The Keep was originally constructed c.1130AD and now stands at over 100 feet tall, having been constructed in three separate phases ending in the late 14th century. Leading up to the keep would have been several smaller buildings, such as stores and a chapel, most of which no longer survive. The entrance is on the first floor via a set of stairs.
The Keep's purpose was not only to house important visitors, but also several chambers on the first floor that would have originally housed royalty. The floors above were generally of a less luxurious nature and would have housed those of a lower rank, with the third floor being added "perhaps around 1320" (Goodall, 2006, p.8).
The keep itself was also modified on all levels to accommodate prisoners during the early 17th century, which involved makeshift platforms being assembled on each floor so that more could be fit in. There are also some suggestions that part of the keep was used a 19th century theatre.
The view from the top of the keep obviously provided significant defensive advantages, especially at a time where there were few other buildings in the area. This meant that the enemy would be seen a great distance away.
|- Richard II's Palace, looking south. The larger windows above belonged to the great hall. (Click to Enlarge).||- Inside the palace, on the lower floor. This is where store rooms and kitchens were originally, with the great hall being on the floor above. (Click to Enlarge).|
|- Keep. (Click to Enlarge).|
Richard II’s Palace
King Richard II had a palace built on the site between 1396 and 1399 "at a cost of over £1,700" (Cunliffe, 1967, p.23), during which time it was used as a royal residence. The palace and western range consists of a great hall and chambers, as well as a kitchen, pantry, storerooms and a porch.
The main shell survives, however none of the buildings are roofed, and the upper floors also have not survived. Interestingly, the Great Hall and other important areas were located on the first floor, with the kitchens beneath (see photographs).
Unfortunately, as Cunliffe explains, "Richard was deposed before he could make use of his modernised palace, and gradually through lack of use and care deterioration set in" (1967, p.23).
Ashton’s Tower and Ranges
Sir Robert Assheton (Constable) commissioned a tower to be built in 1376, along with the constable’s hall, which extended from the tower along the north wall. There were several chambers, which linked the constable’s hall with the lower floors of the tower.
The rest of the range buildings were mostly single storey service-type buildings, such as “a store room or stable to the north, and a kitchen to the south” (Goodall, 2006, p.17).
The original east range buildings had largely fallen into disrepair by the time of Richard II’s reign and so were rebuilt during this time. Sir Thomas Cornwallis also ordered substantial renovations to several of the buildings in the south and eastern ranges during the seventeenth century. Today, the South range is in use as the English Heritage ticket office for the inner bailey.
|- The gatehouse from the inside. Each phase can be clearly seen. (Click to Enlarge).||- Prisoner's writing in the Inner Bailey (Click to Enlarge).|
|- Ashton's Tower (Click to Enlarge).|
Also of note in the Inner Bailey area is the gatehouse, which bridges part of the moat to link the inner and outer bailey. The gatehouse itself was initially constructed in the twelfth century, as the stone walls that form the inner bailey were themselves constructed. The gatehouse, like most areas of the castle, has been extended in phases, though it is one of the most obvious extensions when viewed from the east or west since the differing periods of stone and brickwork can be easily distinguished.
There are four distinct phases to the gatehouse itself the first being of the original early twelfth century brickwork on the northern side of the moat. This was extended in the early 14th century, and again in the 1380’s during Richard II’s reign before a final section was added during the 17th century. This combination of additions provides “a remarkable succession of drawbridge pits” (Goodall, 2006, p.19), which would have presumably been the main method of defending the inner bailey should the outer walls of the fortification be breached.