The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


9 Sept 2010
  The River Reivers of Bramburg Castle

The remains of the Bramburg are hidden in a beech wood on a promontory above the Weser river. The photos in this post are from a visit last summer.

The castle was first named in a chronicle from 1093 that mentions that Heinrich the Fat, the founder of Bursfelde Abbey, had the castle fortified in order to protect the nearby abbey, thus it must date further back than 1093.

(Bramburg Castle, the keep)

As usual, we can only get glimpses of the castle's history when it is mentioned in chartes and chronicles.

There's a connection with Corvey again. A charte from 1222 mentions that Abbot Hermann of Corvey gave half of the castle as fief to Heidenreich Count of Scharzfeld and his wife Beatrix, so the Bramburg must have belonged to Corvey at that time. Both the abbot and Count Heidenreich promise not to sell or destroy their part of the castle and the lands belonging to it; this is witnessed by thirteen ministeriales (a specific group of vassals in the German feudal system) on each side. Corvey had repaired the tower before this transaction took place, and Heidenreich of Scharzfeld accedes the income from his part of the Bramwald Forest timber rights to the abbey in return. Moreover he promises the fief will be returned to Corvey after his death (which is pretty much feudal standard).

But in 1245 Heidenreich sold his part of the Bramburg to Archbishop Siegfried III of Mainz (heh, Mainz is still busy collecting lands and castles) for 300 mark silver. Oops, didn't he promise not to sell the castle? Well, since 23 years have passed, the feudal possessions and contracts may have changed.

The next time the Bramburg appears in documents (1279, 1286), the castle has come into possession of the Welfen family. We don't know how and when it changed hands. In the 14th century, the lords of Stockhausen were hereditary chatellains (Burgmannen) on the Bramburg; they appear in several chartes and documents. The Stockhausen family are old Lower Saxon / Hessian nobility with possessions in the Göttingen area.

Bramburg Castle, trench

But in the 15th century, the Stockhausen chatellains on the Bramburg took to the somewhat more adventurous lifestyle of highway - well, high river - robbery. It was more profitable than pawning out lands, and the Weser river was an important trade route. They were not the only lords to misuse their power and the strategical position of their strongholds to rob travelers and merchants in the 15th-16th centuries. There's even a German word for them, Raubritter (robber knights).

The men in the castle used to span a chain across the Weser to stop the merchant ships and transport barges. The chain was connected to a rope that led up to the castle and a bell in the inner bailey, so the retainers of the Bramburg would be alerted of a new catch. They jumped onto their horses, one chronicle said, and rode down the incline to plunder the ship. That must have been quite a feast; the slope down to the Weser is really steep and I can't see what advantage horses could have offered in a fight on a ship.

I also suspect they didn't content themselves with plundering, but took prisoners for ransom on occasion. The Bramburg keep has a suitable dungeon. *grin*

View from the Bramburg to the Weser river

In 1458, Duke Wilhelm of Thuringia had enough. The attacks from the Bramburg and other places along the Weser and the roads to Thuringia affected the merchants who traveled to his lands. He gathered an army of 1200 men and marched towards the offending castles. The chatellain of Jühnde (near Göttingen) fled, but Lambert of Stockhausen decided to try to hold the Bramburg.

On July 10, Duke Wilhelm's army reached the village of Imbsen at the foot of the Bramburg where it camped. The way up to the castle is easier from that side since the slopes are less steep than the ones facing the river bend. The duke had his men cut down trees for easier access as well.

The next day 600 men marched up to the Bramburg, 'with a number of handheld cannons, (siege) equipment, and other arms' (1), the rest of the men remained in camp.

The defenders had dug a new trench around the castle, as well as erected bulwarks and obstacles. The castle garrison fought from behind the bulwarks, while one man shot at the attackers from a bay window in the keep with 'eyner bussen' (a handheld cannon with a matchlock - muskets were not yet invented) and caused 'great fear'. The assailants were without cover because the trees had been cut down. But then one of the duke's gunsmiths shot down the bay window on which the brave shooter stood. If the whole bay window blew up, that gunsmith must have managed to get a larger cannon in position.

