Did you ever have an incident of Deja-vu in your life. It’s a very funny thing. I have had a few very strong ones in my life. One was inside a castle. In this episode of my Friday Fish and Chips I talk about this.
I have been working on a cardboard project. It’s a dollhouse in a tudor style. It’s a nice project and a lot of fun. (That project is on my youtube channel here if you would like to see it)
Anyway, I have a friend over in the UK named Stephen and he went for a walk and took some pictures of Tudor buildings. These are around New street and Friar street in Worcester.
All the lines are crooked and the buildings all lean forward. And don’t get me started on how amazing the glass windows on the upper floors are. The buildings just have a wonderful hand-built feel to them. No mass manufactured cookie cutter stuff here.
Aren’t they amazing?
Just think about the fact that these buildings are probably older than America.
I have been thinking a lot about going over to the UK so I can see castles. But now I am thinking that there are whole lot of other things I will need to see including Tudor buildings and of course. . . I will need to get me some authentic Fish and Chips!
You may already know but I have the goal of building my own castle. It is part of the reason why I have been adventuring around America. I am visiting lots of castles and learning a lot about them, why they were built, how they were built, and what makes each of them unique.
It has been a wonderful learning process for me. And I have learned a lot. Let me give you an example.
Here is Grey Towers Castle in Pennsylvania. It’s a wonderful 100 year old castle. Yet pretty standard stuff when it comes to the castles in America.
But, I did discover something about this castle and gained a wonderful insight. You see, this castle is a bit unique, a little bit different than many of the other castles I have visited.
This castle has a wonderful network of narrow paths and secret areas around back. You can go for a walk in a charming wooded area just outside the castle. And in this area is a group of secret and intimate little spots like a covered gazebo a small fish fountain and some little buildings. It is just wonderful!! So, when I build my castle I am going to have an area just outside the castle like this. It is perfect for having intimate little gatherings of friends, maybe have dinner outside or a barbeque and drinks.
Here are some pictures of intimate little areas around the castle.
I am on a journey around America. I am visiting all 48 states and seeing a whole lot of sights. And while in New Orleans I found an old bookstore. It was a great little place with a lot of old books. And I discovered this set of three books:
I almost didn’t pull them down off a high shelf. There is no telling how long they were sitting there. And the spines were damaged so the title of the books is missing. It was simply a look to see. I figured nobody would bother to look at them. The title pages are missing on the inside so it’s almost impossible to know the titles!
And much to my surprise they were wonderful books! Just my kind of thing. And one of the books has a yellow post it note inside:
So, I am guessing that the name of the book is Decorative Antiquities to illustrate a variety of design details. And in three volumes.
And the books are full of illustrations. Simply that, lots of illustrations.
There are towers, cartouches, cariatides, columns, caissons and much more… wood carvings, candelabras, stairways, human figures, statues and much much more. It is a wonderful set of reference books. And perfect for me considering the fact that I am building a castle!
One of the wonderful things about traveling is that you run into unexpected little surprises of every type, food, entertainment, interesting people, new scenery and even mysterious little book stores. Yup, good to see America still has mysterious little book stores.
Nobody really gives it any thought, or any weight, but America does have castles….. a whole lot of them. A whole lot of them.
Once I started really delving into my research for my trip across the country I was a bit astonished by this fact.
Part of this misunderstanding comes from the timeline and the definition of what a castle is. If we stay true to the definition we have to include the idea that a castle is fortified. It is a fortress, A building of strong defense. And this philosophy held true right up until the period of time when gunpowder (and cannons) came into prominence.
The ability to take down any thickness stone wall with repeated barrages of cannons pretty much killed that old style of Fortress Castle.
From there castles changed to more of architectural artwork and ostentatious displays of wealth . The rich built them and lived in them. They were more palace than fortress.
An interesting thing did happen in America in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Wealthy people really took to the European concepts of castles and palaces. The wealthy and maybe a bit eccentric titans of industry started building their own castles. Not so much to defend against enemies, more as a place to live and a place to display their wealth.
America is dotted all over with these castle-fortresses. And they are magnificent.
So while we don’t actually have any castles that are a thousand years old we do have plenty of castles! And on my trip around America I am visiting some of them – well actually a lot of them. The count today as of May 31, 2018 is twelve of them. And I am still on the Eastern seaboard.
Would you like to follow along in the adventure as I travel America discovering and visiting all sorts of medieval things like castles, blacksmiths, meaderies, museums and more? It’s all happening on my youtube channel right here: Will’s Journey across Medieval America.
