Sunday, January 21, 2007

Chepstow Castle

The weather in the UK has been particularly unpleasant this year so far. Not exactly cold, just grey, wet and miserable with the occassional gale thrown in for good measure. So last weekend I took full advantage of a bright sunny day to get out and about and play with my new dSLR. I decided to visit the nearby town of Chepstow on the border between England and Wales and to take some pictures of the ruined castle there, particularly as Utenzi had requested to see some pics of somewhere near where I live. The photo below was taken from the approach to the castle entrance and you get some idea as to what a large structure it was.


This next photo was taken from within the castle looking accross to the Wye Valley. You can see a ruined tower in this photo and many birds were roosting in the ruins. Chepstow Castle was successively added to over many years and was originally built by the Earl of Hereford, William FitzOsbern who was one of William the Conqueror's trusted officers, and was given the job of helping to maintain order and put down rebellions along the southern border with Wales. FitzOsbern began construction on Chepstow Castle in 1067. It was the first stone castle built in Wales, and its Great Hall is the oldest surviving stone fortification in Britain.

Chepstow Castle was remodeled and expanded several times in its life: it was expanded and fortified in the 12th century; in the 13th century a complex of rooms known as the domestic range was added; and in the 16th and 17th centuries it was further fortified. During and after the Civil Wars in England, it served as a prison. Among its inmates were the Royalist Bishop Jeremy Taylor and the regicide Henry Marten. The tower in which Marten was housed for the last 20 years of his life is now known as Marten's Tower and is the big tower in the first photo.

The photo above shows one of the heavy wooden doors within the castle and below is a shot taken in one of the towers showing a narrow stairway with an arch leading to an external walkway to another tower (this shot was not so easy to get!). There were not many people at the castle when I visited - a symptom I think of the time of year and the fact that shopping seems to be the main past time in the UK now, but it was quiet there and the lack of modern noise meant that you really got a feel for the 'heaviness' of the years and the history of the place.

The photo below was taken inside one of the large halls where you could see the remains of some of the sumptious decorative stonework there. The archwork that held up the long gone roof must have been beautiful. The owners of the castle would also have decorated the plasterwork that once lined the internal walls (most of it long gone but traces were still evident in places) and of sourse there would have been tapestries and large fires to warm the rooms. Many of the large fireplaces were still visible.


This final photograph is looking from within the castle back towards the main entrance, so it really does give you a sense of how big this castle is. The sun was going in at this point as the clouds returned but I wanted to inlude this picture so that you could get a sense of the size and to show you that the castle was built on a cliff right next to the River Wye. Behind the castle you can see some of residential chepstow. Just imagine having this the castle and the river as a view!


27 comments:

utenzi said...

Wow. Those pictures you took gave me shivers, B-K. Part of it was the content and your framing but a lot was due to the deep sense of history that was portrayed. Here in the USA many towns don't have any building older than a McDonalds restaurant (just kidding) so seeing a castle like that--especially in such a dramatic setting--really had a strong affect on me, B-K. Great post--and for the history you gave as well, it's not just the pictures that had an affect on me.

Michele sent me by to see your neighborhood and watch you show off your new camera. Too bad the links to the full size pics didn't work.

Nikki-ann said...

I'm here from Michele's today :)

Great photos. I've not been to Chepstow Castle, so I think I should add that to my list of places to go. I always prefer it when it's quiet. All too often I go to take a photo and end up waiting ages as people keep walking into the shot.

I was going to go and take some photos today, but it keeps hailing!

I hope you're having a good weekend. Take care :)

PI said...

That last photo is fabulous. Remember the Wye valley from holidays in the thirties. Been back since but it's never quite the same is it?
Michellee sent me.

Ps said...

Dont know why Blogger is doing this to me--The photos are simply not loading.I tried hitting the "refresh" button, and also logging out and loggin back in.No use.Shall try again.Badly want to see them.

carli said...

You may not have TIVO, but you do have castles, and that's really cool.

But really, it's a crime against humanity not to be able to have TIVO or anything like it.

Blond Girl said...

Good morning, Bob-Kat. Here from Michele's. Man, love the pictures! Having grown up in Minnesota, of course I never had anything like this with visiting distance. The closest I've ever gotten was Fort Snelling, built in the 1800's. But I digress.

