Bodiam CastleStuff You Missed in History Class
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- 31 Mar 2021
This castle is unique in its design and the extent to which the ground surrounding it are part of that design. It’s also closely tied to the turbulent period in England’s history that runs from the Hundred Years War, through the Wars of the Roses.
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Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class A production of I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm Holly Fry. And I'm Tracy Wilson. Tracy, I've been thinking that we haven't really covered an iconic place in a while.
Yeah, we talked a little about Griffith Park, but that was more about Griffith. Jay Griffith. Yeah. So I went through my list for one and I landed at a podium castle, which has been on there for a while. And I have to give the true confession up front. There are people listening who might already know this. This castle came to my attention for sort of a silly reason, and I'm going to save that silly reason for the end because it is a very small, silly reason and it doesn't really have anything to do with the castle's history.
This castle is pretty unique in its design and the extent to which the grounds surrounding it are all part of that design. And it is also closely tied to the very turbulent period in England's history that runs from the Hundred Years War through the War of the Roses, including the peasants revolt, which may have influenced the castle's construction and how it was designed. It is also tied to the lives of a lot of people, as you might suspect, for something that is this old.
But there is one man in particular, Sir Edward Dowlan Grig, who is kind of synonymous with the castle. So it becomes, at least in part, a story about his life. And what I really love is that this is one of those cases where even in recent years, this medieval structure has continued to yield some surprises.
I know what the surprises are and I'm really excited that they're very cool.
Yeah. The location of the land that Podium Castle sits on has a long history of being recognized as valuable. It sits on the river. Rothhaar That river runs roughly horizontally, connecting East Sussex to the English Channel, kind of east to west situation.
And it was valued because it was wide enough to be a trading river when the Romans invaded Britain in 43 seei after the Romans, there were early English settlers in the region who probably named the place BOTUS Ham, as in Hamlet or Village, and then that name eventually morphed into Biodome. But the person whose name is most closely associated with the castle, as we said, is Sir Edward Dallin Bridge. Dowland Bridge was not in a good place to inherit in the birth order.
He was the youngest son in his family. The family estate was going to pass to his older brothers. He was born most likely in thirteen forty six to Father Roger Dallin Bridge and mother Alice Rottingdean. This was the point when the family was actually rising in position. Edward's grandfather, John, had married up, so to speak, when he wed Joan to lend increasing the family's landholdings. And Roger had made a similar lucrative move when he married Alice in his teen years, Edward Dowlan Bridge was already engaged as a soldier.
His father, Roger, was a knight under Queen Philippa, and in 1859, Edward accompanied his father in service to the Earl of Arundell when their company went into France during a conflict. This was the start of a long career of military service, and Edward became a knight in the thirteen sixties. Yeah, if you're doing the math there, that puts him at thirteen when he is going on these military missions with his father, which was in fact the case, although he didn't become knighted obviously until he was a little more adult.
Just as his father and grandfather had bolstered the family fortune through marriage, Edward in turn married a woman from a more prosperous family than his own. That was Elizabeth Wajir. Edwards marriage had been arranged by his father, Roger, and Elizabeth's father, John Mauduit, died in thirteen 77. At this point, Edward came into possession of a number of parcels of land, including a manor. At podium. You will see different calculations of the the size of the acreage of the properties because obviously those property lines don't really exist anymore.
I have seen everything from 750 acres to far larger.
So a lot of land. Well, the other real estate had various uses and Dallen grids eventually became one of the most wealthy landowners of his time. He decided that voting was going to be his home. He sold off a lot of his other inherited properties, gaining additional wealth, some of which was used to finance the work that he planned for the podium estate. He also purchased additional properties in Sussex to expand his land holdings near podium by an estimated hundred acres and thirteen eighty three.
