The Doctor Who Experience; Cardiff Bay

In honour of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary, I have kicked myself in gear, sat in front of WordPress and decided to write a blogpost about my visit to the Doctor Who Experience back in September 2013.

Doctor Who Experience

Doctor Who Experience

Located in Cardiff Bay, a short walk from Mermaid Quay, the Doctor Who Experience is a combination of an interactive Doctor Who episode and an exhibition of sets, props and costumes, much like the former Doctor Who Exhibit in the Red Dragon Centre, Cardiff.

When you first enter and buy your tickets, costing £15 for a standard adult ticket and whilst waiting for the experience to begin, you will see several props from the 50 years of Doctor Who included a Dalek, the Third Doctor’s car Bessie and some display cabinets holding River Song’s shoes, diary and gun, a Cyberman’s head and some Dalek parts.

Bessie

Bessie

River Song props

River Song props

The Experience

On entering the Experience you will be ushered onto the Starship UK into a treasure trove museum of British history from the Doctor Who universe. Happening upon a Dalek war, and naturally being captured by Dalek’s, The Doctor manages to save you from certain death and take you for a ride on the TARDIS.

Travelling through space and time, you eventually land and exit the TARDIS onto a world full of Weeping Angels, and come face to face with another Pandorica where of course, the Doctor has been imprisoned, and from where he has been helping you throughout the interactive episode. The micro episode ends with the Pandorica opening, the Doctor being saved, and you exiting into the Exhibit.

The Exhibit

Exiting the interactive portion of the Doctor Who Experience, you will enter into the exhibit, spanning two floors and showcasing sets, costumes and props from the new and classic Doctor Who television series. Here are a selection of photos from the many objects on display.

The First and Second Doctor's Costumes

The First and Second Doctor’s Costumes

Third and Fourth Doctor's Costumes

Third and Fourth Doctor’s Costumes

Fifth and Sixth Doctor's Costumes

Fifth and Sixth Doctor’s Costumes

Seventh and Eighth Doctor's Costumes

Seventh and Eighth Doctor’s Costumes

Ninth and Tenth Doctor's Costumes

Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s Costumes

The Ninth and Tenth Doctor's TARDIS Interior

The Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS Interior

The TARDIS

The TARDIS

The First Doctor's TARDIS Interior

The First Doctor’s TARDIS Interior

The Silence Ship Interior Set

The Silence Ship Interior Set

Three of the many alien costumes

Three of the many alien costumes

Cybermen

Cybermen

Daleks

Daleks

Weeping Angel

Weeping Angel

K9 and Sarah Jane Smith's Costume from her return to Doctor Who in 2006

K9 and Sarah Jane Smith’s Costume from her return to Doctor Who in 2006

Captain Jack and Rose Tyler's Costumes

Captain Jack and Rose Tyler’s Costumes

Martha Jone's Costume

Martha Jone’s Costume

Donna Nobel's Costume

Donna Nobel’s Costume

Amy Pond and Rory's Costumes

Amy Pond and Rory’s Costumes

Timelord Costumes

Timelord Costumes 

Web Links

May Day Weekend 2013 Part Two – Dyffryn Gardens

Well I started this blog post in May but have never found time to get round to completing this and the back log of blog posts that I have accumulated ever since… who knew living in Cardiff would be such a big distraction from my blog!

After having visited Tredegar House during my May Day holiday, the next day I visited Dyffryn Gardens, a National Trust estate located about 7 miles from Cardiff City Centre. The property consists of a Grade I registered garden that has been managed by the National Trust for quite some time and also a Grade II listed house that has only recently opened to the public having been acquired by the National Trust on a 50 year lease.

Dyffryn Gardens

Dyffryn Gardens

A Little History

The Dyffryn Estate dates back to the 7th Century when the estate “The Manor of Worlton” as it was then called, was given to Bishop Oudaceous of Llandaff. After passing into the ownership of the Button family the estate was sold to Thomas Pryce in the 18th Century, and the name was changed to Duffryn St Nicholas. During the tenure of Thomas Pryce’s residence at Duffryn, the house, walled gardens, pleasure grounds and dipping pools were created.

In 1891, the estate was bought by John Cory, who’s family wealth came from the South Wales coalmines, shipping coal around the world. John Cory hired a local architect to renovate the existing Duffryn House built by Thomas Pryce, into the grand grade II listed building we see today. John Cory also hired Thomas Mawson, a landscape architect, to design and build a grand set of gardens befitting his new house. After John Cory’s death in 1910, his third son Reginald continued working along-side Thomas Mawson, plant hunting and filling the gardens with an array of unusual plant life.

The estate was left in the trust of Florence Cory, Reginald Cory’s sister whilst he was pursuing his passion for horticulture and plant hunting away from the Duffryn Estate and on her death in 1936, the estate was purchased by Sir Cennydd Traherne, who then leased the estate to Glamorgan County Council, after which Duffryn House and the gardens fell into a period of institutional use, and as a result; decline. In 1996 the house was closed and later purchased by the Vale of Glamorgan County Council, who then changed the estate’s name to the correct Welsh version “Dyffryn”.

Since the purchase of the land by the Vale of Glamorgan County Council, there has been a  period of restoration for the estate, particularly the gardens, which have been restored to their former glory, thanks to support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. In January 2013, the National Trust took over stewardship for Dyffryn Estate and have been maintaining the gardens, which have been open to the public for a few years, as well as restoring Duffryn House, which was opened to the public in April of this year.

The Dyffryn house and gardens have featured in many TV series over the last few years including several episodes of Doctor Who, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Merlin.

The House

Dyffryn House

Dyffryn House

The house has only just opened to the public, with many rooms still in the process of being restored and almost all room without any furniture, which is quite a contrast to the majority of National Trust houses that I have been to.

Walking through the main entrance, you enter The Great Hall, a room that was once used as the main family room of the Cory Family.

Dyffryn House Great Hall

Dyffryn House Great Hall

The Great Hall has two main focal points; the intricate grand fireplace and the stained glass window above the entrance, depicting Queen Elizabeth I at Tilbury.

Great Hall Fireplace

Great Hall Fireplace

Stained Glass Window in the Great Hall

Stained Glass Window in the Great Hall

Walking into the house, through the Great Hall and past the fireplace, a door to your left will lead into the Billiard Room, complete with billiard table, cobwebs and a good example of a room still in need of renovation.

Billiard Room

Billiard Room

Heading back into the Great Hall from the Billiard Room, the door to your left leads into the Blue Drawing Room, one of several rooms that have undergone restoration.

Blue Drawing Room

Blue Drawing Room

The blue cushions on the floor are there to allow people to lie back and admire the painted ceiling.

Painted Ceiling in the Blue Drawing Room

Painted Ceiling in the Blue Drawing Room

After viewing the Blue Drawing Room, you walk through doors into the Red Drawing Room.

Red Drawing Room

Red Drawing Room

This room houses another fine highly decorative fireplace and painted ceiling, and leads into the Morning Room.

The Morning Room

The Morning Room

The wallpaper in the morning room was put up by the BBC for the Sarah Jane Adventures episode The Eternity Trap, which featured Dyffryn House and Gardens heavily throughout.

After walking through a door near the outer wall you enter into the Red Library,  a room that was undergoing restoration during my visit.

Red Library

Red Library

Walking back through the Morning Room you will enter a small corridor that opens back onto the Great Hall, a doorway to your right, leads into the staircase hall and to the first floor rooms.

Staircase Hall

Staircase Hall

I couldn’t help but think that if this were my house, I’d want the Great Hall to be a grand entrance way with a decorative staircase leading to the upper gallery, using the space where the existing staircase hall is for some additional rooms. I imagine the Great Hall being used as a family room would have been quite a cold room.

