Continuing our series on writers about Colchester Castle:
Colchester Castle, by F M Nichols was a paper read at the Annual General Meeting of the Essex Archaeological Society (now the Essex Society for Archaeology and History) on 1 August 1882. It contains some fascinating information about the building – a building whose history has been subject to recent reassessment. The paper was published in the Society’s Transactions.
18 COLCHESTER CASTLE.
I will now turn to the history of the Castle. "We learn from Tacitus that the Roman Colony on this site was entirely without fortifications at the time of the insurrection of Boadicea, which took place A.D. 62, eleven years after its foundation.** And the colonists, we are expressly informed, did not on that alarm throw up any entrenchments. But they relied in some measure upon the defensive capabilities of their temple of Claudius, in which the veterans with a small body of soldiers were able to hold out for two days, while the rest of the settlement was devastated and burnt.*** The one conclusion respecting the history of Colchester Castle, which I draw from the narrative, is this: that the powerful earthworks which formed, in medieval times, its outer defence, did not exist at the time of Nero.****
The Roman walls of the town, of which so much remains, have been not unnaturally supposed to have been erected as an immediate consequence of this insurrection, upon the re-establishment of the colony, but looking at the character of the Roman work, which appears throughout to be of the same period, I should be disposed to attribute it to a somewhat later date. We may well imagine that a temporary …
** Nec arduum videbatur exscindere coloniam nullis munimentis septam. Tacit. Annal. xiv. 31.
*** Tutela templi freti .... neque fossam aut vallum praeduxerunt. Et cetera quidem impetu direpta aut incensa sunt: templum in quo se miles conglobaverat biduo obsessum expugnatumque. (Tacit. Ann. xiv. 32.) The word tutela is capable of various interpretation. By some it has been thought to indicate an external wall of inclosure (aliqua non magni operis munitio. Gronovius). If it be supposed that the veterans had any faith in their divinity, it may allude to a supernatural protection. I am inclined to think it merely refers to the possibility of holding the temple with its surrounding enclosure against a tumultuary attack.
**** The divergence of the modern street from the straight line of the Roman way, is further evidence that the earthworks are later than the Roman occupation.
COLCHESTER CASTLE. 19
… vallum erected after the insurrection, was at a later time replaced by a permanent wall, which may possibly have inclosed a more extended boundary.*
We have no knowledge of the details of the subjugation of this district by the Saxons, or of its history for some time after; and it is no part of our present design to speculate upon the question, whether the site was abandoned after the Saxon conquest, or whether the English Colchester succeeded without interval to the British Camulodunum. Colchester does not re-appear in history till the beginning of the tenth century, when the town was in the possession of the Danes, who had been during the previous century settled in East Anglia. The incidents of its recovery by the English, as recorded by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, have so important a bearing upon the history of the castle, that I am bound to give them as literally as possible in the words of the chronicler. A.D. 921. "Much folk gathered in autumn, both of Kent, and Surrey, and Essex, and all the nearest burghs, and fared to Colneceastre, and beset the burgh, and fought against it until they overcame it, and slew all the folk, and took all that was in it, but the men that there fled over the wall."
This was followed immediately after by an attack upon Malden on the part of the East Angles and Danes, which was successfully repulsed, and then in the same year, "Before Martinmas (Nov. 11) king Edward with a West Saxon army fared to Colneceastre, and repaired the burgh, and renewed it where it was before broken ; and much folk turned to him both in East Anglia and in Essex, that was before under Danish power."
From the point of view in which we are to-day regarding these events, the first question we ask ourselves is this: what was the burgh (burh) which was taken by the English and afterwards repaired by king Edward the Elder? The slaying by the besiegers of all the folk within the burgh, except the men that escaped over the wall, seems …
* Several urns, with two coins of Domitian were found in 1738, within St. Botolph’s Gate, (Morant, Hist. Colchester, 183.) from which, if the urns were sepulchral, we may infer that that spot was outside the Roman town at the end of the first century.
