Kenilworth Castle (part two)

Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 4

Time period: Medieval 974-1485

Curriculum topics: Changing power of monarchs, Medieval Life

Suggested inquiry questions: What do the documents tell us about the plan and function of Kenilworth castle? What is the value of using these documents for finding out about the history of this castle?

Potential activities: Compare and contrast Kenilworth to two other castles of your choice. Create your own timeline for the history of Kenilworth castle using the sources here and your own research.

What do the medieval records reveal?

In this lesson you will use different types of original medieval records from The National Archives to explore how Kenilworth Castle functioned in times of peace and war during the ‘Middle AgesIt aims to help you understand what you can find out about castles from written records which archaeology cannot tell you. This activity will also help you to appreciate the physical nature of the buildings in a different way from the more recent visual sources on the castle used in the starter lesson. Therefore, before attempting this lesson it is important to complete the starter lesson on Kenilworth Castle first. 


Tasks

Section 1 

Source 1

Extracts from the account of Ralph de Schepeiereceiver-general of Kenilworth, 1313. Catalogue ref: DL 29/1/3, m. 12 (dorse) [back of the document] 

  • What type of record is this? 
  • What does this source reveal about the various roles of Kenilworth castle? 
  • What does this extract reveal about the expenses of running this castle? 
  • What can we learn about the nature of employment within the castle? 
  • What does this tell us about the religious life of the castle? 

Source 2

Account of William the chaplain, receiver of the rents, farms and issues of Kenilworth, and keeper of stock of the castle at the castle, 1313, Catalogue ref: DL  

29/1/13, [membrane 13]. 

  • What new buildings were added to the castle? 
  • What repair work was also necessary on the castle? 
  • How can we infer that this was an expensive process? 
  • What does this source reveal about the domestic function of the castle? How comfortable would the castle have been to live in? 

Source 3

Minor expenses of William the Chaplain of Kenilworth, 1313, Catalogue ref: DL 29/1/3, [membrane 13, (dorse) [back of the document] 

  • What does this source and Source 2 reveal about how people living in the castle were fed? 
  • How were supplies protected? 
  • What might this tell us about the role of women in the castle? 

Source 4

Letters patent of King Edward IV appointing a new constable of Kenilworth, 1483 Castle, Catalogue ref: DL 29/463/7565 

  • What is the office of constable of the castle? 
  • What does this source reveal about the importance of the castle to Edward IV? 

Source 5

Account of repairs to buildings at Kenilworth Castle 1483-1484, Catalogue ref: DL 29/463/7565, [membrane 3]. 

  • What type of materials are being paid for, and what might they have been used for? 
  • What different types of skilled workers are needed to work with these materials?  
  • What do these three accounts reveal about the upkeep of a castle like Kenilworth? 
  • What do they reveal about the significance and function of the castle at this time? What type of materials are being paid for, and what might they have been used for? 

Source 6

Account of repairs at Kenilworth Castle during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) Catalogue ref: E 101/465/27 

  • What different items appear in these accounts? 
  • Why do you think they are needed? 
  • How useful is this set of accounts in uncovering the later history of Kenilworth castle? 

Section Two

Source 7

Letter from the Lord Edward to Roger de Leyburn and Nicholas of Lewknor24 August 1265, Catalogue ref: SC 1/12/12 

During the reign of Henry III, England experienced a period of civil war in the 1260s. The rebels who fought against the king were led by Simon de Monfort, Earl of Leicester. After his deathKenilworth Castle, which he had received from Henry III in 1253, remained in rebel hands and was subjected to a long siege. 

  • Why do you think this source was written in Latin? 
  • What does this letter reveal about the importance of Kenilworth Castle in the Barons’ War? 
  • What kind of measures does Edward advocate for the safety of England? 
  • Why do you think the named knights are at Kenilworth? 

Source 8

Petition of Mary de Shepeye to King Edward II, 1322, Catalogue ref: SC 8/6/272. 

This document has been endorsed which means there is writing on the back that shows the claim was considered by the king and his council and certain action was to be taken. 