The first floor, rather than housing bedrooms, uses the space to educate visitors about the history of the gardens in the Plant Hunter’s Room, the Estate and House in the Story Room, and a further room allowing people to leave messages on a chalk board tree.

Dyffryn Garden Plans

Dyffryn Garden Plans

Story Rooms, example news article & damage to house

Story Rooms, example news article & damage to house

Story Rooms: art decorated walls

Story Rooms: art decorated walls

The main visitor attraction for Dyffryn is not the house, but more the gardens and it is these that I will talk about now.

The Gardens

Dyffryn Gardens offer so much to see, with an array of smaller themed gardens, shrubberies and open lawn. Rather that write paragraphs for each, which would result in a very high wordcount, I will just show photos of each section of the garden.

South Front

South Front

South Front

South Front

Walled Garden

Walled Garden

Mediterranean Garden

Mediterranean Garden

Mediterranean Garden

Mediterranean Garden

Herbaceous Border

Herbaceous Border

Physic Garden

Physic Garden

Theatre Garden

Theatre Garden

Paved Garden

Paved Garden

Reflecting Pool

Reflecting Pool

Pompeian Garden

Pompeian Garden

Pompeian Garden

Pompeian Garden

The Great Lawn

The Great Lawn

The Great Lawn

The Great Lawn

The Vine Walk

The Vine Walk

The Lavender Court

The Lavender Court

The Heart Garden

The Heart Garden

The West Garden

The West Garden

The West Garden

The West Garden

Other Photographs

The Glass House

The Glass House

The Glass House

The Glass House

Long Acre Bothies

Long Acre Bothies

View from upstairs window

View from upstairs window

Web Links

May Day Weekend 2013 Part One – Tredegar House

The May Day Bank Holiday and three days thereafter have been the first extended period of time that I have had off work since the start of the year, suffice to say a break was definitely needed. Having moved to Cardiff, National Trust properties are much less accessible, with the exception of two; Tredegar House and Dyffryn Gardens, both a short drive away from Cardiff. Throughout the weekend and the few days that followed, the sun was shining, the skies were clear and shorts were worn, to make the most of this weather, I visited both Tredegar House and Dyffryn Gardens, starting with Tredegar.

Tredegar House

Tredegar House

Tredegar House is a grand red brick house visible from the M4 Motorway when travelling towards Cardiff. The estate is comprised of the house, some gardens and 90 acres of parkland. Access to the parkland is free (excluding the £2 parking fee), meaning the grounds are the perfect location for picnic on a warm sunny day, the house and gardens meanwhile costs £6.75 – £7.50 for an adult. Those who like to camp may also be interested in the Caravan Club camping site located adjacent to the parkland.

A Little History

Tredegar House was built by the Morgan family of South Wales in latter half of the 17th Century, replacing an older Tudor manor house. The Morgan family descended from the Welsh princes of old and had held substantial amounts of land in South-East Wales, at one point totalling 53,000 acres which extended to Brecon and Cardiff.

Despite losing a great deal of land in 1403 as punishment for supporting Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion, the Morgan family regained much of their land through supporting Henry Tudor in 1485 which established the family, led by John ap Morgan as a powerful gentry family. It was at this time that the older Tudor house was built. During the lifetime of the older house, King Charles I stayed one night in 1645 during the English Civil War.

When William Morgan inherited the estate in 1666, he decided to replace the Tudor Manor House with a red brick mansion as a way to showcase the family’s wealth and status. Red brick was not widely used in South Wales at that time and so the decision to build the mansion in red brick was made to impress, to build something that stood out from everything else in the area. William was able to afford this dramatic reconstruction of the house after having married his wealthy cousin Blanche Morgan, daughter of the King’s attorney for South Wales. When Blanche died in 1673, William married Elizabeth Dayrell, a wealthy widow who further increased the Morgan family’s wealth and land. William’s marriage to Elizabeth however, was not a happy one; following several violent attacks on William, Elizabeth was declared a lunatic.

In 1680 William died and his son Thomas inherited the estate, followed by William’s forth son John Morgan in 1700 after the death of childless Thomas. John was also the heir to his uncle’s fortune, providing his heir William with a substantial inheritance in 1719. An MP for Monmouthshire who lived a very frivolous life, William married Lady Rachel Cavendish, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Devonshire in 1724, however due to his lifestyle he died in 1731 at the age of 31. His wife Rachel outlived him by 50 years, almost bankrupting the family by her allowance of £2000 per year for life.

In 1792 the last male Morgan heir died, to continue the family name Charles Gould, the husband of the female heir Jane Morgan was forced to take the Morgan family name in order to inherit the estate on behalf of his wife. On inheritance Charles Gould, having been knighted 13 years earlier, was made a baronet. Throughout the Industrial Revolution the Tredegar lands proved very lucrative, allowing the Morgan family to lease out land for mining and iron works as well as tolls from the construction and use of a tram road through Tredegar Park.

The influence and prestige of the Morgan family was increased in 1859 when Sir Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan, grandson of Charles Gould was made the 1st Lord of Tredegar.   The estate then passed down the Lords Tredegar from Charles to his son Charles, and his son Godfrey who died in 1913. At the time of his death, the estate provided Lord Tredegar with an income of £1000 per day. Godfrey Morgan was succeeded by Courtenay Morgan, his nephew, who owned the estate until his death in 1934.

Courtenay Morgan was succeeded by his son Evan Morgan; a rather colourful character who dabbled with poetry and painting, and enjoyed wild weekends. Evan was married twice; first to actress Lois Stuart who died in 1937 of a heart attack and later Princess Olga Dolgorouky, though that marriage was annulled in 1943 after 5 years of marriage. Both marriages were ‘a marriage of convenience’ used to cover up his homosexuality. Evan had a keen interest in animals and had many that would roam around the house and gardens including a kangaroo, a honeybear and a baboon. Ever the eccentric, Evan had a tendency to share a bed with rabbits, I can’t imagine how strange an experience that must have been for both parties let alone the housekeeping staff. Evan died in 1949, leaving the estate to his uncle Frederick Morgan, who quickly signed it over to his son John, who then sold off the estate and moved to France.

The estate was bought from the Morgans by the Sisters of St Joseph, the house served as a school for 23 years, firstly as a girls school then later a state comprehensive. In 1974, the house and land was purchased by Newport Borough Council, who decided it should be restored and showcased as a historic house museum. The National Trust acquired Tredegar House in 2012 with a 50 year lease, and has become a popular venue for picnickers, campers as well as those interested in the house and its history. Tredegar House has also been featured on several BBC programmes including Doctor Who and Being Human, for former of which is a regular user of the estate and house.

The House

To get to the house, you have to walk through what little formal gardens exist at the property, before passing through the Stables and arriving in front of the house.

Back of Stables

Back of Stables

Inside the Stables

Inside the Stables

Walking around the Stables, I was quite surprised to see a Dalek hiding there, thankfully it was only a model Dalek, being exterminated certainly wasn’t on my To Do List for the day.

Tredegar's Unwelcome Guest

Tredegar’s Unwelcome Guest

Arriving outside of the stables you will enter a large concourse onto which the house overlooks.

View from the front of the house looking onto the concourse and stables to the left

View from the front of the house looking onto the concourse and stables to the left

Interestingly, the stables building was designed in such a grand ornate style that when Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited Tredegar, their driver stopped at the front of the Stables thinking it was the entrance to the house.

Front of Tredegar House

Front of Tredegar House

Walking up the steps and through the Main Entrance of the house you will enter the New Hall.