20 COLCHESTER CASTLE.
… to indicate that the burgh was not the town, which would naturally, if it then existed, be principally peopled by English, but a castle occupied by Danish defenders. And it is not improbable that the earthworks, which have been described, were raised during the Danish domination, of which we here witness the end.* Whether king Edward repaired the Roman walls as well as the Danish mounds and palisades I will not undertake to determine.** It is clear that nothing in the Chronicle justifies the theory, to which Camden gave the sanction of his authority, that the works of Edward the Elder included the building of a citadel not previously existing.
After this passing glimpse of Danish and Saxon Colchester, we are without any assistance from record or chronicle until the compilation of Domesday Book at the end of the reign of William the Conqueror. We do not know of any powerful opposition offered to the conquerors in Essex. But the unusual strength of the defences of Colchester, and the strategic importance of the position, made it important to secure the loyalty of the town by a Norman garrison; and there can be no doubt, that a powerful keep formed part of the castle before the first generation of Normans had passed away.
It is time for us now to face the question of the age of this remarkable building; and if only out of respect for one who was not only an energetic local antiquary, but a special benefactor of this society (I allude to the late Mr. Jenkins of Stanway), and I will add, out of regard to the opinion of an architect, who has done some service in illustrating the antiquities of this county, I feel bound to say a few words upon the theory of the Roman origin of Colchester Castle. *** Independently of the personal reasons to which I have alluded, I do not think that this theory deserves the ridicule …
* The erection of a castle within the walled town points, like the later Norman fortress, to a time of foreign rule.
** Florence of Worcester, relating (after the Chronicle) the repairs of the walls, adds virosque in ea bellicosos cum stipendio posuit, an incident which was perhaps borrowed from the castle building and garrisoning of the historian's own time.
*** See Colchester Castie, a pamphlet by the Rev. H. Jenkins; Colchester Castle a Roman Building, by Geo. Buckler, Parts I, II, III.
COLCHESTER CASTLE. 21
… and contempt with which it has been treated. The form and construction of this building are in many respects so singular, and some of its details bear so striking a resemblance to Roman work, and I will add so little resemblance to the Norman works with which it has been naturally compared, that I am not at all surprised that an enthusiast like our lost friend of Stanway, or even a careful observer like Mr. Buckler, should at times be tempted to think, that this massive structure owed its origin to the same race of builders as the camp of Pevensey.
In studying the keep of Colchester it is indeed impossible not to be often struck with the Roman character of the work. If we compare these walls with other buildings in which Roman bricks were used by mediaeval builders, we find among the materials of Colchester Castle a remarkably large proportion of perfect bricks without any mark of previous use. In this respect it contrasts most strongly with the neighbouring Priory of St. Botolph, where the material is chiefly Roman brick, and it is difficult to find a single brick in a perfect condition. Look again at the carefully arranged masonry, in which the horizontal courses of brick and stone are so regularly maintained, at the solid towers so unlike the light projections common in Norman keeps, at the entire absence of any Norman ornament throughout the whole building, except in the portal, which has been generally assumed to be an insertion (though as to this assumption I shall have something more to say), and we shall find enough to justify Messrs. Jenkins and Buckler in raising once more this question.
But although in many particulars we recognize a Roman character, there are others which appear to me to disprove a Roman origin. Although there is a large number of perfect bricks, still the greater number are broken, and there is no difficulty in finding upon many of them evidence of previous use. The septaria, Mr. Buckler assures us, must have been specially prepared for this building, and could not be used a second time, as they are here employed, in the surface work; and this may perhaps be the case as a general rule, but I could point out one example at least