The photos were so clear and told a great story. I could imagine how cold it would be to live there in the winter. I've always dreamed of visiting Ireland, Scotland and that area. Now, thanks to your tour, I want to even more!

rashbre said...

Great Photos. I've just been in Vegas, where everything is manufactured, so seeing real castles used for real castele defence purposes makes a chilling historical point too.

You are doing well with the dSLR, too, some great lighting and some interesting depth of field, too.

And here today via Michele's; Hiya!.

rashbre

kenju said...

Bob-Kat, you do a wonderful job of "travelogues" and your photos are really good depictions (great angles, interesting venues, etc.). I think you missed your calling!

Michele sent me, but I would have shown up sometime today!

kross-eyed kitty said...

Ohhhhh...those pictures are gorgeous! You clearly have a great eye for photography. Here via Michele's ...would you mind if I added you to my bloglist? I particularly enjoy travel photo's.
(and thanks for stopping by my blog too!)

utenzi said...

The larger scale photos really drive in how amazing that castle is, B-K. Quite impressive. I've long wanted to visit Wales and Ireland and knowing that this vista is nearby only makes me want to visit more!

Carmi said...

I am struck by how the light reflects off of the ancient stone. It's quite unlike anything I've ever seen, and it prompts me to stare at each image for an inordinate amount of time.

You took a stunning vista and captured it exquisitely. I can only imagine what it must be like to stand in front of this magnificent structure and drink it all in.

Wordnerd said...

I can't imagine being within traveling distance of any of these images -- they are truly exquisite. Thanks for sharing them with us.

Visiting here from Michele's.

Moogie said...

Wow! That is absolutely amazing! I can't believe how it just sits on the cliff like that. These are awesome shots! Michele sent me but I visit alot anyway. Have a great day and thanks for sharing those. Do you have any more?

Mr. Althouse said...

Those are great shots. The irony kind of struck - the ancient nature of the castle as depicted with a digital SLR. Old meets new!

I'm a history nut anyway, so I always love a good historical account with the pics,

and Michele concurs...

Mike

Last Girl On Earth said...

Those are really amazing photos, BK. I lived in the UK for a couple of years, and I know what you mean about getting out to enjoy a nice day in the middle of winter. (I don't miss the drizzle!) I actually got to go to Chepstow Castle a few years ago. Your pitures truly bring back my visit. Thanks for sharing! Michele sent me today. Hope you have a great week.

Star said...

Amazing. I toured a few castles in Germany. I have yet to make my way to Great Britain. Michele sent me.

Sarch said...

Bobkat now how am I supposed to finish updating my checkbook if you keep posting photos like this for me to stare at all afternoon?

Thank you for taking me with you to see this beautiful castle.

Sarch said...

I'm looking forward to traveling with you via your camera lens on your upcoming castle adventures!

Actually I've been trying to catch up the checkbook in between checking blogs...but you aren't making it any easier with these photos to enjoy :)

diyadear said...

The place is soo picture perfect!! wish to come there some time..

Melody said...

Wow - they are very impressive photos Bob-Kat. I especially love the door photo and the staircase one. Well done. That's one thing I do adore about Britian - all those amazing castles full of history. Just amazing and jaw dropping...

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

My Lord that is HUGE!!! It is so amazing to see these "abandoned" castles built so very long ago...1067??? Incredible. And to have built it on that cliff...How in God's name did they do that? One wonders what the cost would be to bring this castle or some of the others we have seen back to it's Original Greatness....Probably prohibitive, I guess, but....what a fantastic project THAT would be....! Thank you for once again showing us so much history, my dear.

Ps said...

Fantastic pictures.It finally loaded and was able to view them just now.

Claire said...

I've been to Chepstow Castle a few times and always enjoy my visit. Definitely one of my favourite castles so far!

I really need to get out with my camera!

TrueJerseyGirl said...

If I took pictures near where I live you would see strip malls and traffic. You are one lucky person.

Katherine said...

Wow, that last picture is awesome! I cannot believe how old that castle is, that people lived there, and that someone was imprisoned there for 20 years!!

craziequeen said...

Just checked the re-enactment schedule and we are not 'doing' Chepstow castle :-((

Cracking shots, lovey - you've always got a career if the civil service downsizes!!

cq

kenju said...

Bobkat, that was NOT me in the photo with Christa. I have never been a blonde...LOL