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Castles of Great Britain: Volume 1 [Secure eReader]
eBook by Linda Lee

eBook Category: History/Reference
eBook Description: Although various types of fortification existed well before the invasion and many modern "Stately Homes" are often referred to as such, this book explores 30 of the countries surviving structures considered to be 'true castles'. Built between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries when they signified power and status, these fortifications lie at the very heart of Britain's heritage. The purpose-built south coast defences of Henry VIII are a bit of an anomaly, but several examples of these are included for their diversity. Each article comprises a colour photograph, an historical overview, and an information panel containing opening times, grid reference, address, telephone number, and web site details (where applicable).

eBook Publisher: Heritage Trail Publications Ltd
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2004

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For the purpose of this excerpt the photograph and information table have been removed

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle stands on the wild and rugged north coast of Cornwall and, as a consequence, has suffered much erosion over the centuries. The site is split into two distinct segments: the landward section containing the remains of the upper and lower wards that stand rather precariously on the edge of a crumbling precipice; and the inner ward that lies on the narrow ridge linking the projecting headland to the mainland.

It is not known for certain who built the medieval castle but evidence suggests it was Richard, Earl of Cornwall (brother to Henry III), as he acquired the site c1234, which seems to coincide with the date of the walled remains. The Norman foundation of the castle has been attributed to Reginald de Dunstanville, a previous Earl of Cornwall from the mid-twelfth century. From twentieth century excavations, much evidence was found to support occupation of this site from Roman times, when tin mining activities would have been well under way. But by the beginning of the seventh century it would seem that the 'island' was deserted for the next 400 years. No explanation can be found for this sudden departure, or indeed why the people returned at the end of the first millenium, when the little Christian chapel of St Julitte was built.

Even now, the origins of Tintagel Castle are surrounded by intrigue and mystery, but what is known is that it was not inhabited for any great length of time. Documented evidence records that the castle was in a poor state of repair during the fourteenth century, the Great Hall apparently being roofless. By 1483 the castle was entirely derelict, although the Chapel of St Julitte was still in use. Consequently, the castle remains are sparse. The inner ward contains the most substantial surviving masonry, with a few of the fragmented walls of the Great Hall standing to a reasonable height. Foundations show the hall to have been some 80ft (21m) long and 36ft (10.7m) wide. Much of the site was restored during Victorian times, including the castellated North wall which makes a striking picture set against the rugged Atlantic coastline.

Factually, little is known about the history of the recent castle, but myth and legend have been associated with Tintagel since the Dark Ages. When the Romans abandoned the site, who did occupy this harsh and inhospitable headland, battered by the unforgiving seas? Perhaps it would have been the kind of place sought by a Celtic Christian community or, more likely, the site of a royal stronghold for the early Cornish kings. In the twelfth century, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote about 'the palace that belonged to Gorlois Duke of Cornwall whose wife, Igerna, one day aroused the passions of King Uther Pendragon. A dispute ensued over his unwanted attentions, and Uther laid siege to the palace. Unable to breach the walls Uther, assisted by the magician Merlin, assumed the image of Gorlois one night and entered the castle unnoticed to seduce Igerna. The son borne of this night was to be the young King Arthur'. Whether Geoffreys words were based on fact or romantic fiction is uncertain, because the chronicle was written some 600 years after Arthur's supposed reign. Nevertheless, it is a legend that has intrigued countless generations, and will no doubt continue to do so.

Whatever the truth, it is reasonable to assume that this area was the stronghold of past Cornish Kings simply by the fact that Richard built the modern castle here.

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