The personnel of English and Welsh castles, 1272-1422
Rickard, Thomas John Charles
Doctoral Thesis, Department of History, The University of Hull, September (1999)
If there was a castle community, then the Grays of Heton were amongst its most enthusiastic members. Three generations of the family, including the chronicler, served as constable of Norham castle (Northumberland), while his descendants owned Heaton Coldstream castle and Wark on Tweed castle (both Northumberland), at one point actually exchanging the newly built Heaton for the older, exposed, frontier castle at Wark. The aim of this study is to examine those people who were directly involved with the ownership or management of castles in the 150 years from the coronation of Edward I to the death of Henry V. It will examine the level and nature of each individual’s involvement with castles and how these factors changed over time. It will only touch on the more popular areas of castle studies – the architectural and the military – from the viewpoint of the individuals involved, examining the men who were building castles as opposed to detailed examinations of what was being built. The same will be true of the siege, considered here not in regard to length, or mechanics, but in relation to the impact on the besieged constable or castle owner and on the besiegers. The aim of this study is to add the human element to the stone, earth and timber of traditional castle studies.
The period of this study – from the reign of Edward I to that of Henry V- has been carefully chosen. At the start of this period, the castle was an established part of the landscape. Great magnates were still constructing mighty fortresses, while Edward I was shortly to begin building his great castles in north Wales. By the end of this period, the castle has been seen as being in decline. New castles were being built by newly wealthy men attempting to establish themselves, while the last new royal castle, Queenborough castle (Kent), was sixty years in the past. This period also saw several episode of great turmoil, in particular during the reigns of Edward II and Richard II, and this study will attempt to examine how the castle featured in these crises. In addition, Glendower’s revolt at the end of the period saw the great castles of north Wales put to the test for the first time. These moments of crisis and upheaval should help illuminate the changing status of the castle.This study will cover England and Wales in full. Large areas of Wales were under English rule for the entire period, while by the end of the reign of Edward I the entire country was conquered. Many
of the greatest lords in England were based in Wales and the Marches while Edward’s conquests became a major part of the crown’sown lands. In contrast Scotland managed to retain its independence against great English pressure. The French and Scottish castles held by the English during this period will not be examined in their own right, but service at those castles by constables or owners of English or Welsh castles will be dealt with when examining the career of these people. The results of this study will be compared with those of scholars in other areas of Europe where the personnel of castles has been examined in more detail, hopefully adding much to our understanding of the English and Welsh case.A main interest of this study is the relationship between the castle community – whether owners or constables – and political power. in many parts of Europe, this relationship would be taken for granted, with local political power being linked directly to ownership of the local castle. However, the absence of this concept in writings focusing on England and Wales may be explained by the absence of the actual phenomenon as opposed to unawareness of it. Only on the Welsh Marches may such a relationship be seen.
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