He was granted a royal charter to hold an annual fair there as well as the weekly market. Yeah, he was just settling right in Darling, which is estimated to have been one of the wealthiest landowners in the area, and that wealth was augmented by annual payments made through various agreements and patronage is that were arranged during his military career in various diplomatic efforts, including forty pounds annually from the Duke of Sussex. In addition to knighthood and a military career in which he participated in most of the major efforts against France, he had a variety of other jobs and titles, including serving as Master Forester for the Lands of Edward Lord Dispenser.
He also represented Sussex in Parliament on nine occasions, beginning in thirteen seventy nine. So in less than a century, the family had ascended to be wealthy as well as important in affairs of state. Initially, podium was to be the site of just a manor home. The island bridge was still a night during this time. He wanted a place to live. He'd also amassed a significant fortune in his travels at war, as well as through various appointments and associations.
Plundering was kind of part of the income package for Knights and Dallen Bridge had made the most of this. It's believed that he profited from ransoming captured captives a lot of the time.
Yeah, which sounds horrible, but was kind of business as usual for the set up.
Two years after his home was completed, England found itself in an escalation of the conflict with France that threatened to approach Bodey Amanor. More than 1000 French ships had amassed across the channel, and it was believed that they would soon attack. Sort of. So there's a little bit of debate here about how real the threat actually was to podium and what really inspired Edward's next move. And we're going to get to that in a moment. But what this threat meant because there were friendships amassing across the channel.
This meant that the estate's home had to be fortified, but Edward Dallen Bridge opted to go a different route. He decided that he was going to build an entirely new structure, a castle, rather than just augment the existing house. So it may seem like there's kind of a head scratcher for some folks here because the main threat was the French crossing the channel. But sodium is not actually on the coast. If you look at it on a map, the distance between it and Hastings Beach, which is almost immediately to the south, is roughly 13 miles, almost 21 kilometers.
So presumably the thinking was that the French would land and then advance into England. Also, there's that river there that connects directly to the channel. Yeah. So there were ways that France could have advanced fairly quickly to both of them, but it wasn't really in the immediate line of attack. But Darling Ridge was also tasked by King Richard, the second, who, of course, was very young still at this time to head the preparations for a possible invasion by the French in Sussex.
So he didn't just decide to fortify strictly on his own, although it seems that the scope of the fortification was something that he had kind of decided on. Winchelsea, which sits at the point where the River Rothhaar and the English Channel meat was raided once they cross the channel, that was where they went.
So this threat did seem to start to be very real. Dellinger, which had led the fortification process of Winchelsea several years earlier in thirteen eighty and also RI beginning in thirteen eighty two. So he was a natural choice to give responsibility to when it came to making fortifications inland. And that of course, would have extended to his own property.
The King gave his permission for that podium castle project, and that license was for fortification and cremation, meaning that it was intended to augment the existing home. The exact phrasing regarding this was that he was able to, quote, strengthen with a wall of stone and lime and crenellated and construct and make into a castle his manor house at Brautigam him, which is a podium near the sea in the county of Sussex for defense of the adjacent county and resistance to our enemies.
So in choosing to build an entirely new structure about a kilometre away from the first his manor home, it seems like this is maybe a broad interpretation of that document. When you hear historians talk about it or they write about it, crenellated is like the hot word, and this is something that continues to be debated. Right. So what exactly was the function and purpose of this castle and why did he make that choice rather than colonel in its strict sense?
But all researchers have in terms of surviving paperwork, is that cremation document, that permission document. The rest has been interpreted over the years based on the available evidence and what the castle actually turned out to be. And that means that different people have had different theories about how the castle was conceived and used, and that's based largely on his floor plan.
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So for someone like Dallen, Grynch, who was very wealthy and who in his official duties had helped put down that rebellion, there was also a vested interest in protecting his home and family. And that probably further informed his decision to build a full fledged castle rather than just build onto his existing home.
Also, there are some interpretations of the castles, design and structure that come to the conclusion that more than offering protection from French forces or any internal uprising, this construction may well have been built for show and status. You just look at a picture. You can kind of see how folks might come to that conclusion as some of the fortifications don't seem all that robust, such as the walls being relatively thin. So we'll now talk about the actual work on the castle.