22 COLCHESTER CASTLE.
… of a stone of this very kind in the surface work, to which the red mortar used with it in its former position is still adhering. I judge also from the difference in the bricks used side by side, that they were made at different periods, and collected from the ruins of various buildings. And I should account for the great proportion of whole and clear bricks in this building, as compared with later mediaeval structures formed of borrowed materials, by the simple fact that its builders, being persons of high authority and among the earliest in the field, were able to choose their materials from those ruins where they could be found in the most perfect condition. Although out of many ancient ruins, especially in Rome itself, it would be difficult, owing to the tenacity of the cement, to extract an unbroken brick, it is not to be supposed that the mortar used by the Roman masons in every locality and at every period was equally hard and durable. The perfect bricks of Colchester castle appear to be mostly of a late date; and we may well suppose that there existed in the Colony some buildings erected towards the close of the Roman dominion, the materials of which were not cemented so firmly together as those of earlier times. The Norman church of St. Albans, built almost exclusively of Roman materials, exhibits a proportion of whole bricks not unlike that of Colchester castle, its founders having had a similar advantage in having the first choice among the ruins of Verulam.
The proof of the Norman origin of this building is to be found in its general form, which, in spite of details in which it may differ from other examples, is the form of a Norman keep, and not the form of any other known building. If we try to imagine it a Roman citadel, how are we to account for that singular apse? Mr. Jenkins maintained that the whole building was a Roman temple, but who ever saw a Roman temple of this form? It would just be as easy to believe it was a Roman amphitheatre. And it should be observed that the building, as we see it in its bare and ruined state, carries upon it unmistakeable evidence of being the work of one period, and the outcome of one design. It cannot for a moment be taken to be a Roman building …
COLCHESTER CASTLE. 23
… be it temple or tower, transformed by additions or alterations into a mediaeval donjon.
In saying that the whole building is the work of one period, I do not even except the architecture of the portal, which has been so frequently said to be an insertion, even by those who have assumed the Norman origin of the keep. I have satisfied myself, by a frequent and careful examination of the work, stone by stone, that no insertion has taken place; and I have consulted a practical mason of considerable experience, who affirms this opinion without doubt or hesitation.* This fact, independently of the question of Roman or Norman, which we have decided upon other grounds, is of obvious importance with reference to the question, which still remains, as to the more exact age and origin of the building.
I have already intimated, that from the time of the repair of the fortifications at Colchester, by King Edward, in 921, we have no further record to adduce until the end of the Conqueror's reign. The Domesday survey, begun in 1083 and finished in 1086, contains a long account of this town, which I may add has been lately rendered more interesting to the archaeologist, by the instructive commentary of Mr. J. H. Round.** But this record is utterly silent as to the Castle. It should be observed however, that we must not be hasty to draw the conclusion that a topographical object not mentioned in Domesday, did not then exist, until we have first enquired whether the object is one which came within the scope of the record. Domesday book is not a gazetteer, but a survey and assessment for fiscal purposes; and it may be stated as a general rule, that the castles and fortifications of towns, when in the hands of the king, formed no part of the subject matter of investigation. It is true that the existence of castles in many towns appears incidentally by the survey, but the fact of their existence is never set down under the circumstances mentioned as a substantive part of the record. At …
* Mr. Cutts in his pamphlet on the Castle expresses the same opinion, for which he obtained similar corroboration.
** Lately published in the Magazine entitled the “Antiquary."
24 COLCHESTER CASTLE.
… Wallngford, Gloucester, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Warwick, Leicester, Shrewsbury, and Norwich, we owe the mention of castles wholly to the fact that houses, which had paid custom to the king in the time of King Edward, had been destroyed to make room for them. At Dover, Rochester and Exeter, where we know that castles existed, they are not noticed in Domesday. In like manner, in Colchester itself, there is no direct mention of the existence of the wall of the town; but here, as at Oxford, the right of the burgesses to the pasture in the foss, leads to an incidental reference to the wall.* Two conclusions respecting the Castle may therefore be drawn from the silence of the Colchester Domesday. One is this, that no fortress had been made or enlarged at the expense of the taxpaying houses since the death of Edward the Confessor. This fact is consistent with the assumed Danish or Saxon origin of the earthworks. We may also conclude from Domesday, that up to 1086, the Castle, if it existed, continued in manu Regis. Upon the question whether the keep had been erected or begun in the Conqueror's days, the survey gives us no information, either directly or by legitimate inference. Before parting with Domesday book, I will say a few words respecting a personage, whose name was afterwards connected with this castle. Eudo, son of Hubert of Rie, who held the post of sewer in the English court, appears in Domesday as tenant in chief of estates in several Hundreds of Essex. He was also a landowner in other counties. In Colchester itself he held five houses and forty acres of land, which had formerly been burgess-land and subject to custom. He also had a fourth part of St. Peter's Church, to which an estate was attached, the history of which is given at the end of the Colchester survey, in a passage which will, I have no doubt, be ably explained by Mr. Round. There is no sign that Eudo had at that time any further interest in the place; and the king's possessions appear to have been in the custody of the sheriff, Peter of …
* In commune burgensium iiij. acre terre et circa murum viij. pertice, de quo toto per annum habent burgenses lx. solidos ad servicium regis si opus fuerit, sin autem in commune dividunt, (Dom. Ess. 107.) Another incidental reference to the wall occurs in recording Ranulf Peverell's houses, quarum una extra muras est 16.
