hung with silk and tapestry and the very floors covered with costly carpets their retinue was vulgar and disorderly."*
We need not suppose, because the floor was covered with rushes, that all the appointments were extremely rude. The furniture, though heavy, was probably handsome in design. The walls were generally plastered and painted in diaper patterns. The dark beams of the ceiling, a rich curtain over the door, the painted and gilded wainscoting round the dais, and some emblazoned shields and bright arms would give a simple but satisfactory decorative scheme. The tables would be covered with white linen and would be further adorned by the great salt and various ewers, goblets and bowls. They probably had no plates, at all events at the low table. Large slices of bread were used for plates, and when done with thrown to the dogs.
In the bedrooms proper, which were few and confined to the use of my lord and his lady, and perhaps one for very important guests, the chief furniture would naturally be the bed. The tester bed with a canopy was the favourite sort for a long period. Though the floor of the bed was probably of planks, various records shew that the mattresses of the period were made an excuse for lavish expenditure, and linen sheets were used even by small farmers, so we may suppose that even the more humble of the earlier inhabitants of Castle Rushen lived in simple comfort, and the higher officials in some degree of luxury.
In one or two respects, however, their arrangements fall very materially short of common modern convenience. Lighting must have been miserable. On the other hand the necessity for good light did not exist, as there was nothing to read, and the dim light would add considerably to the effect of the recitations and stories which took the place of our literary studies. We cannot help wondering how the ladies managed to make the wonderful tapestries they produced, without ample light. Were they done out of doors or did they have an extra allowance of candles?
Then the conveniences for personal cleanliness, if they existed within the walls, must have been very sketchy. Baths are said to have been introduced into England by Edward I, but do not seem to have been very popular, and it is probable that the washing accommodation was as little missed as the light. It is said that even at the present day there exists a class which regards anything more than an annual bathe as modern snobbishness.
Another matter in which we have improved is sanitation. Castle Rushen is no worse fitted in this respect than other buildings of the period. The inner ward alone has ten garderobes, and there are five connected with the gatehouse and outer wall. While the latter are comparatively sanitary as they discharge into the tidal portion of the moat, those of the Inner Ward must have been very unsatisfactory. They discharge by flues or shoots in the thickness of the wall into cess pit chambers also in the thickness of the wall, one such chamber generally serving for two garderobes. The overflow from these chambers is on to the surface of the outer courtyard, except in one case where it is connected to a drain, which however may not be original. It is impossible but that this arrangement must have been unhealthy and unpleasant, and we know that in other Castles it was found so.
To return again to the considerations of general arrangement, we may suppose that the upper range of domestic apartments was designed for the private use of the King and his family, but as the King was generally an absentee, it is probable that his lieutenant occupied them. Besides the hall, withdrawing room and bedrooms, there is an oratory in the clock tower which may be considered as part of the domestic arrangements of this floor, and a room in the West tower which was probably the priest's lodging. The length of the oratory being from N. to S., the altar and East window had the peculiarity of being at the side instead of at the end of the room. The altar has disappeared, but the ledges on which it rested and the piscine and aumbrey may be seen. The drain from the piscine seems to be a flue similar to those of the garderobes, and has a similar outlet which may be seen in the plinth below.
The oratory window is, as one would expect, the most ornate in the Castle, a trefoil with ogee drip mould, but the brown sandstone out of which it has been carved has weathered badly and left only a suggestion of the design.
The clock now occupying the oratory is said to have been presented by Queen Elizabeth, while others say that its movement was unknown in her day. On the other hand the Elizabethan faction fall back on legal phraseology and say " that the movement was known in her day and if it wasn't the movement has been altered, but that in any case the general body of the clock came from her, and that the general testimony of tradition agreeth therewith."
Above the clock, in a turret added at the time, is a bell said to have been placed there by the 7th Earl of Derby.
Besides the oratory and the room we have called the priest's lodging, there are two other top rooms of towers opening from the battlements (probably shelters for the upper guard), and a garderobe.
Near the N.W. corner of the battlements is a door opening on to the spiral staircase which leads from the courtyard to the roof of the Eagle tower. It should be noted that the two spiral staircases in this ward follow the usual rule, one starting from the ground floor and the other from the first floor. Opening from the former we find a large room now occupied by Mr. Kermode's very fine collection of casts of ancient Manx crosses This room seems to have been the garrison chapel, but there are peculiarities about it suggesting some change of plan during or soon after the erection of the Castle. The three windows looking into the inner ward suggest 15th century work, and the head of one does not seem to fit the jambs. The windows looking outwards look as if they had been fitted into embrasures. Again, in the rooms below, lead flashing was found in the walls about 2 feet above the floor at the highest point and falling about 6 inches towards the courtyard. There is also a stone pipe leading through the wall from one of these rooms to another, and in the middle room an outlet into the courtyard. All these peculiarities suggest that originally the North front had two separate towers since joined by an arch, and that the more Westerly of these towers was carried up as a watch tower, while the middle part and the Easterly tower were about the level of the general battlements. In the battlements above this room are two cross loops of the same character as those in some of the towers of the curtain wall.
The lower rooms of the great North front are given up to defensive arrangements. We have already described the drawbridge and entrance passage with its two portcullises and guard rooms on either side. Above these on the first floor is a range of three rooms occupying respectively the spaces over the two guard rooms and the entrance passage. The middle room, that over the entrance passage, has the three holes in the floor, previously described, for harassing an enemy who might have gained the passage.
When raised, the inner portcullis grille occupies one side of this room, rising through a slot in the floor. The outer portcullis grille is against the outside face of the outer wall for a few feet above the floor of this room. It then disappears into the thickness of the thicker wall above. The grilles are mentioned in the present tense as new ones have been inserted, copied from that remaining at the outer gate. The propriety of arming them with iron spikes has been questioned, as it is sometimes asserted that the object of the spikes was to add to the strength of the grille by fixing themselves in the roadway, and that in this case the grille being over the drawbridge there could be no object in having spikes. On the other hand one of the spikes of the portcullis of the outer gate, where the conditions were originally similar, was until two years ago in possession of Mr. Thomas Lewin of Crosby, but has since been lost. May we not suppose that they would be used to give a threatening aspect to the entrance ? They certainly add horror to the thought of being caught in trying to rush the entrance. It is also possible that in such a case a sill of soft wood was provided as a gripping piece. It would be quite possible to arrange such a sill in the Castle Rushen entrances.
In the first floor portcullis room, the upper part of the front wall (where the grille, as mentioned above, is within the thickness of the wall) has been partly pulled down at some time in order to get at the grille, which presumably had jammed where there was no other means of getting at it. This can be seen by the insertion of different masonry. The portcullis grooves which are 6 inches wide, half round below and square above, continue through the second floor and about 9 inches into the third floor.
The winding machinery was evidently on the second floor. There are 9 inch square recesses in the walls which seem to be for the ends of beams, and iron rings for belaying. The continuation of the grooves to a higher point suggest balance weights, which probably took about half of the weight of the grille, leaving it heavy enough to fall smartly when required. The weight of the new grilles is about 12 cwt. In the Museum is a piece of iron said to be part of one of these weights. What remains is 6 inch square and about a foot in length.
*The three plans referred to are not now to be found.
* Possibly the family, when in residence, dined separately in the upper hall. At all events the idea of dining away from the household was beginning to take root about the middle of the 14th century.
* Hudson Turner's " Domestic Architecture."