The New Hall

The New Hall ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Photographs are allowed inside the house, providing the flash is not used and that no paintings are included in the shot due. As you can imagine, this was quite a lot to ask given the number of paintings located all around the house, as a result I am using images from the National Trust Images site.

The New Hall leads to the Great Staircase ahead, the Dining Room to the right and the New Parlour to the left.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

The Dining Room is dressed for a wedding banquet, with an array of food (mock of course) on display. The chairs around the table were all decorated with writing, which I thought was quite different and quite appealing. If you walk through the doorway at the other end of the Dining Room you will arrive in the Gilt Room.

The Gilt Room ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Gilt Room ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Gilt Room was a very ornate room room used for entertaining guests. The centrepiece of the Gilt Room is without a doubt the ceiling painting depicting the triumph of religion and spirituality, whilst I may not agree with the theme, preferring reason over religion, it is nonetheless an impressive piece of art.

After seeing all the Gilt Room has to offer, you head back through the Dining Room, through the New Hall and into the New Parlour.

The New Parlour

The New Parlour

The New Parlour was used as the family dining room during the Victorian Period, following the construction of the Side Hall and its use as the main entrance.

The Side Hall

The Side Hall ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Walking through the Side Hall, you will enter the Morning Room, a room used by the family during the day light hours.

The Morning Room

The Morning Room

I thought the morning room was quite an odd room at Tredegar, only because of the quite subdued wallpaper and the rather garish carpet. After looking around the morning room, you had back through the Side Hall and New Parlour and re-enter the New Hall before heading into the Great Staircase hall and up to the first floor.

The Great Staircase ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Great Staircase ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

According to the Tredegar House guidebook, there were several key first floor rooms that were not open during my visit including the Best Chamber and the Master’s Bedroom. On reaching the top of the staircase, the first room I entered was the school room, a room that has been left as it would have been during the house’s time as a school.

The School Room

The School Room

The school room is quite a contrast with other parts of the house, lacking in decorative wall coverings or elaborate wooden carvings. Leaving the school room you eventually come to one of several fully furnished bedrooms on display for the public. The first of these is the King’s Room, one of three corner suites that encompass the first floor.

The King's Room ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The King’s Room ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The King’s Room would most likely have been the private room of the mistress of the household, with the Best Room being used by guests and the Master’s Room used by the master of the house. The name suggests that it was once used by a king, however this is not the case, it is most probably named after Sir Charles Gould’s father King – quite an unusual choice of name for a room that was traditionally used by the mistress. During the 20th Century, the King’s Room was the room used by Evan Morgan. Beside the Kings Room there is quite a nice bathroom.

The King's Bathroom ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The King’s Bathroom ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Next to the King’s Bathroom is the Red Room, a bedroom that was used by Evan Morgan’s second wife and Russian Princess Olga.

The Red Room ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Red Room ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

After the Red Room you enter the Blue Room and then, if the remaining rooms are closed, head back downstairs into the Bells Passage, named after the room bells attached to the wall used to inform the servants when and where they are needed.

The Bells Passage has a small set of stairs that lead down into the servant’s areas and in particular, the kitchen.

The Kitchen ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Kitchen ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

At the heart of the building, with the family rooms at the front and servant’s areas at the rear there is a courtyard, which shows off parts of the earlier Tudor house.

The Courtyard ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The Courtyard ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Through the windows in the old brick building straight ahead in the picture above, you can see into the Servant’s Hall, another room that was closed during my visit.

Having seen all there is to see in the servant’s area, you exist the house by a servant’s doorway and return to an area you passed earlier, where you can visit the shop/tea shop or explore the grounds.

The Gardens & Grounds

Tredegar House compared to other National Trust properties that I have visited has very little in the way of Formal Gardens. Having purchased your ticket you will come to a crossroads of sorts, to the left the gardens and entrance to the house and to the right, the entrance to the parklands.

Turning left and entering the gardens, the first you will come to are the Orchard Gardens. During my visit, part of the orchard garden was closed off, I was able however, to get a quick snapshot.

Kitchen Garden

Orchard Garden

Following the path through a set of gates, you will enter the Cedar Garden.

The Cedar Garden

The Cedar Garden

At the centre of the garden is a small obelisk surrounded by a circular hedge. The obelisk is a monument to Sir Briggs; the war horse belonging to Godfrey Morgan, following the horse’s death at Tredegar after returning from the Crimea, he was buried beneath the obelisk. Next on the tour of the gardens is the Orangery Garden.

Orangery Garden

Orangery Garden

Orangery Garden

Orangery Garden

The Orangery Garden leads onto the stables and then the house, after exploring the house you will start back at the crossroads allowing you to then explore the parkland.

The first area of the parkland you will come to is the area overlooking the Victorian entrance to the house.

Overlooking the Victorian Entrance at the side of Tredegar House

Overlooking the Victorian Entrance at the side of Tredegar House

A set of gates near the Victorian Entrance leads to the main parkland which now includes 90 acres of land and a lake. The parkland was once a deer park of over 1000 acres, though no deer remain on the estate.

View of Tredegar House from the parkland

View of Tredegar House from the parkland

As the parkland is free for visitors, it is a popular tourist attraction during the warm sunny weather, during my visit the parkland was full of people enjoying picnics, sunbathing and sports games.

I’m not quite sure what exactly was expecting from Tredegar House, I have visited quite a few historical properties now so I had a fairly good idea of what it would be like, and as entered I was told I was “in for a treat“. Despite this, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed, I think this is due to two reasons; the relatively little garden on show, there were few flower beds compared to other properties I have seen, I suppose the Tredegar gardens just didn’t wow me, but then they can’t all. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, I felt the house was lacking in information. I am used to visiting historical properties and being able to read leaflets in each room to give details about the rooms use, history and quirky information that just adds that little extra fascination. Indeed some rooms did have a small board with a sentence about the room but nothing compared to those provided with other properties, there was no information about the paintings in any of the rooms which would have been a nice touch, especially in the Gilt Room. One more thing that would be quite useful throughout the house is the room name, only the guidebook provides this and I did not purchase this book until I was leaving. If anyone at Tredegar House were to read this, I sincerely hope this is seen as constructive criticism and may be taken under consideration. It was nonetheless an enjoyable day out of Cardiff in the sunshine.

Other Photographs

Victorian Entrance

Victorian Entrance

Housekeeper's Sitting Room

Housekeeper’s Room

Housekeeper's Room

Housekeeper’s Room

The Stables from the Parkland

The Stables from the Parkland

Web Links

Life in the ‘Diff – Cardiff Castle

It has been a very, very long winter here in the UK, with very cold weather lasting from late 2012 until well, last week. This weekend gone was really the first proper instance of nice, sunny weather where a coat or jumper even, was not necessary. To make the most of the [short-lived] sunny weather, I decided to head to Cardiff Castle. I have visited Cardiff Castle once before when visiting friends in Cardiff in Autumn 2011, this was before my blog existed and so another visit was due. Cardiff Castle was gifted to the city of Cardiff in 1947 on the death of the forth Marquess of Bute, as a result of this, entrance to the castle was made free for residents of Cardiff, when visiting, residents with proof of address, would be given a photo-card which would grant them access to the Castle and discounts to special events. This remained the case until April 1st 2013, after which a “Cardiff Key” photo-card now costs £5 for a resident of Cardiff and lasts for three years, this enables free access to the castle and again discounted access to special events. For non-residents entry to the castle (excluding the premium tour) costs £11 for an adult, a premium ticket which includes access to the Castle Apartments costs extra.

