Chepstow which is a Norman castle was constructed beginning in 1067. This was less than a year after the new king, William the Conqueror, was crowned. It was built high over the river Wye in Southeast Wales. The Normans werent the first to realize the strategic value of this position. We know this because the arch above the main doorway into the hall was built by bricks taken from a Roman fort that used to stand close by. This position was an advantage partly because it allowed allies to bring supplies to the castle during times of battle and siege. They brought these supplies through the river.
All through the Middle Ages Chepstow remained the center of the military and also administrative power. In Strigoils Marcher lordship. Chepstow was built by William fitz-Osbern, a loyal Norman Lord. A few months after the battle of Hastings in 1066 William fitz-Osbern then lord of Breteuil in Normandy was created earl of Hereford by William the Conqueror. He was stuck with the job of subduing the southern Welsh borderlands. Before his death in 1071 he had completed the rectangular keep. This is the earliest dateable secular stone structure in Britain.
Fortresses built by fitz-Osbern were the vehicles that the new king used to obtain control over his newly conquered lands. Chepstow became the main launching point for journeys that over time quieted the rebellious people. Chepstows Great Hall, which was started in 1067, is the oldest surviving stone fortification in Britain because of this and some other facts its important to Britains history. Other castles built at this time have been long gone, but here at Chepstow it is possible to see and feel the remains. Inside the Great Hall men with considerable power planned strategies with other Welsh Marcher Lords. They mapped out invasions to gain control of the country that was still ruled by groups of powerful Princes.
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The Hall always was the heart of this castle originally it stood by itself. Over a period of years it was added onto by many builders. The Great Hall and the stunning cliff side are said to be the only two really interesting features. Chepstow in itself is just a typical Norman Structure. A large gatehouse with tall curtain walls that connect a series of tall towers. Chepstow was passed by marriage to William Marshall at the end of the 12th century.
William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, was a formidable mercenary soldier with much experience in military building in France. He took upon himself the task of bringing Chepstow up to date. He had the cast curtain wall reconstructed and added two protruding towers to protect this wall that was open to attack. The towers were designed with arrow holes. These gave cover. To the men firing to the ground.
This is one of the earliest examples of this arrow hole technique. It became a standard characteristic on all medieval castles. Prior to 1245 Marshall had not only greatly improved Chepstows defenses, but also the internal accommodations. He had a new lower bailey constructed with an impressive twin-towered gatehouse. At this time a new heavily defended barbican was also built. Marshalls sons later on also made improvements on the keep. Roger Bigod III between 1270 1300 built a wonderful hall block on the lower bailey in the north side.
It included a big, vaulted cellar, service rooms that were elaborate, a kitchen, domestic living quarters and finally a latrine set. He also built a large new tower located in the southeast corner. This was to provide a suite of accommodations that were deemed worthy of a nobleman of a high rank. As well as domestic apartments, Martens tower also had a private chapel. It had well carved decorations and a place on either side for the priest to sit. Bigod also had the magnificent part built. To this day much of it has still survived. Chepstow was even further altered in the Tudor period. In the Civil War Chepstow was attacked twice.
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The defenses of Chepstow designed to ward of medieval attacks was beaten both times by the parliamentary cannon after war. The entire southern side was strengthened with stone and earth. At the time it was also used for state prisoners. Henry Marten was here for twenty years. He lived practically comfortable twenty years in the tower that was eventually named after him. Other famous lords besides fitz-Osbern also called Chepstow home. They included of course William Marshall, earl of Pembroke, and Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk. It depends on how you look at it. These are either some of the most important or hated men in their history.
Another castle Beaumaris which is an Edward Castle was built in 1295. It was the biggest and final castle to be constructed by King Edward the I in Wales. At the time this castle was devised resources were tight. Any plans like this were pushed back. The decision was made to go ahead with the new castle in April. This was because the Welsh had started a rebellion with Madog Ap Llewelyn leading the way. In complete control of the building was Master James of St. George.
He had many years of castle building experience. The building went at a fast pace because there were about 2,600 men working on the castle in the first year. Beaumaris was built with an almost geometric symmetry and without earlier works to restrain the designers creativity it is quite possibly the most advanced piece of military architecture in Britain. It had a tall inner ring of defenses encircled by a lower group of walls. They combined an almost unheard of level of strength and firepowers prior to the cannon age an enemy would have faced an almost impossible task trying to force their way in. The first line of defense was a huge water filled moat.
It was about 18ft wide. On the southern side was a tidal dock defended by a shooting deck on the gunners walk. On the other side of the moat is a low wall of the outer ward. Its run contains 16 towers and two gates with murder holes on top. The Impressive part of the inner ward is its size. It covers almost of an acre.
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It was encircled by six towers and two big gatehouses Inside the castle its obvious that it was meant to have lush accommodations both of the gate houses were supposed to have grand state rooms in the back. Beaumariss chapel had pointed windows and an arched ceiling. The northgate on the farside was planned to have a second story. It was built only to hall level. Also another block of the same size for the Southgate was never built up more than its footings. Evidence around the edge of the ward show other buildings were planned. We cant be sure if in fact they were ever finished.
Beaumaris was planned out to provide apartments for the king, and possibly a new wife. Another thing to consider was his son was steadily approaching marriageable age. The castle would have had to hold the size of both household plus the royal officers the constable and also the sheriff of angelsey. Even Thought it was speculated up to the house of the king by 1298 the funding was gone and the king was getting more and more involved in works in Gascony and Scotland. So this masterpiece of military architecture was sadly never completed, and it was just forgotten. Dryslwyn, a Welsh Structure was built in 1245.
It is located five miles west of Llandielo. It was built on a summit. This was abvious strategic position. This castle was built by the native Princes of Deheubarh. It was one of many of their strongholds. In 1282 after King Edward I snubbed Prince Rhys Ap Maredudd he revolted against him.
As a response 11,000 men lead by the Earl of Cornwall were send to attack the seemingly insignificant Dryslwyn for more than two weeks. It was a miracle that the castle could endure such an attack. Suprisingly though it took using a trebuchet and 26 sappers who were eagerly digging mines under the castle walls. When a wall came down unexpectedly 100 soldiers were crushed including Earl of Cornwall. After being taken in 1287. It stayed property of the English monarchy. Dryslwyn was finally abandoned in the 15th century.
Before that sometimes in the 1400s the castle was purposefully dismantled by English troops. A fire that broke out completely destroyed any structures that remained. Remains founding the Inner Ward include pieces of curtain wall, domestic things, hall complex, a chapel tower and the keep. The Middle and Outer Wards are still being explored. However you can still see two towers, the curtain, gateways. Also you can see the ruins of the fortified settlement.
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It had over 34 plots of land several building are still visible too. Because of the horrible destruction done to this castle we dont know a lot about it, but I think its amazing that it being a pretty weak castle could withstand an attack for over two weeks. So this is the one that catches my attention the most. You just have to wonder.