3/10 things you didn’t know about Bodiam Castle: Ornamentation

Unlike at Ightham Mote ornamentation on the architecture at Bodiam is virtually none existent. Despite the scale of the building and its presence in the landscape there is just one piece of decorated stonework remaining: a leafy boss.

Leafy Bpss

Again unlike at Ightham it is not on display in an obvious entrance or public room, it is concealed in the on the right side of the gatehouse on the second floor. It is not in a room, but more of a passageway which only remarkable feature (other than the boss) is one of the new style gun loops. It is so concealed that few visitors notice it (and even so called experts *myself* spent a good morning wandering around looking at ceilings before I found it!).

Size of Room

It is curious that it is found in this location. As I have already stated at Ightham the majority of the ornamentation is on the public areas of the building. This area of Bodiam is so concealed it is not a display of ostentation as it is in other buildings. It is so concealed and so small we have to question why it is there. The room is tiny it could even be considered a corridor, its only feature is that the gun loop lighting it overlooks the gatehouse: which have been suggested as some kind of porters lodge use. The room itself is very dark even during the day, there is no space to sit in the room, or anything to do there except look out the gun loop. It required such a trained eye to find it it seems wasted here in this part of the building.

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Courtyard Windows

The work on the model continues, I have been working on the complicated courtyard windows. As discussed in a previous post I had been thinking about how I was going to make the windows overlooking the courtyard and as they no longer exist in the area I am focussing on. The windows overlooking the courtyard all appear to have been of a similar “type”, so my first decision has been to model them all on that design as unlike the exterior the courtyard seems to have been fairly uniform.

Second Floor Windows

First Floor Window Seat

I then had to decide on the number of windows that would be present along this side of the building and their positions. For this I have worked from a combination of observing the standing remains and looking at other reconstructions.

The building itself only offers one clue for these windows right at the northern extreme of the range. Here can be found the bottom of what appears to be a window seat detailed in the photo below. Apart from this much of the standing remains are below the first floor level.

Bottom of window seat at northern extent of range

Moving onto other peoples representations of the building. The National Trust provide a couple of sources for visitors to look at to try and picture that area of the building. The first is featured in the official guidebook and can also be found in John Goodall’s book The English Castle. It shows a cutaway reconstruction of the entire Eastern Elevation from above in a hand drawn style and in another image the courtyard. You can see areas of the courtyard walls detailing windows that are no longer present and internal areas of the building. The view is from a height above the building. The windows shown in these representation are of the same type I have suggested and are pictured below. They position the windows for the second floor directly above those for the first floor and there are four sets spread along this length of wall before you reach the spiral staircase.

The second is used as an aid for the guided tours for children as an interpretation tool. It is a series of stills used in the film shown at the castle and for sale in the shop. The images are based on a 3d model built of the castle by a digital media company for the National Trust. The ones we are concerned with show the courtyard and one of the rooms of the private chambers.The image of the courtyard shows the walls on the eastern edge of the courtyard. It shows the same type of windows as I have intended to use and the same as feature in John Goodall’s book. Again this image details four sets of windows along this section of the building.

Guided Tour Reconstuction

The final source is the model of the castle found in the Northeastern tower in a room above the introductory film about Bodiam Castle. An image of the model can be found below. Instead of lining up the windows on this model they are alterate on the first floor and second floor and on the first floor show alternating single and double windows.

Model of Bodiam

I have decided to go for the same approach as John Goodall as I think this fits more in the style of the other areas of the building. I have decided to feature four sets of windows and space them equally out along the range as I feel this reflects the buildings projected symmetry.

Moving on from these windows the final piece of wall that I had to produce was the gap between spiral staircase and the southern wall. I firstly inserted a set of doors (one on each floor) at the point where the staircase would have been entered. As a reference I used the same doors that had been used one above the other as used for the entrance to the eastern tower as there is no evidence what type of door would have stood there. I felt that if these doors were found in the same space they would look fairly similar.

I made one final decision and this was to place a squint in the wall overlooking the Great Hall. There is no physical evidence for this existing as the wall is entirely gone. I decided it would be appropriate having visited a number of other buildings which have this feature including Ightham Mote and Great Chalfield Manor. I decided as a similar feature is found overlooking the chapel at the other end of private chambers it would make sense to model it on this window.

Ightham and ornamentation

Much of this blog so far has concerned itself with Bodiam Castle and the work I am doing there. I have just completed a week of fieldwork in Kent and on the first day I spent a morning at Ightham Mote. My intention was to photograph various areas around the hall and see how the roofs are put together.

Ightham Mote, Kent

While looking around I began to think about the experience of entering the great hall. Unlike at Bodiam Ightham has much for ornamentation on the structure of the building. There are decorative panels around the doorways and most importantly a series of engraved faces at the bases of the roof arches. These face in a range of directions and feature different characters. The first of these would have been encountered at the entrance to the hall these feature two (now somewhat eroded) faces. On another entrance in the courtyard the two faces are both gurning one looking sad and the other happy. The two faces on the entrance to the hall could have depicted similar features.

Smiling face to right of door

Sad face to left of other door

Closeup of one of the faces

Entrance to Great Hall faces can be seen on the archway

Other entrance from courtyard

Once through the door you now enter a new entrance room whereas just after the initial construction you would have entered directly into the hall. Another of these faces now greats you from directly opposite the entrance. This one is positioned as if he is holding up the hall. He looks under great strain. This could have links to the idea of lordship in feudal society. It could give suggestions of social status. It is also interestingly positioned at the lower end of the hall.

Figure opposite entrance

As one turns into the hall from this position there are two more sets of faces at the bases of the main beams in the hall. One set at the centre of the room look intently up towards the head of the room. This could be another architectural social cue. The building could be giving instructions through the architecture to those entering it. These figures show how those sitting below are meant to act towards their lord.

Figure at centre of hall

At the very head of the room are two final figures each with large shoulders again holding up the roof. These are looking back down the room at those seating below it. These ones are harder to read. They to some extent look like they are wearing masks.

Figures at head of hall

At Ecclesiastical sites architecture provides visual cues to convey social expectations particularly about what behaviour is expected or what they are expected to be thinking about. In an age where most people were not literate an image or visual cue would convey and have much more meaning than the written word (Woolgar, 2006: 179-180)(D. L. C. Clark, 2007). These figures might be being used to convey similar information about what is expected of the illiterate in this context.

Reference

Clark, D.L.C., 2007. Viewing the liturgy: a space syntax study of changing visibility and accessibility in the development of the Byzantine church in Jordan. World Archaeology, 39(1), pp.84-104. Available at: http://www.informaworld.com/openurl?genre=article&doi=10.1080/00438240601148798&magic=crossref||D404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3 [Accessed October 29, 2010].

Woolgar, C.M., 2006. The Senses in Late Medieval England, London: Yale University Press.