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The White Tower

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The White Tower

Post by Guest on Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:59 am

The White Tower is a keep (also known as a donjon); this was often the strongest structure in a medieval castle, and contained lodgings suitable for the lord—in this case the king or his representative.[7] According to military historian Allen Brown, "The great tower [White Tower] was also, by virtue of its strength, majesty and lordly accommodation, the donjon par excellence";[8] one of the largest keeps in the Christian world,[9] it has been described as "the most complete eleventh-century palace in Europe".[10] At the western corners are square towers, while the round north-east tower houses a spiral staircase. The presence of a chapel in the south-east corner resulted in a semi-circular projection to accommodate the apse. Excluding these, the White Tower measures 36 by 32 metres (118 by 105 ft) at the base, and rises to a height of 27 m (90 ft) at the southern battlements. As the building was intended to be a comfortable residence as well as a stronghold, latrines were built into the walls, and four fireplaces provided warmth.[10]
The main building material is Kentish ragstone, although some local mudstone was also used. Although little survives, Caen stone was imported from northern France to provide details in the Tower's facing, much of it replaced by Portland stone in the 17th and 18th centuries. The structure was originally three-storeys high, comprising a basement floor, an entrance level, and an upper floor. The entrance in Norman keeps was usually above ground and accessed via a wooden staircase which could be removed in the event of an attack; in the White Tower's case, this was in the south face. During Henry II's reign (1154–1189), a forebuilding was added to the south side of the tower to provide extra defences to the entrance, but it has not survived. Each floor was divided into three chambers, the largest in the west, a smaller room in the north-east, and the chapel taking up the entrance and upper floors of the south-east.[11] As most of the Tower's windows were enlarged in the 18th century, only two original – albeit restored – examples remain, in the south wall at gallery level.[12]

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