Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rochester Castle, Kent - Historical Romance, Time-Travel ... plus Pigs!

Rochester Castle engraved by H. Adlard after G.F.Sargent c1836

History really can fire my imagination - as does this medieval castle. Partly, it's that some of the interior has been restored and functions as a home again. So I like to think about exploring deep inside the ancient building, finding a dark secret passageway that leads to a dusty and cobweb-covered door, unopened for centuries ... you see what I mean!

Bishop Gundolf began building the present castle for William the Conquerer in 1087. It was on the site of a Roman fortification which protected the bridge crossing over the River Medway, a bridge for the main road from London to Dover. The three-storey Norman tower or keep was built in 1127 by William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 1215, the castle and it's rebelling barons were under siege from King John. The monarch dug under the outer wall and set fire to a mine under the keep, bringing the southern corner down. This fire was fueled by the fat of forty pigs! After two months, the defenders were starved out.

The castle was successively rebuilt under Henry III and Edward I. And remained a fortress till the 15th century. Going into decline in the following century.

Etching c1620

... and when I managed to force open the old iron-bound wooden door, I was astonished to see a huge blaze roaring in the enormous fireplace of the room beyond. The table seemed not long ago to have served up dinner ... and was still littered with pewter plates ... and the remains of spit-roasted mutton ... silver goblets near drained of clove-spiced red wine ... .

And after a few moments, I heard people approaching. Heavy footsteps and muffled speech ... was it French? Probably. But such a strange French.

Enough, enough!

Four pounds for adults and two pounds for children. We ring a bell at 4.45 and you need to make your way to the exit ... .

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