Remains of the headquarters of some Roman forts at the Wall. Because I know you like old stones. :)
I'm so glad they let the tree stand. It adds an element of picturesque to those ruins. The past coming alive in new surroundings.
The hypocaust heating shown in this post
is on the other side of the building.Vercovicium (Housesteads)
Housesteads is pretty much a hill fort. In no other place at the Wall I visited did the Romans have to deal with such an uneven ground, though maybe there have been some mile castles facing the same problem.
I was asked why I visited so many Roman forts, since they all follow the same basic pattern. The reason is simple - every of these has its own, particular atmosphere. It is also the reason I'm going to see some Roman forts at the German Limes
border in August. I'm sure they'll be different again.
Where Richard III is Hanging Out
The little Richard III Museum in York is located in the Monk Bar Gate, one of the gate houses of the town fortifications. Since I was looking at the fortifications anyway, and some of my blog friends are Richard III 'fans', I decided to have a look and maybe take some pics. I didn't regret it.
Monk Bar Gate, seen from the battlements
It's a bit of a fan museum, with lovingly drawn geneaologies, information tablets and some decorations like banners and replica of period armour. They also sell books and such. Central part is the audio tape trial
the plays via loudspeakers in the main room, and a volume where you can add your own verdict. Someone wrote 'George Bush'. :)
Portcullis in Monk Bar Gate, framed by Richard's family.
The location is part of the charme of the museum. Monk Bar Gate has the oldest working portcullis; it was last lowered in the 16th century but it's still in working order. The interior is very Mediaeval - stone vaults and not much space.
This is another shot of dear Richard III.
He looks pretty sinister in black, though he needs a moustache to twirl to make a proper Evil Overlord ™. *grin*
Here is another pic of the interior of Monk Bar Gate house.
Monk Bar Gate, main room
It looks rather comfortable for a 14th century building, though I have no idea if they ever managed to get rooms with such thick stone walls warm. The secrets of Roman hypocaust and wall heatings had been lost then, and fireplaces don't make up for that. Though there might have been carpets and tapestries.
Closeup of one of the ceiling vaults
No torches and hanging lamps with candles these days, but unromantic neon lights.
Below are two more pictures of the interior of Monk Bar's Gate.
You enter from the street level, pay your fee, and then you have to go up a narrow and steep 14th century staircase.
People must have been smaller back then, and they obviously didn't carry big backpacks. I did not have one this time, but I remember shoving one of the suckers through some stair-cases in Scottish castles, lol. Well, maybe the guards sometimes had to drag a reluctant prisoner up there. Binding him tightly and hauling him up the stairs by a rope might have worked best. Yes, I'm evil - I'm a writer, what did you think? :)
Monk Bar Gate was also used as prison. I got a giggle out of that one. The ensuite facilities were a night pot and a water jar. The cell is tiny, someone from our time who's 180 cm or so tall would have difficulties to lie down comfortably.
But I suppose comfortable wasn't a requirement. At least, the cells had daylight and probably less rats than your average cellar dungeon.
Though I hope the princes in the Tower had a bit more space and some furs to lie on.
Mithraeum at Brocolita (Carrawburgh)
Mithras came from the Mespotamian and Persian pantheon, god of light, of oaths and treaties, of truth and justice. He supposedly was the god of the warrior élites in Mesopotamia and Persia, though in the latter religion he stood in competition to Ahura Mazda.
His cult was carried west by the soldiers of the Roman Empire, and at the end of the first century AD he had become one of the most popular gods among the soldiers. Caves and grottos were now seen as places sacred to Mithras. The Mithras mysteries were celebrated in subterranean buildings, the mithraea. A good number of these has been discoverd all over the Roman Empire. Central part of the celebration was the killing of a bull, replaying the killing of the primordial bull by Mithras, the fight of Good against Bad, in some versions the creation of life.
Mithraeum at Brocolita, overview
Even some emperors (Commodus, Julian Apostata) became members of the Mithras mysteries. Because of its popularity, the cult stood in competition with the Christian religion, and there were similarities between both. The Mithras cult knew something like the last supper where the members shared bread and wine in commemoration of the last supper Mithras shared with his disciples before he entered his sun chariot and descended to heaven. They also believed in ressurrection and eternal life after the body went through the spheres of the planets (the 7 then known) and some sort of final judgement.
