[From Rushen Castle, Rigby 1927]
HREE stages of development are apparent in the outer works, and in each stage the castle experienced a siege. First we have the 13th century tower surrounded by a ravine, and probably further defended by some sort of timber fence All a base court or Bailey. Such, roughly, was the Castle which held out for a month against Robert Bruce in the year 1313. The chronicle of Rushen Abbey says that "In the year 1313 on the 18th of May, Lord Robert, King of Scotland, put in at Ramsa with a large number of ships, and on the following Sunday went to the Nunnery* at Duglas, where he spent the night, and on Monday laid siege to the Castle of Russyn, which was defended by the Lord Dungall MacDowyl against the said Lord King till the Tuesday after the Feast of St. Barnabas the Apostle (June 21), on which day the said Lord King took the Castle. +
How Bruce brought the gallant MacDowyl to terms is unknown. Starvation was hardly likely in so short a time, and cannon did not come into practical use for some years after this. The battle of Crecy (1346) was one of the first occasions on which they are known to have been used, and even then they cannot have been very powerful weapons, as they are said to have been posted in front of the English army, while the French King placed so little value on the invention that he would not wait for his artillery to be brought up.
Bruce possibly had a mangonel which Viollet le Duc describes as an engine for propelling large stones from a kind of sling attached to the longer arm of a moveable beam heavily weighted at its other extremity; or a trebouchet which was a somewhat similar implement, the difference being that the counterpoise was suspended from the beam instead of being fixed upon it. These machines are said to have been capable of throwing stones of 60 Ibs. weight to a distance of about 250 paces.
It appears that these engines were also used for less noble purposes than the throwing of stones. Froissart, describing the siege of the Castle of Thim,* says: " The besiegers by their engines flung dead horses and other carrion into the castle, to poison the garrison by their smell; and this distressed it more than anything else, for the air was as hot as in the middle of summer; they therefore having considered their position and that they could not long hold out, from the terrible stench, proposed a treaty."
And Sir Ralf Payne-Galwayt quotes a passage from Varrilas to the effect that " at his ineffectual siege of Carolstein in 1422, Coribut caused the bodies of his soldiers whom the besieged had killed to be thrown into the town in addition to 2,00() cart loads of manure. A great number of the defenders fell victims to the fever which resulted from the stench, and the remainder were only saved from death by the skill of a rich apothecary, who circulated Carolstein remedies against the poison which infected the town.,'
Whether Bruce used such methods in the reduction of Castle Rushen we know not. The fact that it held out for a month suggests that he was not well provided with siege engines.
For the siege of an important and well-defended Castle, the most extensive preparations were made when possible. As an instance of this we may quote Mr. Clarke's description of the preparations for the siege of Bedford Castle§ in 1224, of which very full accounts are available. He says: " The preparations were both extensive and minute, and the mandates, always described as pressing, were issued to a vast number of sheriffs and other persons as far South and West as Corfe Castle and St. Briavels. They require men, money, arrears of scutage, cord, cable, iron, steel, hides, leather for slings, twine for strings, mangonels, petraries, balistEe, quarrells, stone shot, quarrymen, miners, carpenters, saddlers, wagons for conveying the royal pavilions, and almonds, spice and ginger for the royal still room. All the smiths in Northampton who can forge quarrell bolts, or feather them when forged, are to work day and night until 4,000 are ready and despatched. Large quantities of wine from the royal stores in London, at Northampton, and elsewhere are to be forwarded with speed to Bedford. Knights performing castle guard at Lancaster are ordered up; greyhounds are sent for for sport. The sheriff of Bedfordshire is to supply quarrymen and masons with their levers, hammers, mauls and wedges, and everything necessary for the preparation of stone shot for the mangonels and petraries. Miners come from St. Briavels in the Forest of Dean. Windsor supplies its master carpenter and his mates. Cambridge sends cord and cable. Charcoal comes with the iron and steel from Gloucester, and the adjacent abbey of Newnham spares a large quantity of raw stone to be converted into shot. . . . The siege operations included on the East front a petrary and two mangonels, which daily battered the opposite tower; on the West front two mangonels more upon the old tower; on the North and South fronts were two mangonels one on each, and each breached its opposing wall. The operations of these severe pieces of ordnance were materially aided by two large wooden turrets, tall enough to command the whole castle, and supported by other smaller turrets, all charged with archers and cross bow-men. There was also the timber covered way, known as a cat, by the aid of which miners were able to undermine the wall, while the bowmen cleared the battlements above. These works were thickly covered with hides, rendering them proof against fire; and the slingers, of whom there were many, probably kept up a general and incessant shower of pebbles upon all who dared to show themselves on the ramparts."
The above extract shews how great an occasion the siege of a large castle might be, but we need not suppose that the siege of Rushen was in any way comparable with that of Bedford. In a small expedition like Bruce's, it would have been impossible to carry all the necessaries for the rapid destruction of a great fortress, and indeed they would not be required. As before pointed out, the Castle we are considering consisted of a tower with outer defences of palissading, which could be destroyed by fire.
