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Mortimer's Tower (Early 13th Century)

Mortimer's Tower (Early 13th Century)

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1872

Shelfmark: 7817.s.2

Item number: 8

Length: 15

Width: 20

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

View of Mortimer’s Tower at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire. Founded in the 12th century, Kenilworth is the largest castle ruin in England and was one of the country's most magnificent noble residences. By the 13th century it was formidably fortified with a Norman keep protected by a curtain wall with towers, and surrounded by water defenses including a moat and a great artificial lake, the Mere. The castle was reached by a long, narrow causeway known as the Tiltyard for the medieval jousting competitions which were held on it. Mortimer’s Tower was the gatehouse guarding the entrance from the causeway to the outer court of the castle and dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. It may be named after Roger Mortimer, who presided over the Round Table of 1279 when a hundred knights assembled at Kenilworth for a tournament.

The image is one of 23 photographs illustrating a guide to the history and architecture of the castle by the Reverend E. H. Knowles. He wrote: “the present ruin, called Mortimer’s Tower, was not built before 1200-1215…and was enlarged in the style of Henry III. about 1223. Note 1. – The drain to the later part from a garde-robe above. 2. – The solitary Norman embrasure. Above the archway, says Mr. Robinson in his essay, was a projecting wooden gallery, called a bretâche, from which stones, beams, hot pitch, and other annoyances could be hurled down upon those engaged in battering down the massive doors which closed it. The inhabitants of Kenilworth are said to have been forced to demolish this tower by order of Cromwell.” Orders were indeed given by Parliament in 1649 for the demolition of the castle after the English Civil War. This policy was known as "slighting" and the intention was to damage a castle badly enough to make it indefensible. At Kenilworth, the north wall of the keep, the north curtain wall, and the causeway were all breached.

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