Closeup of the sanctuary
Almost everything we know about the Mithras cult comes from iconography (sculptures and reliefs), there is little written information because the cult was supposed to be a mystery to all but the initiated. There have been seven grades of initiation, and membership was restricted to men. Its aim was the fight against untruth, treason, and bad morals. Membership in the Mithras mysteries didn't exclude membership in other religious cults.
Closeup of the anteroom
The blue umbrella peeking out from the entrance is mine. :)
at Brocolita (Carrawburgh) was built about 200 AD. The altars were dedicated by the officers of the Batavians stationed in the nearby fort, the main altar depicting Mithras slaying the bull has been destroyed - assumably by Christians who saw the the Mithras ceremonies like the above mentioned final supper as parody of their own religion.
was originally a dark room with only few lights, most of them close to the altar. The anteroom was probably used for initiation tests. In the central nave, stone benches would have stood on both sides. At the far side lies the sanctuary. Mithraea
were small and usually didn't hold more than 30 to 40 people.
The mithraeum seen from the other angle
at Brocolita was discovered by chance when after a dry period the ground sank and some stones became visible. It was excavated in 1949. The altars have been replaced by replica; the originals are in the museum at Newcastle, while other finds are displayed at Chesters.
To the left is a closeup of one of the altars depicting Mithras as Sun Charioteer. If you look closely, you can see that the rays surrounding his head are cut out of the stone, and behind them is an hollow where an oil lamp would be put so the rays shone in the dark. Time has destroyed part of the corona.
The identification with the sun god became so strong that Mithras was celebrated as Sol Invictus in the Roman pantheon.
I want to thank my very kind hostess in the B&B
in Haltwhistle for having been able to see this one. She had offered to come and give me a ride back from Housesteads because the bus time schedule was such a mess, and then asked if I was in for some more walking through wet grass and rain, and drove me to Brocolita. It was worth getting wet.
Let's Go Swimming
Here is another picture post. This time it's some Roman baths at the Hadrian's Wall.
Cilurnum (Chesters), view from the bath to the river Tyne
And proof that the sun shines in Britannia, sometimes. It was a lovely day. I sat in the grass and had some tea while enjoying the view.
Cilurnum, anteroom of the bath
The other side from where I sat. The niches are not clothes' lockers, but places where statues would have stood.
One of the baths at Vindolanda, remains of the heating system
Though the sky was overcast, it was warm enough I'd have enjoyed a nice swim in a cool pool. Well, I got one in Haltwhistle public pool the other day. There's nothing better than an evening swim with the sun peeking out from the clouds and sparkling on the water.
Remains of the hypocaust system under the Commander's House in Cilurnum (Chesters).
In Rosemary Sutcliff's novel The Silver Branch
, a hypocaust system, unused in summer, serves as hiding place for the MCs and a certain bronze eagle.
Carlisle Castle - A Brief History
The site at the British west coast, known first as Luguvallium and part of the Hadrian's Wall defenses, had seen a sequence of Roman forts from the 1st to 4th centuries AD, and then the turbulent times when Romano-Britains, Anglo-Saxons, Picts, Scots and Vikings strove for power; at that time the place was known as Caer Ligualid.
The next traceable step in the history of fortifications took place in 1092. In the wake of the Norman conquest, William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, raised a castle on the old Roman site, a Norman style motte and bailey construction made of timber. He had pushed the Scottish frontier north of Carlisle and needed a strong border fortification. During the following century it was refortified in stone by Henry I. The 12th-century stone keep is the oldest surviving structure in the castle, which was frequently 'updated' in the centuries to follow. For example, the rounded, shot-deflecting battlements of the keep were added when Henry VIII adapted the castle for artillery in 1540.
King David of Scotland
captured Carlisle Castle in 1135. He used the unruly times of the anarchy caused by the struggles between Stephen and Maud to attempt and add Northumbria (he was Earl of Northumberland) to Scotland. He finished the stone keep begun by Henry I. David died at Carlise in 1153, and a year later Henry II ascended to the English throne and put an end to the internal strife for good.
