Secrets of a Medieval Castle | Chepstow Castle

Secrets of a Medieval Castle | Chepstow Castle

Show Video

Hi my name is Kevin Hicks, welcome to my YouTube  channel the History Squad. We're on a day out   today because we're right on the borders of  England across the river and Wales over this side   we are visiting my favorite castle of all times  Chepstow castle and you can see it just behind me. So we're at the entrance  to the castle the gatehouse   but there's a bit missing now keep focused Gate Rubble, something's missing here. If you  follow the foundations it comes to here,   goes all the way across here, and somewhere along here or  hanging out over the mighty cliff   there was a platform and a door and you had to  come with your wagon and have a tight turn to   get in. Now this is a design I understand from  the Middle East, so crusaders who came back,  

they came back with knowledge. But people  get things wrong about this castle.   We're going to have a closer look at what  will stop you getting in come and have a look. The top of the castle here were machicolations,  wooden roofed hoardings those kind of things   where you could drop things down  on the enemy, you could shoot them.

But then if you come a little bit further, the murder holes right at the  top here, the stone murder holes. But people think that these two  holes here were murder holes   but they're not, what the two holes were  for were great big stone counterweights,   because Chepstow Castle had two giant  portcullises, it didn't have a moat around it.   It had a ditch around here, but not a moat because  the water would just flow down the cliff next to   us into the river Wye. But I’ve got permission  to close these doors so just wait there a moment   can I borrow the key? Can  I close one of the doors? So these castle doors have been  remade by the British Army in the 60s,   the originals are still in the castle but  have a look at the outside of these doors.

That's clad in iron . So you have a massive  portcullis in front of you, a door shod in iron,   but come behind them and have a look at  the construction. I love these doors. How about that for a set of doors, amazing   and this is the door key isn't that great  and there you can see the portcullis behind. and they still work. Come  and have a look at these. These are called put lugs.

And if I show you behind the other door quickly  the put lugs here went all the way into the   guard room so they just shoved them all the  way through that hole behind the doors and   then sealed them and when the portcullis was down  here, you can only open the door so far anyhow.   Oh gosh, but on a daily basis these doors  were kept shut, they used to have a smaller   door in them, that was the wicket gate  but I’ll show you an original in a bit. So all this is open now, used to be inside  a building, the remains of it are here,   a guard room and if you look up you can see  where the portcullis went, the fireplace for   one of the upper stories and just here you  can see where the archway used to go across.

So much of the castle missing,  but so much of it is still here.   Let's have a little look in the shop  shall we. So just as you come into the   shop part of the castle right there's  actually a little turning here.

This used to be a guarderobe here, a toilet  that emptied straight out into the river. This, people call this the dungeon. We don't know for sure and there are a few  clues as to hmm what must it have been.   The floor's changed because here if you  look around over there, there is a beam,   a put lug as they call it. Put a lug, put  a log, that comes across here to there.  

So either you had to stoop down, the floor was  lower, or was it just half a shelf for sleeping   and then the rest of it was storage. Also  here this is actually a chimney, this is a   stone fireplace just here and you can see this  goes all the way up to the top of the castle.   So let people say oh the dungeon, I actually, all  right maybe a prison temporary prison, or was it   a storeroom, was it part of the  guard room were weapons kept in here?   Whichever it was, it's, a it's a great little room  and I’ve made many a heart leap in here by telling   a ghost story or two, but we're gonna move through  now. Let's go and have a look at the kitchens So here we are in the kitchen and you've  got evidence here of where they used to   have the big pottage bowl, but this room  has changed so much if you look up there   you can see there's an original archway that's  been blocked up because we're actually in the   cellar part the main kitchens were also  upstairs as well, but it's changed so much   over the centuries that uh it became an enormous  affair. But my favorite part of this, follow me.

This is the very spot where the last person to be  killed in action was killed here during the attack   25th of May 1648. It was a royalist officer  apparently, and it was a sword fight   against one of the Parliamentarian  officers and he died on this very spot.   These little bits of history that I’ve  learned over the decades, they're a treasure.  

But we're going to have a look in here, come  follow me. So this this is all part of the kitchen   yeah, you've got cupboards here built  into the walls and this little room here. This is a full guarderobe, this is where you  could sit and take what we call a tom- titty.  

This is the bathroom, the toilet, and if  you look down you can see where your sewage,   your poop, your whatever would actually  fall straight into the river Wye,   and it was also the place where you put your  clothing to hang. These were not rough rooms,   they were plastered, painted white. There were  hangers and things and the breeze would actually   dry clothing and it would also, with the smell of  urine so I understand, kill the fleas that live   on your clothes. But during a siege, an attack,  put a lid over this, lock it so nobody can get up   and also you have a firing position or a shooting  position either for musket or crossbow and if   you look through one of these windows you  can see across the river Wye into England.