COLCHESTER CASTLE. 25
Valognes.* The principal estates in private hands, within the more extended limits of Colchester, were those of Earl Eustace, and John, son of Waleran, who had each a quarter of some lands situate in Colchester and of the township of Greenstead. The other half of this property belonged to the king, but the whole church was in Earl Eustace's portion. This church plays so curious a part in Mr. Jenkins's theory of the history of Colchester Castle, that it may be as well to add here, that there can scarcely be a question that the church intended was that of Greenstead, the later history of which is in perfect accordance with the Domesday account of it. Eudo, succeeding subsequently to the estates of the crown, and of Earl Eustace, that is to three-fourths of the lordship and the whole advowson, granted to St. John's Abbey the whole of the tithes of Greenstead (Monasticon ii. 893), while the Priory of St. Botolph acquired a fourth part of the township, no doubt from the successor of John, son of Waleran. (Monasticon, ii. 45) We have now to turn from Domesday to another document, the statements of which deserve attention, though they cannot claim any like authority. I allude to the traditional history of their founder, Eudo Dapifer, which is preserved in a writing of St. John's Abbey, Colchester. According to this narrative, which may be read in full in the Monasticon,** Eudo was with William the Conqueror at Caen, when his second son was nominated by that monarch on his death-bed to succeed him in England, and having persuaded Rufus to cross the channel, took the most active part in obtaining the kingdom for him, by securing the possession of several castles in the name of the deceased king, before his death was known in this country. I may say in passing, that the account here given of the importance of Eudo in these transactions is not confirmed by other authorities. The inhabitants of Colchester, the story continues, having begged of King William the younger, that Eudo might be made Warden of their town, had no difficulty in obtaining their request. Eudo came and took possession of his charge, and gained general favour by his government. Among other measures he is said to have …
* See Domesday, under Lexden.
** Morant. ii. 880.
26 COLCHESTER CASTLE.
… taken possession of the land of outlawed persons which was lying uncultivated, and by paying thereout their proportion of taxes, which had been previously added to the burdens of other estates, to have relieved the general body of burgesses. The writer relates in detail the story of the foundation of the Abbey, the building of which was begun 29th Aug. 1096, and the first Abbot consecrated about 1104. According to this authority one of Eudo's friends who assisted him in providing monks for his new house, was Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, whose name is so closely associated with the history of castle-building in England. Eudo died at Preaux in Normandy, in 1120, and was buried at Colchester abbey on the last day of February in that year. His wife Rohaise, daughter of Richard son of Gislebert, and niece of Bishop William Giffard, one of the builders of Winchester Cathedral, died within a year after his death, and was buried at Bee.
Another document cited in the Monasticon,* being a genealogy of Walter (son of Richard, son of Gislebert) the founder of Tintern Abbey, contains a statement referring incidentally to Colchester Castle, which ought not to be passed without notice. It is to the effect, that Richard, son of Gislebert, was the first husband of Rohaise, daughter of the first, and sister of the second Walter Giffard, and afterwards wife of Eudo, sewer of Normandy, who built the Castle of Colchester and the Convent of St. John, where he was buried with his wife in the time of Henry I.
