Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Scarborough Castle, England

Scarborough Castle sits on a rocky headland which has a commanding view of the North Sea and much of the inland. The headland was first settled in the Iron Age (at least according to archeological evidence that dates from 800 BC). Over a thousand years later, the Romans built a signal station here in the mid-300s. Archeologists aren't sure how the stations were used, but several of them extend down the coast from Hadrian's Wall. Viking raiders came in and took over, giving the area the name "Scarborough," meaning "stronghold of Skardi." Strangely, no one knows who Skardi was. When William the Conqueror came to England, a battle with Norwegians wiped out Scarborough. The Domesday book of 1086 doesn't mention the town. A castle was begun in the 1130s but King Henry II rebuilt it as a royal castle in 1159. Royalty visited the castle all the way up to Richard III, who used it in 1484 to amass a fleet to counter an expected invasion by Henry Tudor. The castle began to fall into disrepair. It became a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War. The keep's west wall was destroyed in a bombardment. The castle was used as a prison afterwards and later a barracks. It finally came under the care of English Heritage in 1984.

We entered the castle through the barbican, a fortified causeway that leads onto the promontory. The other three sides of the castle have sheer cliffs guarding them.

At the entrance/ticket office

One of the defensive towers

J and L listen to their audio guides in the defensive tower

View to the north

Just beyond the barbican is the Master Gunner's House, an 18th century construction for the (you guessed it) master gunner in charge of the castle's batteries. A few of the cannon remain outside.

Master Gunner's House

Cannon riders!

J waits for the go-ahead to fire

Inside the house is a small museum showing artifacts from the history of Scarborough, including a replica of a bronze sword found here from 3000 years ago and several stone cannon balls.

Bronze age sword

Cannon balls

Crucifixion scene

Other archeological finds

A large, empty field lies just beyond the gunner's house. The edge is a rather precipitous drop.

That's what "precipitous" means!

North bay

View back to the gunner's house and the Keep (more on that below)

By the sea is the remains of the Roman Signal Station, now little more than foundation stones.

Outline of the Roman Signal Station

A well used by the Romans

Also at the edge is a small chapel dating back to AD 1000 called St. Mary's Chapel.

St. Mary's Chapel

Inside the chapel

Near to the chapel is a memorial to the Christians buried here.

Burial memorial

We walked a bit along the edge of the area before going back to the curtain wall that overlooks the southern side of Scarborough.

J at land's end

View back to the Keep and the gunner's house

I don't remember what this hole was, but it was there

The curtain wall was a long wall cutting the castle area off from the town below. Several points along the wall have small towers. A smaller hall was built along the wall for visitors that was used later as a prison.

Some of the curtain wall

L visits a prison cell

Viewing tower

A rest area under the tower occupied by J

The same enjoyed by L

The view from the tower gives a good look at the barbican and the keep.

South bay

Fortified entrance to the castle

The keep and the well for the castle

The castle had an inner defensive area known as the bailey. Inside the wall and ditch were the castle's keep, where the king would stay when he visited, and several other support buildings like a kitchen, a brew house, and a bakery. The keep was really the show piece of the castle, displaying the king's wealth on the outside, with its imposing four stories of stone, and on the inside, with many rooms for entertaining guests. As I said before, the west wall of the keep was knocked down in a bombardment during the English Civil War, essentially gutting the keep. It's amazing to see it still standing almost 400 years later.

Keep sans west wall

Inside the keep

Two stories of fireplaces!

A non-regal resident

No access to the top floor

The views from the keep are also impressive.

The cannon that J and L rode

The North Sea in the distance

Scarborough Castle is an amazing place to visit, as is the town that surrounds it.

No comments:

Post a Comment