The Forest of Dean.

Away Days

 

 



















Away Days - Out of the Forest.




Tretower Castle and Court.



This is all that remains of the old Tretower Castle today. Originally built as a timber castle by a Norman knight as a reward for assisting Bernard de Neufmarche in his conquest of Brycheiniog it was upgraded over the years to a three storey cylindrical tower with a protective curtain wall and external bailey. From its original earth and timber defences of a wooden tower on an earthern hillock it has been heavily modified over the years reflecting the defensive needs of the area.




Looking up inside the ruins of the stone round tower one can see where the beams supporting the two upstairs floors would have been. It is, even today, very dark and gloomy and in medieval times would not have been very comfortable with little light and not much warmth, despite that large fireplace in the middle storey.


This diagram, cutaway to show the interior parts of the castle, gives an idea of the scale and forbidding nature of the castle in its heyday. The only entrance to the castle proper was via a Gatehouse with a drawbridge across a rectangular pit along. up a staircase to a doorway and across a wooden covered bridge that connected the external curtain wall to the one and only entrance into the middle floor of the tower. This arrangement of a circular external wall on an earthern mound with a 'bullseye' tower in the center was known as a Shell Keep. Around the circumferance of the tower there were square holes let into the fabric of the walls. Into these holes beams were placed on which an external angled platform was built. The outside, outwardly sloping, wall of the angled platform was pierced vertically with narrow arrow slits - giving all round vision and the ability to shoot arrows downwards at attackers in all directions from a very secure firing position.




Over the years a stone Shell Keep was no longer appropriate with the invention and development of gunpowder and more modern ordinance so the Castle was abandoned and a fortified manor house built instead. There is a heavily built, fortified central entrance with a Gate House Tower, complete with apertures to allow water to be poured down to douse any attempt to set fire to the iron studded oaken door.


With the building of the manor house came the introduction of a more luxurious style of life and less emphasis on dour defence against attack.




Looking down from the upstairs storey across the inner courtyard towards the Gate House, we can see that the Gate Keeper in his upstairs room had views in all directions and was, in fact, self contained with his own sleeping quarters and kitchen.



With the security constraints of the traditional castle defence requirements now removed the Manor House started to become a colourful place with many surprisingly civilised and advanced features. Movable oak panels were used, similar to modern 'stud walls,' to provide more privacy. There were fireplaces in many of the upstairs rooms. An external balcony running the length of the main living quarters was introduced. There were sliding shutters for security and privacy on the windows.




For the honoured guest or visitor to the Manor House there was even an external staircase to a separate 'guest suite' for overnight accommodation.



 
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