Estalia Castle

Note: This was the first web page written for the Estalia site. You will note the inconsistencies with the rest of it, but as Emerson says, "Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." -- Grobius

Brief History. Ancient rural stronghold of the Kings of Lotta located on a high ridge overlooking the Gangle Gorge about twenty miles west of the city. It was originally a native hill fort built in the 8th Century with dry-stone walls up to eight feet thick, at which time it consisted of two large areas, Outer (including the current Lower and Middle wards) and Inner (including the current Barbican and Upper wards). The Priest-King Tholfl m'Tulm Mistre laboriously reconstructed the old walls with mortar in the 11th Century, and delineated the precinct into the four wards that exist today -- the southern wall of the Outer enclosure being demolished to provide the stone work for the agricultural buildings of the Middle Ward. Further work was done over the centuries by the Kings of Lotta until Almondsey was united under the dynasty of Jatta/Gerousle in the 17th Century, after which it fell into neglect save as an occassional summer palace or hunting lodge by the descendants of Slish Kueen-Chab and Himzip Icti-Kueen. When the old kingdom became an arch-dukedom, a new summer palace was built nearby -- click here for an (admittedly) incomplete description.

Description. The site is a granite outcrop above the Gangle Gorge that descends precipitously to the river with 600-foot cliffs on the west side. The outcrop is on two distinct levels (Barbican and Upper Wards), with the Outer precinct (Lower and Middle Wards) to the east. There is a ravine on the south side and a steep hillside to the east, additionally protected by a rock-cut ditch. Thus the only approach is from the north, where the sloping approach is fairly gradual but extensively wooded by the royal hunting forest, containing hidden gamekeeper and guard posts. Kajudder, the walled town, is five miles directly to the south, but one has to take the minor road from the northeast gate of that town and wend one's way windingly for some twelve miles through the woods to reach the castle. As described above, most of the thick outer walls were rebuilt with mortar from the remains of the ancient dry-stone walls of the native hill fort; they can be recognized from their cyclopean stonework and rounded contours.

The Minor Wards. The Lower Ward is now a simple grass-filled enclosure but probably contained wooden huts for most of the retainers. There are overgrown hummocks to the north outside the main entrance gate -- a simple arched entry with a guard room over it -- that probably represent all that remains of a small village (equivalent of the Roman Vicus that used to stand outside major fortifications of that empire). The rampart is simple, but very thick, and protected by a ditch. Outside the wall of the Middle Ward is a clay-lined ditch that undoubtedly once contained water. The Middle Ward, needing less protection, was rebuilt in the Middle Ages as an enclosure for livestock: enclosed pasture, small barn, stabling for horses, and a pound for sheep, pigs, and chickens, no doubt for the Lord's kitchens. Housing for the herders, grooms, and tenders was probably in the Lower Ward; now there are quarters for a much-reduced staff above the barn and stables. The Barbican Ward contains the Guard quarters and ancillary kitchen facilities such as a bakery and brewery, above which is servants' accommodation; these were built in the 15th Century on older foundations, as was the small gatehouse. There are two ways into the upper precinct, a 'secret' mural stair passage from the Castellan's tower and a tunneled ramp up to the inner courtyard.

Upper Ward, or Citadel. A complex, if small, building, and still used as a retreat by the rulers of Almondsey. (It is rather difficult to illustrate the floor levels as they are randomly distributed -- the Castellan's room is at the level of the second story of the Barbican ward, but at cellar level below the courtyard of the Upper Ward.) For all its amenities and fine construction, this castle has several lacks -- only a few fireplaces, and although well equipped with privies only one bath (in the King's bedroom). There may have been a bath-house in one of the other wards, as the Lottans were into ritual bathing.

(see main plan above for Great Hall level)

The eastern side of the citadel, just below courtyard level, consists of cellarage, with a separate buttery (wine/beer cellar) accessible to the Great Hall by its own stairway. Since the land slopes to the southwest, the courtyard was levelled by landfilling, so that the southern and western cellars are below ground level; this area is devoted mainly to armaments and hunting gear, all accessible directly to the Castellan, who was the most important permanent resident of the castle. His quarters are in the lobelike tower seen at the lower left; he also had access by stairways both to the Barbican Ward and the public level. There are many alcoves, recesses and separate storage rooms in the cellarage. The chapel, originally sacred to the gods Thud and Mother Lott, is shown on the plan, but not its access, which is by secret passage -- you don't really want to know what went on down here...

On the third level, the east side consists of the private servants' wing (housekeeper, nannie, etc.), the minstrel gallery of the Great Hall, the parapet of the wall overlooking the Barbican Ward, and a terrace on the northeast lobe of the old fortress. The west wing, over the Castellan's quarters, contains five rooms for guests, or perhaps members of the family; a sprial stair turret arising from the screens area of the Great Hall leads to a service passage to access the guest rooms and continues up as a watch tower 'minaret', a prominent feature of the castle. The Great Hall, while occupying two stories, is actually rather small. The King's audience chamber and office is on this floor of the keep, above the Solar or withdrawing room.

At the roof level, there are more parapets, including the King's private parapet overlooking the gorge, which also leads to a watch tower. His bedroom is at this level. One more mural stair goes up to the top story of the keep tower -- here was the King's private study. Some of the kings were known to be practicing wizards. A note should be made here about the five-story tall Keep. This very well may have been a broch-like structure in the early days of the fortification, although it has been substantially rebuilt. It has two domed vaults, one over the Chapel, the other over the Presence Chamber. Note also the small room next to the 'minaret' stair, which continues up to another level.

See also The Archduke's Summer Palace

Almondsey is also noted for its walled towns

Here are three of them: Kajudder, Nuorgk, and Ffanshoe. (These plans are 'pristine' in that they do not show modern and suburban development. The keys have been omitted as irrelevant as these drawings are just as effective as decoration.)

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