An adventure into the 11th and 12th century!
Today's exciting adventure was to the Kidwelly Castle. As you walked through the main entrance you looked up and could see where the portcullis (main gate) dropped through. It was a big walk up to the main gate, the drawbridge had been removed and a permanent entry was in its place. The Castle was built on a river edge providing great difficulty to anyone wanting to attack. We were greeted by a man dressed in 11th to 12th century clothing - on your left there was 'a lookout' room/archers house, with lots of gaps and windows to fire your arrows out of. On your right was a dungeon which held prisoners in manacles and you were put into little slots in the wall
Further on into the castle there was an armour room which displayed basic armour, including chain mail, shields, helmets, swords and gloves. There were two more rooms to visit the kitchen on your left and another archers room on your right, there were very small staircases in each of these rooms and you would need to be skinny with all your armour on, have small feet and also be short to fit up the staircase. In the kitchen was a huge fireplace and lots of storage. Once you got through the outer guardhouse, you were in the outer courtyard which was a patch of grass separating the outside wall of the castle and the inner courtyard. The outer courtyard goes all the way around the inner of the castle to protect it from attack.
There were several displays in the castle on what the knights would have looked like, archers and their arrows, weapons to use, dress of the 12th century, cooking during this time and the weaver as wool was an important trading resource.
One lady was dressed in armour from head to toe, pieces of the armour would have been made in countries from all around the world, if you were rich you would get hand made armour otherwise you would gather your own (from other dead soldiers) or buy certain pieces when able. The armour weighed about 20 kilos, and the most expensive piece would tend to be your helmet. There were volunteers who belonged to Cadw (historical society keeping Welsh heritage alive).
There was a real archer who showed us the different tips for arrows. One stiletto arrow head was designed to go through chain mail and pierce the skin - archers would urinate on these to poison the soldier they shot at!
The fire head was used by the head archer, it was filled with straw or wool and lit to signal to the rest of the archers where to shoot. Archers could fire 6 arrows a minute so if you had 100 archers they would fire 600 arrows a minute - often they were used to stop or halt an advance rather than to necessarily kill anyone.
All of the volunteers were really helpful and answered all of our questions, one lady that was spinning wool showed us how to spin it and how it was made into blankets at the time, wool was very prized for export - the funniest thing was she had a New Zealand icebreaker shirt on underneath!!! She said you needed to do ten hours of spinning for every hour of weaving so a very labour intensive job.
The baker showed us the bread she made yesterday - very hard looking, women and children followed the soldiers and the woman cooked for her husband. If your husband didn't come back from war you ended up selling the food and looting dead soldiers.
We went up to the turrets where the archers would have stood many years ago, the turrets were connected with paths, along these paths there were holes in the castle wall where they poured boiling oil down the sides of the castle to burn anyone thinking of attacking. Outside of the castle there was the remains of the moat!