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Facial Recognition

My Manchester Metropolitan University page: http://www2.mmu.ac.uk/hpp/research/current-phd-students/

Please help fund my research: http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks – just over 50% funded to date.

My Academia.edu page: http://mmu.academia.edu/SpencerGavinSmith

Last week, in my blog post https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/lector-si-monumentum-requiris-circumspice/ I introduced some of the topics I have covered in a paper published in December 2014 in the journal ‘Archaeology in Wales’ (if you want to download the paper visit http://mmu.academia.edu/SpencerGavinSmith and click on the download button).

The 'traditional' view of the round tower at Dolbadarn Castle
The ‘traditional’ view of the round tower at Dolbadarn Castle – view from the west.

Last week was a discussion of the internal layout of the tower, something which every visitor to Dolbadarn Castle will have seen after climbing the steps to the portcullis first floor entrance of the tower. However, the vast majority of visitors follow a clearly defined pattern of visiting habits and do not stray beyond the confines of the medieval castle walls and 1950s Ministry of Works fencing. However, when the visitor does stray, there are clues to how the castle functioned still visible in the upstanding masonry.

The south-eastern face of the round tower at Dolbadarn Castle
The south-eastern face of the round tower at Dolbadarn Castle.

Access to the southern side of the round tower is very simple – step over the low wall which links the round tower to the rectangular south-western tower and make your way down the bank. Visible in the south-eastern face of the round tower are a series of holes running diagonally up the face from the door in the southern face (discussed last week in the blog on the interior) to an opening in the upper floor on the eastern side. These holes have not been discussed in any of the previous work written about the castle, and it would appear that they supported a wooden staircase around the outside of the castle at this point.

Why would a castle require a wooden staircase around the outside? Quite simply it provided an opportunity for those who were not allowed access into the castle to see the ‘Prince of Aberffraw and Lord of Snowdon’ in the flesh and be sure that the person their own lord was visiting when he entered the castle was Llywelyn ab Iorwerth.

The idea of a viewing platform or balcony is one we are familiar with today in both a secular and a religious context.

Queen Elizabeth II and her family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
Queen Elizabeth II and her family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
Pope Francis delivers a "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2014.
Pope Francis delivers a “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican December 25, 2014.

In the case of Queen Elizabeth II, if we did not see her either on the balcony or on one of her tours around the country, how would we recognise her?

50p piece with Queen Elizabeth II depicted on the reverse.
50p piece with Queen Elizabeth II depicted on the reverse.

Coins are a way in which people have recognised their leader, and in Wales where there was no coinage produced by the native princes (the single coin known of Hywel Dda excepted – see here for information: http://www.britnumsoc.org/publications/Digital%20BNJ/pdfs/1982_BNJ_52_11.pdf) the Princes were perepatetic, passing from stopping place to stopping place in order to show they were alive, well and capable of ruling.

By using the external stairs to pass from the first to second floor, the visiting lord’s entourage could see Llywelyn ab Iorwerth passing from the lower chamber to the upper chamber and by sure that their lord would be having an audience with the man who ruled over a large part of Wales at the height of his power.

Next week I’ll look at the female side of the castle. Thank you for reading.

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Lector Si Monumentum Requiris Circumspice

My Manchester Metropolitan University page: http://www2.mmu.ac.uk/hpp/research/current-phd-students/

Please help fund my research: http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks

In my blog post https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/an-attempt-to-buck-the-trend/ I wrote about how different people looked at Dolbadarn Castle (Latitude 53.116526; Longitude -4.114234) from different perspectives and viewpoints. This month I had an article published in the journal ‘Archaeology in Wales’ for 2014 entitled “Dolbadarn Castle: A Thirteenth Century Royal Landscape” (pp.63-72).. I won’t recount the full article here but I will offer a few insights into the castle’s design and symbolism.

The round tower at Dolbadarn Castle
The round tower at Dolbadarn Castle

The round tower at Dolbadarn is a very sophisticated structure, and in seeking a parallel for it, rather than look at other marcher round towers it would appear that the Wakefield Tower in the Tower of London is perhaps the closest in form and function.

The Wakefield Tower at The Tower of London
The Wakefield Tower at The Tower of London

Whilst the exterior now appears unremarkable, subsumed and altered – with tourists passing by it to reach for them ‘the main event’ of The White Tower, the interior gives some idea of its original purpose.

The interior of the Wakefield Tower, Tower of London
The interior of the Wakefield Tower, Tower of London

The Wakefield Tower was constructed during the reign of King Henry III as part of his new royal lodgings. Work by Curnow, published in 1977 and by Thurley, published in 1995, demonstrated that the Upper Room of the Wakefield Tower was used as the King’s Great Chamber and was designed to contain a ‘chair of estate’.

As part of my research I went back and re-examined the original reports on the conservation of Dolbadarn Castle by the Ministry of Works in the 1940s and 1950s and the subsequent description by the RCAHMW in their second volume on ‘Caernarvonshire’, published in 1960. I also went to the castle on several occasions (helped by living in the village of Llanberis just next door) and re-examined the fabric for myself.

The interior of the round tower at Dolbadarn Castle can, for ease of explanation, be divided into four sections. The flooring arrangements for the round tower were discussed by McNeill and compared to other round towers (2003: 99).  The lowest section comprises a basement, and this would have been reached through a trapdoor in the floor. It is here that high-value goods are likely to have been stored, with the vent providing some air circulation once the trapdoor was closed. At first floor level is the doorway into the round tower, protected by a portcullis which would have been raised to allow entry inside. Looking around the room clockwise, the first floor provided access to the garderobe tower, to a doorway on the opposite side of the room and to the right of this is a fireplace, whose chimney flue runs through the thickness of the wall.