  • Why do you think this source is in French? 
  • According to this petition, what did the Sheriff of Warwickshire do? 
  • Why was the king, Edward II, appealed to by Mary de Shepeye ? 
  • Does the petition infer anything about Mary de Shepeye? 
  • What does this source reveal about the significance of Kenilworth? 

Source 9

Petition of Joan, widow of Sir Hugh de Quilly to King Edward II1322, Catalogue ref: SC 8/133/6609 

This document has been endorsed which means there is writing on the back that shows the claim was considered by the king and his council and certain action was to be taken. 

  • Why has Joan sent a petition to the King Edward II? 
  • What does this source infer about the position of women at that time? What rights did they have? 

Source 10

Petition of Richard del Tweytes to King Edward II, 1322, Catalogue ref: SC 8/76/3760  

This document has been endorsed which means there is writing on the back that shows the claim was considered by the king and his council and certain action was to be taken. 

  • Why does Richard del Tweytes want the help of the King? 
  • What kind of worker is Richard del Tweytes suggesting he is? 
  • How does Richard del Tweytes try to show his loyalty to the King? 
  • Why would a castle have a chapel? 
  • What does this source reveal about the function of Kenilworth Castle and its position in the civil war? 

Section Three

Questions for all sources

Use the following questions as the basis for a plenary discussion. Discuss in pairs/small groups then report back. 

  • Why have these sources survived and why do we keep them? 
  • What, in general, can we learn from them? 
  • What kind of materials do you think the scribes used to write these documents? 
  • Why do you think some of them having written on both sides? 
  • Why do you think these documents are written in different languages? Why is French used for petitions: Sources 8, 9 &10? 
  • Compare Sources 1, 2 & 3 with Sources 4, 5 & 6. 
  • What changes can you notice at the castle between 1313 and 1483? 
  • What things have remained the same? 
  • What concerns do the documents show that the lord of Kenilworth had for his castle? 
  • What kind of life do you think it would have been for the lord of the castle? And what about those who worked for him? 

Background

Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire in the heart of England is one of the country’s largest medieval castles. Built in the twelfth century by Geoffrey de Clinton, chamberlain of King Henry I (1100-1135), the castle developed in several phases over the next four centuries. It began as a rectangular keep (about 24 metres by 18 metres) with towers at each corner. Two sides were defended by a large pool created by damming the river and the other two sides were protected by a moat. Around the keep was a large bailey in which buildings like the kitchen and stables were raised against the outer walls. This was both a defensive site and a domestic building from its origins, with weapons and armour being stored there and constant repairs needed on the buildings to make it both defensible and comfortable

By the thirteenth century, under King John, the castle was in the king’s hands again, and John surrounded the old castle with a much stronger curtain wall with towers, spending the enormous sum of £2000 on the works. This is the equivalent to about £1.5m in today’s money. Despite this investment neither John (1199-1216) nor his son Henry III (1216-1272) paid much attention to the castle, and it fell into disrepair – the great chamber, for example, lost its roof. But in 1244 Henry made his brother-in-law Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, keeper of the castle, and then in 1253 finally presented the castle to him and Simon’s wife, the king’s sister Eleanor. Simon strengthened the castle to such an extent that the garrison survived a long siege by the king’s army at the end of the Barons’ War in 1366.

The defeat of Simon de Montfort brought Kenilworth Castle back permanently into the hands of the royal family. Henry III granted it to his second son Edmund, earl of Lancaster, and in 1279 Edmund had a very famous ‘Round Table’ tournament. Edmund’s son Thomas undertook many important building works in the castle including a new chapel in the castle for worship. Like Simon de Montfort, Thomas rebelled against the king, his cousin King Edward II (1307-1327), and Kenilworth was captured for the king in 1322, with some inside the castle being punished. It was ironic that Thomas’ brother, Henry earl of Lancaster, held King Edward prisoner there during 1326 and 1327 after his capture by his enemies and then during and after the parliament which forced the king to abdicate his throne.

