Rochester castle has been around for over 800 years. This massive and powerful keep continues to dominate our present day skyline. In fact there has been a few castles at Rochester over the early years of its life. However, the castle that stands there today is a 12th century keep.
(The above picture of Rochester Castle is my photo Please ask permission before using it.)
The original castle that was first at Rochester was actually founded in the outcome of the Norman conquest of 1066. It was believed to have been given to Bishop Odo by his brother who happened to be William the Conqueror. However, after the rebellion of 1088 it saw the first castle at Rochester abandoned.
After the rebellion of 1088 and the abandonment of the first castle there, William the Conqueror’s son William Rufus had Gundalf, Bishop of Rochester build a brand new stone castle there.
The castle that still dominates the landscape and skyline today was built about 1127 by William de Corbeil. This happened due to King Henry I granting Rochester castle to the Bishops of Canterbury. (This castle remained in the custody of the Archbishops throughout the whole of the 12th century.)
This Norman tower-keep has three floors above a basement. This sky dominating castle stands at 113 feet high. There is a tall protruding building that is attached to the castle itself which in fact has its own set of defences that have to be passed through before you enter the keep itself at level one.
In the year 1215, Rochester castle was garrisoned by rebel barons due to the castle being under an epic siege by King John. The result of this siege ended up with King John and his army bringing the southern corner of this castle crashing down. However, despite this happening the defenders held on for a further 2 months resisting King John and his army until they eventually were starved out.
Rochester castle was eventually rebuilt under the royal control of King Henry III and King Edward I. during the late medieval period it helped protect England’s south-east coast from invasion. However, this beautiful castle only remained a viable fortress until the 16th century. “By 1561 the grand old tower-keep was but a relic from a bygone age.” (Quote from: Robert Castleden, English Castles: A Photographic History, London, Quercus Publishing, 2006, P.43).
(The above pictures are my own. Please ask permission before using them.)
This picturesque medieval castle can be seen to come alive in its full medieval glory once a year on a weekend in September. Where you can hear, see, smell, touch and taste a much bygone era.
In one corner, you can hear the tales of the old medieval country come alive with songs and stories from the medieval minstrels along with same falconry displays.
To the next corner, a bustling medieval market where you can buy your very own medieval clothing, weaponry, jewellery and even tasty food. The following corner, you can experience the smells of medieval food being cooked on an open fire.
In the final corner, you can experience the life of the medieval knights. One knight in particular that you can meet is a Hospitaller Fra Roussel le Palmer of the order of St John.
Upon meeting Roussel you can learn all about medieval surgery such as:
• Many knights suffered with haemorrhoids due to riding and it was something they would constantly had to have treated. The surgeons was well trained in this procedure.
• To check for the plague…a tap to the armpit was the first test as this area suffered first with a boil.
• To check for breathing a surgeon would put a bowl of water on the chest of the victim/patient. If the water moves than they are alive.
Another common practice that was used in medieval surgery was leeches. Leeches played quite an important role in trying to cure victims/patients of illness, disease or infection. For example, leeches were placed on the body in different areas to draw the bad blood from the individual to try and cure them. Medieval surgeons believed this form of treatment was highly effective.
These are just some of the facts that you would learn from Fra Roussel le Palmer.
(Hospitaller Fra Roussel le Palmer – Photos belong to: http://www.aknightlytouch.co.uk Do not use these photos without owners promise first) (The photo of Russell in the red tunic is one of my photo’s which was taken at the Medieval Merriment Event at Rochester Castle. Please ask permission before using it.)
Even though in this present day this grand medieval castle may only seem like an old relic from a much bygone age it still has its purpose and medieval heart.
If you are interested in visiting or find out more about Rochester Castle, why not visit their English Heritage website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/rochester-castle/