The second floor was accessed from the spiral staircase which ran within the width of the wall. Looking around the room clockwise, there is a large window opening into which the portcullis slid, followed by the second floor access to the upper floor of the garderobe tower. To the right of these are two windows, a fireplace whose chimney flue runs through the thickness of the wall and finally another window.

What is immediately apparent is the difference in the amount of light which would have originally entered the first and second floors respectively. The first floor has no windows, and two doors, one of which, next to the fireplace was much narrower than the other, the portcullis protected entrance. By contrast the second floor has four large windows, allowing light to flood into this room.

Interior of the first floor of Dolbadarn Castle from the entrance door.
Interior of the first floor of Dolbadarn Castle from the entrance door.
Interior of the second floor of Dolbadarn Castle from the internal staircase.
Interior of the second floor of Dolbadarn Castle from the internal staircase.

The second floor would appear to have served at Llywelyn ab Iorwerth’s Great Chamber, in a similar fashion to the King’s Great Chamber on the upper floor of the Wakefield Tower. A ‘chair of estate’ would have sat on the wall opposite the spiral stair entrance, and with light entering the room from all sides it would have made for an impressive meeting with the ‘Prince of Aberffraw and Lord of Snowdon’. The mountains of Snowdonia, including Snowdon itself served as the backdrop to Llywelyn, as they could be seen from the second floor windows, or by climbing the spiral stairs to view them from the wall walk round the roof of the tower.

The Round Tower of Dolbadarn Castle from the lower slopes of Mount Snowdon.
The Round Tower of Dolbadarn Castle from the lower slopes of Mount Snowdon.

Next week I’ll explain how the Wakefield Tower and the Round Tower at Dolbadarn are different – and why medieval coinage may have something to do with this.

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Bookends

My Manchester Metropolitan University page: http://www2.mmu.ac.uk/hpp/research/current-phd-students/

Please help fund my research: http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks

I’ve been very fortunate to see two books to which I have contributed chapters published in the last two weeks. One has had a very long gestation period for one reason or another, whilst the other has appeared almost without me realising.

‘Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen’, edited by Mark Baker, was published by the charity ‘Love My Wales’ on the 6th of December 2014 in a parallel English and Welsh text. In a blog post back in August 2013 https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/park-it-like-you-stole-from-it/ I mentioned that I’d identified the medieval park at Brynkir (Longitude 52.966347; Latitude -4.199188) and that the Welsh national media had picked up on the story http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-23458968.

Subsequently Mark Baker, who is researching ‘The Impact and Development of the Welsh Country House’ for his PhD at Cardiff University contacted me to ask if I would contribute a chapter on the identification of the medieval deer park and how it could have been used by Welsh royalty in the 13th century. The opportunity to be able to write about a park I had only very recently identified and set it in context with other research on the estate and its inhabitants was too good to turn down.

The cover of the 'Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen' book.
The cover of the ‘Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen’ book.

Research into the park at Brynkir is important because it offers the opportunity to place it into context with the two successive houses which were constructed within the park. These houses were constructed from the fifteenth century onwards, replacing the park hunting lodge which would have served the motte and bailey castle of Dolbenmaen (Latitude 52.964237; -4.224996).

Plas Dolbenmaen with the motte for the castle at Dolbenmaen in the background
Plas Dolbenmaen with the motte for the castle at Dolbenmaen in the background

Importantly, the landscape context of the medieval park remains substantially intact, particularly compared to other parks which have seen development impinge upon them. The book launch was held in the Community Centre in Golan, a village to the south of Brynkir and the launch was opened by Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas who contributed the foreword to the book and is the Welsh Assembly Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, the political constituency in which Brynkir is situated.

Left to Right: Spencer Gavin Smith, Mark Baker, Adam Voelcker, Lord Ellis-Thomas, Ceri Leeder, Spencer Beale (behind Ceri Leeder), Shaun Evans
Left to Right: Spencer Gavin Smith, Mark Baker, Adam Voelcker, Lord Ellis-Thomas, Ceri Leeder, Spencer Beale (behind Ceri Leeder), Shaun Evans Picture taken by Rhys Mwyn

If you would like to purchase a copy of ‘Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen’, visit the Love My Wales website at http://www.lovemywales.org Price is £15:00 with £4:99 postage and packing. All proceeds from the sale of the book being used to fund the 2015 season of archaeological excavation at Brynkir.

‘Deer and People’, edited by Karis Baker, Ruth Carden and Richard Madgwick was published by Windgather Press on the 9th of December 2014. Bringing together twenty four papers from conferences in Lincoln and Paris, I attended the conference in Lincoln in 2011 and gave a paper on the topic of ‘Parks and Designed Landscapes in Medieval Wales’. The presentation of this paper marked the first time I had presented a paper on my PhD topic as a whole, rather than on an individual park and its attendant landscape. The paper attracted several questions which I wasn’t able to fully answer at the time, but the paper benefited greatly from presenting in front of people who were able to push me like this.

Cover of Deer and People
The Cover of the Deer and People book

The paper covers parks and designed landscapes I have discussed previously in my blog, including Sycharth (Latitude 52.824530; Longitude -3.1808960), Eyton (Latitude 52.991226; Longitude -2.968168) and the Parks of Dyffryn Clwyd including Ruthin (Latitude 53.114477; Longitude -3.310576). I’m hopefully that the paper encourages other researches to engage with the topic. Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss the papers in greater detail, but I wanted to inform you that my research – along with the research of others – is available for dissemination.

If you would like to purchase a copy of ‘Deer and People’, visit the Oxbow Books website at http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/windgather-press-imprint/deer-and-people.html Price is £36:00.