So we're going to get down into the cellars,  you have to be careful because I want Julie   to focus on an extra piece here, so if  you follow me to the edge of the steps   let's have a look up. The roofing here,   it's extremely rare to see this combination of  roofing, this holds up an entire great hall. But now let's step outside. Now look at this for a view. This is how the castle controlled the  traffic going up and down the river Wye,   not just from the battlements  but from this position here,   bowmen, crossbowmen, gunners later on  can sink any ship that tried to sneak by   and it's a fascinating thing because I asked  a question. All right, you've got a cog like  

my world famous Thomas, he sails up there but  he has to turn around how'd they do it? And   this is another learning curve for Kev,  they would sail in on high tide. Anchor.   Boats will be rowed out from underneath  the castle. Have a look at this, have a look down there all the way down.

Right at the bottom there, there  is an inlet under the castle   which is where they kept the castle  boats, so the ship would drop anchor,   boats would row out fill up with supplies come all  the way back in, then there was a great big jib   overhanging the castle up here that lowered down  the nets and then men running in great big wheels   would hoist it all the way back up either to the  wine cellar down below the food cellar which we're   going to have a look in a minute but it's how the  ship turned around that gets me. So it would wait,   high tide it's come in, then the tide goes down  and as the tide goes out they lift the fore-anchor   and the actual tide turns the ship around  and then they simply get swept out to sea. Wow yeah, some of the things I’m learning  but let's go down into the cellars it's   quite interesting. So here we are in  the cellars we have the echo yeah,  

this is where the food was stored originally.  Of course they were all plastered nice and clean   there were wooden beams across to hang like  smoked ham and things but this room people   once again they miss a lot come  over here and have a look at this. So this is a working room  but look at the finial here. This, 800 years,   look at the shape of it now all of this and if  you follow this all the way up to the cross part. I always ask the question how did they build it? Well this was built when the castle had no  top to this part the great hall is above us,   so this is an open space it's also a canyon where  a river tribute comes a tributary of the river   comes underneath the castle so they built  a massive bridge a stone bridge across it.   Then they put this floor then they  build the walls then they built   all of the arches but I asked the question  how'd they keep the arches up there,   and what I was told blew my mind.  So you get up to here, no problems.  

These go back into the wall almost a meter,  but it's when you get a little bit higher   the stone mason set the stone but  they'd filled the room with soil   they're actually standing up there when they get  to the very top they are poking up out of the top   and they simply left it to dry. Then, manpower not  being a problem, they took all of the soil out and   you had all of these ribs and arches and then  they infilled them from the top and then poured   concrete, would you believe, into the voids and  then the great hall will be built on top of it. We often think we're clever  don't we of the modern age,   but when I was told how this  was actually built, wow.

So we're going to leave the kitchens and we're  going to go up into the great hall mind the steps   as you come up they're always uneven. Here we are  in the great hall, there's not much left of it.   Much of it was destroyed during the civil war.  They weren't that big these great halls, they were   just big enough to have your food, your feast,  but many of your soldiers would rough it in here   and it's quite misleading because during the  Victorian times they pulled a lot of this down   to make it look more like a ruin but the main  way into this part of the castle was over here.

This was the front door to get into the  great hall. You had to come into a tower,   which is now gone, there were portcullises there  were drawbridges, all have disappeared and then   come back here and let's see if we can show  you. So I was with my old friend Andrew, right,   all his life devoted to these castles and I says  to him this room was all locked up and I said why   don't we open it why don't we clear it out and  he put the suggestion forward and they did they   emptied it out built the steps it was wonderful  because we needed a home for the original doors   but when they'd done it I’m in here you know  waiting for my school kids to arrive and I’m   looking up and I saw two ghostly shapes  on the wall can you see the two shields. Those two shields are set in the original  plaster those seven, eight hundred years   old? It's incredible isn't it we've never  been able to identify them but we know   Mr and Mrs, somebody arriving maybe their shields  will be up there, who knows but look at this. This   is the original Chepstow castle doors. And you can  see you have your cross bracing yeah, this is your   great put lug to lock it and here is the wicket  gate, this is your daily gate yeah, you keep this   open. And what I used to get the school children  to do and this is giving me a bit of a thrill  

right you put your thumb here and you draw this  bolt back this bolt here has actually worn through where countless thumbs have  actually opened and closed it.   The step worn so much it's been  replaced in the ancient days.   This to me is a marvel and I can reach  around the front and there are still parts   of iron plates on it. Why'd they put  iron on doors facing out of a castle?   Makes them heavy, why'd they do it? I’m going to  leave you to ponder. Let me know in the comments   why you think castle doors were shod in iron.  Let's go and have a look at the earl's chamber.