Yeah, I read a cute I shouldn't say it's cute, it's scholarly work, but it was a fun discussion of how, like, look, he was kind of like nouveau riche and trying to show everybody he was fancy. That is one theory. The construction of Podium Castle was very different from most others because it was conceived in its entirety and then built all at once. This is different than most examples of castles that we have because most were built in stages either as needed, doing something like that renovation that was discussed or as funds were available.
Also, you know, there are things that happened historically like, you know, head of family dying and their offspring deciding how to proceed with the design and how that changes it. But as a consequence, Botham has this rare distinction of being really uniform in its appearance since it was also intended to replace the manner home as the primary residence of the estate podium. Castle is also unusual because the design is for comfort as well as protection. It's a merging of strategic defensive design and domicile arrangement.
The exterior structure is almost a perfect square, with round towers at the corners of the square and smaller square towers along the walls connecting the corners. The interior of the castle has not been restored, but enough remains that the floor plan is possible to discern. There was a huge interior court within the castle and there were apartment areas that were separated off for the families use on the east side of the building with other areas that would have specifically been for staff.
There was also a chapel and a grand hall. It's kind of cool the way the bed chamber is designed. They would have been able to stand basically at the window of their bed chamber and look into the chapel so they wouldn't have had to leave their room to to have to be part of services. There was also a buttery, which I want to put in my house. A pantry and a kitchen in the kitchen would have been two fireplaces. Those would have been kept going constantly year round to meet the various needs of the castle.
Most of the castle is two stories. The towers are three, and the Northwest Tower also included a prison and the entire castle is built of sandstone Ashland, which was quarried about 11 miles from the site at Waterstreet.
The grounds were also landscaped while the castle was being constructed. The whole design was intended to be visually appealing as well as functional and at least in theory, able to withstand battle and defend the inhabitants. The river was diverted once again with a license from the king, and a millpond and mill were both created under Dawkins's instructions. The land surrounding the castle was entirely transformed. Researchers writing about all the landscaping in 1990 wrote, quote, The castle and its moat thus form the center of an elaborate modification of the whole landscape involving the creation of a number of ponds and sheets of water whose positioning has an ornamental impact.
Yeah, definitely designed to be pretty as well as strong, at least in theory. And in some cases, these details that created really a very picturesque estate were used in ways that may seem odd or off-putting. Today, for example, there is, as Tracey just mentioned, a moat and that surrounds the entire castle structure. The moat is roughly 115 by one hundred and fifty five metres, and it is quite pretty. And when viewed from above, it frames the castle fairly perfectly.
The castle itself sits just slightly south of the centre of the frame that's created by the moat in the moat, which isn't exactly square. It's more of a wedge shape would naturally make it difficult to approach the castle on horseback or on foot with any kind of strings. So to enter you would have to pass over a bridge and hit a small island and then pass over another to get to a Barbican. And once through that, you could continue to the north gate.
There was also a small back entrance on the south wall of the gate, which also had to be approached by bridge about this protective moat was actually sort of gross as moats often were, because it was used for sewage. All the raw waste from the castle was dumped into it. And this undoubtedly made it smell horrifyingly bad, which just is speculation here might have also had a deterrent effect for any unwanted visitors, even for visitors who were expected and desired the moat and landscape and bridges that were used to actually get to the castle had anyone approaching, turning and surrounding the castle in ways that some researchers have theorized might have been intended to show off the grandness of the building in the grounds.
I like the idea you have this sort of exterior tour by the convoluted way of getting in there. Oh, now it's their turn right at the island.
Supporting this whole idea is evidence of a garden structure built on a high ridge north of a castle, which would have offered a spectacular view of the grounds, also included in the castle design, where keyhole gun ports, which were not common in private residence castles and weren't really all that practical, but certainly would have let visitors know that Darling Ridge was aware of the latest trends and battlement design. My castles fancy. Well, we don't have a lot of information about is the construction process itself or exactly how long it took for this castle to be completed based on records.