It may be observed in passing, that the facts here mentioned are not entirely consistent with what we learn, apparently with more accuracy, from the Colchester account, where Eudo's wife Rohaise, is described as the daughter of Richard fitz Gislebert, by another Rohaise, sister of William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester, and is said not to have been buried at Colchester. It may be added as another inaccuracy, that Eudo is called sewer of Normandy whereas it appears from his foundation charter of Colchester abbey, that he held that position in the English court, since he styles himself Dapifer domini Regis totius regni Anglici.**
* Monasticon. i. 724.
** Monasticon. ii. 892.
COLCHESTER CASTLE. 27
The statement that Eudo was the founder of Colchester Castle is repeated in some memoranda relating to the history of this place, which are cited by Morant from an old record book of the town, now lost but said to be of the date of Edward III., where the tradition appears in
the following form : —
Anno 1076, Eudo construxit Oastrum Oolcestrie in fundo palatii Ooelis quondam regis.*
Turning from these assertions, the authority of which we have little means of estimating, except by the mixture of error which they manifestly contain, I must now call attention to a document of more importance in reference to our subject, which has been frequently referred to by previous writers upon this matter, but by a singular consensus in error, always with the same serious mistake as to its author and date. I refer to the royal grant to Eudo, preserved in the register of Colchester Abbey, now in the possession of Lord Cowper, an instrument which has been generally attributed to William Rufus, but which really belongs to Henry I. As it has not before, as far as I know, been accurately printed, I give it in full:—
[Ex Registro Monasterii S. Johannis Baptistse Colecestriae, lib. i. parte 3. p. 12.] Henricus senior de civitate Colecestrie et Turri traditis Eudoni.
Henricus ... Anglorum Mauricio Londoniensi Episcopo et Hugoni de Bochelanda et omnibus Baronibus suis Francis et Anglis de Essexa salutem. Sciatis me dedisse berligne et ad amorem concessisse Eudoni Dapifero meo Ciuitatem de Colecestria et turrim et Castellum et omnes eiusdem Ciuitatis firmitates Cum omnibus que ad illam pertinent, sicut pater meus et frater et ego earn melius habuimus unquam et cum omnibus consuetudinibus illis quas pater meus et frater et ego in ea hucusque babuimus Et hec concessio facta fuit apud Westmonasterium in primo natali post concordiam Roberti Comitis fratris mei de me et de illo Testibus Eotberto Episcopo Lincolnie et W. Gifardo Wintoniensi electo et Roberto Comite de Mellenda et Henrico comite fratre eius Et Rogero Bigoto et Gisleberto filio Ricbardi et Rogero fratre eius et Rotberto filio Baldwini et Richardo fratre eius.**
The treaty between Henry I. and his brother Robert …
* Morant’s History of Colchester, 8; Jenkins’ Colchester Castle, 32.
** The above copy was taken from Dewe’s volume, MS. Harl. 312. f. 72; but its accuracy has been verified by Mr. J. E. L. Pickering, who has kindly collated it with the original cartulary, now in the library at Wrest.
28 COLCHESTER CASTLE.
… took place in August, 1101; the present charter therefore belongs to the Christmas of that year.
It is very remarkable, that in this grant of the town and its fortifications to Eudo, the principal subject of gift next the town itself is the Tower. I need scarcely remind my hearers, that this was the word usually applied by the Normans to the new kind of stronghold which we call a a donjon or keep, while the older earthworks were properly described by the word castellum.* In London the keep has always been known as the Great, or White, Tower; and has by its predominence given its name to the whole castle. We cannot but find therefore in this prominent mention of the Tower as the most important part of the fortifications of Colchester, a strong argument of the existence of a keep at the date of Henry's grant; and we can scarcely doubt that if a keep then existed, it was the same building in which we are assembled.
