Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

was honoured with a royal visit by the Queen Dowager, who slept at the King's Arms Inn, on her return from the Lakes. Her Majesty was received with the greatest enthusiasm by the inhabitants. Accompanied by her chamberlain, Earl Howe, and by Joseph Dockray, esquire, then Mayor, the Queen Dowager, to the gratification of herself as well as of thousands of persons, beheld, from her carriage, the fine view from the Castle terrace. Her Majesty afterwards entered the church, and from the vicarage gardens had an undisturbed view of

"Stony, shallow Lone

That to old Lancaster his name doth lend "*

-the bay of Morecambe, the Irish sea, and the blue hills of Cumberland.

LANCASTER CASTLE.

This magnificent structure occupies, with the church, a commanding position on a hill to the west of the town. The Roman Castrum was commenced on the site of the present castle, the outline of the camp being an ellipsis, with a double wall and moat round the summit of the entire hill. Part of the moat yet remains. The form of the castle, as erected by the Romans, was a polygon. Two round towers are remembered by persons yet living, corresponding in shape with the foundations of other Roman towers since discovered, and which lead to the belief that the Castle once consisted of seven of these towers, distant from each other about twenty-six paces, and joined by a

Spenser's Faery Queene. BOOK IV.

small and open gallery. The present towers are the Dungeon tower, Adrian's tower, the Well tower, the Gateway tower, and the large square central citadel called the Lungess. Of these the lower part of Adrian's tower, the small square tower on the south side of the castle called the Dungeon tower, and the Well tower are supposed to be Roman. The large square tower built by Roger of Poitou, the Norman baron, rises in imposing majesty above the rest of the pile. Many antiquarians have supposed that the foundations of the Lungess tower are of Saxon origin. Be this as it may, there is little doubt that the superstructure is Norman, and of such massive strength as to bid defiance for many ages yet to come to the attacks of time. The Castle was anciently surrounded by a cemented and almost indestructible mass called the Wery wall, made by the Romans. The Wery wall might be seen in many places less than a hundred years ago, together with the ditch outside of it. This wall, when described by Stukely, ran west of the castle and church, towards Bridge-lane, pointing directly on the river. At Bridge-lane it made an angle and ran along the brow of the hill, to Church-street.

The Gateway tower, though of less vast proportions than the Norman keep, is the most picturesque part of the building. It was built by John o'Gaunt, whose statue occupies a niche over the entrance. The lilies of France, semi-quartered with the lions of England cut in a shield, were placed on one side of the entrance; with a label ermine of three points the distinction of John o'Gaunt, on the other. The Gateway tower is flanked by two octa

gonal turrets, 66 feet high, surrounded by watch towers. Round the towers and over the curtain are over-hanging battlements, supported by three rows of corbels, perforated in a perpendicular direction, to allow of boiling water or molten lead being poured down upon assailants, in the event of an escalade. The castle underwent a thorough repair and restoration by John o'Gaunt. It had suffered

greatly from the fury of the Scots, who in 1322 invaded England, and burnt Lancaster, doing great damage to the Castle. John o'Gaunt deepened and restored the ancient moat, placed a drawbridge in front of his Gateway tower, and put up a portcullis of thick wrought iron, the place of which may still be seen at the entrance gate.

The Castle of Lancaster in the time of John o'Gaunt was at the height of its grandeur and magnificence. Ever since the creation of the barony of Lancaster by the Norman Conqueror, Lancaster Castle had been not only a strong military fortress, but also the baronial residence. But its palmiest days were under the earls and dukes of Lancaster, before the duchy became an appendage of the crown. Either members of the royal family of England by birth, or in alliance with the blood-royal by marriage, the dukes and earls of Lancaster held their court in the Castle of Lancaster in something like royal state. It became the resort of the flower of England's chivalry. Barons, knights, and esquires who had won immortal honour on the well-fought plains of France, as well as ladies of high birth and gentle breeding, were entertained as guests within its walls, or formed the suite of these powerful nobles and

their families. The dresses of the Court were, as we have seen, of the richest character. Many were the gay processions of high-born dames upon their palfreys, and gallants in attendance upon their chargers, that wended their way down the Market-street of that day, upon some excursion of health or pleasure. Hawking was a favourite sport, in which the ladies of the court took great delight; and the chief falconer on such occasions became an important personage. The pleasures of the chase often summoned the nobles and knights from their early repose; a large red deer, with horns much larger than our present bucks, being found in great plenty in the forest of Bowland, in Wyersdale, Roeburndale, Hindburndale, &c. On other occasions the men-at-arms and archers were marched out for military inspection and review, while the dames of the court were sure to lend animation to the scene by their presence. Archery was a favourite pastime; and the meadow to the south-west of the Castle, in which the modern Toxopholites (known as the John o'Gaunt's Archers) meet for practice, has probably often been the scene of friendly trials of skill, in which archers in suits of" Lincoln green " have contested the prize with the sturdy Lancashire bowmen. The walls of the Castle itself were daily the scenes of brilliant pageants and of princely festivities. The barons and vassals of the honor held of the earls of Lancaster as in chief, and were under a sovereign allegiance and fealty to them, as they to the king. The surrounding barons, knights, and tenants were bound to frequent the palace of the earl, both to do feudal suit and service, and also to grace his Court with their

presence. To these on state occasions magnificent hospitality was tendered; nor were these state feasts, at which the ladies of the court were entertained, without the further sanction which the presence of bishops, priors, and other ecclesiastics could confer. The noble baron of beef, the foaming tankard of ale, and the wine of Bordeaux for the guests above the salt; the affability of " the good earl” and afterwards of" the good duke" of Lancaster; the rude mirth and good humour of the feudal era; the peals of laughter which followed the witticisms of some favourite and privileged jester, all testified that

"T was merry in the Hall,

When beards wagged all."

The Castle gradually went into decay until the reign of Elizabeth. The threatened Spanish arınada caused the various castles and forts along the coast to be put into a state of defence, and Lancaster Castle underwent a thorough renovation. In the battlement of the Lungess Tower may be seen a stone with the inscription

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

The first initials are of course those of the Queen; the latter denote the High Sheriff of the County in 1585, (Ralph Ashton, esquire). The Castle suffered greatly during the civil wars, and its history since that period has been simply that which attaches to it as the County Gaol and Debtors' Prison.

The history of the political and criminal trials of which

« PredošláPokračovať »