After several hours of fighting, the defenders had to retire into the castle. When they brought one of their wounded leaders, Hans of Gladebeck, over the drawbridge, Duke Wilhelm's men pressed after, managed to get inside the castle and conquered it. The duke took captive Lambert of Stockhausen, Hans of Gladebeck, Johan Speigel and '51 more knights and men at arms'. If those were the entire garrison one has to admit that they had a lot of courage to defend the Bramburg against 600 men.

The interior of the castle was put to fire, but the buildings were not dismanteled. Duke Wilhelm brought his most prominent prisoners to Gotha, a town in Thuringia, where he kept them for a year.

Tree roots growing over some old stones

Lambert of Stockhausen and the other prisoners were released in 1459, but the family didn't learn their lesson. The river reiver business flared up again, and in 1494, Wilhelm II Duke of Braunschweig-Calenberg-Göttingen and his son Heinrich had to take the Bramburg again. This time the castle was badly damaged and has remained a ruin since then. But the lords of Stockhausen were allowed to keep the feudal possessions that came with the castle (several villages at the Weser, and the Bramwald Forest).

Bramburg, another view of the keep

Today only the keep (Bergfried), part of the trench, and tumbled and overgrown stones remain of the Bramburg. The keep is said to have been 34 metres high once, but today it's only 21 metres. Originally access was only possible several metres above ground, the room below served as dungeon and could be reached via a trapdoor. The ground floor door you can see on the photos has been added in more recent times. There are still three storeys left, the uppermost with a vaulted chamber, but the keep has become so unsafe it is forbidden to enter it.

There must have been a palas building once and the obligatory battlements, outhouses, and gate towers (a drawbridge is mentioned, see above), but today it takes a lot of imagination to see these in the few foundations still left.

The access is still almost as difficult as for Duke Wilhelm's army, only no one was shooting bullets from a bay window this time. *grin*

The way to the Bramburg, without a drawbridge across the trench these days

1) The source quoted on the castle website has 'mit itweilen bussen, radesschup unde anderer were' which is some old lower German dialect once spoken in our area which you can't find in any dictionary. I read radesschup (Gerätschaft?) as 'equipment', probably battering rams and cannons.
 
Comments:
fifty one men. Should have been enough.
 
Against 600 men who obviously had brought some cannons, plus another 600 in reserve in the camp? I don't think they could have held the castle during a prologued siege. Maybe they could have managed to escape down the steep slope (it's really almost vertical in places) to the river had not the duke taken advantage of the lowered drawbridge the first day.
 
Love that keep - looks incredibly solid! Great view over the river, too.
 
The siege and capture sounds like the climactic set-piece from a Sharpe novel :-)
 
Kathryn, it's a bit less solid, at least inside, or it would not be forbidden to enter the keep.

Carla, one of my writer friends already got a story idea out of this article. I should put a disclaimer on my blog: Writers, read at own risk, here be plotbunnies. :)
 
Love the view of the river. The terrain makes it an interesting attack. Not one I would want to undertake. :)
 
Oh well, you didn't mention the second six hundred. But OTOH, that's six hundred more people to feed. Six hundred more potential squabbles, six hundred more places you have to find to pitch a tent. Six hundred more potential sprained ankles, sun strokes and drunken brawls. Six hundred more reasons to say "stick that with a pin and lets head home".
So yeah...give me small groups over big groups, and if the small group has the fortified position, my money would be on the small group.
Fifty seems like a nice number actually...not too difficult to keep fed, fairly easy to house. Enough to provide two shifts of defenders. Would have to be in a really GOOD fortified position though...because I don't like the idea of every time I stick my head up over the walls, I become the target for 1200 arrows.
Reminds me of Fort Zinderneuf.
 
Constance, not from the river side at least. ;)

Stag, I agree that a smaller force can hold a fortified position against a larger one for some time, but I'm not sure they could hold out long enough for Duke Wilhelm to give up. He was far more powerful, in a way had more at stake - imagine the jokes if he had to run away from some 50 robber knights - and he would eventually have managed to haul some really heavy siege equipment up that hill. I also do not know how well provisioned the defenders were and if the castle had a well. In case they had to get the water from the river, that would have been a weak point. And the new built bulwarks make me suspect the curtain walls and original trenches were not in the best shape, either.
 
Yeah, I could turn that into a Conan story tonight. Heh.
 