Another authentic document connecting Eudo with this Castle is preserved in the same Kegister. It is his foundation charter of St. John's Abbey, in which he grants to the Monks, among other endowments, all the revenues of the Chapel in the Castle of Colchester, (omnes proventus capelle in castello Colecestrie) and all the revenues of all the chapels in all his manors on this side the river of Thames, specially at the great feasts, provided always that the Monks send one of their clerks to do the service of God there on holidays.** We have nothing to fix the date of this charter, but we know that a royal charter confirming the grant was obtained by Eudo and Rohaise from King Henry, at Rouen, in the year 1119.***
We have exhausted in a few pages the documentary and historical evidence bearing upon the date of this building, and the only authentic conclusion we can draw from it appears to be, that the keep was in existence before Christmas, 1101. For any further arguments we are driven back to what …
* Compare the expression fodere castellum, cited in a preyious note from the Bayeux tapestry.
** Monasticon, vol. iv. p. 609.
*** Ex. Regist. Colcest. lib. i. part i. p.2. Harl. MS. 312, f.72.
COLCHESTER CASTLE. 29
… may be derived from a critical examination of the building itself, with reference both to its general design, and to the details of its architecture and mode of construction ; and from a comparison of it with other works to which it may seem to be especially related.
With respect both to the general design and to the architectural style observable in the details, there is nothing, if we except the portal, which indicates with certainty any more distinct date than the Norman epoch. The decorations of the portal point rather to the middle period of Norman architecture, having neither the squareness and wideness of outline of the earliest work, nor the elaborate ornamentation which was common in the twelfth century. It would however be rash to fix any precise date for this design. The architecture of the Abbaye aux Dames at Caen, which was dedicated in 1066, appears to exhibit some features not unlike the present portal ; and on the other hand considerable resemblance may be found in the arches of the great gateway at Bury, which can scarcely be earlier than Henry I. The founder of Colchester keep certainly employed a master mason or architect of a very original turn of mind, and it is probable that, like Gundulf, he had his education on the other side of the channel. If so, the comparative complexity of the mouldings of the arch need not indicate a late date, while the total absence of the chevron ornament may perhaps be regarded as confirming the evidence of documents, which point to an earlier time than that of Henry I.
Some arguments of more weight may perhaps be drawn from a comparison of the work before us with other buildings to which it may seem more especially related. Unfortunately Eudo's undoubted edifices at Colchester have altogether disappeared. The remains of St. Botolph's Priory, which was founded in Eudo's life,* have the appearance of being of a much later date. The tower of Trinity Church, both in materials and construction, presents …
* See the charters of Henry I. to this monastery witnessed by Eudo Dapifer. Monasticon, ii 44. Eudo lived until 1120.
30 COLCHESTER CASTLE.
… a nearer resemblance to the keep, but as to the age of this building we have no evidence.
If we go elsewhere, and compare our keep with the examples which represent the same kind of structure in its highest grace and beauty, such as the towers of Rochester and Hedingham, we can scarcely avoid the impression that its design belongs to an anterior time. And this impression depends not upon architectural details, but upon the consideration, that when once the taste for a type so perfect in its kind has been established, an original design of an altogether different stamp, which would have been welcome before, is no longer likely to be produced. We must not however, in this train of ideas, lose sight of the influence which may be exercised over a design by the material in which it is to be carried out.
But there is another keep, which, though related to the beautiful class I have mentioned, does not properly belong to it, and from which the keep of Colchester cannot be dissociated. I mean the White Tower of London. No one who compares the ground plan of these two buildings can treat them as independent designs. The architect of London must have had Colchester in his thoughts, or the architect of Colchester must have imitated the keep of London. But it must be remembered, that the area of Colchester keep is about half as large again as that of London, while the architecture of the chapel (which in both designs materially affects the general form of the building), so impressive and beautiful in the Tower, is at Colchester rude in the extreme. Another striking point in comparing these two keeps is, that although closely related as to general plan, they bear no resemblance in the details of their several parts, as in their windows, stairs and buttresses. The walls of the White Tower appear to have been hastily built, and exhibit no such care to produce an ornamental result, as our Colchester walls with their picturesque bands of brick and stone; a circular tower is introduced in one corner of the London keep for the purpose of carrying a stair; the buttresses and pilasters diminish in size towards the top, and there are none of those massive …
COLCHESTER CASTLE. 31
… projections which distinguish the keep of Colchester from the generality of rectangular keeps. The tower of London, and not that of Colchester, is evidently the model of which we see in Rochester and Hedingham the more refined development
I cannot pretend to solve the question, whether the plan of Colchester keep was borrowed from London, or the reverse. There is some ground for attributing the White Tower to the skill of Gundulf, but I do not know of any certain foundation for the early date (about 1078), which has been commonly ascribed to it. On the other hand we have seen that the date of the erection of Colchester keep is, if possible, still more uncertain. It may be that both these kindred, though dissimilar towers, belong to the latter years of the Conqueror. The keep of Malling, which is, I suppose, beyond question Gundulf's work, is attributed by Mr. Clark to the period between 1090 and 1106, and yet it appears a step further removed from Rochester than the White Tower.