It was done by the early or mid 13 nineties. So estimates put the construction time at less than 10 years, sometimes far less. But here's the thing for all of that work, the French never attacked Bodalla in June 13. Eighty nine, while the castle was likely still under construction, the truce of Luling him ended the second phase of the Hundred Years War in thirteen ninety two downgrades was made a member of the King's Council.
That was a role in which he served until 13 93. And as part of his duties he went to France again, this time to survey defenses in Calais. And overlapping duty was also given him when he was made keeper of London in June of thirteen ninety two. That duty was taken from him the following month because he was determined to be too lenient. This is when there was a lot of unrest going on in London and Darling Rich died somewhere between this point where that job was rescinded and the spring of thirteen ninety four when he is listed in records as deceased, that would put him somewhere around forty seven years old.
So he barely had time to enjoy his Grand Castle and Grounds podium. Castle remained in the ownership of Sir Edward, downgrades his descendants, but eventually there were no downgrades left and the castle was gained by the Leutner family and marriage that was in the mid eighteen hundreds. The Wars of the Roses would be the next pivotal historical events in the story of the castle because Sir Thomas Buechner was on the Lancastrian side of the war. It's the opposite side of Richard.
The third, the king ordered an attack on Bodeen and the castle was surrendered. There is actually a pretty decent likelihood that no real attack took place here, that the Luciana's surrendered before there was any violence at all. When Richard the third was killed at the Battle of Bosworth and Henry, the seventh took the throne. The castle was returned to the Leutner family and it remained a lunner property until the mid sixteen hundreds. At the end of that line, the estate was divvied up and it passed through a number of hands during the period from the mid fifteen hundreds to the eighteen hundreds, lots of different people owned podium, but nobody actually lived there.
The castle was unfortunately uncared for and it fell into ruin. None of its owners seemed to really pay much of any attention to the structure in any meaningful way until it was purchased by politician John Fuller in 1829, although it had attracted tourists before then. We're going to talk about Fuller's plans for the once grand structure in just a moment. But before we do, we'll take a break and hear from the sponsors that keep stuff you missed in history class going.
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So we talked right before the break about John Fuller acquiring Podium Castle and Fuller and the next two owners all shared a vision of restoration for podium under Fuller's ownership tower repair began as well as the restoration of the main gate. But he only had it for 20 years before he died, so they didn't get super far. In 1849, the castle and property were purchased by George Cubitt, who wish to continue the restoration that Fuller had begun in. Cubitt actually had the site surveyed before picking the work back up because he wanted to approach things a bit more methodically.
In 1917, the podium castle was purchased by Lord Curzon, who was a British statesman and served as viceroy of India from 1898 to 1985. He had a general interest in the restoration of historic buildings, and he managed to get Podium Castle, which he had tried to purchase from George Cubitt after Cubitt passed and his son sold it. Yeah, Lord Curzon could be his own episode and maybe one day will. It will be in parts interesting and terrifying and frustrating.
But Kurzon invested in having the moat partially drained, and that revealed some of the old bridge structures of the castle. He also had much of the overgrowth cleared. It had kind of been swallowed by plant life in many regards. And he rebuilt and restored some of the crumbled ruins, along with Scottish architect William Weir overseeing the project. Kurzon also had a cottage built on the ground separate from the castle for a caretaker to live in and for a small museum to be installed.
Lord Curzon donated the castle to the National Trust in nineteen twenty five when he died, and it has remained under that entity's ownership in the almost hundred years since the restored castle eventually became a grade one listed building. That designation means that it's considered to have historical significance and be of exceptional interest.
During World War Two, a pillbox bunker was built on the grounds that podium castle as defence to guard against possible German invasion, which of course, thankfully did not happen throughout its time and under the care of the National Trust. There have been various restoration projects for the castle and the grounds.