Conan would have had fun with that place, I'm sure.
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and central / eastern Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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The Hurtigruten-Tour / Norway
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Along the Coast of Norway - North of the Polar Circle

Norway by Train
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From Trondheim to Oslo

Wildlife
Bearded Seals
Dog Sledding With Huskies
Eagles and Gulls in the Trollfjord


The Baltic Sea

A Baltic Sea Cruise

The Curonian Spit in Lithuania
Beaches at the Curonian Spit
Geology of the Curonian Spit



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- General Essays
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Mediaeval History

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Mediaeval Art and Craft

Mediaeval Art
The Choir Screen in the Cathedral of Mainz
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
Mediaeval Monster Carvings
The Upside-Down World
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Medieaval Craftmanship
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Medical Instruments

Mediaeval Warfare

Mediaeval Weapons
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Castles and Fortifications
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Specific Topics

Feudalism

The History of Feudalism
The Beginnings
Feudalism in the 10th Century

Privileges and Special Relationships
The Privilege of the deditio
A Note on handgenginn maðr

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The History of the Hanseatic League
Introduction and Beginnings

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Hall Houses (Dielenhäuser)

Goods and Trade
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Towns of the Hanseatic League
Riga
Stralsund
Tallinn / Reval

The Order of the Teutonic Knights

Wars and Battles
The Conquest of Danzig
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

The Vikings

Viking Ships
The Nydam Ship


Some historical events are linked under more than one country / subtitle due to the overarching nature of history.


History by Country

Germany

Geneaology

List of Mediaeval German Emperors

Geneaologies
Anglo-German Marriage Connections
Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors

Kings and Emperors

The Salian Dynasty
King Heinrich IV

House Welf and House Staufen
Emperor Otto IV, Introduction

Princes and Lords

Princes
Otto the Quarrelsome of Braunschweig-Göttingen
The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Duke Otto of Northeim
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus

Counts and Local Lords
The Marshals of Ebersburg
The Counts of Everstein
The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Feuds and Rebellions

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

Local Feuds
The Lüneburg Succession War
The Thuringian Succession War
The Star Wars


England

Kings of England

King Henry IV
King Henry's Lithuanian Crusade

Normans, Britons, Angevins

Great Noble Houses
The Dukes of Brittany
The Earls of Richmond

Contested Borders

Northumbria
King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War, Part 1
King David and the Civil War, Part 2

Houses Bruce and Stewart
The Early Stewart Kings

Local Troubles

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding

Scotland and England

The Wars of Independence
Alexander of Argyll
The Fight for Stirling Castle


Wales

Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Wales and England

A History of Rebellion
Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Denmark

Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Norway

Kings of Norway

Foreign Relations
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

Feuds and Rebellions

Rebels
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

Livonian Towns

Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga

Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Poland

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig


Bohemia

Royal Dynasties

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars


Roman History

The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications

The German Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend

Border Life
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Campaigns and Battles

Maps
The Romans in Germania

The Pre-Varus Invasion in Germania
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction

Miscellaneous Events

The Legend of Alaric's Burial

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapons
Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles


Roman Life and Religion

Religion and Public Life

Religion
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms
Isis Worship
Memorial Stones
The Mithras Cult

Public Life
Roman Transport: Barges
Roman Transport: Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Architecture
Roman Public Baths

Domestic Life

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots


Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
The Hutewald Project in the Solling
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Neolithic Remains
Stone Burials of the Funnelbeaker Culture
The Necropolis of Oldendorf

Bronze Age / Iron Age
The Nydam Ship

Scotland

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Bronze Age / Iron Age
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Their Function in Iron Age Society

Scandinavia

Bronze / Iron Age
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd / Gotland


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)


Miscellanea

History in Literature and Music

History and Literature

The Weimar Classicism
The Weimar Classicism - Introduction

Theodor Fontane
Short Biography of Theodor Fontane
Fontane Ballads, translated by me
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan

History in Opera

Belcanto and Historicism
Maria Padilla - Mistress Royal
The Siege of Calais in Donizetti's Opera

Not so Serious History

Romans
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Mediaeval Times
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Other
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances


Geology

Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

The Harz
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in the Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs
Sandstone Formations: Daneil's Cave
Sandstone Formations: Devil's Wall
Sandstone Formations: The Klus Rock

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations
Salt Springs at the Werra

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite


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