So here we are in the earl's chamber up until the  1950s people actually lived here the custodians of   the castle but it's been put back just to show  you what a medieval room was like but actually   some years ago they refurbished it and tried to  make it look as it did in the day of the earls   the ancient knights but when they put the new  roof on they were told by an old workman here,   great guy "don't do it like that". Now he had  been a stonemason all his life and he was now   in his late 60s early 70s and he says that will  leak and they dismissed him and he said "you watch   Kevin that'll leak" and sure enough it leaked,  so badly this room was closed down for years,   and it's a shame because he's now dead and gone  and his secrets, many of them have gone with him.   So you imagine, this is your medieval fireplace,  fire roaring there in the winter warming this   whole room up they certainly lived in more comfort  than you'd think. Castles weren't quite as cold as   you would think. So we're in the lower bailey of  the castle this is the youngest part of the castle   you see Martin's Tower there, that's  Tudor. A lot of Tudor work in there.  

There would have been like a little town in  here, this would have had all your smiths,   people would have lived in their little  shacks and in fact there's a piece that   I know about let me show you come over here. So  I used to bring my school groups up here all my   children and students yeah and I’d say fireplace  and they'd all go into the fireplace and I’d say   why is there a fireplace up  there and they'd be going oh? oh they just couldn't figure out why we  had two fireplaces and then I’d show them   there's a stairway up there, any  ideas? I'd say look around for clues   well they didn't realize you can  actually see the remains of part of it. This was a house, one of your black and  white timber houses, all the way across here   this is the middle of it.

The other side is out the back in the next bailey  so it's like a bit of a Tudor mansion that stood   here all wood and thatch and that kind of stuff  which I think is just wow. But there's a trick   here, you imagine the enemy capture this part of  the castle all right. They come streaming over the   walls and you retreat into the middle bailey.  Let me show you the trap, try and follow me

here, it's a blind. As you come around here, it's a trap. If you look  behind you men on the battlements can still shoot   at you even the doors you could shoot through  them, we've got some of the original doors here   look at these old doors, musket  loops cut in them from the civil war.  

There was also a building above your head,  long gone, that had your murder holes   and then the tower when the castle became  peaceful was converted to a bakery. Kitchen   and a bakery in here and I’ll have you  know I’ve actually baked bread in here   but interesting, this will be sealed up when  you opened it all the smoke went up this chimney   and came out halfway up this chimney so this was  a kitchen but originally this was the front of   the castle before they extended the castle down  this was one of your front defensive towers,   so there were no doors either side. Let's go  through the door have a look at the middle bailey. So we're in the middle bailey,  but when it fell out of use   it was the front part of the castle that  there was the living quarters if you like.   This had lots of defense things and you would have  had workshops here but the most interesting thing   is the great tower, the first stone-built castle  in Britain. This is where I actually shot the   incendiary arrow down into the far corner there  if you've seen it on one of my previous videos,   but this is the great tower and a lot of the  red stone that you see is actually Roman as I   pointed out this tower was built so quickly  because they used so much Roman stone let's   have a look inside. This never used to be here,  this has all been put later in the medieval times,   all part of the defense and these steps didn't  exist if you wanted to get into the great tower   you had to go wooden steps across a drawbridge all  on a wooden frame and that would be knocked down   if they were under attack. It's called  a great tower because it's not a keep  

right, it is the great tower  this is the entrance way here. you turn left as you came in that took you  up the stairs which brought you out up there.   Look at the size of the put lugs the holes for  the beams the main chamber was upstairs we're in   the in the cellars and it's built on solid rock  it's not, it doesn't have foundations because   it is actually on the cliff. This is one of the  reasons they could build it so quickly because   literally straight onto the stone an incredible  arch went across here, it must have been wow.   But it's downfall was the  fact that it was too big,   but William Marshall himself would have been  in here, this was one of his favorite places.

The top of the little niches there, when the  sun shines on it you can still see some of   the original paint they were just crosses but  it was original paint and there are still some   of the old things left here that people  miss, finials and a king's head or two. And this shows you that this was a  one two three four story building. Well the other little secret in this incredible  tower is the secret doorway up there goes behind   the screen and up onto the battlements.

So here we are at the original end of the castle,   the great tower behind you then the  original back gate let's have a little look. A lovely old yew tree here. So this is the original back door. These have been preserved,  they have musket loops in them.

