Arrow-loops in the Great Tower of Kenilworth castle: Symbolism vs Active/Passive ‘Defence’

Arrow-loops in the Great Tower of Kenilworth castle: Symbolism vs Active/Passive ‘Defence’

Renn, Derek



It is surprising how few Norman castles exhibit arrow-loops (that is, tall vertical slits, cut through walls, widening internally (embrasure), some- times with ancillary features such as a wider and higher casemate. Even if their everyday purpose was to simply to admit light and air, such loops could be used profitably by archers defending the castle. The earliest examples surviving in England seem to be those (of uncommon forms) in the square wall towers of Dover castle (1185-90), and in the walls and towers of Framlingham castle, although there may once have been slightly older (and simpler) ones at Windsor.

Within a quarter of a century the arrow-loop had blossomed into the classic form seen in round towers at Corfe and Dover. Where do those in the Great Tower of Kenilworth castle fit in ? The date of the Great Tower at Kenilworth is uncertain. The castle was begun by Geoffrey de Clin- ton I in the 1120s and it was seized by the Crown in 1173. £46. 8s was paid for repairs to the castle, including the turris, in 1189-90 while over £1,000 was spent on the castle between 1210-15.2 Over £150 was spent in 1219 to rebuild a fallen tower and further work was authorised on a turrell’ in 1220. Brown and Colvin suggested that the resemblances between the arrowslits and their embrasures at the top of the Great Tower and those of Lunn’s Tower meant that both were built in the early thirteenth century


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