Later earls of Lancaster adopted the title duke, notably John of Gaunt, the third surviving son of King Edward III who married Blanche, grand-daughter of Earl Henry and who gained Kenilworth in 1361. Gaunt spent lots of money on repair of the castle and then making it into a palace fit for a prince. The building works include the magnificent Great Hall, the location for feasting and display. In 1399 Gaunt’s son Henry seized the throne from Richard II and the duchy of Lancaster came directly to the crown. In the early fifteenth century a so-called ‘pleasure-house’ (Pleasunce Marys) was built outside the castle.

In the Tudor period, after the Wars of the Roses, King Henry VIII demolished the pleasure-house and used its materials to build new towers and structures within Kenilworth Castle. Finally, in 1563, Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) granted the castle to her favourite Robert Dudley, later earl of Leicester, restoring a grant made to John, the earl’s father, in 1553. Like several of his predecessors Robert made significant alterations to bring the castle up to date with the latest architectural fashions. These included new windows, the laying out of pleasure gardens and remodelling of the gatehouse.

Kenilworth Castle, then, was at times in its history a popular residence for kings, princes and their families, but often fell out of favour and had to be repaired or remodelled. It became part of the domestic life of the royal family across many generations. For that reason, it also became a focus for rebellion and conflict during times of national crisis and civil war and changed hands several times.


Teachers' notes

This lesson is divided into three sections with documents and questions. All documents have translations in English. Some of the documents were originally written in French or Latin so we have also included the French or Latin transcripts as well. 

Section 1 uses the following medieval and one early modern records [Source 6]: 

  • Accounts of the Receiver-General, the main official responsible for the financial receipts and expenses of the earls/dukes of Lancaster, from 1313-1314 [Sources 1-4] 
  • Accounts of the Constable of the castle from the reign of King Richard III in 1483-1484 [Source 5] and further accounts of repairs to the castle from the reign of King Henry VIII 1509-1547 [Source 6] 

 Students can find out about the building works at the castle, the materials used to maintain and develop it and the workers employed there. These documents can also be used to provide evidence of the domestic and defensive functions of the castle. The records also reveal what crops and food were consumed in Kenilworth Castle and how daily life functioned when the lord was not at home. 

Section 2 uses the following medieval records which reveal the role of the castle in times of political crisis. 

  • Source 7 is related to an episode of crisis in the life of the castle. It deals with the men who resisted King Henry III (1216-1272) at Kenilworth Castle in 1265 after the defeat of the rebel barons, allies of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester and leader of government for the King whom he had imprisoned 
  • Sources 89 and 10 detail the personal consequences for people living in the castle of the rebellion of the castle’s lord, Thomas earl of Lancaster, against King Edward II (1307-1327) in 1322. They provide evidence of the approaches real people took to protect themselves from punishment and the significant role of the castle in national history. 

Section 3  

  • For this section, we have provided a series of questions to form the basis for a plenary discussion. Students could discuss in pairs/small groups then report back. For example, they could consider why these sources have survived and why do we keep them? What, in general, can we learn from them? What kind of materials do they think scribes used to write thesdocuments? What changes can be seen at the castle from 1313 to 1483? 

External links

Use this link to find more historical source images for Kenilworth Castle: https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/ 

Time line for the Middle Ages: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/timeline/middleages_timeline_noflash.shtml 

Dan Snow video guide to Kenilworth castle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNanyePafU8 

Discover more content on the period with these two blogs showcasing different documents: 

https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/battles-dynasties-collaborative-exhibition/ 

https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/royal-weddings-in-history-dynasty-and-diplomacy/ 

Links to the curriculum

All the documents included in this lesson relate to Kenilworth Castle which features as the set site in the specification for OCR GCSE History A: study of the historic environment. 

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Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 4

Time period: Medieval 974-1485

Curriculum topics: Changing power of monarchs, Medieval Life

Suggested inquiry questions: What do the documents tell us about the plan and function of Kenilworth castle? What is the value of using these documents for finding out about the history of this castle?

Potential activities: Compare and contrast Kenilworth to two other castles of your choice. Create your own timeline for the history of Kenilworth castle using the sources here and your own research.

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