Almondsey


Paladrian Castle, Estalia

Site Description

The castle is built on a limestone ledge rising some 20 feet above the surface of the River Lin, with the cliffs of the gorge rising up an additional 250 feet to the west. Access is by river, or by a switchback road up to the top of the gorge; there is a postern gate to the north leading to the shingle and mud flats above the Arfon Brook, and to Pozwitz Grange and Craglin Castle. There are two wards, or baileys, with a moat and drawbridge between the two.

The river bank consists of firm mud and shingle, rising about 5 feet up to the limestone platform. except when it is covered by the spring floods. Two cuttings were made, one to house the dock entrance to the Barbican, the other to feed the moat, which was quarried out for use in the castle construction. A dam and sluice gate provides entry to the moat, with a staircase up to the Outer Bailey. It served as an emergency postern gate. The western side of the castle faces a small ravine, the Arfon Brook, which has been blocked by an artificial pool providing an aqueduct that feeds into the moat when the streams from the cliffs are in spate.

The oldest building is the Gate Tower, dating from the early 1600s; the outer ward was added 20 years later to form a modest tower house/barmkin fortification. Whatever was on the eastern side (probably a great hall and kitchen) was demolished in 1680 to make way for the southern gun platform, at which time the original boat landing was replaced by the current docking arrangement and the barbican was fortified.

Extending down to the river from the Keep is a salient extension leading to a round watch tower with a beacon on top. Each ward is also provided with a gun platform facing the river; there are two 'shooting' galleries inside the walls of the Inner Bailey. Note also the two accesses by water, one to the moat, the other to the outer barbican.

The Outer Bailey is used for domestic offices and the 'public' life of the castle. There is the riverside gun platform with its vaulted underground powder magazine (with a hoist for supply ammunition to the top). On its north side is accommodation for the gun crews in a two-story building, and the southern side has the access stairway and a two-storied 'shooting' gallery tower or sentry post overlooking the dock. The northwest corner of the ward has a three-storied building to house the servants. It has its own kitchen, dining room, men's and women's dorms, and four small bedrooms for upper servants; there is a tiny parlor on the top floor, where there is access to a wall walk on the west side. (Below that is a mural passage leading to the granary.) Three small vegetable gardens are on the east side of the granary and servants' quarters.

The southwest corner of the Outer Bailey holds the bakery and brewhouse and the castle granary. The Steward's Tower is four-stories tall; it has two storerooms and two bedrooms for the head servants. There is no stabling or carriage house for the castle, although there is a small stable in the Barbican for post horses.

Between the baileys is a platform overlooking the moat, with a drawbridge leading to the Keep/Gatehouse, a well, and a stairway up to the western curtain wall. Access to the eastern curtain wall is from the gun-crew quarters.

The Gate Tower was the first Tower House on the site, but has been converted for strictly military use, without the original Lord's accommodations. The ground floor has the gate passage with two portcullises, a porter's lodge, and two guard rooms. First floor has two guard rooms, the portcullis room, a WC, and an armory. The second and third floors are barracks. A garret contains various military equipment, and at the top is a caphouse and machicolated parapet walk. There is a two-story projection at the northeast side of this tower that contains additional arms and another guard room.

The Barbican is a circular enclosure south of the castle, not heavily fortified but rather inaccessible. It is ringed to west and south by the cliffs of the Lin Gorge, to the east by the river with its small watergate. Primary access to the site is by a switchback road leading from under an archway in a serpentine manner up the cliffside, in the direction of Spikes of M'Lott and ultimately the town of Hamnet.

View the site map (Lin Gorge). Two outlying ancillary structures are of interest: The Spikes of M'Lott tower at the southern entrance to the Paladrian Estate and Pozwitz Grange, a hunting/fishing lodge to the north.

The Inner Bailey

This is the Duke's private ward, consisting of a keep, kitchen, cellars, Great Hall, Solar, and a northern tower (the Castellan's residence, with a prison under it) and barbican gate. The east side of the courtyard is protected by the northern gun platform. A powder magazine lies under the courtyard, a flower garden with a fountain on the north side. The keep contains both quarters for the Duke's private bodyguards, his living rooms, and the Chapel.

The North Tower is six stories tall. Its basement is a prison, and above that is the northern postern exit and the Solar, the Library and an Office or Study, the Castellan's Suite, two stories of accommodation for military officers, and at the top a watch tower and gun battery covering the northern approach to the castle (three 45-pounder cannons).

The Northern gun platform was built in 1680 to protect the river side from a threatened invasion from Almondsey. There are five gun loops for 45-pounder cannons. A vaulted powder magazine was dug into the courtyard, with a 'dumbwaiter' hoist supplying the top.

Basements in the keep are fairly extensive, and were dug out of the rock with great difficulty as a rock quarry on the side of the ravine. Note the fairly extensive quarters for the garrison on the Entresol floor, with a room where the portcullis and drawbridge are operated, and a guard room below.

Keep and North Tower

The keep tower is a large building started in the mid-17th-Century and modified several times over the years. It is L-shaped in plan, with the wing facing the moat containing the defensive features, and a residential tower to the northwest. The east side provides access to the watch tower on the river via the main staircase turret, a very tall structure with observation rooms at the top overlooking the River Lin and a small terrace at the top, with a gazebo and flower-planting bed, over a room that has been used as a 'pleasance' in peaceful times; the terrace on the southeast side also has a flower bed. The two tower tops are also terraced (the southern having three turrets at the corners), with the top stories, marked 'private study' and 'art gallery' on the plan, having had various purposes over time.

From the basement on up, there are the following rooms: B. Vaulted cellars (fuel, food, wine, pantry, larder). G. Vaulted gate passage, Kitchen, Porter's Lodge, Guard Room, and main staircase with separate entry from the courtyard. E. Entresol floor, containing the Guards' Hall, portcullis room (armory), and dormitory, with a Music Room, an enthusiasm of the then-duchess in the early 19th Century, in the northwest tower, with access to the minstrel's gallery in the upper part of the Great Hall. 1. Library/Study, leading to a private stairway and the northwest wall walk, Parlor, formal Dining Room (having its own small kitchen), and the 'fancy' Armory with medieval weapons and armor. 2. Official rooms -- Privy Chamber, Anteroom, two-storied Chapel, Council Chamber, and Office. 3. Private, formal quarters for the Duke. 4. The main bedrooms. 5. Secondary bedrooms.

The North Tower is described above. It, and the Great Hall, were reconstructed in the 19th-Century, but pretty much to the same plans, after a disastrous fire. The Great Hall rises two stories, with a minstrels' gallery over the screens passage; note the small 'observation' room in the east wall at the second level.

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Keep as seen from the moat side
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Castle as seen from the river side
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Outer Bailey Facade
Lin Gorge

Estalia