We have seen that two of our historical authorities, not the most trustworthy, claim the foundation of this keep for Eudo Dapifer. One, the Colchester municipal record, even gives the date (1076), when Eudo built Colchester Castle on the site of King Coel's Palace; the other, the Tintern register, merely asserts that Eudo built the Castle, as well as the Abbey, of Colchester.
It may be observed at once, that the date 1076, if not improbable in reference to the castle itself, is an unlikely date, supposing Eudo to have been the founder; since the Domesday book gives us no reason to think, that Eudo, up to the time of its compilation, had any predominant interest or rule in this town. The story told in the Colchester monastic record, that Eudo's custody of the town began early in the reign of William Rufus, is not contradicted by Henry's charter of 1101. It is certain that Eudo obtained possession of the forfeited estates of Earl Eustace as well as of the royal domains within the liberties of Colchester, since he drew upon both for the benefit of his abbey. The forfeiture of Eastace occurred at the beginning of Rufus's …
32. COLCHESTER CASTLE.
… reign, 1087 ; and in 1096, Eudo was already occupied with his monastic foundation.* It may well be, that the charter of Henry I. only confirmed or enlarged an authority which had been granted by his predecessor. If Eudo had any share in the building of the keep, his part in it may be ascribed to the period between 1087 and 1101.
The walls of this singular building appear to me to tell one tale, that their design and construction cannot have been a hasty or rapid work. The collection of the materials, especially of the bricks picked and extracted with care out of the Roman ruins,** and of a quantity of septaria which in itself is one of the marvels of the place, must have been a work of time. The depth and solidity of the basement, and the extreme care with which the peculiar masonry of the walls, both external and internal, is laid, indicate, especially in a provincial work where a great levy of operatives could not easily be made, that a considerable interval must be allowed between the commencement and the completion of the building. If in the absence of any more precise evidence it is worthwhile to venture a nearer guess as to the age of the keep, I should conjecture that it was designed some years before the death of the Conqueror, and finished under Eudo's rule, during the reign of Rufus. The expense which we may suppose to have been incurred by Eudo in finishing this work, may have been part of the consideration for the grant conferred upon him by Henry I.
Upon the death of Eudo, the castle and town of Colchester appear to have reverted to the crown. The Pipe roll of 1180 (26 Henry II.) shows an expenditure of 10l. upon the keep.*** There is no evidence of any alteration in the external defences of the castle having taken place in Norman times ; and several records of the reigns of John and Henry III. show that the palisades were maintained.
* Monasticon ii, 900.
** The reader will recall the account given by Matthew Paris of the collection of materials for the church of St. Alban, by several successive abbots, before its construction by Abbot Paul, between 1077 and 1088. Matt. Par., Vit. Abbat, p.25, 26, 31.