The entire moat was drained in 1970 when excavations were undertaken and these excavations were necessitated in part by some really treacherous conditions that were threatening to take out some of the some of the wall surrounding the moat. Unsurprising given that the hundreds of year old castle had not been really maintained in this way. The conditions were caused also by tree growth. Careful excavation revealed that the law was actually in better shape than expected, and researchers were able to see and record masons marks in the stones.
We'll talk more about the Masons marks in just a second.
In continuing examinations of the land and its waterways through the 1980s, researchers looked at the water features of the landscape to try to determine when various versions of them had been changed, as well as which of them were actually naturally occurring, and also to gather just any other additional details that they could.
One pond known as the Tilyard might be a remodeled version of the original mill pond that Dowland Bridge had installed. Other ponds on the land are believed to have been used to dispose of waste that had accumulated in the moat and was dredged out.
So when you think about the romantic ideas we have about Castletown, over time, various marks and inscriptions have been observed and catalogued around the castle.
And some of these are obviously pretty modern ish, believed to have been left there between the 18th and early 19th centuries. These are mostly cases of people carving their names. You will find the names Hoggins, James Briem and Lady Timkin at various places in the castle. But other marks are much, much older. Some of them are simply part of the castle's construction. There are symbols that are sometimes called banker's marks. The Masons working on the castle would leave these in the stones that they laid because they were paid by the stone as each man left his mark that let the master Mason easily count how many stones had been laid and by whom and pay everyone accordingly.
But among the more than 800 carvings that have been catalogued in the time the National Trust has managed the estate, some remained a little bit more elusive in their meanings. In 2016, the trust hired a medieval graffiti expert. I love that that's a job to make a thorough examination and analysis of the inscriptions. That was Matt Champion, who was brought onto the project, which was part of a larger survey of additional locations around the area. So that was done in cooperation with the Winchelsea Archaia.
Logical society, the University of Southampton and the Museum of London Archaeology Department, and there were some surprising discoveries.
First Champion was able to identify each of the Masons marks and make a pretty good estimate of the size of the team that was employed on the project. It appears that there were six bankers, masons laying stone work for the things like the external walls and three fine masons. Those were experts who did the detail work that sometimes included things like carving. There's the folks that worked on the castle, which then makes it even more amazing how quickly it went up.
No. Yeah, but the real surprise were the which marks almost every single window and entrance to the castle has some sort of mark like this, and they generally look like a compass inside a circle or sometimes a pentagram. And these are believed to have been placed near entrances in order to keep evil from entering the castle, adding a level of complexity. Here is the fact that some of these were made during construction, but others clearly came later, although dating them exactly is a little bit difficult.
But since the French army didn't invade and it seems that podium has probably avoided any violent attack, maybe they worked really, though, while the name which marks sounds kind of thrilling, really, these are essentially prayers carved into the masonry and they offer historians a peek at the values of the people in the 14th century and beyond. In the words of champion, quote, The collection of ritual protection marks that podium castle is not only significant for the site, but for the wider field of study.
Some were undoubtedly created during the construction process, whilst others could only have been created subsequently showing the importance religion continued to play throughout the Middle Ages. One of the things I love about some of these marks is they're these like intricate carved designs and the idea that the spirit would get stuck in there.
Yes. Yes, it's a little bit it harkens back to the Rugaru, right, like make something just complex enough that the dangerous thing will get wadded up in the details one way or another. OK, former movie buffs in the crowd here is the very silly reason that I knew about this castle. Its exterior was used in the film Monty Python in the Holy Grail. So that shot that you see of the exterior of Swamp Castle, the fourth castle, the one that survived, that is of Castle, that one stayed up.
It did. It did. Even though the air did not want to inherit it, but only wanted to sing.
Biodome Castle is open to visitors, although as of this recording there are some limits in place because of covid restrictions. Outdoor spaces are currently available, but not the indoor areas. There's a cafe on site that's offering takeout snacks. And so if you're considering a visit, you do need to book in advance. So check the availability and the restrictions ahead of time. Do you have some listener mail? I do.