Cardiff Castle © Neil Moffatt http://www.cardiffphotos.co.uk

A Little History  

Cardiff Castle’s history is predominantly split between three historical periods; Roman, Norman and Early Modern/Victorian, each of which can be distinctly seen in the varying parts of the castle.

The Castle originates to the time of the Roman Invasion of Britain in 43AD, where a fort was established at the site of Cardiff Castle by the end of the 50s AD. There were four Roman forts, built on the site, the first three made from wood and the fourth made with stone, with high stone walls and an embankment on the inside. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the fort at Cardiff Castle was likely abandoned whilst the settlement outside the walls grew into the city of Cardiff.

There was little change at the site of Cardiff Castle until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. After being crowned King William I in 1067, William went on to conquer south-east Wales, founding a castle in Cardiff in 1081. The Normans made many changes to the former Roman Fort whilst building Cardiff Castle; the outer stone walls remained in part, however much of the inner ward was transformed. The most notable and lasting change the Normans made was the creation of the motte (artificial hill) on which a wooden castle keep was constructed by Robert Fitzhamon, Earl of Gloucester and Lord of Glamorgan. Following a Welsh uprising in 1135 the wooden keep was replaced with a stone keep by Fitzhamon’s daughter Mabel and her husband Robert the Consul. Cardiff Castle passed into the ownership of several powerful families over the course of the next two hundred years, including the de Clares and the Despensers, both of whom also owned Caerphilly Castle, which I visited and wrote about earlier in the month.

In 1404, the town of Cardiff was destroyed and the castle badly damaged following an attack by Owain Glyndwr, after Glyndwr’s forces were defeated, the castle’s owner Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick began repairing the castle and during the 1420′s and 30s, built a new mansion beside the existing keep providing more modern and comfortable accommodation for the Lord and his family. For the first 50 or so years of the 16th Century, Cardiff Castle reverted back to the crown until it was granted to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke. Whilst under the ownership of the Herbert family – though the 2nd Earl of Pembroke; Henry Herbert in particular – Cardiff Castle was painstakingly renovated and repaired. During the 1570s, the rooms within the house were renovated and a new north wing was added, the keep and the Black Tower were also modernised, turning Cardiff Castle into a building fit for favourites of Queen Elizabeth I. The castle remained in the hands of the Earls of Pembroke until the late seventeenth century, however during the Civil War, Royalist forces seized the castle from the Parliamentarian 4th Earl of Pembroke resulting in Castle being badly damaged, though largely contained to the keep.

In 1683 ownership of Cardiff Castle was bequeathed not to the next Earl of Pembroke, but instead the daughter of the 7th Earl, Charlotte Herbert. In 1766, Charlotte’s grand-daughter married John Stuart who became the 1st Marquess of Bute. The 1st Marquess instigated a major overhaul of the castle, including new wings being added to the house and the demolition of older buildings and walls within the castle walls. The keep however remained in its deteriorating state. When the 3rd Marquess of Bute came of age, after inheriting the Bute estate and title of Marquess from his father as an infant, he hired architect William Burges to once again overhaul the house. Both the 3rd Marquess and Burges had a particular interest in the Middle Ages and used the Asia and the east to inspire their medieval makeover of the castle interior. It was Burge’s idea to build the Clock Tower in the south-west corner of the castle grounds, beginning a 16 year period of restoration and redecoration. As well as the restoration of Cardiff Castle, the 3rd Marquess of Bute rebuilt Castell Coch, a castle situated on a steep hillside north of Cardiff. The Marquess hired Burges to carry out the restoration of Castell Coch also, decorated in a similar style to the newly renovated Cardiff Castle house. The 3rd Marquess died in 1900 at the age of 53, having transformed the castle into what has been described as “a Welsh Victorian Camelot”. Despite this, his son the 4th Marquess carried on his father’s work at Cardiff Castle, completing several restoration projects including the reconstruction of the Roman walls that surround the castle grounds and the construction of tunnels on the inside of the walls. In 1947, the 4th Marquess died and the Castle was gifted to the City of Cardiff by the Bute family, eventually becoming a key tourist attraction open to the public and hosting many events throughout the year.

The Castle

When approaching the castle from the city centre, you are greeted with the reconstructed Roman walls, the 4th Marquess made a point to have the reconstructed walls use a different coloured brick to the existing Roman walls. If you walk down Duke Street, following the castle walls, you will come to the main entrance, and further down, the 3rd Marquess’ clock tower.

The Clock Tower

The Clock Tower

Walking through the main entrance you will have the option to go out into the Inner Ward, the house, the keep or walk around the castle battlements, I decided to walk up the stairs in the modern building housing the shop and cafe and walk around the battlements. If you follow the castle walls around, you will eventually come to a path leading down towards in the Inner Ward, walking down this path, on the left will be a doorway leading to the war time tunnels.

Wartime Tunnels

Wartime Tunnels

Gas Masks

Gas Masks

Soup Kitchen

Soup Kitchen

These tunnels were originally built to allow the Marquess of Bute to walk around the castle grounds even in bad weather. During World War Two, the tunnels were used as air raid shelters, providing enough room for several thousand people.

If you follow these tunnels, you will eventually enter the north gatehouse, where you can walk up the stairs to the battlements or walk down and out to the castle green.

North Gatehouse

North Gatehouse

After leaving the tunnels and exiting the North Gatehouse, I headed across the castle green and towards the Keep.

The Norman Keep

The Norman Keep

The Norman Keep is situated atop of a high mound and require you to traverse a fair number of stairs to get there. Once inside, the keep is a 12 sided stone shell which giving the impression of being circular.

Inside The Keep

Inside The Keep

As well as the keep shell, there is a tower that can be explored, allowing an impressive view of Cardiff City Centre, Cardiff Bay and inland towards the Welsh Valleys. On a clear day you are able to see Castell Coch on a hillside north of Cardiff.

The Keep Tower

The Keep Tower

After descending the quite steep steps of the Keep, it was time to explore the Castle’s house.

The House

The House

Walking through the front door you will enter the entrance hall, this room was added in the 1920s by the 4th Marquess of Bute, after demolishing an incomplete grand staircase. Immediately drawing your attention after walking through the door, a large display case is built into three alcoves housing suits of armour.

Entrance Hall

Entrance Hall

To the left of the entrance hall, a staircase leads to the first floor which houses the principle rooms of the house, and on the righthand wall, a doorway leads to the library. Heading up the staircase, you will enter a corridor with a doorway showing the Arab Room.

The Arab Room Ceiling

The Arab Room Ceiling

The Arab Room

The Arab Room

The Arab Room dates back to 1881, designed by William Burges as an occasional sitting room. The ceiling is made of wood that has been covered in gold leaf and decorated, a style that is known as a muquarnas. The Arab Room is a fine example of how the 3rd Marquess and Burges used Middle Eastern styles to inspire their medieval decoration of the castle house. Due to the ornate nature of all aspects of the room, including the floor, access into the Arab Room is not permitted, forcing you to follow the corridor into the Banqueting Hall.

Banqueting Hall

Banqueting Hall

The Banqueting Hall was created by Burges in 1873 as a large medieval style great hall at the heart of the castle house. The room is decorated with medieval imagery, the walls depicting stories from the 12th century and the chimney piece showing Robert, Earl of Gloucester who was an illegitimate son of Henry I, who owned Cardiff Castle in the 12th century.

To the side of the fireplace a door leads to the Octagon Staircase, another room that can only be viewed, not entered. The Octagon Staircase is housed in the Beauchamp Tower which was built by Richard Beauchamp in the early-mid 15th century. The tower has been home to a staircase since the 1780s, however the current staircase was constructed by Burges in 1870s.

Continuing around the house tour, you will arrive in the Small Dining Room.

