Page images

splendid mansions on all his estates, in merely maintaining which, the labour of his successors shall toil in vain. His Cathedral he dignified to the utmost with matchless ornaments and buildings, on which no expense was spared. It was truly wonderful to behold in this man, what abundant power attended him in every kind of dignity, and flowed as it were into his hand. How great was the glory-indeed, what could surpass it—when he saw his two nephews, who owed their learning and industry to himself, both elevated to the episcopate :—and not of mean sees, but of Lincoln and Ely, than which I know not more opulent in England. He was not insensible of his great power; and somewhat more harshly than became such a character did he abuse the favours of Heaven.”

The Bishop's four principal castles were those of Old Sarum (there was then no New Sarum), Sherbourn, Malmesbury, and Devizes. His possession of Sarum, as being royal property, was an especial gift of the crown, but the fabric could not have been large. The Castle of Malmesbury which was scarcely a stones-throw from the Abbey Church appears to have been only commenced by Roger. His culminating ideas of military architecture were realized and displayed in the towers of Devizes. In the construction of this vast edifice, which the Monkish historians with unanimous voice declare to have been the most formidable in England, he gave full scope to his aspiring tastes, and lavished upon it, says Malmesbury, “great and almost incalculable sums.” The same writer informs us, that the Bishop's own expression was, that "he built the Castle of Devizes for the ornament of the Church.” It is worthy of remark how many of the mediæval annalists, French as well as English, agree in this testimony; and though it cannot be denied that they occasionally copied one from another, yet the material evidence of the fact remained before the eyes of each successive writer, down to the period of Henry VIII. Matthew Paris, Matthew

of Westminster, Roger of Wendover, Henry of Huntingdon, the Gesta Stephani, Ordericus Vitalis, and Holinshed; these are only some of the witnesses. Ordericus Vitalis, uses the emphatic words, “There was not a more splendid fortress in Europe.Castellum quo non erat aliud splendidius intra fines Europe.

The dominating part of the structure was, no doubt, the massive central donjon or Norman keep, an approximate judgment of which may be formed by reference to the contemporaneous keep of Rochester, still standing;) a square double-walled building, containing the state apartments of the souzerain; and deep below, the prison vaults. The ballium or court around this keep, was environed with subordinate towers, and other buildings for warehouses, kitchens, and barracks. Then we descend to the moat, whose inner bank bristled with wooden palisades, and across which, the fortified passage appears to have occupied much the same place as the modern roadway, on the north side. In completing the defences, the engineer drew his lines around a considerable space lying beyond the moat, constituting what was called the barbican, guarded in like manner with turretted walls. The strength of the gangway in this direction, that is, towards the town, may be estimated by the fact, that it was furnished, at suitable intervals, with no less than seven or eight portcullices. All this is borne out by the testimony of the antiquary Leland, who visited the spot in the 16th century, and whose account, as that of the last person describing its features, may not unaptly be quoted in this place, (slightly modernised).

“There is a castle on the south-west side of the town, stately advanced upon an high ground, defended partly by nature and partly with dykes, the earth whereof is cast up aslope, and that of a great height for the defence of the wall. This castle was made in Henry I.'s days, by one Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, Chancellor and Treasurer to the King. Such a piece of castle-work, so costly and strong, was never afore

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]

nor since set up by any Bishop of England. The keep or donjon of it, set upon an hill cast up by hand, is a piece of work of an incredible cost. There appear in the gate of it six or seven places for portcullices, and much goodly building was in it. It is now (1540, 1542) in ruin; and part of the front of the towers of the gate of the keep, and the chapel in it, were carried, full unprofitably, unto the building of Master Baynton's place at Bromham, scant three miles off. There remain divers goodly towers yet in the outer wall of the castle, but all going to ruin. The principal gate that leadeth into the town is yet of a great strength, and hath places for seven or eight portcullices. There is a fair park by the castle.”

Gate, in the above description, means passage. By “the gate of the keep,” we are therefore to understand the fortified gangway uniting the keep with the towers of the moatbridge; and by the expression, “the principal gate that leadeth into the town,” is clearly indicated the continuation of the aforesaid passage from the moat across the barbican into the town; the most advanced tower of entrance, probably standing at the west end of the lane which still leads from the castle to the Bear Inn.

DUKE ROBERT'S IMPRISONMENT IN THE CASTLE. The first state prisoner of whom we have any record as entrusted to the lord of Devizes, was Robert Duke of Normandy, the Conqueror's eldest son. Returning from the Holy Land he was taken prisoner in action by his brother Henry I., who brought him to England and kept him in confinement for the long period of twenty-six years. The captive Prince, says Malmesbury, "endured no evil but solitude, if that can be called solitude where by the attention of his keepers he was provided with abundance both of amusement and of food. He lingered however till he had survived all his companions in the Crusade, nor was he liberated till the

« PreviousContinue »