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Newcastle’s Castle – The well room

In this blog we’ll talk about the construction of Newcastle’s Castle as well as my favourite part of the building – the Well Room.

The construction of a castle isn’t always about military defence. It’s not just the walls, the gatehouses or the military needs that make the castle into a defendable asset. Nor is it about the thickness of the walls or the way they’re built to funnel invaders in a certain direction during times of war

The construction of the castle is also about the royal role it holds as the meeting place of the King – he would hold court at the castle and give out (as well as take away) patronage, assign new titles, and give out land. And so many ordinary people would live and work within the walls of the castle, telling many fascinating and interesting stories of day-to-day living.

A castle isn’t just a fortress in the time of war, but a functioning building of law and order. There would also be lots of feasting, ceremony and ordinary life. Maurice the engineer, designer and builder of the castle, did a fantastic job of planning all of those functions into Newcastle’s Castle.

There is a brilliant blog, on the Newcastle Castle website, about Maurice – the engineer who built the castle and later went on to build Dover’s castle too. If you’re interested in the engineer himself and how he built the castle, it’s definitely worth reading that blog.

The Well Room

This is my favourite part of the castle and one, in my opinion, that probably caused Maurice the biggest headache in terms of planning. Either that or he was really clever to build the room in a way that it would continue to function centuries after his lifetime.

What I love about it is that the water in the castle would have been distributed from. I know, that’s quite a strange room to have as a favourite. Let me explain. Newcastle’s Castle took ten years to build – a fact which will become relevant very soon.

In the well room there is, as you’d imagine, a well. It drops 99ft below the room and was the well that supplied the whole castle with water. There’s a hole in the wall above the well – that would have housed an iron bar to dangle a bucket into the well to draw the water out. As the castle is built on top of the Roman fort of Pons Aelius, there is a chance that the same well was used for both buildings – waste not, want not!

The water would have been brought out of the well and poured into one of two basins in the well room. These funnelled the water into the castle’s water supply system and would have gone down into the cellar as well as other locations around the castle. Such amazing technology at the time. Especially when you consider the castle took ten years to build so that system had to be meticulously planned and executed over an extended period of time.

It blows my mind that Maurice the engineer planned the water system so brilliantly to enable its building over ten years of construction.

That’s why the well room is my favourite room in the castle. The water system that allowed normal people with the castle to have a drink during their day-to-day lives. It’s the day-to-day aspect of history that really excites me and draws me in to find out more about how people lived.

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