Small Dining Room

Small Dining Room

The Small Dining Room was used by the Bute family when there were few or no guests staying at the castle. The decoration of this room is quite subdued compared to the highly decorative Banqueting Hall and Arab Room, some aspects are fairly decorative including the chimney piece and stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Book of Genesis. After the viewing the Small Dining Room you head back downstairs and enter the Drawing Room.

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room retains the typical design of an 18th century Georgian drawing room, dating back to 1780. The room is decorated with paintings of the Bute family including the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Marquess of Bute. Two archways lead into the last room on the house tour; the Library.

The Library

The Library

The Library in it’s current form dates back to 1870s, created by Burges from two rooms, though the back in the 15th century, what is now the library formed part of the house’s Great Hall. The library is home to original Burges bookcases and tables and is also decorated with busts of sculptures of the Marquess’s of Bute. After perusing the Library you leave the house through a second door and exit back into the castle’s inner ward green.

Whilst this was my second visit to Cardiff Castle, there was quite a lot to see that I had missed on my first visit, probably due to visiting with friends rather than by myself. It is quite nice exploring such places at your own pace and whilst listening to music, I find that it helps me see things I might otherwise miss. After having visited castles for my last two blog posts, I think my next will be either a country house or perhaps I will get round to visiting the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay.

Other Photographs

The Keep through a window in the house

The Keep through a window in the house

Octagon Staircase

Octagon Staircase

3rd Marquess of Bute

3rd Marquess of Bute

View of the house from Bute Park

View of the house from Bute Park

The North Gate from Bute Park

The North Gate from Bute Park

Web Links

Life in the ‘Diff – Caerphilly Castle

It has been a number of months since I last visited somewhere in order to ‘blog’ about them, it has been rather chilly – too chilly for me – to go exploring the many historical places of interest in and around Cardiff, however being a long Easter weekend and with the arrival of some much needed sunshine, I braved the bitter cold for a trip down the road, or up the hill to be more accurate, to Caerphilly Castle.

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle

A Little History

Caerphilly Castle is one of the largest castles in Britain, second only to Windsor Castle, and dates back to the thirteenth century. It was constructed by Gilbert de Clare, the 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester as part of his campaign to conquer Glamorgan during a period of unrest between De Clare and rival Welsh forces which resulted in control of the site falling into enemy hands on more than one occasion. Construction began in 1268 and continued on and off for the next 22 years until 1290, after which the castle was temporarily seized by the English Crown following disputes between De Clare and the Earl of Hereford. After regaining control of the castle, De Clare fought local Welsh forces led by Morgan ap Maredudd during a countrywide uprising against English rule, De Clare was able to thwart Morgan’s forces and died the next year in 1295. Following his death, Caerphilly Castle was bequeathed to his son also called Gilbert de Clare, until his untimely death in 1314 battling Scottish forces during the First War of Scottish Independence.

The death of Gilbert de Clare in 1314 resulted in the family’s lands falling back into the control of the English Crown, until Edward II returned control of Glamorgan and Caerphilly Castle to the De Clare family in 1317. Eleanor de Clare, daughter of the older Gilbert de Clare inherited the land and castle Lordship of which fell to her husband Hugh le Despenser, a royal chamberlain and favourite of Edward II. Hugh le Despenser remained Lord of Glamorgan until his execution in 1326 after Edward II’s wife Isabella overthrew the King with the help of Roger Mortimer (Earl of March and owner of Ludlow Castle). Edward II and Hugh fled to the west and resided at Caerphilly Castle before fleeing Isabella’s oncoming forces and their eventual capture. During this time the castle was besieged by Isabella’s forces led by William, Lord Zouche, the supporters of the King did not surrender until March 1327 when a pardon was granted to the Despenser heir.

Following the overthrow of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer in 1330, Edward III took control of England and the Lordship of Glamorgan and Caerphilly Castle was restored to the Despenser heirs. The mid-fourteenth century saw Caerphilly Castle abandoned as a military stronghold and domestic residence, whilst the Castle was in part maintained through this time, extensive repairs took place in 1428-1429 by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, husband of Isabel le Despenser, who also made improvements to Cardiff Castle; their main residence in Wales.

By the mid-sixteenth century, the castle had once again fallen into neglect and disrepair. At this time Lordship of Glamorgan had fallen to Henry Herbert, Second Earl of Pembroke. Henry leased Caerphilly Castle to Thomas Lewis and neighbouring landowner who was granted permission to use stone from the castle to extend his own house ‘Y Fan’, a short distance away from Caerphilly.

By the latter half of the eighteenth century, Caerphilly Castle was little more than a ruin. Though there is no documented evidence it has been suggested that as part of Oliver Cromwell’s campaign to destroy castles to prevent them being used against him, Caerphilly Castle was partially blown up resulting in the leaning tower. In 1776 John Stuart (later the first Marquess of Bute) married into the Pembroke family and acquired Caerphilly Castle. The first Marquess took an interest in the ruins of the castle wanting it to become a site for artists to paint. A hundred years later, the third Marquess of Bute, John Patrick Crichton Stuart began restoring the castle by re-roofing the Great Hall. The Third Marquess of Bute had restored both Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch, however the majority of the restoration of Caerphilly Castle was carried out by John Crichton Stuart, the fourth Marquess of Bute between 1928 and 1939. As part of the restoration work, battlements were restored, towers were repaired and the east gatehouse was almost entirely rebuilt. The restoration of Caerphilly Castle continued after it was taken into State care in 1950, with the re-flooding of the lakes and restoration of the Great Hall being two of the most notable restorations.

The Castle

When approaching the castle and crossing the moat you will enter the Main Outer Gatehouse. This part of the castle has been well maintained over the years and was used as a prison, the approach to the gatehouse was once protected by two drawbridges though these along with a central pier & tower have long since gone, replaced by two modern bridges.

Main Gatehouse

Main Gatehouse

At either side of the main gatehouse are the North and South Dam’s providing extra defence to the main castle. Walking through the gatehouse you will see a modern building housing the gift shop and entrance and to the right is an archway to the north dam.

Gatehouse Tower

Gatehouse Tower

Upstairs in the gatehouse tower there is a permanent exhibit displaying the history of Caerphilly Castle, from a nearby Roman fort to the Marquess of Bute’s restoration of the castle. As well as the exhibit battlements allow a view of Caerphilly Town Centre and the central island castle.

View of the castle from the Gatehouse Tower

View of the castle from the Gatehouse Tower

After crossing another bridge you will arrive on the central island and directly in front of the East Gatehouses.

East Gatehouses

East Gatehouses

The east gatehouse was almost entirely rebuilt during the castle’s restoration, walking through the door on either side of the passageway, you are able to traverse the spiral staircases and enter the upper floor; a generously proportioned room  which may have been the Constable’s Hall.

East Gatehouse Inner “Constable’s” Hall

The constable’s hall spans the whole of the second floor allowing you to ascend/descend the opposite tower’s staircase. Walking down the stairway and through the gatehouse, you will enter the Inner Ward.

Inner Ward with the East Gatehouse and North-West Tower

Inner Ward with the East Gatehouse and North-West Tower

The Inner Ward is a essentially a courtyard and located at the heart of the castle grounds. When entering from the East Gatehouse, to the left is the Great Hall, ahead; the Private Apartments and West Gatehouse, and to the right, the North-West Tower and Curtain Wall Walk.

The Great Hall is a large enclosed space would have been used for feasts and other celebratory occasions. The Great Hall has received a great deal of restoration work particularly the roof, windows and fireplace, the last of which was only recently restored.

