May 18, 2024

Naworth Castle & Norwich Castle

Naworth Castle

Naworth Castle has become a fine mansion without sacrificing its medieval character. Ranulf de Dacre obtained a license to crenellate in 1335. His castle, on a promontory two miles east of Brampton, consists of an irregular, quadrilateral courtyard surrounded by a curtain wall. The only level approach is from the southeast and this side has a tower at each end, named Dacre and Howard after the two prominent families who have lived here since the fourteenth century.

Dacre Tower is the original tower house. Five stories high with corner turrets, it flanks the original gateway through the curtain though it does not project at all from the southeast front. The doorway into its vaulted ground floor preserves an iron yert. The Howard Tower is probably one of Thomas Dacre’s additions and as a defensive tower it is something of an illusion. It fills the acute angle between two walls and its inner sides are supported on arches above the residential buildings, so it is only a tower at the upper levels. In front of the southeast curtain was a narrow outer bailey, as indicated by the surviving gatehouse and the squat tower known as the Boat House.

There are courtyard buildings against the curtain on three sides. They are largely the work of Thomas, Lord Dacre, who proved to be a capable Warden of the Western march. The southeast range contained the solar and the chapel, the latter indicated by large windows at the Dacre Tower end. The hall occupies most of the northeast range. This lofty apartment contains four intriguing heraldic beasts – a bull, a gryphon, a dolphin and a sheep. These but little else survived a devastating fire in 1844. As a result of this fire, the interiors, while adhering to the old, are the work of Anthony Salvin. He also added the Morpeth Tower near the north corner.

Norwich Castle

Norwich and York were the biggest towns of medieval England after London, and Norwich was saddled with a royal castle within a year of the Norman Conquest. The site, at the heart of the old city, is a natural hillock that was scraped into a formidable motte -though a motte large enough to be regarded as an inner bailey. A car park occupies the site of the outer bailey.

The strength of this earth and timber fortification is attested in 1075 during the rebellion of some disaffected barons. On the failure of this revolt, the Earl of Norfolk fled abroad, leaving his wife to hold the castle against William I’s supporters, which she commendably did for a siege lasting three months.

On top of the motte there now stands a large square keep, unique for the rows of blank arcading that adorn the outer walls in between the pilaster buttresses. If the masonry looks too fresh, it is because the exterior was entirely refaced under Anthony Salvin in the 1830s, but it is clear from old drawings that the new work is a FAITHFUL COPY OF THE Caen stone original.

No other Norman keep is so decorative, not even Falaise in Normandy, which might be called Norwich’s twin. Falaise was built by Henry I and it is likely that Norwich was also. The probable date is 1119032, when there was a pause in building the cathedral, thus releasing masons with the necessary skills. Some authorities would put the keep later on architectural grounds, but there is no recorded expenditure under Henry II.

The keep became derelict in the eighteenth century and the old cross wall has been replaced by a Victorian arcade inserted when the keep was re-roofed to form part of the Castle Museum. It is now difficult to visualize the original layout.