Peter Bayliss sent in this interesting text:

Each of these castles (Tickhill, Conisborough, Peak Castle, Bolsover Castle) contained a self-sufficing industrial settlement; for every country house in ancient times not only did its own cooking, baking and washing, … but did its own brewing, meat-salting, spinning, weaving, tailoring, leather-dressing, upholstering; it had its carpenter’s workshop and its smithy, besides all the apparatus of a farm and stables.

The accommodation for these various arts and crafts was probably provided, at the period when the type of castle we are now describing prevailed, in wooden buildings within the bailey court.

The castle was not only the military and economic centre of a district, it was also its most distinguished school; a school not indeed of letters, but of manners and refinement. Well-born youths, throughout the middle ages, were sent to the household of some noble or great ecclesiastic to learn the manners of a gentleman and the exercises of a knight. In the castle they had the refining influence of ladies’ society, and the stimulating company of a number of young people of their own age. They passed a seven-years’ apprenticeage as pages, and even after they had become squires they still performed most of the duties which at the present day devolve upon servants.

They made beds, laid the table, served the dishes, carved the meat, brought water for the guests to wash their hands, dressed and undressed their lord, and looked after his horses. No personal service for a man of noble birth was deemed degrading. Girls also were received into feudal households, and their services in spinning, weaving, and sewing, which were superintended by the lady of the castle, were very valuable.

[from A Key to English Antiquities: with special reference to the Sheffield and Rotherham District, by Ella S. Armitage, 1897}


Local castles… — 1 Comment

  1. This extract needs some additional context.
    Ella S Armstrong [1841-1931]was a pioneering English female archaelogist/antiquary academic with local connections being appointed to the Rotherham School Board.Along with several others she argued and eventually proved that motte and bailey castles were the result of the Norman Conquest and not the fortified burghs that Alfred instigated against Viking incursions such as Conisborough and Bakewell.Her ‘Early Norman Castles of the British Isles’ is a seminal work.As regards Peak Castle ie Peveril Castle’s original garrison was a porter and two watchmen- not the large household that the extract implies.

    Ron Clayton.

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