*** Rev. C. H. Hartsborne, in Journal of Archaeological Association, vol. xxi. p. 279.
COLCHESTER CASTLE. 33
Thus, on the 16th of April, 1215, Hugh de Nevill, the Sheriff, was ordered to permit the men of Colchester to take timber in his bailiwick for the enclosing of the town and castle;* and on the 11th of March, 1219, the Bishop of London, then warden of the town and castle, received orders to set up the paling of the castle, which had been destroyed by the weather, by the view of two of the most lawful and discreet men of the town.**
The repairs of the castle are mentioned in several other records, but it is no part of my plan to pursue its history further. I will mention however in conclusion one interesting fact, which has been omitted by Morant, that it was for more than forty years a part of the possessions of Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester, to whom it was granted on the 22nd October, 1405, and in whose lordship it continued until his death in 1447. His constable of this castle in the time of Henry V., William Bardolf, appears to have been on bad terms with the burgesses. The jurors in the Municipal Court made a presentment, in 1420, that William Bardolf, with force and arms, swords and sticks, lay in ambush in the Castle Bailey, and whereas the bailiffs and honourable men and their wives, in their joyance, were walking as they were wont to do, he of his malice aforethought, did there shut them up and imprison them, without the king's precept or warrant.***
In the division of Duke Humfrey's spoils, upon his sudden and mysterious death, this castle and the hundred of Tendring and fee-farm of the town of Colchester, were assigned by Henry VI., with other more profitable possessions, to Queen Margaret.
* Rot. Claus. 16 Joh. p. 195.
** Rot. Claus. 3 Hen. III. p. 389.
*** Report in Colchester Records, p.12. I take this finding of the borough jury to be simply evidence of the existence of a dispute between the authorities of the castle and the burgesses, respecting a claim by the latter to a right of way, or rather perhaps of recreation, in the castle bailey, founded upon ancient usage. The author of the History and Antiquities of Colchester Castle, (1882) p.50, whose note has enabled me, in the absence of my books, to make my own citation of the record more accurate, gives a more serious complexion to the affair. The constable, as I read the presentment, merely ordered the gates to be shut while the burgesses were walking on the entrenchments. The same dispute between the town and the proprietors of the Castle was determined a generation back in favour of the town, as I am informed here in Rome by the Chev, Arthur Strutt, whose grandfather was town clerk of Colchester.
34 COLCHESTER CASTLE.
P.S.— In preparing the above paper for the meeting at Colchester, I had not the advantage of reading a very able dissertation upon the History and Antiquities of Colchester Castle (8vo., Colchester, 1882), which issued from the press only a few days before the meeting, and which constitutes a valuable addition to our local history. Not the least interesting part of the book is the bold assertion, founded upon the analogy of other buildings of the kind, that not one, but two stories, are wanting to complete the original keep, and that the principal floor with the great hall and chapel were in the fourth tier. This is a most tempting hypothesis. There is nothing more perplexing than the singular poverty of what has been deemed to be the chapel in Colchester castle, especially when we compare it, as we must do, with the kindred keep of London. In both these towers the general design is made subservient to providing ample room for a chapel, and with what contrast in the result! This contrast too is the more surprising when we observe, that in other respects the Colchester keep by no means falls short of that of London in architectural pretensions; that its dimensions are larger, that its external walls are more carefully and ornamentally constructed (see p. 30.); that its internal provisions for comfort in fire-places and other conveniences were more ample, and that its portal and grand staircase are unequalled in any building of the kind. These considerations, as well as the general analogy of other keeps, are strongly in favour of the theory that in the original design there was a principal floor at a higher level. But I think it must be admitted that the slight existing traces of higher walls are not what might be expected upon this theory. The lowness of the ruined arch at the top of the west wall led me to doubt the existence of a higher story (see p. 20.), inasmuch as this arch could not be part of a window of any of the principal rooms; and' although the suggestion of an intermediate floor below the principal one might seem in some degree to meet this difficulty, still it does not appear likely that such a floor would have wide windows, unless indeed this kind of opening may have been serviceable for the defence. But the question, what can have been the use of these wide openings, of which we find the remains of another in the north-west tower, remains to be answered upon any theory. Such apertures, if they were in a curtain-wall, would be presumed to have been constructed for defensive purposes, and probably provided with a suspended shutter opening at the bottom. The whole problem invites further investigation by some archaeologist familiar with all the means of defence used in fortresses of the eleventh century.