The Great Hall - Fireplace

The Great Hall – Fireplace

The Great Hall - Lord's Table

The Great Hall – Lord’s Table

The Great Hall - Gallery

The Great Hall – Gallery

After exiting the Great Hall through the door next to the Lord’s Table, you enter what is left of the Private Apartments, exiting these, you will be directly in front of the Inner West Gatehouse.

Inner West Gatehouse

Inner West Gatehouse

Walking through the left doorway, you will enter a small round room. Directly in front of you there is, for some reason, a large mirror reminiscent of the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter. The mirror unfortunately did not show me my inner most desire.

Caerphilly's Mirror of Erised

Caerphilly’s Mirror of Erised

Exiting the room and walking through the Inner West Gatehouse’s doorway, you will exit the Inner Ward and arrive in front of another gatehouse; the Outer West Gatehouse.

Outer West Gatehouse

Outer West Gatehouse

The Outer West Gatehouse is an area of the castle that has had little or no restoration work. Though closed during my visit to the castle, the Outer West Gatehouse’s doorway leads to another bridge allowing access to the Western Island, known in welsh as ‘Y Weringaer’ – people’s fort, suggesting it was intended to be a place of refuge for the town’s population in the event of an attack.

Walking back through the Outer West Gatehouse and towards the tower in the corner to the right of the Inner West Gatehouse (if you are facing the gatehouse from the Inner Ward), you will come to the North-West Tower. Located inside the North-West Tower is an audio-visual history of Caerphilly Castle where a trio of projectors project an animated and somewhat gory history of Caerphilly from the castle’s construction to it’s destruction and subsequent restoration.

After viewing all the Inner Ward has to offer, exit through either the East or West Gatehouse where you can then walk around the majority of the outside of the castle. One area of interest is the South-East Tower located to the left of the Inner East Gatehouse when approaching from the bridge over the moat. The tower is easily identifiable due to it’s leaning at an angle of 10 degrees.

Caerphilly Castle with the 'Leaning Tower'

Caerphilly Castle with the ‘Leaning Tower’

The leaning tower is probably a result of ground subsidence, though the audio-visual history of the castle shown in the North West Tower depicts the tower’s lean being caused by Cromwell’s forces blowing up the castle, for which there is no documented evidence. If you walk around the outside of the leaning tower, you will come upon a wooden knight holding up the tower.

The Leaning Tower

The Leaning Tower

Once you head back over the Inner Moat towards the castle entrance, you can explore the north and south dams. The south dam is little more than a platform leading to another badly damaged gatehouse, but south dam however is much larger, home to the remains of the mill, another gatehouse and replica siege weaponry.

North Dam

North Dam

Siege weaponry on the South Dam

Siege weaponry on the South Dam

Like the St Fagans National History Museum, Castell Coch and other historical buildings in and around Cardiff, Caerphilly Castle has been used on numerous occasions during the filming of Doctor Who. Caerphilly Castle featured in the episodes Vampires in Venice, in The End of Time for The Master’s resurrection and had a brief appearance in last week’s episode ‘The Bells of Saint John’ as the monastery seen in the first five minutes. Having taken over a week to write this post, I’ll now finish with a selection of other photographs from the day.

Other Photographs

Inner view of the Leaning Tower

Inner view of the Leaning Tower

Middle Ward & Timber Fighting Platform

Middle Ward & Timber Fighting Platform

North Bank

North Bank

Passageway

Passageway

Web Links

Earl Grey Chocolate Cake

So living alone, I have plenty of time to cook and when I feel a little lonely, I find baking to be quite an enjoyable exercise. After successfully baking Bara Brith last week, I pondered what to make next and remembering an article I read a few months ago about a chocolate cake made with Earl Grey tea, I decided to give that a try.

The recipe required a bundt cake tin and so today I went into Cardiff City Centre, on a hunt for an affordable cake tin. After finding Lakeland a tad too expensive for my stretched income, I happened upon a selection of them in tkmax, a bargain at £5.99. After buying my cake tin and taking a further trip to the supermarket to buy ingredients (by foot… I need the exercise these days), it was time to cook.

Recipe Ingredients 

  • Approximately 250ml (1 cup) Earl Grey Tea using 6 tea bags or 2 tablespoons loose tea
  • 113g / 4oz Butter
  • 3 Eggs
  • 500g Granulated Sugar
  • 500g Plain/All Purpose Flour
  • 125g Plain Chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Bicarbonate Soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 125g Plain Yogurt
Ingredients

Ingredients

Baking

1. Brew 250ml of Earl Grey Tea, measure out the ingredients and melt the chocolate.

2. Add the butter and the sugar to a bowl and cream (mix) them together.

Butter and Sugar

Butter and Sugar

3. Add the three eggs then mix thoroughly before adding the chocolate.

Mixed Butter, Sugar, Eggs and Chocolate

Mixed Butter, Sugar, Eggs and Chocolate

4. Add in the flour, baking soda and bicarbonate soda and once again, mix thoroughly until the mixture thickens.

Mixture with the flour and powered ingredients added

Mixture with the flour and powered ingredients added

5. Alternate between adding the cooled down tea and the yogurt then mix thoroughly, the mixture will then take on the texture of standard cake mix.

Finished cake mix

Finished cake mix

6. Pour the mixture into a bundt cake tin.

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

7. Bake in a preheated oven until the cake has risen and a knife comes out of the cake clean, with a few crumbs, then remove from the oven.

Ready to remove from the oven

Ready to remove from the oven

8. Allow to cool, then turn out onto a plate. I dusted the top of the cake with some extra sugar to give it some extra flair, and here is the final result…

Earl Grey Chocolate Cake

Earl Grey Chocolate Cake

After having having two slices, an initial test piece then a slice with my cup of tea, I have settled down to watch Julie and Julia with a glass (or two) of wine. I do have Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’, perhaps I should give that a try… what do you think?

 

 

National Trust Cookery: Bara Brith

For Christmas I was lucky enough to be bought The National Trust Traditional Cookbook, a collection of traditional british recipes, and whilst flipping through the pages, I came upon a recipe for Bara Brith; a cake made with tea. Given my love for tea, tea loaf and the National Trust, it seemed a natural choice for my next cookery blog.

Bara Brith means “spotted bread” and is a traditional Celtic recipe, which is popular in Wales. The recipe from the cookbook differs very slightly to the recipe for Tea Loaf, that my nan has been baking for the last year, the Bara Brith recipe having a slightly more sticky/sugary crust.

Recipe Ingredients

  • 225g/8oz Sultanas
  • 175ml/6floz Earl Grey Tea
  • 225g/8oz Wholemeal Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Mixed Spice
  • 175g/6oz Demerara Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 Eggs
Ingredients

Ingredients

Baking

1. The night before you plan to bake the Bara Brith, measure out the sultana’s or dried fruit and earl grey tea, then pour the tea into a bowl with the fruit and leave to soak overnight.

Sultanas & Earl Grey

Sultanas & Earl Grey

2. The next day, measure out the flour and mix in the baking powder, sugar and mixed spice. Add the sultana and earl grey mixture then mix well. Due to the amount of liquid, the mixture can look a little dry.

Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Spice, Sultanas and Earl Grey

Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Spice, Sultanas and Earl Grey

3. Beat the two eggs together then slowly pour the eggs mixture in with the other ingredients, then mix together thoroughly. The eggs give the mixture the extra liquid to mix the ingredients together, though after a while, stirring becomes a little difficult.