I have a big list of castles in America that I want to visit. I have already done some of them. This one is not too far away being in Providence RI. It is a very big armory. And it is currently not being used. It needs to be renovated and that is going to be expensive.
The Cranston Street Armory
It was built in 1907 and it has been used continually until recently, mostly by various military units like Military Police , Coast Guard and National guard.
There are two things about this Fortress that make it stand out. First off it is enormous. Very big for an armory. If I remember correctly the main area in the middle ( a large hall) is over 2 acres in size. One of the pictures here shows what appears to be two structures, one on the left and one on the right. But those are just the towers on each end. The trees block our view of the center of the structure.
The second remarkable thing about this Fortress is the beautiful yellow/orange stonework. It is remarkable.
You can see more pictures of this fortress on my website here: The Cranston Street Armory
I sent the author an email and asked him if I could get a copy for review. And he sent me one. My thanks go to him for that.
And I was so happy that he did because this is a terrific book. I Love it. It is broken down into two sections and in doing so it covers two very important aspects of castles.
In the first section it covers the basics of castles including their history, how they were built, how they changed, developed, fell into disrepair, and came back into prominence over the centuries. This is all good stuff if you want to learn about castles.
And in the second section we get a specific look at nine different castles. And we also get stories about them. And this is where the romantic and magical aspect of them comes through. The author has chosen these castles because they represent the whole of castles in England and they each have remarkable stories to tell.
And these stories cover all of those wonderful things that we have come to think about when we think about castles including King Arthur, Romance, betrayal, murder, intrigue, sieges and much much more. This is some wonderful stuff.
Yes, castles are big stone structures and architectural marnd vels. They are quite wonderful in that aspect. But they are also the endeavor of humans, and being so means they have lots of stories to tell.
And this book captures it all very well. If you are a fan of castles and all that they represent from the architectural to the romantic and mysterious then this is a book well worth getting. I recommend it highly! It is loaded with fascinating castle facts and castle stories. Five stars.
I love castles and have visited a few of them. If you frequent my websites you probably already know this. I do have a whole sub domain dedicated to them (Medieval Castles). I have lot of books about them and have done a fair amount of research on them. That for me is simply fun. But one thing that I had always wished for is a world map with all the castles on it.
One of those google maps where you can explore around, zoom in, zoom out and see various things. That would be great! Well…. there isn’t one of those maps, until now.
I decided that I would have to be the guy to make one! So I did. I made one. I didn’t realize how much work this project would entail. I would say I have about 50 or so hours invested in it. But now that the framework is done I can add castles to it rather easily. (currently I have 62 castles on the map)
If you are interested in castles you can check out the map right here. You can zoom in, pan around and explore the world and some of its most beautiful castles.
I was doing some research on castles. Nothing new there 🙂 And I looked up synonyms for “castle”. Well, a lot of the expected stuff was found. You can probably recite a list of them.
The more common ones include fortress, hold, stronghold, tower, palace and manor. Ok, those are pretty easy.
Then we get to a second level with some that are not as commonly known. I knew them because castles is my thing. They include an alcazar a safehold, a citadel and a donjon.
Pretty cool and I really love the old fashioned spelling of dungeon. There is writing potential with that word.
But then I ran across one that threw me for a loop. I thought for sure that it didn’t belong in the list of synonyms for castle. It is the word “peel”. Yup, just like the outside of an orange (noun) or the act of removing the skin from something (verb).
And then , there is a small fortress or fortified tower for residence or for use during an attack. And that is called a peel.
It seems very interesting to me that the word “peel” came to this. I mean what is the derivation of something like this? Does it catch both the noun and the verb versions that we are familiar with? Did a small tower like this have an outer peel of stone and did attackers focus their attention on these outer walls, slowly peeling them away with various siege tools?
I received an email from a web visitor who owns a shield and doesn’t know much about it. The front has a wonderful lion motif and the back has the name of the owner with a prefix of “Esq.” which means “Esquire”.
Now that is a wonderful word that you don’t hear much any more. Here in the United States it is a title appended to a Lawyers surname. Which is an interesting use. But it has an older and more romantic meaning.
If you look it up this is what you find:
The historical definition:
an officer in the service of a king or nobleman.
a landed proprietor or country squire.
But the most interesting definition comes from the LateMiddle English and it perfectly explains our shield:
from Old French esquier, from Latin scutarius ‘shield-bearer,’ fromscutum ‘shield’;
Now isn’t that kind of neat?
If you can add some information about this shield check out my webpage here: The Unidentified medieval shield