Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

castle to the Normans in their subjugation of England. We should, indeed, follow him rather than Mr. Clark, where the latter endeavours to minimize the number of actually new castles constructed by William and his followers. The evidence of Domesday has, in this matter, been strangely misunderstood : it was a national land register, not a guide-book for mediaeval tourists; and the fact of its not mentioning a castle is absolutely no proof of that castle's non-existence. Its entries relating to castles are uncertain and incidental, but the language in which it speaks of Wigmore, or such a phrase as ‘Ipse comes construxit castrum, Muntgumeri” vocatum' cannot be explained away. So, too, we read that ‘de manerio Chingestone habet rex I hidam in qua fecit castellum Warham.” Of this entry Mr. Bond has shown, in his able monograph on Corse Castle, that it refers to that famous fortress; and though Mr. Freeman stubbornly refused to own himself mistaken in the matter, the fact was fully recognized in Mr. Eyton's wellknown work on the “Domesday Survey of Dorset’ (pp. 43, 111). We regret, therefore, that Mr. Clark should have ignored this important discovery, as Corfe is remarkable for the early date of its keep and, in places, of its curtain walls. There is also reason to suppose that Corfe, not Wareham, was, in the same way, the real scene of certain events assigned to the latter. But the very policy of bridling the people by strongholds erected up and down throughout the land was doomed to become a standing menace to the Royal power itself. Each of the first five kings who reigned after the Conquest had in turn to face revolt that found in the existence of castles its opportunity and its strength. Norwich, in 1075, stood a siege of three months from the forces of the Conqueror himself, in the cause of its rebel Earl. William Rufus, at the outset of his reign, had, for seven weeks, to lay siege to Pevensey, then to assail stubborn Rochester, and lastly the castled mound of Tunbridge, before he was free to march to the north, recover the ‘new castle' that his father had founded on the Tyne, and blockade, at Bamborough, a stronghold too formidable to storm. With the accession of Henry I., the opposition of the great feudal nobles, relying on castles now increasing in number and in strength, became intensified. But so also did the willingmess of the people to support their king against them. The seizure and imprisonment of the hated Flambard placed Henry at once in possession of Durham—

‘half church of God, half fortress 'gainst the Scot’—

where, as at Worcester, Rochester, Hereford, and Lincoln, castle castle and cathedral grouped together. It was Flambard, also, who founded (though not, in our opinion, till later) the great border fortress of Norham as a bulwark against invasion; and it was he, we may add, whose escape from imprisonment in the Tower of London—suggesting that of the ‘rope-dancers' of Antioch or of the Empress Maud from the tur of Oxford— throws a gleam of light on the state of that fortress at the time. A very noteworthy accession to the strength of the Crown was the only result of the feudal outburst under Henry I., for the lords were banished, and the castles in which they trusted were placed in the khng’s power. The typical case of the Earl of Shrewsbury—he whom Mr. Freeman loved to term “the Devil of Bellême'—is, in many ways, so instructive that we need not hesitate to dwell on it. Possessing in the south Arundel and Chichester, both of them shell-keeps, in Wales the ‘castellaria’ of Montgomery, named after his house, in Shropshire the castled mound of Shrewsbury and the tower of Bridgenorth, and in Yorkshire the fortress of Tickhill, appendant to the Honour of Blythe, he felt himself strong enough, when accused of treason, to defy the king in conjunction with his brothers, of whom Arnulf held the newly founded castle of Pembroke. Henry, establishing a blockade of Arundel, which he was not strong enough to attack, hurried northwards to Shropshire, despatching the Bishop of Lincoln to besiege Tickhill. Here we may note that, in his paper on that castle, Mr. Clark ignores this episode, and imagines that it was only Earl Robert's death that gave the king possession of this stronghold. Meanwhile, the Earl, we read, was straining every nerve to strengthen the ‘towers’ and “walls’ of his fortresses. The interest of the struggle culminates at Bridgenorth, and Mr. Clark's description of that castle and its neighbourhood deserves the most careful study. It seems to be established that Earl Robert abandoned his father's seat on the low ground at Quatford for the steep of Bridgenorth, where he built the stern rectangular tower that even the mine of its Puritan assailants has only injured, not destroyed. If, as there seems no reason to doubt, we have here the work of Earl Robert in 1101–2, the keep becomes of special value as an early example of known date. But the chief interest of Mr. Clark's paper lies in his skilful treatment of the neighbouring earthworks. He discovers in Oldbury, on the right (not, as he says, the left) bank of the Severn, the site of the burh ‘timbered' by AFthelflaed in 912, and at Quatford, on the opposite bank, the actual geweore, in all probability, wrought in 896 by the Danes, whose name is still preserved in Danesford. This conclusion

