Part 2…Chepstow Castle…A look inside medieval times…

During various stages of the restoration of Chepstow Castles, bars were placed across low windows for the safety of tourists.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Chepstow:

From this site:
“In the 19th century, a shipbuilding industry developed, and the town was also known for the production of clocks, bells, and grindstones. In 1840 leaders of the Chartist insurrection in Newport were transported from Chepstow to Van Diemen’s Land. The port’s trade declined after the early 19th century, as Cardiff, Newport, and Swansea became more suitable for handling the bulk export of coal and steel from the Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire valleys. However, shipbuilding was briefly revived when the National Shipyard No.1 was established during the First World War and for a short period afterward, when the first prefabricated ships, including the War Glory, were constructed there. The influx of labour for the shipyards, from 1917, led to the start of “garden suburb” housing development at Hardwick (now known locally as “Garden City”) and Bulwark. The shipyard itself became a works for fabricating major engineering structures. From 1938, Chepstow housed the head office of the Red & White bus company, on Bulwark Road.”

This will be the last day of presenting photos from Chepstow Castle. Tomorrow, we’ll move on to Raglan Castle for two days. For the remaining two posts from Chepstow, Monday and Tuesday, we’ll include some favorite photos from the 11 nights we spent here.

Each door in Chepstow Castle has unique characteristics.

After we spend two nights in Southampton before boarding the cruise, we’ll tally the total expenses for our two months in the UK from August 23rd to October 24th. This post will appear on the day we board the ship.

These large areas leave a lot to the imagination.

From that point, all posts for 15 nights will be cruise and ports-of-call related. I realize that while we’re cruising posts may be redundant but as always, on yet another cruise of our total of 25, we’ll do our best to keep it interesting and informative.

In this case, the presence of vines created such a pleasing effect, it remained in place.

Chepstow Castle will remain in our minds for a long time to come. Lately, we’d been saying one can tire of touring old buildings which could most likely occur after seven years.  

Another fascinating doorway.

Undoubtedly, we’ll continue to peruse historic churches, restored castles, as well as significant old structures throughout the world. It’s impossible not to do so.

Many castles we’ve explored in the past have been totally restored with furnishings and accouterments typical for the era. The rich decor is often appealing and interesting but the medieval period has definitely piqued our interest while in the UK.  
Ken was intent on taking many photos.

The varied aspects of a castle’s ruins leave much to the imagination inspiring us to research data we can share here with our photos.

For more on Chepstow Castle, please see below:
“Foundation, 1067–1188

The Great Tower
The speed with which William the Conqueror committed to the creation of a castle at Chepstow is testament to its strategic importance. There is no evidence for a settlement there of any size before the Norman invasion of Wales, although it is possible that the castle site itself may have previously been a prehistoric or early medieval stronghold. The site overlooked an important crossing point on the River Wye, a major artery of communications inland to Monmouth and Hereford. At the time, the Welsh kingdoms in the area were independent of the English Crown and the castle in Chepstow would also have helped suppress the Welsh from attacking Gloucestershire along the Severn shore towards Gloucester. However, recent analysis suggests that the rulers of Gwent, who had recently fought against King Harold, may initially have been on good terms with the Normans.

The precipitous limestone cliffs beside the river afforded an excellent defensive location. Building work started under William FitzOsbern in 1067 or shortly afterwards. The Great Tower was probably completed by about 1090, possibly intended as a show of strength by King William in dealing with the Welsh king Rhys ap Tewdwr. It was constructed in stone from the first (as opposed to wood, like most others built at this time), marking its importance as a stronghold on the border between England and Wales. Although much of the stone seems to have been quarried locally, there is also evidence that some of the blocks were re-used from the Roman ruins at Caerwent.

The castle originally had the Norman name of Striguil, derived from the Welsh word ystraigl meaning “river bend”. FitzOsbern also founded a priory nearby, and the associated market town and port of Chepstow developed over the next few centuries. The castle and the associated Marcher lordship were generally known as Striguil until the late 14th century, and as Chepstow thereafter.

Expansion by William Marshal and Roger Bigod, 1189–1300

It’s easy to imagine weddings held in this area.

Plan of Chepstow Castle from 1825
Further fortifications were added by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, starting in the 1190s. The wood in the doors of the gatehouse has been dated by dendrochronology to the period 1159–89. Marshal extended and modernised the castle, drawing on his knowledge of warfare gained in France and the Crusades. He built the present main gatehouse, strengthened the defences of the Middle Bailey with round towers, and, before his death in 1219, may also have rebuilt the Upper Bailey defences. Further work to expand the Great Tower was undertaken for William Marshal’s sons William, Richard, Gilbert, and Walter, in the period to 1245.