Mixed Ingredients

Mixed Ingredients

4. Spoon the mixture into a bread tin

Ready to Bake

Ready to Bake

5. Now, bake the Bara Brith in the oven. The recipe says to bake for approximately one hour at 180 degrees centigrade, gas mark 4. Having recently moved into my apartment in Cardiff and going from a gas cooker to an electric, fan assisted electric no less, I found that I had to bake the Bara Brith on 150 degrees for one and a half to two hours, to ensure it is cooked throughout, but not burnt.

After removing the Bara Brith from the oven, allow it to cool in the tin before serving.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Bara Brith

Bara Brith

After having the first slice with a cup of tea whilst the cake was still warm, I thought it was a good effort, I then served it to a friend who said “This is bloody lovely Bara Brith” – hooray!

Attingham Park Revisited

Every so often the National Trust sends its members a magazine containing information about upcoming events and being the festive season, some of the National Trust owned country houses are holding events where the house is decorated for a themed Christmas. Attingham Park, former home of the Lord’s Berwick, hosts a 1920′s Christmas exhibit, where the house adorned with festive decoration along with information about the last Lord and Lady Berwick’s festivities during the 1920′s.

Christmas Tree in the Picture Gallery

Christmas Tree in the Picture Gallery

After my last visit to Attingham Park, I received an email from a lady in America who is writing a story based at Attingham, and wanted any additional information I could provide. As part of our conversing, I arranged to revisit Attingham Park, taking greater care to photograph areas I missed last time and to find out as much as I could about the house from the room guides.

For this visit, given it’s proximity to Christmas, I thought it would be nice to make a day of it with my grandparent’s and my niece, the latter of which insisted on walking throughout the house wearing her Hello Kitty earmuffs. Here are a few photographs from the house, decorated for Christmas.

Stables

Stables

Entrance Hall

Entrance Hall

Drawing Room

Drawing Room

Sultana Room

Sultana Room

Boudoir

Boudoir tree, decorated with crane’s placed by visitors including my niece

Fancy dress costumes worn by Lord and Lady Berwick

Fancy dress costumes worn by Lord and Lady Berwick

Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase

Kitchen complete with festive snacks

Kitchen complete with festive snacks

Christmas Tree in the Servant's Hall, decorated with paper birds and slices of orange

Christmas Tree in the Servant’s Hall, decorated with paper birds and slices of orange

Perhaps the most useful bit of information I found for my American writer was a floorplan of Attingham Park, depicting each of the four floors and showing the now demolished Tern Hall’s integration with the newer Attingham Park mansion.

Attingham Park floorplan with the old Tern Hall in blue

Attingham Park floorplan with the old Tern Hall in blue

After having a walk around the house and feasting on parsnip and sage soup in the mansion tea room, we walked over to the Deer Park, to the section I did not venture to on my last visit, which delightfully rewarded us with an up-close view of Attingham’s deer.

Deer

Deer

Deer

Deer

Deer

Deer

I cannot say for certain what my next blog post will be about nor when it will be, but until then have a lovely Christmas.

Web Links

A Quick Update

Well it has been quite some time since my last blog post from my visit to Ludlow Castle in late October, so I thought I would give a quick update and well, an explanation for my lack of writing.

For a number of years, I have wanted to move away from Telford and ideally, relocate to Cardiff and have finally got round to doing so. After viewing an apartment in Cardiff Bay early November, I moved in last weekend and have been enjoying the Cardiff Bay experience.

Once I am settled, with full broadband and time to explore further, I will visit places local to Cardiff such as Duffryn Gardens and Tredegar House and will of course write about my visits. Before then, I am having to travel to and from Telford regularly due for work and Christmas and as a result I plan to make a return to some of the local National Trust properties for their Christmas exhibitions, including Attingham Park’s 1920′s Christmas which I plan to visit next weekend.

Until then… Hwyl fawr = ]

Mr M visits Ludlow – Ludlow Castle

Like Shugborough Hall, Ludlow Castle is a place that I have visited many times throughout my life, due to a vintage vehicle show that was held within the castle’s outer bailey. Despite these visits, as far as I am aware, I had never until this weekend been inside the heart of the castle; the inner bailey. After having outings on the previous two Saturdays, I decided on continuing this weekly ritual with a trip to Ludlow Castle.
Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle

A Little History

The castle at Ludlow dates back to 11th century though the earliest reference of its existence is not until 1137, it was founded by the De Lacy family; a Norman noble family who came to England following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Due to the castle’s high location above the River Teme, it was strategically important in England’s control of the Welsh Borders.

The castle remained in the ownership of the De Lacy family throughout much the 12th and first half of the 13th centuries, albeit with brief periods where the English crown took ownership, before being returned to the De Lacy family. When the last male member of the De Lacy family (Walter) died in 1241, land owned by the family was divided between the two daughters Maud and Margaret.

Maud married Peter de Geneva who was given Ludlow by King Henry III until his death in 1249, after which Maud remarried and the land became the property of her second husband Geoffrey de Geneville. Geoffrey gave Ludlow to his son Peter, who refurbished the castle, turning it into a “luxurious palace”. Peter’s daughter Joan married Roger Mortimer, a baron who deposed the English King Edward II in favour of his fourteen year old son who became Edward III. Roger Mortimer was able to influence the young and inexperienced king, becoming the Earl of March (the Welsh border territory) until he himself was deposed and assassinated by rivals in 1330.

Despite the death of Roger Mortimer, the family retained ownership of Ludlow Castle until the death of the last male Mortimer, when it then passed to his nephew; Richard Plantagenet – the Duke of York. As a result of York’s ownership, the castle was thrust into the centre of the Wars of the Roses between the opposing York and Lancaster forces and in 1459 it was captured by the Lancastrians. After the death of Richard Plantagenet, his son Edward of York inherited his father’s claim to the English throne and won the crown from the Lancastrian King Henry VI in 1461, becoming King Edward IV. On becoming King of England, Ludlow Castle became a royal palace and remained so for the next 350 years, excluding the years of the English Civil War and Commonwealth.

As a royal palace, Ludlow Castle became the seat of government for Wales and the border counties. Edward IV sent his sons the Prince of Wales and Richard of Shrewsbury to live at Ludlow Castle in 1472, many will know the two princes as the ‘Princes in the Tower’, who following the death of their father Edward IV, were locked away in the Tower of London before disappearing and supposed murdered. The princes’ uncle became King Richard III after having declared the Prince of Wales illegitimate, becoming a prime suspect in the still unsolved mystery. Richard III eventually got his comeuppance when he was defeated by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth becoming King Henry VII in 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses.

During the reign of Henry VII, his eldest son Arthur lived at Ludlow Castle with his bride Catherine of Aragon for four months from January 1502 until his death in April 1502, after which Catherine returned to London and later married the King’s second son Henry, who became King Henry VIII in 1509. Henry and Catherine’s only child Mary (later Queen Mary I) spent three winters at Ludlow Castle in 1525-1528.

From the 1530′s Ludlow’s importance as an administrative centre grew significantly, becoming an unofficial capital of Wales. During the 1550s and 1580s the castle was extended and updated such as the building of the Judges’ Lodgings, created to accommodate judges and clerks whilst the courts of the Council of the Marches were in session.

During the English Civil War, Ludlow Castle was a royalist stronghold, that along with the town of Ludlow was besieged by Parliamentary forces in 1646 before surrendering, avoiding the castle’s destruction. The start of the Civil War marked the end of the Castle’s use as an administrative centre for the governing of Wales and the Welsh border, where there Council of the Matches was dissolved until being re-established during the reign of King Charles II, albeit with limited powers. The council was later abolished in 1789 after the Glorious Revolution which deposed the Catholic King James II in favour of his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. The reign of William and Mary saw the centralisation of the governing of England and Wales in London, resulting in the abandoning of Ludlow Castle. Over the course of the next one hundred years the castle fell into disrepair; local people looted the castle, stole materials and the roof off of the major rooms.

