Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Henry II's Magnificent Keep

That's what the sign called it, anyway. So here it is, Orford Castle:

Lee took that photo, but I took the next one!

And then I couldn't decide which one I liked better, so here's yet another view:

Anyway, the castle was built between 1165 and 1173, so more than 300 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. It looked kind of tiny from the outside, so I was surprised how many rooms there were on the inside--especially since the walls are 10 feet thick. Ever seen the movie The Lion in Winter? King Henry in that movie is the same one that had this castle built, and he was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine (who I will always imagine looked like Katharine Hepburn thanks to that movie). If you read about her on Wikipedia, Eleanor was one of those people seemed to be involved in *everything*. Fascinating woman.

Ok, back to the castle. This one is unusual in its design: an circular main section with three towers appended. There are I think three levels of the main chamber, and on each floor it's a pretty big open room with smaller chambers on the sides built in the walls. I'm getting a little ahead of myself though, still got some more pictures from the outside.

The whole area around the castle was really hilly; that's the remains of the earthworks and such that surrounded the castle. It used to have a wall around it (called a curtain wall) and some other structures, but those are long gone, quarried for building material when the town and castle's fortunes went downhill.

K, there's Lee looking up at the castle to give you an idea of its size. I don't know, when I think "castle", I think huge and imposing, don't you? I'm sure it was more imposing when the outer walls and stuff were still intact, and hey, this was built in the 12th century so WOW that it's still standing 850+ years later.

And here's Lee, checking to see if it's loaded :) I thought it was funny that the cannon pointed right at the parking lot; there's a car right behind Lee. I thought it was funny to see an ancient cannon pointed at a modern car, but I didn't take a picture of it.

One more picture of the outside just because I couldn't pick out just one. Usually when we go places like this, I get a postcard or two since they always have beautiful pictures, but this time I thought my pictures were just as good as what was on the postcards. Except for one that must have been taken from a helicopter or something, that one was pretty cool looking.

But we didn't just walk around the castle, we also went in it!

Here's Lee checking out the fireplace in the main hall, the first room we entered.

And this is the doorway to a small kitchen off the main hall. I tell you what, I am so glad this isn't MY kitchen! It's tiny and dark and I'm really attached to the idea of modern indoor plumbing. There is a well in the basement of the castle, but due to its proximity to the coast the well water was salty and brackish, so collected rainwater was used for drinking. Still, that well would be handy in case of a siege.

Yeah, that's the kitchen. That's it. My kitchen is bigger than this, not to mention the part where it has a lot more cabinet space ;) I think that's a sink on the right wall?

Lee is listening to the audio tour, which told us that most English castles have staircases that curve to the right because defenders would be rushing down the stairs, bashing about with swords, and they were all right-handed because a.) statistically, more people are right-handed than left; and b.) witches were left-handed. Ok, so I'm not 100% sure of the accuracy of that second statement, but it sounds like it could be true, right? Anyway, supposedly it was easier on the defenders to have a staircase that curved in that direction. If it were me, though, I'd have done it the opposite direction so that defenders could hang onto the rope or hand rail along the outside of the staircase and hack and bash with the other hand (on the inside of the spiral, the stairs are so narrow that you wouldn't be able to keep your footing there). Lee, on the other hand, doesn't think they had handrails when the place was built.

This is the chapel, which was the nicest room in the entire castle because, as the audio tour informed us, "Nothing is too good for God". This was the only room in the entire castle that had real glass windows. See the three cubbyholes in the walls in the left corner? The bottom right one is actually a sink to wash the vessels used for communion. The cubby on the left is where they kept the communion cup, and the smallest one above the sink is where the plate for the bread went. Back in the day the entire castle would have been festooned with tapestries, so I imagine it would look a lot different than all this bare stone.

After that, we went up to the roof of the castle, which is where the bakery was to minimize risk of fire. Because apparently a stone castle *could* burn to the ground.

We got one of our imaginary friends to take our picture; you can see the town of Orford behind us.

Lee took a couple of pictures through the bars, so here's a better view of the town. You can see the tower of the church in the far left, it's the tallest building in the photo.

Off the other side of the roof...which is weird, I don't remember seeing that ruined wall when we were walking around, but whatever.

So there you have it, our first visit to an English castle. Lee and I also joined English Heritage, which administers a lot of the castles, churches, and other historical sites in England. It cost us 77 pounds for the two of us for a year's membership, but with that you get free admission to their sites, they send you a magazine, and we got these handy guidebooks that list all their properties so we can plan out LOTS more trips to see more castles and abbeys and churches and all manner of historical schtuff. It would have cost us ten pounds to get into Orford Castle, so if we go see six or seven more castles in the next year the membership will have paid for itself. Don't think that will be a problem ;)

If you want to see some more information on Orford, I found sites here and here that were pretty interesting. I'm linking them up here so I can refer back to them when I get these photos to scrapbook, ha!


Giffysk8s said...

As they say in Boston, "Wicked!" (Translation: way cool!)

Hmm...can't decide which shot of the castle I like the best. The clouds in the 3rd one look like smoke rising from a chimney, or from something burning in the bakery. :)

I am with you on the kitchen! Yikes! Although I guess they didn't have lots of kitchen gadgets, multiple sets of dishes, or latte machines in 1173, huh?

It's funny~I know this is a huge castle, but those teeny doorways would make me feel claustrophobic anyway.

Can't wait to see how you scrapbook these!

Liz Guidry said...

Great photos! We were thinking about joining the English Heritage thingie. There is another one but I can't remember the name.

Cindy said...

Thanks for posting these and the running commentary! I thoroughly enjoyed these and look forward to more of your castle escapades!

adifrog said...

I told Adam what you said about him and the lefties. He said it sounded reasonable, as long as you don't try to burn him.

CCsMom said...

Oh wow, this is a totally different type of castle. It's kind of like house hunting, or just looking at model homes, but these are ancient. I love things like that -- and I really like the stone walls. I enjoyed going to Hearst Castle in California and thinking about all the people who were there long ago, but it would be something to try to wrap my head around all the history that goes with these properties!!! Can't wait to see some of them! Oh, and Adam is just special being a lefty. Of course, it does run in his family with at least one in the past 3 generations! Love you!

Christy Lynn said...

The audio tour said the thing about the staircase spiraling to the right to make it easier for defenders; one of the guys in our group said the thing about witches. And I won't try to burn Adam as I'm certain I couldn't get him to stand still long enough to light anything on fire :p We do sing Trogdor the Burninator's song every time we go past any thatched-roof houses though!

Lee said...

Burninating all the peasants.........and THATCHED ROOF COTTAGES!!!! Cause he's TROGDOR....TROGDORRRRRRR!!!

CCsMom said...

And I had to click on the link to Wikipedia because I thought you had a typo and meant OXFORD. Pretty funny.