There was a drawbridge here, a massive  drawbridge this is the false castle at the back   of Chepstow castle. This is for nothing  but defense, this is for soldiers   and look at the commanding  view you have of the river Wye.   So this, as I said, was one of the towers  at the back of the castle this is actually   accommodation, accommodation for the ladies so I  understand, but if you have a look through this   loop here you can see along the castle, it gives  you a commanding view, you can enfalade anybody   coming up the hill, and if we have a look around  the corner through a musket loop. So this is a   musket loop from the 17th century from what it was  called the English Civil War it gives you quite a   view, you imagine two or three musketeers on each  loop yeah, they've got plenty of scope to shoot.

So what we have on the top here, that's  what the castle used to look like,   it had proper castellation so all  changed for when they had guns.   So we've seen the inside of the castle,  we've done the tour, now we're going to go   outside and see the outside of the castle,  you'll be amazed at what's still there. This is a favorite part of Chepstow Castle for me.  This is where a battle actually took place, 25th   of May 1648. You can see musket loops at the top  of the curtain wall that's still left standing,   but over here to the right of it you can see there  are buttresses holding up the wall you can see it,   it really does look unstable and that's because uh  just before the attack Oliver Cromwell’s artillery   which had been brought down from the siege of  Gloucester fired straight at the base of the   wall and bought the whole thing down. Now when  the Parliamentarian troops charged across here  

they were under fire from that tower, this  tower and then yet another tower over there.   So once the castle was taken, they rebuilt  the wall and they put an artillery piece   inside the wall you can't see it now it's  all been bricked up and they put cannons on   top of these towers that were on a, a revolving  platform so they could actually be moved around,   but these musket loops here that you can see  in front of you they're quite rare to be so   purposely made. We're going to move up  and you'll see some more of the castle.   It's quite amazing really you know we're looking  all of this that was damaged in the civil war this   is all actually an extension of the castle  you know the original part of the castle we   haven't even got to it yet, there is so much  of this. And it's difficult to hit because   Chepstow Castle you'll see is actually  very narrow so to drop arrows or to drop   shot inside it can be quite difficult and of  course as you move up you come under fire or come   under shot from so many different towers it's one  of the best defensive positions I’ve ever found.  

So we got the remains of the medieval curtain  wall. Unfortunately because after the civil war   these places were slighted they were reduced so  they couldn't be used uh against parliament again   but this is where we get into the original part  of the castle. A thousand years of history here.   This is the earliest part of the castle  behind me what they call the great   tower and it was the first stone-built castle  in Britain it was uh commissioned on the orders   of William the Conqueror, so 1067 he commissioned  and they used stone from a local Roman ruins here   there's a roman town at Caerwent and Caerleon and  they robbed lots of the stone, so every now and   again you can spot a piece of Roman stonework. And  what you have behind it is yet another extension,  

the rear of the castle finishes just there. Pople  think it goes on and there's all this around it   but that's a trick right, it's an after  castle, the back bit is for nothing but   defense for killing the castle officially  finishes where that tower is there and it   was accommodation for the ladies yeah  and it was very good accommodation too. Here we are at the rear entrance of the  castle and it's amazing because there   should be a giant drawbridge that came across  all of here, then three portcullis gates inside   but this is a castle around the back door you  can smash away at this you can try and get in   but once you get in there's another drawbridge and  another set of doors just to get into the castle.   This, it's almost like the forgotten part of  the castle come and have a look just how high   up on a cliff Chepstow Castle is. You  cannot be attacked from the eastern side,   that is the river Wye it's at low tide at the  moment, at high tide you can get ships up here   yeah. In fact up until the 1920s coal ships used  to come up and turn around, small ships but in   the medieval times there was a full harbour  here Chepstow castle was supplied by ships.  

This nowadays is called the gateway to Wales back  in the medieval times it was actually the entrance   to a hostile territory. Just one more thing before  we go around to the front this is an arrow slit,   this is an original arrow slit that's not been  repaired, but I’m going to show you what they look   like we have a repaired one just round the corner  this is a refurbished rebuilt arrow slit very,   very narrow on the inside barely two fingers wide.  What I’m going to do is I’m going to get Julie my   camera person to actually just back down because  this is where there is a secret to the castle.   Right I’m going to overtake you. This is the postern gate. This is  the escape, the way out for spies,  

for sneak attacks for all of that kind of stuff.  There was some kind of structure in front of it,   you can see some of the remains of, of what used  to be here and it concealed the postern gate,   the secret way in and out of the castle. This  is how the spies got in how the spies got out. So I hope you enjoyed our  little tour of Chepstow Castle   my favorite castle in the world. If you did thumbs  up, if you're a subscriber hey thanks a million,  

if you're not subscriber yeah ding that  proverbial bell and of course a special   shout out now to all my Patreon members,  thanks guys, and if you want to become a   member of our Patreon community then there is  a link in the description. Thank you very much.

2022-07-10 05:40

Show Video

Other news