Sunday, November 20, 2011

For Ashar, ephemera about a castle

My son Ashar has been focused on learning about castles this weekend. Friday night, he and I built a castle out of blocks1 and he spent part of Saturday reading some books about castles2 and emailing me about four dozen JPGs of castles while I was at work.

So I thought I'd write about some castle ephemera today, to keep the weekend theme going. This is the 1972 edition of a staplebound guidebook to Conway Castle in Wales, prepared by the Department of the Environment on behalf of the Welsh Office.3 (The castle is correctly known, by the way, as Conwy Castle, or Castell Conwy in Welsh.)

The heavily illustrated 32-page book focuses on the history of the castle and begins:
"The noble fortress on the Conway estuary which faces the motorist from Llandudno, or appears outside the right-hand windows of a train bound for Snowdonia on the old L.M.S. Railway from Euston and Crewe, is exactly the same age as effective English government in North Wales."
At the center of the book is this illustration, which is labeled "Reconstruction by Alan Sorrell of what the castle probably looked like about 1300."

There is also a nice map of the castle, showing the walls, wards and ovens:

According to Wikipedia, the castle was built between 1283 and 1289, during the second campaign of King Edward I4in North Wales: "Conwy's design and work were overseen by master mason James of St. George using 1,500 labourers and stonecutters. An estimated £15,000 (£9,000,000 as of 2011), was spent building the castle and the town's defences, the largest single sum Edward I spent on any of his Welsh castles between 1277 and 1304."

1. Castles are one of our favorite things to construct. Two years ago, Ashar and I built this small Lego castle and, to take advantage of an Educational Opportunity™, I explained to him that, in the Middle Ages, kings sometimes had their enemies' severed heads displayed on pikes outside the castle, to serve as a warning. So we built that feature into the Lego castle to, you know, add historical accuracy.
2. The books included the magnificent "Castle" by David Macaulay.
3. I like to tell people that I have some Welsh blood. It is not clear to what extent this is actually true.
4. He was also known as Edward Longshanks.


  1. It's funny that you posted this, because my daughter and I were looking online at castles in Wales last week. We took it a step further and I showed her the castles from Google Maps, including Conway. We also used Street View to get an up-close look at them, just like if we were there, which was very cool.

    Give it a shot. You won't be disappointed.

  2. If I had a dollar for every time I've used Leggos in a teachable moment...well, I wouldn't even have a dollar, but that's beside the point. I am glad you seized that opportunity, not only for Sarah, but for us all because I sure got a good chuckle out of it!