David's successor was Malcolm IV 'the Maiden' and no match for Henry, who promptly recaptured Carlisle in 1157 and put and end to Scottish ambitions towards Northumbria as well, or so he thought. He added a second curtain wall and the outer gatehouse to the castle.
Carlisle Castle, Keep
Malcolm swore an oath of fealty for Northumberland to King Henry, thus further muddling up an already complicated pattern, because Malcom was king in his own right of Scotland and vassal of Henry II for Northumberland, while Henry II, King of England in his own right, was vassal of the King of France for the duchy of Normandy, and the possessions of his wife Eleanore, Aquitaine and Poitou. As Duke of Normandy, he was also liegelord to the Duke of Brittany, a relation not much liked by the ruling house of Brittany.
As Henry's vassal, Malcolm accompanied him on the siege of Toulouse in southern France, where Henry fished in the waters of the French king and proved a very disobedient vassal in his turn. Malcolm, on the other side, much as he called himself King of Scotland, had a bunch of Northmen sitting in Caithness and a bunch of Gaelic clans on the westcoast who didn't accept him as king; the latter were led by Somarled or Somhairle of Argyll. Somarled got killed in the battle of Renfrew and the west was a bit calmer for some time after that, but since Malcolm died shortly thereafter, it was of use only to his brother William 'the Lion' who succeeded him.
William was a very different character and a lot less willing than Malcolm to swear oaths to Henry, or leave one of the biggest castles in his earldom of Northumberland to him, claiming Northumbria to be part of Scotland.
Henry II over time managed to estrange his wife and antagonise his older sons - or maybe they were simply born a dysfunctional lot - so in 1173, William took his chance with Henry's eldest son, another Henry, who rebelled against daddy, and invaded Northumbria, laying siege to Carlisle while Henry the Son was busy causing troubles in the south.
The garrison of Carlisle was led by Robert de Vaux, who, confronted with diminishing supplies, unwilling soldiers and the aspect of being hanged outside the castle in chains (doesn't that remind us of someone? lol) considered surrender, but William's Scottish army left before they achieved their goal. I wonder if there were fresh problems on the westcoast and/or in Caithness that William abandoned the siege, because he laid siege to Alnwick castle only a few months later. But maybe his army was understrength then.
Battlements on the outer curtain wall
In 1174, William was captured at Alnwick, and any Scottish ambitions to Northumbria ended with an oath of fealty not only for the earldom but for Scotland itself that King William had to swear to King Henry II; result of the treaty of Falaise. Yes, that's another Norman castle, this time in Normandy proper. Those kings got around a lot. (It's also the seat of Roderic's uncle in Kings and Rebels
because I'm going to use the conflict between William and Henry as model for the conflict between Villembaud and Robert.)
Henry came once more to Carlisle in 1186 and ordered a room for his private use to be established in the castle. He obviously liked the place. Or maybe he liked the idea that his presence so near to Scotland would have riled William and made him uneasy.
Inner gatehouse with inner curtain wall, and keep in the background
After Henry's death in 1189, Carlisle didn't see a king for a decade because Richard was off to the Holy Land, Germany
, and other places more southerly, but John visited Carlisle several times. He wasn't very welcome, because he always raised the taxes. William's son Allexander II joined the rebellious barons in 1216, and it was his men who undermined the outer curtain and managed to win the inner gate, damaging the gatehouse in the process. There was hand to hand fighting in the keep itself until the castle finally fell to the rebels.
But Alexander was not able to earn any lasting fruits from this, and the relationship between Scotland and England remained strained and unruly. After some time of peace, Carlisle Castle came back into the focus of politics and war during the reign of the three Edwards. Edward I - who ranks high on the Top Ten list of most unpopular persons in Scotland - used the succession quarrels after the death of Alexander III to claim the hegemony over Scotland. Of course, the Scots, or at least a number of important Scottish nobles with claims of their own, told him to slink off.