In 1270, the castle was inherited by Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk, who was a grandson of William Marshal’s eldest daughter, Maud. He constructed a new range of buildings in the Lower Bailey, as accommodation for himself and his family. Bigod was also responsible for building Chepstow’s town wall, the “Port Wall”, around 1274–78. The castle was visited by King Edward I in 1284, at the end of his triumphal tour through Wales. Soon afterwards, Bigod had built a new tower (later known as “Marten’s Tower”), which now dominates the landward approach to the castle, and also remodelled the Great Tower.

A grassy courtyard.  Although there is grass in many areas of the castle it’s unlikely grass was planted in any areas.  For tourist purposes, the beautiful lawns highlight the less colorful castle.
Decline in defensive importance, 1300–1403
From the 14th century, and in particular the end of the wars between England and Wales in the early 15th century, its defensive importance declined. In 1312 it passed into the control of Thomas de Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk, and later his daughter Margaret. It was garrisoned in response to the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr in 1403 with twenty men-at-arms and sixty archers but its great size, limited strategic importance, geographical location and the size of its garrison all probably contributed to Glyndŵr’s forces avoiding attacking it, although they did successfully attack Newport Castle.
The 15th to 17th centuries.

In 1468, the castle was part of the estates granted by the Earl of Norfolk to William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke in exchange for lands in the east of England. In 1508, it passed to Sir Charles Somerset, later the Earl of Worcester, who remodelled the buildings extensively as private accommodation. From the 16th century, after the abolition of the Marcher lords’ autonomous powers by King Henry VIII through the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542, and Chepstow’s incorporation as part of the new county of Monmouthshire, the castle became more designed for occupation as a great house.”

For the continuation of this information, please click here
The stones used in building and restoring the castle vary in color creating an appealing aesthetic.

We’d planned to drive to Chepstow for lunch today but have decided to stay in due to the heavy rain.  We’d hoped to have lunch on our remaining days at the local pub/restaurant but after yesterday’s inferior lunch, we changed our minds. Tomorrow evening we’re meeting up with readers/friends Liz and Dave for dinner in Chepstow. 

The food was not the quality and freshness we’ve experienced elsewhere in Chepstow or other areas in the UK.  Thus, tomorrow Saturday, Sunday and Monday, we’ll dine in Chepstow at one of its many wonderful restaurants. 
Glass windows were used in Wales as follows: “1066 to 1215 AD was the Norman period, which used glass in churches and some fortified buildings, castles, etc. 1216-1398 AD, the High Middle Ages, saw the introduction of Gothic and early English church architecture with much larger windows openings comprising smaller leaded panes.”

Today, we’ll put a dent in our remaining food by having a late lunch (instead of breakfast) and a lite bite in the evening.  

Moss and vines typically grow on stone structures in humid climates. although it can be destructive to the longevity of the structure.  For restored castle and other publicly displayed ruins, often the vines and moss are regularly removed.

The time is flying so quickly! We’re only six days from boarding the cruise in Southampton and only three weeks from today to arriving in the US. We’re looking forward to it all.

Have a healthful and peaceful day.
Photo from one year ago today, October 18, 2018:
“Formerly widely distributed throughout the bushveld regions of South Africa. In the 19th century, it was exterminated by hunters, except in KwaZulu-Natal’s Umfolozi region. Although now thriving where it has been re-introduced into parts of its former region, it still suffers from poaching.”  For more photos please click here.

Part 1…Chepstow Castle…A look inside medieval times…

Chepstow Castle was impressive as we approached.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Chepstow:

From this site:
Chepstow was given its first charter in 1524 and became part of Monmouthshire when the county was formed. The town appears as “Strigulia”, “Chepstowe” and “Castelh Gwent” on the Cambriae Typus map of 1573.[10] The castle and town changed hands several times during the English Civil War and the regicide Henry Marten was later imprisoned and died in the castle. The port continued to flourish; during the period 1790 to 1795, records show a greater tonnage of goods handled than Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport combined. Chepstow reached the peak of its importance during the Napoleonic Wars, when its exports of timber, for ships, and bark, for leather tanning, were especially vital. There were also exports of wire and paper, made in the many mills on the tributaries of the Wye. An important aspect of Chepstow’s trade was entrepôt trade: bringing larger cargoes into the manageable deep water of the Wye on high tide and breaking down the load for on-shipment in the many trows up the Wye to Hereford past the coin stamping mill at Redbrook, or up the Severn to Gloucester and beyond. Chepstow also traded across the estuary to Bristol on suitable tides to work vessels up and down the Avon to that city’s centre. Many buildings in the town remain from the late 18th and early 19th centuries; the elegant cast-iron bridge across the Wye was opened in 1816 to replace an earlier wooden structure.”
Our tour through Chepstow Castle on Tuesday with friends Linda and Ken, who live in South Africa was delightful. We took our time as we wandered through the historic structure reveling its magnificence and the skill with which it has been partially restored to its original beauty over the years.
The main entrance to the castle.

