Dover Castle! IN COLOR
March 18, 2022 4:39 AM   Subscribe

We all know what castles were like indoors from the movies: dark, austere, lit by torches. But Tod (previously) takes us through the bright colours of reconstructed Dover Castle, and also some mail and other things he made.
posted by TheophileEscargot (19 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
It makes me wonder, though, does Dover Castle ever duplicate the actual lighting (candles, lamps, etc.) that would have been used in-period, to give an even more accurate depiction of how peoplw would have seen the colorful interiors?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:43 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Lighting is it? My Mum was born in Dover but she never went up the hill to the castle until, in her 30s, visiting her folks on a drizzly afternoon, with three fractious kids at heel, she finally took us to visit. I was ~6. The custodian told us that the castle was 300 feet above the Market Square and that the castle well was that deep. He then soused a rag in paraffin, lit it and dropped the thing down the hole. Brilliant on several levels; I'm still talking about it 60 years later.
posted by BobTheScientist at 8:15 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


The castle well must be a few feet less deep, due to all the rags that have been dropped down it for demonstration over the years
posted by cynical pinnacle at 8:28 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


Reminds me of an irritation I have in video games -- who keeps all those torches and lanterns and candles and bonfires lit? There must have been a really strong Lamplighter's Union in medieval times...
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:34 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


I've done a bit of traveling, and many times I have wished to see some sort of reconstruction or visualization of the places I visited. For example, the Alhambra is gorgeous and full of intricate and dizzying tile and molded masonry work. But it's mostly empty, rectangular room after room of just... emptiness. I imagine there would have been carpets, light fixtures, furniture, cushions, vases, sculpture, utensils, wall hangings, tapestries, window treatments, etc etc etc. Extremely wealthy people lived there, and it would have been comfortable. Not just echoey, empty rooms.

I absolutely loved my visit there, but it would be even better if someone were to do a 3-D CG rendering of some of these spaces with historically accurate furnishings and lighting, if even for just a few areas. I've thought this about the various castles and cathedrals I've visited, too.

Great links, thanks for the post.
posted by SoberHighland at 8:40 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I don't have a complete history of dyes, but were they all available back then to match the palette he is using?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:41 AM on March 18


I don't have a complete history of dyes, but were they all available back then to match the palette he is using?

Yes, many colours were available from antiquity, and certainly in medieval England (e.g.) - coloured clothing (with plain or bleached linen for undergarments) was very much the norm, with a very wide range to choose from. Because dye baths were used repeatedly, the first batch would be the strongest colour, and most costly, but cheaper 3rd or 4th batches with weaker shades would be been affordable for most. Cloth could also be dyed more than once in different colours, to get additional shades.

So it's not lots of colour generally that indicate wealth per se, but the sheer brightness and quality of them, and that some of the shades were imported over long trade routes - and thus expensive - and indicators of aristocracy. Medieval trade routes were surprisingly extensive. Various blues were very common, but lapis lazuli was an expensive one, for example. Black was an expensive colour too, because it required a lot of dye.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 9:14 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Medieval Times: more historically accurate than I would have guessed.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:20 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


My first thought was along yours - "Huh, so I guess those old Errol Flynn technicolor medieval films were more accurate than I thought!" :)
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:33 AM on March 18


IN COLOR

*'Police Squad' theme played on medieval instruments starts playing
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:13 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Also fight scenes in old movies are sometimes more accurate than modern ones. Matt Easton of scholagladiatoria watches a scene from Ivanhoe (1952).
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:14 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


it's not lots of colour generally that indicate wealth per se, but the sheer brightness and quality of them

And persistence; one of the interesting things we don't (the last I read) really know about medieval non-rich people is, how often did they use the basically temporary local plant dyes? Most places can do what you might call Easter-egg colors quite cheaply, it's just that those dyes will either wash out or fade to beige in less than a year. It's possible that even peasants had one colorful bit of clothing at any given time, which isn't how movies currently show it.

does Dover Castle ever duplicate the actual lighting (candles, lamps, etc.)

Ooh, a while ago a recreation group did this for a gorgeous gold-embroidered jacket, and even on video the effect of the jacket worn in candlelight was amazing. Not just the gold, but the bright colors flashing in and out of the light. But I can't find the videos... I think it was a group project at a largish historical place, like Jamestown or Williamsburg, and the jacket looked a lot like this one.
posted by clew at 11:44 AM on March 18


To connect to Absolutely...'s lovely example, AIUI, we don't really know what people who wouldn't have been spending cash on colors and therefore wouldn't have been mordanting their dyes wore, but we know that even they could have had a bright kerchief at the cost of an informed afternoon in the woods and one boiled pot of water. And since the really bright colors were SO high-status, there was probably motive for it.

Which is, er, a side-issue from the castle interior tours linked to, which are delightful. "Tacky bright colors"! Oh gosh the modernicity!
posted by clew at 11:57 AM on March 18


Coming soon to The History Channel: Castle Flippers!
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:59 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of an irritation I have in video games -- who keeps all those torches and lanterns and candles and bonfires lit? There must have been a really strong Lamplighter's Union in medieval times...

Yeah, one of those nitpicks I have with the likes of Elden Ring. *Opens forbidden tomb* *Tomb is brightly lit by sconces* Who is refilling the oil or resin for these? The undead?!

But on topic this is a cool video, reminds me of the colorful reconstructions of Rome and Athens where all the marble and statues are painted vividly — as it was! But imagine the U.S. painting all its neoclassical architecture red, (marble color), and blue. Ugh!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:44 PM on March 18


At least in Skyrim you can tell yourself the draugr did it, or maybe Meridia.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:19 PM on March 18


I'd always assumed that those dim Throne Room scenes in Terry Gilliam's 'Jabberwocky' were the most accurate depictions of medieval castle interior decor.
posted by ovvl at 6:37 PM on March 18


the draugr did it

Is that some kind of butler?
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:08 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Who is refilling the oil or resin for these? The undead?!

Hey, necromancers need work, the tarnished need torches, the tarnished leave a lot of bodies around, everyone wins!
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:30 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


« Older We Own This City   |   "And now I'm happy, joyous, and free, and my life... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments