Although I’ve finished the A to Z blogging challenge for this year, I don’t want to end my exploration of British castles. For some letters I was spoilt for choice. C in particular gave me lots of options and I’m going to a pick a few of them.
My first extra C is Chepstow castle on the river Wye. Another example of a castle of the borders on England and Wales, it was built on the bend of the river. Its early name was Striguil, derived from the Welsh word ystraigl, which means River Bend. The location of the ridge of limestone provided it an excellent defensive location, however, its design wasn’t so great.
I visited the castle as a child and remember little other than it’s narrow. That narrow layout meant it didn’t boast a concentric design, like many Welsh castles. What made it different was from the outset it was built in stone and not wood, which for 1067 is pretty unusual. A very early addition to William I’s castle collection, although it wasn’t until 1090 that the great tower was completed. The thin castle had four baileys, representing the four phases of construction. I recall climbing up stone courtyards to reach the upper most parts of the castle.
Chepstow is proud to possess the oldest castle door in Europe. Made from wood it has survived 800 years but had to be removed from the gateway for future preservation. Reconstruction of the castle continued right into the 16th century as it adapted to muskets and other modern artillery.
I just love its location on the river. The cliffs especially.
When William ordered the castle to be built, there was nothing there, not even a settlement. Chepstow is now a thriving town with a famous racecourse. As early as 1793 Chepstow had a guide book and in the 1840s, the steam boats from Bristol sailed up the Wye to offer a riverside view to tourists.
A long history. A rather magnificent one.
I would love to know how that door survived.
“Don’t slam it!”
“Da, I didn’t. I was really careful.”
“It’s just your Ma doesn’t like it when the doors bang shut. Nice ‘n’ gentle. She’s only upstairs putting your sister to bed.”
“But what about all those soldiers outside trying to get in here? They’ve got bows and arrows and -”
“Well if they make it this far, they’re not to bang the door. Bows and arrows is one thing, but your mother on the warpath is quite another matter.”