Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Warwick Castle, England

Warwick Castle has a long history. The first defenses built in the area were constructed in 914 AD by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, though it was little more than an earthen rampart. William the Conqueror had a wooden fort built in the late 1060s. Twenty years later he appointed the first Earl of Warwick, Henry de Beaumont, as constable of the fort. The fort was upgraded to stone in 1260. Many towers were built in the 1300s and 1400s. The Earls of Warwick became quite powerful--one supervised the trial of Joan of Arc, another helped depose two kings, earning him the title of Kingmaker. The family's fortune eventual became quieter. Minor additions were made throughout the years and the castle slowly turned from a military fort to a grand country estate. The castle was finally sold to The Tussaud's Group (as in Madame Tussauds) who turned the castle into a public attraction. We went to visit in the Fall of 2012 and enjoyed a day of exploring all they had to offer.

Warwick Castle

On the way in we saw a display anticipating the Halloween rush.

Scarecrows with pumpkin heads!

We also saw how they punished minor crimes like public drunkenness. Sadly, L had to pay the cost!

Not the most secure stocks

Just outside the castle we saw a man practicing archery. He turned out to be the tour guide for the castle entrance. He gave a fine speech about life at the castle and the politics of the Warwicks through the ages. We lived in Yorkshire, so we were on the wrong side of the War of the Roses according to him. At least it made sense that we'd invade the castle!

Archery demonstration

Speaking to the crowd

Speaking from the portcullis

The central courtyard is huge, with plenty of booths set up and many towers visible from the inside.

View towards the mound

Guy's Tower and Castle entrance

We went into the Great Hall, the main entertaining room of the castle. In addition to the massive table for serving food, the walls were lined with weapons and armor, items sure to impress visitors.

Seemingly one of everything

Helmets and armor

We saw some of the sitting rooms, bedrooms, and the castle's chapel.

Henry VIII and his wives (we wondered if they had detachable heads!)

A stately bedroom

The chapel

Another building has an exhibit called Kingmaker, where they show life in the 1470s. Back then Richard Neville was made Earl of Warwick by King Henry VI. When civil war broke out (the War of the Roses), Neville's loyalty was to the Yorkists since his family came from there. He helped beat Henry's forces at the Battle of St. Albans in 1455, resulting in Edward IV taking the throne. Warwick rose to a position of great power but the War of the Roses was not over. He became an adroit political manipulator and came into conflict with the new king. He worked to restore Henry and was killed in 1471 at the Battle of Barnet.

Kingmaker exhibit entrance

A typical hallway?

Getting the horses ready for war

Archer stringing his bow

Mason working on the castle

A cool chest

The complicated family tree--click to enlarge

The Gaol was the dungeon of the castle. Criminals were kept there while they awaited trial. One staircase led in and out. The dark pit had only one drain in the floor and a small window for light. Some of the prisoners left graffiti, mostly protesting their innocence.

L goes from the stocks to Gaol

Not a lantern hanging from the ceiling

The drain

Some graffiti

Another dungeon is available for touring, with a full-on horror theme (actors, lights, etc.). J and L were too young to go. They probably still are now.

The Dungeon Experience

A cheerier exhibit is the Royal Weekend Party, a recreation of Victorian era posh entertaining. The castle hosted a party for the Prince of Wales in 1898 that is recreated with wax figures and authentic furnishings.

The Royal Weekend Party entrance

Weird bear/dog/monkey offering cigars

Ladies in a drawing room

The men's parlour

A typical upperclass bedroom

We also went on the castle wall walk and saw the birds of prey, both of which will get their own posts.

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