Choosing not to demolish the castle in the 18th century, it was instead leased to the Earls of Powis in 1771 who later bought the castle in 1811 and own it to this day. By 1771 the castle was “a picturesque romantic ruin”, the Earl of Powis utilised it as a tourist attraction which continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and into the 21st. During the 19th century, the outer bailey was used for sports and events and since 1960, performances of Shakespeare’s plays have been held in the inner bailey.

The Castle

The medieval castle is formed of two distinct parts; the Outer Bailey and the Inner Bailey.

The Outer Bailey

The Outer Bailey was added to the existing castle during the latter half of the 12th century by the De Lacy family. When first entering the castle through the gatehouse, you walk into what is now the gift shop and castle entrance.

The Tudor Buildings

The Tudor Buildings

The Tudor Buildings or ‘Pembroke Buildings’ as they were known as, were built in 1552 housing the Porter’s Lodge and a prison. An extension was later added in 1597 to create stables.

Walking around the Outer Bailey past what was the Chapel of St Peter, built by Roger Mortimer, you will come to Mortimer’s Tower. The tower was built in the 13th century and named after the Mortimer family, though built before they acquired the castle. Mortimer’s Tower may have been a rear gatehouse which allowed Richard Plantagenet and his son Edward to escape Ludlow Castle in 1459 and flee from the advancing Lancastrian forces.

Mortimer's Tower

Mortimer’s Tower

Continuing on from Mortimer’s Tower, you will come to the Castle Ditch, a dry moat separating the outer bailey from the keep and inner bailey. Accessible from the castle ditch is an ice house, which also may have previously been used to store ammunition.

Castle Dry Moat & Ice House

Castle Dry Moat & Ice House

Walking back up from the Castle Ditch, you will come to a bridge to the entrance of the Inner Bailey.

The Inner Bailey

The Inner Bailey is the oldest part of Ludlow Castle and houses the castle’s principal buildings. Originally the Inner Bailey was accessed using a drawbridge connected to the Gatehouse Keep, this entrance was replaced by a bridge connected to an archway cut through the adjacent wall in the late 12th century, then later lowered to the current arched entrance during the 14th century.

Bridge & Inner Bailey Entrance

Bridge & Inner Bailey Entrance

After entering the Inner Bailey, there are buildings immediately to the left; the Keep, to the right; Judges’ Lodgings and ahead; the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene and North Range.

The Keep

The Great Tower Keep

The Great Tower Keep

The Great Tower has undergone substantial change since it’s construction, originally the gatehouse into the castle with a grand entrance and drawbridge. The tower was originally built to be a single storey gatehouse, but was expanded in the 12th century adding a first floor hall. Eventually, the great tower as it became, grew to having five floors, two being in the basement.

The lower floor is accessed via the Great Tower Court; an enclosed service and high security area, secured by the Great Tower, Postern Tower and Oven Tower. The Great Tower Court is also home to the castle’s well, once extending below the level of the River Teme.

The Great Tower Court showing The Well and The Postern Tower

The Great Tower Court showing The Well and The Postern Tower

The lower floor was the former gatehouse entrance to the castle before the removal of the drawbridge and creation of the new arched entrance adjacent to the tower, it was decorated with a vaulted ceiling and arched arcades, though now only two of the arches remain.

Great Tower lower floor

Great Tower lower floor

Following the conversion from gatehouse to keep, the lower floor was used as a storeroom and castle dungeon.

The upper floors are accessible from a doorway in the arched Inner Bailey entrance. The first of the two remaining floors was once the two storey Norman hall with an adjoining bedchamber and garderobe chamber.

Great Tower's Norman hall

Great Tower’s Norman hall

After walking up a great number of steps you will arrive at the top of the Great Tower Keep with access to one of the tower’s battlements and views overlooking the castle, the River Teme and the town of Ludlow.

Retracing your steps back through the Great Tower Keep and into the Inner Bailey entrance, to the right will be the Judges’ Lodgings.

The Judges’ Lodgings

The Judges' Lodgings to the left of the archway door

The Judges’ Lodgings to the left of the archway door

When Ludlow Castle became the base of the Council of the Marches it was an important administrative centre, many of the medieval buildings were modernised but there became a need for additional room. In 1581 the Judges’ Lodgings were completed, connected to the Great Tower with a new rebuilt gatehouse. The Judges’ Lodgings housed apartments and were adorned with Tudor fireplaces and a polygonal staircase tower topped with an Elizabethan pyramid.

Judges' Lodgings

Judges’ Lodgings

Walking out of a doorway in the Judges’ Lodgings and across the Inner Bailey you will arrive at the round Chapel of St Mary Magdalene.

The Chapel of St Mary Magdalene

The Chapel of St Mary Magdalene

The Chapel of St Mary Magdalene

The Chapel of St Mary Magdalene is one of few remaining round churches, which were built as such to imitate the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on the supposed site of Jesus’s tomb, witnessed by knights who took part in the The First Crusade in 1099.

The round nave was accompanied by a rectangular chancel that was extended in the 16th century and later demolished. Also during the 16th century, a gallery was added to the nave, so that the important worshippers did not have to mix with the lower orders on the ground floor. This gallery was connected to the Great Chamber block in the North Range by a bridge connected to an enlarged window forming a new doorway.

Chapel Interior

Chapel Interior

After exiting the Chapel Interior, either through the entrance or the archway to what would have been the chancel, to the side of the chapel you will see the North Range.

The North Range

The North Range

The North Range

The North Range is a set of four buildings built at different times in the castle’s history. First the Great Hall and the lower floors of the Solar Block, then the Great Chamber Block and finally the Tudor Lodgings.

North Range diagram from the Ludlow Castle Guide Book depicting the various parts of the North Range buildings and their age

North Range diagram from the Ludlow Castle Guide Book depicting the various parts of the North Range buildings and their age

The Great Hall and Solar Block date back to the 13th century with the Great Hall being used for banquets and large functions. The Solar Block was later extended in the early 14th century adding the upper floor, which was used as a bedchamber by Prince Arthur during his time at Ludlow Castle.

The Great Hall

The Great Hall

The Solar Block

The Solar Block

To the right of the Great Hall a new Great Chamber Block was built in the 14th century to house the private apartments of the Lord and Lady of the castle. When Ludlow Castle became the home of the Council of the Marches, the Great Chamber Block was taken over by the council and became the Council Chamber.

The Great Chamber Block

The Great Chamber Block

The first floor of the Great Chamber Block has a door that once opened onto the bridge joining the Great Chamber Block to the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene.

The last addition to the North Range was the Tudor Lodgings, added during the 16th century to replace older existing buildings in the same location, though the circular staircase remained from the older buildings.

Tudor Lodgings and Circular Staircase

Tudor Lodgings and Circular Staircase

The Tudor Lodgings accommodated officials and administrative personnel during the 16th century, though the earlier buildings were home to Prince Edward and Richard the famed ‘Princes in the Tower’.

After exploring the castle, wandering around the centre of Ludlow and perusing the museum, housed in Ludlow’s former Assembly Rooms, I noticed the Tudor Castle Lodge; a  large Tudor building, once a hotel, which visitors can explore for a small fee. Due to the limited availability of time, I was unable to go inside the lodge, but will be sure to visit Ludlow sometime in the near future and visit the Tudor lodge.

Other Photographs

North Range from the  exterior Castle Walk

North Range from the exterior Castle Walk

Blocked Staircase

Blocked Staircase

Kitchen Block

Kitchen Block

The Well

The Well

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