Sunday, 8 December 2019

Building a Castle: Food Supply

Because a castle was built to withstand a siege, it was necessary to include gardens, food stores and areas for keeping poultry and livestock inside the walls. In peacetime there were fields outside the castle for herds and crops, and also a watermill or windmill to grind the grain.

Kitchen Garden
A typical kitchen garden grew vegetables and herbs. Some vegetables not known today were alexanders (like asparagus) and skirrets (with sweet-tasting white roots). Herbs were used in cooking and medicine, but also scattered among the rushes on the floor to combat smells and pests.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Research: Prison Reform

The recent attack on London Bridge by a convicted terrorist out of prison early on licence has raised a storm of concerns and everyone is looking for someone to blame. Originally prison was somewhere to lock away people who had broken the law and were a menace to society. Comfort and care were not even considered, so long as society was safe and criminals were punished.
Elizabeth Fry
Then certain people became concerned about prisoners' human rights and whether this treatment was helping them to change. So now they have television and games and courses to improve their skills. But incidents like that on London Bridge raise questions again about the effectiveness of prison. Some think we should lock up more people for longer while others think we should look into alternatives and lock up less people for a shorter time.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Building a Castle: Castle and Village

A typical modest rural castle, like Guedelon would have been, was home to about 30 people. But there would have been a whole village of craftspeople built around it. Some more important castles had a town wall built around the whole settlement to protect everyone, but smaller castles could not afford such a building project.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Research: Oxygen Tax

One of the greatest threats of climate change today is deforestation. Previous generations have thought nothing about clearing areas of forest in order to plant crops or graze cattle. Even today when we understand a lot more about the role that forests play, they are still being cleared at an alarming rate. Forests have been called the lungs of the Earth, but we cannot blame local people for trying to make a living. In some places it's being done by corporations operating on a much larger scale, but still in the pursuit of profit. The main cash crops are  beef, soy, palm oil and wood products.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Building a Castle: Chapels and Vaulted Ceilings

Every castle had a chapel as the Church was an integral part of daily life. But originally the chapel was set up in a modest chamber. As time went on the chapel became more ornate, sometimes with a crypt to celebrate the lord's ancestors, and became part of his display of status and wealth. From the 11th century onward, the chapels were specially built and often had vaulted ceilings, which were beautiful to look at but very difficult to build.
Oystermouth Castle Chapel
In some castles the chapel was built into the gatehouse or one of the corner towers, in others it was part of the keep. It was usually on the topmost floor so that nothing came between it and heaven. Some castles had two chapels, a larger one for the general castle community and a smaller one for the lord's private use, usually near his quarters.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Research: Gene Editing

We have talked before about DNA and the advances in DNA mapping, but this time the topic is altering DNA, particularly when it is defective.
Wikipedia says:
Genome editing, or genome engineering, or gene editing, is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in the genome of a living organism. Unlike early genetic engineering techniques that randomly inserts genetic material into a host genome, genome editing targets the insertions to site specific locations.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Building a Castle: Flooring

The size of a Great Hall was limited by the length of beams the carpenters could get from available trees, for the roof and the floor. Some great towers were built with in internal crosswall which enabled each side to be roofed and floored independently. Upper floors were supported by pillars in the rooms beneath.
Joist holes Chepstow Castle
Masons and carpenters worked closely together. In ruined castles today you can see the joist sockets in the walls for the supporting beams. The walls were built to the right height and the joists put in place. Then the walls were continued, building them around the joists. In some cases there was also a spine beam running at right angles.