is opposed to Mr. Freeman's conviction that Bridgenorth itself had had been ‘the stronghold of Æthelflæd'; * but we think that here Mr. Clark is right. The policy of Henry, both in England and Normandy, was to entrust to faithful adherents those strongholds which fell into his hands, and which he did not either destroy or annex directly to the Crown. But with the accession of Stephen his work was all undone: for the late king's officers, the men on whom he specially relied, became, if they espoused his daughter's cause, rebels against the reigning sovereign; and, on the other hand, the lawless feudal nobles revelled in the contested succession and the consequent weakness of the Crown. Thus assailed on every side, Stephen, throughout his reign, was confronted by the castle difficulty. Within a few months of his accession, his endless warfare begins. His siege of Rougemont, the citadel of Exeter, ‘muro inexpugnabili obseptum, turribus Casarianis inscissili calce confectis firmatum, taught him how powerless were the means of assault against the castles of the day. The author of the “Gesta Stephani’ had a keen eye for this warfare: he shows us Stephen attempting in vain to storm the place by sheer valour, and employing, with equal lack of success, the wooden beffroi, the ram, and the mine. Neither money nor ardour was wanting; and yet the garrison only surrendered, after a siege of three months, because the water in their wells had failed. It is difficult for us to realize how strong these castles were ; but the case of Exeter proves the fact. Thenceforth we find the king baffled by sieges at every turn, till while striving to reduce Lincoln he was himself defeated and made prisoner. It is usual to imply that he made no effort to stop the erection of ‘adulterine’ castles, but there is evidence that he clung, in this matter, to the prerogative of the Crown, and that here also the anarchy of his reign has been exaggerated somewhat. His great coup d'état against the bishops formed a useful precedent for the practice of enforcing the surrender of obnoxious castles by the threat of hanging their owner—if he could be kidnapped for the purpose. It was thus that the famous Geoffrey de Mandeville was forced, at last, to part with the strongholds on which was based his extraordinary power, and that the citadel of Lincoln was wrung from the Earl of Chester. It was the siege of Wallingford, whose impregnable mound had proved a thorn in Stephen's side throughout his troubled reign, that brought about the final crisis. , Young Henry gallantly relieved it, and was gaining possession of castle after castle when Stephen at length came to terms. The treaty of Wallingford was largely concerned with the all-important question of castles; its careful distinction of turris and mota throws light upon their nature; and its provision for the destruction of all those erected since the death of Henry I. testifies to the keen jealousy with which they were regarded by the Crown. Henry, indeed, had occasion to complain that Stephen was remiss in the work of destruction; but when his rival's death gave him the throne, his own vigour in enforcing submission showed the nobles what they had to expect. The castles which had almost threatened to make all government impossible were brought more and more under the control of the Crown, and the last feudal outburst (1173–74) had for its inevitable result the removal of a standing source of danger to the realm. In offering certain criticisms on Mr. Clark's great work, we wish it to be clearly understood that they are intended only to lead to a further study of the problems he has done so much to solve. As he has observed, with perfect justice:—

* “William Rufus," ii. 153–7.

ford

“The histories and remains of these fortresses are full of interest to the antiquary, whether his branch of study be legal, social, architectural, or military. Almost all the most important of our English castles date, in some form or other, from remote antiquity, and their associations were of slow growth, and deeply rooted in many centuries of the national history. Most were the centres of estates which had become great in the course of many generations, and for the protection of which they were established; and the tenure and services of the tenantry had grown up gradually, so that the castle, or rather the fortified hall, was closely connected with the institutions, laws, and customs of the estate, or it might be the shire, wapentake, rape, or hundred, of which it was the defence.’

We might supplement this by alluding to a connexion between the Sheriff and the county castle—of which there are traces at Exeter, Salisbury, Worcester, Gloucester, Winchester, Bedford, and perhaps Lincoln—which seems to have been introduced from Normandy at the Conquest. Nor have these buildings an interest only for the antiquary or the historical scholar. ‘Majestic though in ruin, their very contrast with the modern life around them appeals to the artist, to the poet, with an almost irresistible force. The donjon wrought for Norman taskmasters by the hands of toiling Englishmen, the grim tower, which, in the sight of our forefathers, was “filled with devils and evil men, has become pathetic in decay:—

‘Fallen at length
Is that tower of strength
Which stood foursquare to all the winds that blew.
The

[graphic][graphic]

The mighty keep of the house of Ferrers has been so utterly destroyed that only since this book was written have there been discovered at Duffield foundations which prove it to have once ranked among the vastest of Norman ‘towers.” At Dunster, the ‘Tor’ of the Lords Mohun, “the only trace of its keep is the fragment of a drain.' And as with the castles, so with their lords. In the words of Lord Chief Justice Crewe :—

‘And yet time hath his revolutions; there must be a period and an end to all temporal things, an end of names and dignities, and whatsoever is terrene. And why not of De Were? For where is Bohun ? Where is Mowbray? Where is Mortimer ? Nay, which is more, and most of all, where is Plantagenet?’

But how do we treat these relics of the past, these national monuments which our neighbours in France would cherish with jealous care? Utilitarian to the core, we turn them, as Mr. Clark complains, into jails, into barracks, into powdermagazines. At the Tower, the exquisite chapel of St. John was formerly crammed with records, ‘in one confused chaos, under corroding and putrefying cobwebs, dust and filth': they were actually dangerous, Prynne tells us, by “their cankerous dust and evil scent.’ At Canterbury, the enterprise of a gas company turned the keep, we have read, into a gigantic coalhole; at Bridgenorth, Mr. Clark describes the tower as ‘in a state of great filth and neglect, and with putrid carrion suspended from the walls’; at Hedingham, the singularly perfect stronghold of the famous house of De Vere, we have found the lowest stage occupied as a cowbyre. To such ‘base uses’ may they come. Nor is the conversion of a Norman keep into a brand-new provincial museum a process we can contemplate without dread. “Time has moulder'd into beauty many a tower, if only the hand of man would leave it reverently alone. We trust that the lifelong labour of Mr. Clark and the publication of these valuable volumes may increase an interest in these relics of the historic past, and lead to their careful preservation for generations yet to come.

ART.

« AnteriorContinuar »