Susanna Gregory writes
By Medieval Murderers, The - January 19, 2012
Writersare always being told to keep to what they know, so I decided to set myMedieval Murderers novellas in
Thefirst stage was just to wander, which is something I did (and still do) for theBartholomew novels set in
Thesecond stage was to look at what buildings survive. The most obvious is thecastle. It was once a huge fortress, one of the most important in south
Evenin the 1190s, when it would have been fairly rudimentary, it would havedominated the town, which was one reason why it was there. The
Partsof the castle survive, although they are dwarfed by modern buildings,particularly the council offices. However, most remains are later than thetwelfth century, so I had to turn to archaeological reports to know what theplace was like in the 1190s. They provided me with an excellent picture. Thecastle would have been far more simple than the elaborate complex thatdeveloped later. It would have had a motte with a tower on top, and twobaileys. Wooden palisades were all around it, and many of its buildings –barracks for the troops, kitchens, stables, storerooms etc – were probablywooden, too. It stood on the plateau overlooking the River Towy, guarding thebridge.
Thethird stage was to see what historical records could tell me. There is one thatshows Henry II spending the then vast sum if £170 on the castle, which suggeststhat some parts may have been built in stone. The notion of replacing woodenwalls with stone ones is a feature that plays a role in several of my MedievalMurderer stories. Another document records a serious raid in 1215, which wassupposed to have all but destroyed the fortress; this has been interpreted asmeaning that it was still mostly wood.
Thecastle was not the only building of importance. There was also the parishchurch, St Peter’s. Today, its iconic white tower still watches over the town.It is a fabulous building, with a wide nave and spacious aisles, capable ofholding hundreds of people. No one knows exactly when it was founded – it mayhave been pre-Norman – but mention of it appears in a record dating to theearly twelfth century. This shows King Henry I giving it to Battle Abbey – theplace built by William the Conqueror (his father) to commemorate the battlethat won him the English throne. That meant tithes from
Likethe castle, St Peter’s would not have been grand in the 1190s. It wouldprobably have been built of stone, and would have been small, dark andintimate, like many Norman churches.
Therewas a second religious foundation in the town, too, but this belonged to theFranciscans, who did not arrive in the country before 1215. The Greyfriarscould thus play no part in any tale set in the 1190s.
Thecastle, priory and church were the main buildings of note in 1190s
Sowhat was happening in
Recordsfrom the time give the name of a few of
Butas with all historical research, the more you learn the more you realise thereis to know. My investigations into 1190s