In such a case the favourite method of procedure was to first fill up the surrounding ditch. This would be done with branches, gorse, heather or other convenient materials. The same materials piled against the palissading and fired would soon destroy the outer line of defence. If the inhabitants of the tower still held out, an attempt would be made to undermine the tower. Froissart related that at the siege of Chateauceaux' the besiegers " remained a long time before it without any success. At last, however, they brought such quantities of great beams and faggots as filled up the ditches, so that they could get to the foot of the walls of the castle, and attack it with greater vigour. The besieged flung down upon them stones, hot lime, and brands of fire, notwithstanding which their opponents advanced close to the walls, having secured themselves by means of large beams, so that they could mine the walls under cover."*
The same author gives another" delightful instance of undermining in recounting the story of the siege of Cormicy. He says that when Sir Bartholomew Burghersh found that he could not take the castle by assault he ordered a number of miners . . . to do their duty in undermining the fortress.... The miners immediately broke ground, and having lodged themselves in their mine, worked night and day; insomuch that they advanced far under the great tower; and, as they pushed forward, they propped up the work that those within knew nothing of it. When they had thus completed their mine so that they could throw down the tower when they chose, they came to Sir Bartholomew Burghersh, and said to him: " Sir, we have carried our works so far that this tower, great as it is, shall be thrown down whenever you please." " It is well," replied Sir Bartholomew, " but do nothing without my orders," . . . . The knight immediately mounted his steed and . . . made a signal that he wished to have a parley with those within. Upon this Sir Henry came forward on the battlements and demanded what he wanted. " I want you to surrender," replied Sir Bartholomew, " or you will be all infallibly destroyed." " By what means?" answered the French knight, who began to laugh; " we are perfectly well supplied with everything; and you wish us thus simply to surrender; certainly it shall not be to-day" added Sir Henry. " Certainly," said the English knight, " if you were truly informed what your situation is, you would surrender instantly, without more words." " Why, what is our situation?" demanded Sir Henry. " If You will come out, upon my assurance of your safety, I will shew you," replied Sir Bartholomew. The French knight on seeing the mine agreed to surrender, and marched out with his garrison. The mine was then set on fire, " and when the props were burnt, the tower, which was extremely large, opened in two places and fell on the opposite side to where Sir Bartholomew was standing, who said to Sir Henry and the garrison of the fortress, " Now see if I did not tell you the truth." " We own it, sir," replied they, " and remain prisoners at your pleasure. We also return you ur best thanks for your kindness to us." . . .
The second stage of development in the outer works consisted chiefly in replacing the palissading surrounding the old tower by a strong curtain wall and gatehouse. It was in this phase of existence, in the year 1377, that " the Frenschmen took the Ilde of Man, al save the Castel whech Ser Hew Tyrel manfully defended (kept): but thei of the ylde were fayn to gyve the Frenschmen a M. mare, that thei schuld not brenn her houses."* It is doubtful whether this siege need be taken very seriously so far as the Castle is concerned. One cannot suppose that a party of French pirates would ever think of attacking the Castle. What probably happened was that the Frenchmen told off a few of their number to demonstrate in the neighbourhood of the Castle and thus keep " Ser Hew" and his men on tenterhooks, while the remainder wreaked their wicked will on the peaceful inhabitants This affair further illustrates the uselessness of a castle for defending a large area from attack. It seems rather hard that the inhabitants who had to provide large stores for the upkeep of the garrison, should have to buy off these marauding Frenchmen to the tune of " a M. mare* that thei schuld not brenn her houses."
The third stage of development consisted of the arrangements described for defence against cannon, and in this stage came the sedge by Cromwell's troops. There can be no question about the stubborn resistance which, in ordinary circumstances, would have been offered to the enemy by the gallant Charlotte de la Tremouille. She had amply proved her ability and bravery in the long siege of Lathom House, but the greatest commander must be beaten by treachery, and the news of her husband's execution, and the lost cause of the Stuarts, first communicated to her during the investment, shewed that resistance was hopeless and without object. She marched out with the distinction of being the last person in the British Islands to submit to the victorious commonwealth.
From this date the further developments in the Castle were of a retrograde nature so far as military architecture is concerned, and though occupied by a garrison for some time there was a growing tendency to use the outer portions for all manner of prosaic purposes. We find that stabling, a riding school, a lifeboat house, government stores, grocery stores, etc., occupied parts of the old gun ward at various times.
During this last period a wall was built along the river side, extending from the round tower to the curtain wall, probably for the sake of privacy. It was taken down when the quay was constructed, but its foundations remain.
Governor Horton seems to have built the stabling in this ward and thereby gives us a delightful insight into one side of the sainted Bishop Wilson's character. It appears that the Bishop had in his library a copy of Spelman's History of Sacrilege, in which he wrote the following note: " Anno 1733 Governor Horton removed the roof of my Cathedral at Peel to Castletown, to be placed on his stables. How this will end I know not." In a subsequent note he says: " I have seen how it ended. For the wherry that bore away the timber was lost on her next voyage, and the Governor's son nearly lost his sight in the smallpox."" It should be mentioned that Bishop Wilson had used the lead of the Cathedral for roofing the church of St. Patrick some twenty years before this, so that he was not altogether without some share in the " spoliation."
Governor Smelt had also a covered riding school in this space in which he took saddle exercise in bad weather.
All these excrescences have now been cleared away, and the space is again turned into a garden. Unfortunately considerable encroachments have been allowed on the counterscarp which have destroyed the western portion of the glacis; otherwise one gets a good idea of early methods of defence against cannon. It should be mentioned that the top of the glacis which is now laid down in grass was originally flagged.
* In original "Moniales." Chron. Manniae.
* John's translation, p. 69. t The Crossbow. § Mediaeval Military Architecture, p. 219.
* John's translation, Vol. I, p. 94. t Ditto, p. 277.
* Capgrave. " Chronicles of England" (Manx Society, Vol. IV, p. 73).
* A thousand marks. t Manx Note Book, Vol. I, p. 150.