Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A Norman Hall, by the River Avon in Christchurch

A River of Stones

I think of the men who laid these stones, who built these walls, who made this house nine hundred years ago.

Down beside the River Avon, in sight of the Priory Church, stands the roofless ruin of the Norman Hall at Christchurch. Once the finest house in Christchurch, it was built and lived in by the family of Richard de Redvers, the first Norman Lord of the Manor of Christchurch. Redvers was given his title after fighting for William the Conqueror in the Norman invasion of 1066.

The House was completed in around 1160, when Richard de Redver`s heirs were the leading family in the town. It is said that several kings have stayed here, including King John (1999-1216).
Later, it became the Constable`s House, and has survived into the twenty first century as one of the best existing examples of Norman domestic architecture in the land.

The outer staircase that leads up to the first floor, where the Lord of the Manor`s family and guests ate in the great hall and slept in two bedrooms.

Inside the hall, looking through the upper window in the south facing wall.

The upper and lower windows in the North facing wall. The ridge in the wall and the beam holes in the next photograph, of the long West facing wall, show where the ceiling beams of the ground floor were inserted. The First Floor was the area where the family lived. Underneath, on the ground floor, were store rooms and places where servants would work and prepare food.

The original Norman chimney from the great fireplace, where food would be cooked, water would be boiled and an open fire of wood would keep the people warm.

Behind these iron bars , on the ground floor, are the worn and slippery stones of the riverside wharf, where boats would tie up . People and goods could arrive here by water.

Grand upstairs windows in the Norman style, once glazed.....

..........contrast with the defensive slit windows of the ground floor. A soldier on sentry duty could defend the house from riverside attack by firing arrows through the narrow slits.

The thickness and strength of these walls shows the importance of this house and its residents. The Norman Lords and their Ladies may have gone, but the old house remains. A remarkable testament to fine workmanship and the building craftsmen whose work outlives all memory of their names.

Information from the English Heritage website. English Heritage is now the custodian of the Norman House and of Christchurch Castle keep.


Camilla said...

We've just discovered this blog. An interesting read! Any chance we can hook up via New Forest Notebook. Would be interested in corresponding on some of your New Forest related themes. or Google us at "New Forest Notebook". Thanks.

WOL said...

This is one I'd like to see done in computer graphic reconstruction. It's hard for me to visualize these old buildings when the outer "hull" is all that remains. But those who built the stonework must have been excellent at their craft for the walls to have lasted this long, no thicker than they are.

Hildred and Charles said...

Most interesting post. I am in awe of the skill of the builders of those medieval times, and try to imagine the lives of the builders and the people who lived in the stone houses.

Rowan said...

What a fascinating place, so full of history. The thickness of the walls in these old Norman buildings is amazing.