Edward I did the opposite and declared war upon Scotland. As answer, the Scots launched a surprise attack on Carlisle in May 1296. They didn't succeed to conquer the place, though, and neither did they in the second attempt after the Scottish victory at Stirling Bridge. But it brought the importance of Carlisle for the English back to attention.
Western postern on the battlements, facing the tower of the inner gate
Edward I used the castle as assembling point and storage stronghold, locked prisoners up in the keep, and spent some time in the castle himself. Around the time parliament met at Carlisle in 1306, Edward had a great hall for the king's household built in the inner bailey. He also added additional fortifications, re-cut the moats (not himself, of course, and I don't think he let his son do it much as Edward II loved digging ditches) and placed some springalds
, giant crossbows, on the keep and western postern. The remains of the great hall and the king's appartements have been replaced by some smaller buildings in the 19th century.
Thus, Edward I left his son a well fortified castle, and Edward II used it as base for his Scottish war as well. After But he lost the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and returned to England, Robert the Bruce lost no time to try and get his hands on Carlisle. The town held a garrison of 500 men commanded by Andrew de Harclay. Harclay seemed to have been a skilled commander, but it was the weather that caused the final result. It was a British summer like the one last year, rain, and rain, and more rain. When the Scots tried to dig mines under the castle walls, they filled with water, the assault towers got stuck in the mud, any material to fill the ditches swam away, and so even the Scots, as used to rainy summers as the English, had enough and retreated in early August 1315.
View from the battlements into the inner bailey
With the bad press Ed II had at that time, the unsuccessful siege of Carlisle was proclaimed a victory, and Harclay earned some very wet laurels. *grin* He started a military career and was created Earl of Carlisle after he defeated the rebel Thomas of Lancaster in the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 (remember the unhappy fate of Roger de Clifford
in that context). But Harclay had not much time to enjoy his new position. He got entangled in border politics with the Scots and less than a year later was summoned to court to answer charges of conspiracy. He failed to appear and King Edward sent a party of knights to arrest him. They caught Harclay in his room in the castle, and though proclaiming his innocence, Andrew de Harclay suffered the same traitor's death as Lancaster; he was hanged, drawn and quatered on Carlisle's Gallows Hill.
Ironically, the very truce de Harclay had conspired for, was concluded between Edward II and the Scots only three months later. Quod licet Iovi ....
Edward II was disposed and murdered in 1327, and a few years later his son, Edward III, made it clear to his mother that he'd reign without her and Roger de Mortimer now, thank you very much. Mortimer lost his head, while Isabella was retired with a handsome apanage. Edward III was a better general than is father and won most of his battles, among them Crécy and indirectly, through William la Zouche Archbishop of York, St. Neville's Cross, both in 1346. Edward III last visited Carlisle Castle in 1335. After St. Neville's Cross, he and his successors concentrated on their interests in France. That time would later be called the Hundred Years War.
View across inner bailey towards the battlements on the curtain wall
The king of the Scots at that time was David II. He spent several years in France because his nobles didn't like him (did Scottish nobles ever like their king?). A few years after his return, Philippe IV of France, fearing an English invasion, asked David under the conditions of the Auld Alliance to invade England in his turn, to keep them busy in the north.
David had all the military advantages on his side, but he blundered around in the borderlands and finally managed to take up a strategically bad position at St. Neville's Cross. After the English longbowmen lured the Scottish army to attack and thus made it split into smaller groups because of the terrain, the Scots proved an easy deal for the English. Several Scottish leaders fled and David got captured. He was brought to Calais, forced into negotiations with King Edward III and kept prisoner in various English castles until 1357 (Treaty of Berwick). He promised to pay a ransom which he never managed to scrape out of the impoverished land.
Another view of Carlisle Castle
Situated so close to the Scottish border, Carlisle Castle saw lots of action in later years as well. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned within the castle for a few months in 1568, and it was besieged by the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War in 1644. Important battles for the city of Carlisle and its castle took place during the second Jacobite rising against George II of Great Britain in 1745. Carlisle and the castle were seized by the Jacobites, but they were driven north by the forces of the Duke of Cumberland. Carlisle was recaptured and the Jacobites were jailed and then executed.