Castles of England
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Around 1119 Robert Crevecoeur started to build a stone castle on the site, establishing his donjon where the Gloriette now is. Stephen, Count of Blois, and his cousin the Empress Matilda contested the crown of England. In 1139 Matilda invaded England with the help of his brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester, who held Leeds castle, but Kent was loyal to king Stephen and following a short siege he took control of the castle.
The castle came into the possession of Edward I (1278) . He rebuilt much of the castle as it stood at the beginning of his reign, and enlarged it, providing an outer stone curtain round the edge of the larger island, with cylindrical open-backed flanking towers and a square-plan water-gate on the south-east. The gatehouse at the south-west, a single tower pierced by an arched passage was improved. Later on, King Edward, the Confessor granted the manor to the powerful house of Godwin.
Henry VIII, the most famous of all the owners of Leeds Castles, expended large sums in nlarging and beautifying the whole range of buildings. At the same time, he carefully retained the defenses of the castle for he often had cause to fear invasion from either France or the Spanish . The king entrusted the work of alteration to his great friend Sir Henry Guidford.
Leeds has been constantly inhabited and rebuilt since then. Most of the castle today is the result of the nineteenth-century reconstruction and addition. In 1926 Leeds was bought by the Hon. Mrs. Wilson-Filmer, known as Lady Baillie. Immediately she began the restoration of the castle that took her over 30 years to leave it as it stands today.
There are many myths and legends surrounding castle sieges. Knights in shining armor riding up to the castle, doing hand to hand combat. Or maybe hundreds of guards streaming out of the castles to meet their enemy. None of this is true, except in fairy tales and movies.
Most of the time, the attacking force would send a messenger to the lord of the castle and give notice of their intentions to attack. This notice allowed the castle to surrender. Sometimes the lord surrendered, but most often the castle was restocked and made ready for the siege. They would restock themselves with food, supplies and drink, and add men to the garrison.
There were three ways to take a castle. The first is not to attack the castle at all - just avoid the castle altogether and seize the lands around it. The second is direct assault, or laying siege to the castle. The last is besieging.
Here is an account of a siege. Stone throwing mangonels attack the towers and walls every day. The walls of the castles would hopefully be breached, and towers damaged. The enemy erects wooden towers called belfries, taller than the castle towers, to conceal and enable bow men to shoot arrows down into the castle. While this is going on, miners would be tunneling under the walls and towers of the castle in preparation to collapse them.
To counter the mining, anti-mining tunnels could be dug by the castle soldiers, which insured a ferocious hand-to-hand battle underground. Inside the castle, the guards would place a pot of water near the castle towers and walls. When the water rippled, they would know enemy miners were at work underneath them.
The barbican is next assaulted and taken, with a loss of men on both sides. Then the bailey is attacked, and more men killed. Animals and some supplies would be captured. The auxiliary buildings containing hay and grain for the castle are burned. By now, miners have succeeded in collapsing a wall of the castle. The attackers have broken through and seized the inner bailey. More men on both sides would be lost in this phase of the attack.
By this time, the castle defenders would have retreated to the keep. Miners would now be setting fire to the mine tunnel under the keep. The keep. Smoke and fire are rising into the keep, and cracks appearing in the thick walls. The defenders of the castle are forced to surrender as the castle falls to the enemy.
The third method, called besieging, would require the enemy to wait and starve the castle garrison into surrender. This method was preferred by an attacking side. Some sieges of this type would last from six months to a year. Sometimes, the enemy would hurl dead animals into the castle grounds in hopes of spreading diseases. And, sometimes the lord of the castle would toss dead animals outside his castle, to convince the enemy they had enough supplies to carry on a siege for months.
CASTLES WITH GHOSTS
What story would be complete without a haunted castle. Here is some of the castles that are reportedly haunted in England.
Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon Said to be haunted by the daughter of a wicked baron who, as a consequence of an enforced relationship with her father, bore him a child, which he strangled.
Dover Castle, Kent Dover Castle is associated with numerous ghosts and strange sounds. In the King's bedroom, the lower half of a man has been seen walking through the doorway. The specter of a woman dressed in a red dress has been seen at the west stairway of the keep. The sounds of a creaking doorway opening and closing where a door used to be, but isn't anymore, have been heard.
Featherstone Castle, Northumberland The castle is associated with a ghostly bridal party. Baron Featherstonehaugh had arranged for his daughter to marry a relative of his choice, even though the daughter was in love with someone else. The wedding party left for the "traditional hunt" after the wedding, leaving the baron behind to make arrangements for the banquet. When the party failed to return by midnight, the baron began to fear the worst. Sitting alone at the table, he heard horses crossing the drawbridge. The door opened and the party entered. But, they made no sound and passed through furniture. The wedding party had been ambushed and killed. On the anniversary of the wedding, the party can still be seen heading towards the castle. .
Lowther Castle, Cumbria Haunted by Sir James Lowther. He was very unhappy with a prearranged marriage, and fell in love with a farmer's daughter. When she suddenly grew ill and died, Sir James refused to believe she was dead and left her on the bed. She was finally moved and placed in a coffin with a glass lid, which he set in a cupboard where he could look at her. She was finally buried, and Sir James died unloved and unmourned. At his funeral his coffin began to sway as it was lowered into the ground. His spectral coach and ungroomed horses can be seen being driven through the parklands of the castle.
Tower of London In 1816, a guard saw what he described afterwards as "a shadowy bear walking up the stairs in the twilight." He lunged at it with his bayonet, which shattered against the wall. The ghostly presence walked on unaffected and the guard, having told his unlikely story to others, died of shock a few days later.
Windsor Castle, Berkshire Queen Elizabeth I's ghost has been seen in the library. A young guard shot and killed himself and another guard on duty saw him afterwards.
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