Wales/England/UK takes pride in the maintenance of their castles which was evidenced on both Tuesday and Wednesday when we toured yet another stunning structure with Linda and Ken, Raglan Castle which we’ll share in a few days once we’ve completed posting photos of Chepstow Castle.

Coat of arms on shields at the entrance gate.

With both Linda and Ken as skilled photo enthusiasts, we all ran about seeking the most advantageous photos ops of which there was an endless supply.  We oohed and ahhed from area to area totally in awe of what our eyes beheld.

Unfortunately, it was another cloudy day but it never rained while we were touring the castle with Linda and Ken.

Of course, we couldn’t wait for the opportunity to do research to discover more about the castle and its varied history.  The Internet was rife with comments and observations at numerous sites. 

 Linda and I bundled up on a cool day.  I had three layers under my hoodie.

However, we’ve found the history we’ve included today and in the next few days was most thorough and comprehensive at this site, one we often use for historical facts.  

Ken and Tom posing at a window.

There’s some controversy if Wikipedia’s information is accurate but we often find other information, perhaps written as a “personal observations” less accurate as opposed to the history itself that Wikipedia strives to present.

Inside the entrance courtyard.

Here is a portion of the information on the building of Chepstow Castle we gleaned from the above-mentioned site which we’ll continue to add to in the next few day’s posts:

“Chepstow Castle (Welsh: Castell Cas-gwent) at Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain. Located above cliffs on the River Wye, construction began in 1067 under the instruction of the Norman Lord William FitzOsbern. Originally known as Striguil, it was the southernmost of a chain of castles built in the Welsh Marches, and with its attached lordship took the name of the adjoining market town in about the 14th century.

In the 12th century, the castle was used in the conquest of Gwent, the first independent Welsh kingdom to be conquered by the Normans. It was subsequently held by two of the most powerful Anglo-Norman magnates of medieval England, William Marshal and Richard de Clare. However, by the 16th century its military importance had waned and parts of its structure were converted into domestic ranges. Although re-garrisoned during and after the English Civil War, by the 1700s it had fallen into decay. With the later growth of tourism, the castle became a popular visitor destination.”

Many floors of the castle were long gone but it was easy to determine where the
floors were located by the placement of fireplaces and windows.

The ruins were Grade I listed on 6 December 1950. (In the UK, ruins are graded by number with those in the poorest condition at the lower end of the spectrum. If they aren’t graded, they may be subject to demolition.  Obviously, not all ruins are worthy of restoration).

It was easy to imagine how an area such as this would have been used in centuries past.

“Chepstow Castle is situated on a narrow ridge between the limestone river cliff and a valley, known locally as the Dell, on its landward side. Its full extent is best appreciated from the opposite bank of the River Wye. The castle has four baileys, added in turn through its history. Despite this, it is not a defensively strong castle, having neither a strong keep nor a concentric layout. The multiple baileys instead show its construction history, which is generally considered in four major phases.  The first serious architectural study of Chepstow began in 1904 and the canonical description was long considered to be by Perks in 1955. Recent studies have revised the details of these phases but still, maintain the same broad structure.”

The sun peeked out just as we were done with our self-tour.  

It’s easy to imagine life in a castle during the medieval era.  Of course, many of us have had an opportunity to watch TV series and movies depicted the difficult lives of the occupants of the castles (and more so for those outside the castle).

This stunning parlor or bedroom had obviously been restored to what may have been it’s natural beauty.  This room is awe-inspiring.

Disease was rampant and life expectancy was alarming low: “Life expectancy at birth was a brief 25 years during the Roman Empire and it reached 33 years by the Middle Ages and raised up to 55 years in the early 1900s. In the Middle Ages, the average life span of males born in landholding families in England was 31.3 years and the biggest danger was surviving childhood.”

The view through an arched doorway…
What a stunning experience we had on Tuesday with Linda and Ken followed by the over-the-top lunch we had at the Boat Inn in Chepstow along the River Wye.  If you missed yesterday’s post, please click here.
The leaves are turning on the beautiful trees on the grounds of Chepstow Castle.

Today, we’re back on our own planning to walk down the road for lunch at the local pub.  Much to our delight, the sun is shining although the temperature is quite cool, starting this morning at 46F, 8C.  I suppose this cool weather is good for us to adjust when we’ll be in bitter cold Minnesota in a mere 22 days.

Have a bright sunny day filled with warmth and comfort.
Photo from one year ago today, October 17, 2018:
A female resting beside her mate.  For more, please click here.