Kenilworth Castle: How and why did the Castle Develop Over Time?

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Sam Stiff

Kenilworth Castle: How and why did the Castle Develop Over Time?

From the beginning of the 11th Century Kenilworth had just a lone watchtower atop the rocky knoll where the Stone Keep sits today. In this chapter I will describe the changes made to Kenilworth Castle over time, what, why and how affected these changes and who influenced their construction.

In 1120 the first major building work took place at Kenilworth, a Motte and Bailey castle was built on the rocky, gravely hill in the place of the old Watchtower, fifty two years after a Motte and Bailey structure had appeared down the road at Warwick. The first tenant of Kenilworth Castle was Geoffrey De Clinton, after being granted the royal manor of Stoneleigh, he needed to defend himself against his neighbours the earls of Warwick.

Between 1174-84 a heated political feud between Henry II and his son boiled over, resulting in Kenilworth Castle and others being provisioned and garrisoned by Henry. At this time the castle was rebuilt in stone, in Kenilworth’s case red sandstone, a material easily come across in the area. Built with thick walls, latest state of the art defences such as Slit windows, parapets, a secure water supply and a single spiral staircase leading up the keep. The whole structure was crafted upon a sandstone plinth, heightening the keep further. The keep was an oblong shape building with square towers. It was designed this way to spread the Keeps weight; the idea was that attackers couldn’t mine the wall down. Within the walls were also a chapel, stables, kitchen and hall, making the castle self-sufficient. Henry’s motive for this mammoth renovation of the castle was to arm the castle in case of further rebellions and uprisings in the area.

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Circa 1190-99 Richard I granted Kenilworth Castle the right to hold jousting tournaments, a permanent tiltyard was constructed near the castle gatehouse. At this time, jousting and imitation warfare were popular attractions.

Around 1210-15, King John further extended the castle; an additional perimeter wall was added along with towers to protect strategic points in the defence. The original ditch was filled in and replaced with a larger outer one. A small river was dammed nearby in order to flood the new ditch to create a mere, a kilometre long and ...

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