I do. This is another email that we have gotten about color vision deficiency. Oh yeah. We've got some good ones. We have it's it's a little bit interesting because it's one of those cases I feel like in instances where we have an episode and it generates a lot of listener feedback, it's usually one of a few things like one, it's a contentious issue with a lot of people having different opinions or maybe they didn't like how we treated something or they're just like, thank goodness someone's talking about this.
Or often I feel like we'll talk about something. And there's a whole group of people that's like I feel seem am I kind of feel like this is the scoop with the color vision deficiency. Our listener Dana wrote in, she self-identified as colorblind in her subject line and writes, Hi, Holly and Tracy. I love the podcast and I've been listening for years. Your recent episode on John Dalton's Color Vision was extremely fascinating to me, as I am a female with green due to an opiate colorblindness and often find it hard to describe to people what I see.
Like John Dalton. I also didn't find this out until later in life as I was in my senior year of high school, despite needing glasses since I was 10 and multiple vision exams. The Standard Color Vision testing at the eye doctor is a very distinct red and green e, which I could easily see. As you described from your research, it is often, though not always, a decreased ability to see the color in question and not a complete absence of the color.
How I found out was in calculus class. The textbook had an accurate test at my peers were all talking about what they saw. When I looked, I saw something completely different, which then shocked all of us. And we had to stop class for everyone to hold up every color they could find to see if I saw the same as them. Had it not been for calculus, I don't know when I would have ever found out. Since then, I now have a son who also has the same color deficiency as I do.
We've even had his color vision tested with that same test. Most people do not know that I have this. My husband does, and it's often a joke at our house and some of our close friends. But I do not enjoy being in the spotlight of it and I don't like spending thirty plus minutes every time I do share it, explaining to people that yes, I can see stoplights so I don't tell people often. And now when I do tell them I'll just send them to your podcast instead of explaining it all.
And hopefully they'll stop holding up every color of the six or seven if you ask Dalton Colored Rainbow for me to check for them, haha. Thank you for all your hard work and the research you do for the podcast.
I love this. It is interesting, right you. That's one of those cases where I feel like there's a lesson here of like I love when people are curious and I have done this before, so I'm not I'm not calling anybody out or trying to be critical of anyone. When you find out someone is different from you and you're super interested and you want to ask a million questions, but it's worth considering if that person has answered those questions at times of their lives.
Yeah. So it's a lesson I always need to be reminded of that it's sometimes easier instead of going, how do you see this or how do you understand this? Or How does your culture do this? You could go, hey, is there a good resource you could point me to where I could learn more about this unless someone really wants to share it all, in which case at school. But always please be respectful of people's time when trying to understand what is different about their life from yours.
Yeah, yeah. My mom used to have a thing programmed into her speech generating device that would she could just hit one button and it would explain the whole thing. That is so smart because I'm sure there's been a million of those. Yeah.
And usually, I mean, again, I don't want to make anybody feel bad. That usually comes from a very good place of wanting to understand and connect. But it can be a bit labor intensive for the person who has to do the work of. Leaving it to everyone who doesn't understand.
So thank you, thank you, thank you for Dana for writing us, because it offered that that moment both to remind myself and anyone else who cares to to think about it in those terms, that it's always good to give people the option to point you towards a resource or just tell you to go to the library when library sort of thing, going to your online library, search it if your library has a really handy no contact pick up, which mine does.
And it's great. Yeah. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
If you would like to write to us, you can do that at the History podcast at I heart radio dot com. You can also find us on social media as missed in history. And if you want to subscribe to the podcast and you haven't gotten around to that yet. Also no criticism there, but it's super easy if you'd like to. You can do that on the I Heart radio app at Apple podcasts or wherever it is you listen. Stuff you missed in history class is the production of I Heart Radio for more podcasts from my Heart Radio is it by her radio app Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows?
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