[From Castle Rushen, Armitage Rigby, 1927]
THE middle of the last century it was commonly supposed that the Roman invaders not only made fine roads, and erected splendid buildings, but that they taught the conquered race to do the same. It now seems certain that, with the exception of churches, few, if any, permanent buildings were erected in Britain for five hundred years after their departure. About two hundred and fifty churches in Britain shew remains of Saxon work, but there is no evidence that permanent materials were used for military buildings until about 1066, and there is plenty of evidence that, even for many years after this, the usual material was earth, with fences and houses of wood or wattle and daub.*
The Norman barons, who came to England with the Conqueror, left great castles at home, but they were not of stone. They consisted, like the English castles of the period, of mounds and ditches. The hall, built , f trunks of trees, like a settler's hut, was situate on the summit of the mound, and approached by a trestle bridge crossing the ditch from the counter scarp. The quarters of the principal retainers were at the foot, or on the sides of the mound, while the garrison, servants and cattle occupied the Bailey, a separate court, enclosed within the same main ditch as the motto or mound, but divided from it by a cross ditch.
learner, in his A.B.C. of Gothic Architecture, tells us that " the bestinformed antiquaries at the time of the revival of the study of Architectural History, between 1830 and 1840, made a series of excursions to the sites of all the castles of the barons who came over to England with William the Conqueror in search of some masonry of the first half of the eleventh century. To their surprise, they found no masonry at all in any one of them; there were magnificent earthworks to all of them, clearly strewing that castles of that period were of earthworks and wood only. This is recorded in the Bulletin Monumental of the period, and the substance of the observations is given in the A. B. Codaire De Caumout, who was their leader."
In his " Mediceval Military Architecture," Mr. Clarke says: " That there existed in England, at the Conquest, no Castles in masonry of English work, it may be too much to assert; but it may safely be said that, save a fragment of wall at Corfe, no military masonry decidedly older than that event has as yet been discovered." As these were the conditions obtaining in England and Normandy at the time of the Conquest, we need hardly expect to find any evidence of the existence of Castle Rushen as a stone building earlier than that event. Indeed, considering that in those days the Isle of Man was a comparatively distant country from anywhere, and was probably inhabited by a small and backward population, we may reasonably expect it to be a little later in the art of building than the adjacent islands and the continent of Europe, or at all events not in advance of them.
Mrs. E. Armitage in a pamphlet on " The Norman origin of Irish mattes," maintains that the Irish did not build mattes (the earliest form of private castle), before 1169, the date of the first Norman invasion. In support of this she says " that Giraldus Cambrensis expressly states that the Irish did not use castles, and that this statement is confirmed by the history of the invasion, which never tells us that the Irish defended themselves in a castle; when they do stand a siege, it is in a walled town, and a town which had been fortified not by themselves, but by the Danes."
This is of special interest in relation to Castle building in the Isle of Man, which is claimed to have been part of the kingdom of Dublin at the period to which Castle Rushen has been assigned.
It is often urged locally that whatever may have happened in England, Castle Rushen owes its existence to Norsemen, and that it is very similar to the Castle of Elsinore in Denmark. The first of these statements is true but, as regards the second, the truth is limited to the fact that they are both fortresses. In any case, neither of them tends to prove the early date claimed for Castle Rushen, because the Norse did not build Castles earlier than their descendants the Normans, and the Castle of Elsinore is an erection of the sixteenth century.
The above considerations shew the extreme improbability of our Castle being erected before the Norman conquest. But, for some years after the Conquest, it appears to have been most usual to build Castles in the mound and ditch style.
The history of the two Norman Castles at York seems conclusive on this point. According to Mr. Clarke,* the first was ordered to be built by William the Conqueror in the summer of 1068. In the following spring it was fully occupied and successfully resisted a siege. In these days it takes nine months to build an ordinary jerry-built villa, even with all the advantages of ready-made parts and railway haulage. But it is only necessary to examine a Norman stone-built Castle to be convinced that they must have taken a long time to erect. After the siege, a second Castle was built on the opposite side of the river, and it is on record that this was completed in eight days. A few months later in the same year both of these Castles were besieged and burnt, but we find them re-erected and ready for another siege in the next year 1070. This seems to prove conclusively that the two Castles were not stone built, and it is the more interesting because York was a very important post, and there was no difficulty in obtaining stone if required. The first of these Castles was to be large enough to accommodate three leaders and five hundred knights, an exceptionally large garrison. The truth seems to be that the early Normans only built stone Castles in very special cases. The Conqueror found England covered with Castles of the motte type and, where their positions suited his purpose, he strengthened them in the old way with timber palisades, and the majority even Of new Castles were of the same type.
Turning to Manx history we find that Magnus Barefoot, who flourished during the reign of William, " made the men of Galloway bring timber to Man for the construction of forts,"* suggesting that timber palisading was also the fashion here.
The reigns of William II and Henry I were fairly prolific in the erection of stone Castles, but there is no doubt that the matte continued in use, and even in the reign of Stephen, Castles of great importance were built of earthworks, and others partly of stone with outer defences of earth and timber. Faringdon Castle, for instance, was both built and destroyed, after a lengthy siege, all within the year 1144. In the account of this siege in the " Gesta Stephani" are the following words: " The bravest of the youth, boldly climbing the steep declivity of the rampart, engaged sharply those within, from whom they were only separated by the palisades." These words seem to shew that even a Castle of importance might be defended by mounds and palisades as late as the middle of the 12th century, and Mr. Clarke carries the argument still further by quoting a Close Roll order dated 1225, requiring all persons on the Welsh border who have mottes to strengthen them with timber.
We may then probably conclude that stone Castles were unknown in the British Islands until after 1066, and that for a century after that date earthwork Castles were more numerous than those of stone. The early history of Castle building seems, if we accept the above conclusions, to make the earliest possible date of Castle Rushen 1066. In the next chapter historical evidence will be put forward suggesting a date considerably later. quot; Chronicon Manniae," Munch's translation, p. 59.
* The Irish stone forts may, perhaps, be claimed as an exception, but their period is somewhat uncertain. In any case they may probably be considered merely as a local expression in dry stone of the earthworks of the period.
* Mediaeval Military Architecture.
* See &