Tong Castle in the 16th Century
This article forms part of Alan Wharton's Report No. 4 on the Tong Castle excavation published in September 1986. The text and illustrations do not form part of the Discovering Tong book.
The inheritance of the Tong Estate by the Vernon Family of Haddon ➚ in the Peak District with their many Royal connections, brought the need for a more palatial style of building at Tong to replace the then almost derelict medieval Manor House. A Tudor styled Mansion, with two wings and a joining Hall, was built of brick similar to the same design as Hampton Court.
The new Mansion was built generally over the foundations of the Manor House and with the need for any form of defence now gone, the new, fashionable brickwork, made to reproduce all the facets of carved sandstone, brought about a complete change in architecture and was the start of the use of the 'castle' at Tong to entertain guests, rather than as a seat of power for the Lord of the Manor.
The use of brick was total and in places, where the medieval sandstone foundations were found to be inadequate, strong brick piers were constructed to take place of the earlier ones. Although the bricks were hand made and soft fired, the strong mortar bonding produced a structure as strong as, if not stronger than the sandstone blocks. New square Towers were also built of brick at the south east and north east corners of the front courtyard.
Atthe bottom of the south east tower, a chamber was built with a brick arched roof support, and extending from the Tower, and along the edge of the outer ditch a high wall was constructed making the chamber 'invisible' from outside the ditch. Entrance to the chamber was through an inward opening door and in one corner was a 'squint' slot to look down, but not to be seen from, the south outer wall, making it a very hidden and secluded place.
With the earlier tunnels underneath the old Manor House being either extended or re-built, it became possible to traverse the length of the building underground without being observed and it would therefore have been possible to hide in the underground chamber, move along the high south outer wall and then into the Tunnel entrance and onto the diagonally opposite area of the Mansion if necessary and many uses can be thought to utilise this facility.
Alongside the entrance to the tunnel on the south, a rubbish chute pit was located, with the chute having been built down the outside of the Mansion for the disposal of rubbish. The pit would have been cleaned out periodically, but inside the pit was the last deposit which was of a domestic/kitchen content.
Although the well in the Keep building would still then be open, demolition and other rubbish would have made it unusable and a new well was cut into the natural bedrock down to a depth of about 5 metres to locate the water table.
An area to the north west corner of the courtyard had small buildings surrounded by a cobbled courtyard which looked like a stabling area for the Mansion. Below the cobbled area to the north was built about, and below, another square tower on the medieval watch tower foundations along with a series of domestic type buildings, presumably for the kitchens etc. and these were generally below the Mansion.
Click here to go to the 17th century castle - the next in the sequence of Tong Castles or here to go to the index page with information about the Tong archaeological excavation.
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