Corbridge: Aydon Castle Kitchens

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The fortified hall house of Aydon Castle has, as so many historic buildings do, undergone numerous changes during its history. The house was unaltered for 400 years until it was entrusted to the government in 1966. This remarkably intact building is spartan and unfurnished and is a beautiful example of a 13th century manor house. The original kitchen (above) was the first of three kitchens to be built and part of the first programme of works to be completed by Robert de Raymes.

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The 14th century fireplace above stands where the oven once stood with a cupboard to its left and a chute for getting rid of slops and rubbish next to the window. The Carnaby’s were the 16th century owners of the castle and their coat of arms can be seen carved above the fireplace.

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The second kitchen range (below) was likely to have been built soon after the first kitchen and hall’s construction around 1305.  As Robert de Raymes was heavily involved in the fighting in the Borders after 1296, the original kitchen proved to be too small to provide for him and the many men involved in defending the house. With easy access to the hall, the room was divided in two which can be seen by the change in floor level. This first room was where food was prepared and where dishes were washed afterwards.

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The second room was where the cooking took place using seasonings stored in the cupboards cut into the walls. At floor level on the west wall (left of picture above) is a chute for waste to keep the kitchen clean of scraps. When this kitchen was in use, food was brought directly into the kitchen through the wooden door to the side of the chute instead of through the inner courtyard. At the far end of the room is the large fireplace which was moved from the service end of the hall to that end of the range. There are two low stone benches on either side of the hearth which may have been used to keep food and dishes warm but also could have acted as seats for watchmen coming off cold duty.

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This kitchen went out of use in the 16th century and when the room was deserted due to the floors becoming unsafe, the only inhabitants were pigeons. The series of holes cut into the stones around the top of the room (above) were added in the 19th century to provide nesting boxes for pigeons – valued for their meat, not as racers. The roof of the west wing kitchen features timbers that were inserted by the Carnaby family in the early 1540’s.

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Corbridge: Aydon Castle Upstairs Solar

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The Chamber (Solar) above at Aydon Castle was used as the Lord’s private apartments and is laid out as a single room. Access to the room was from the hall but the private stair to the ground floor no longer exists. The present stairs are as a result of alterations from when the building was used as a farmhouse from the 17th century and continued until 1968 (Allsopp & Clar, 1969). To provide privacy, the room was divided by a partition – probably where the staircase now stands. The smaller part of the solar would have been used as a lobby or waiting room for visitors.

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The main room was the northern one with a fireplace and three windows with seats. The most significant alteration to the room has been the removal of the main 13th century fireplace from the opposite wall to its present location. The medieval chimney flue remains on the outer wall and despite its move, the fireplace is still impressive and gives an indication of the quality of the interior furnishings and fittings within the chamber block. The previous position of the fireplace was immediately above the fireplace in the room below so it is possible that the chimney flue may have leaked from it into the solar’s fireplace. The rather awkward looking fireplace now stands lower than it should which encapsulates Jenkin’s (2003) view that Aydon “seems gloriously lost in an antique world of its own.”

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Corbridge: Head of Sol

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Alongside the worship of Jupiter, the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus merged the Roman god Jupiter with an all powerful sky god that originated in Asia Minor. Co-existing with the worship of Jupiter alone, there was also other merged versions of Jupiter that were popular throughout the Roman army. Several reliefs from a temple to Jupiter Dolichenus have survived having been used in later Roman work. Including a frieze of Sol, the above deeply incised panel formed part of the decorative iconography of the temple. The third century relief of the sun god was found reused as a floor slab in the east granary (Hodgson, 2015). The god was reputedly introduced in Rome by the first Sabine king Titus Tatius at the same time as that of the Moon (Grimal, 1991). There were three religions that were widely practiced in the Roman Empire. The mysteries of Mithras, the god of light and truth, originated from Persia, the worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis, goddess of fertility, and the third was the worship of Atargatis – known as Dea Syria. This Syrian goddess was originally an earth mother whose cult was especially popular with soldiers. Shrines have been found in Rome and as far away as Hadrian’s Wall and she was associated with the Roman Jupiter. Worshipped in wild rituals, Atargatis was often depicted with her consort Jupiter Dolichenus who was portrayed standing upon the back of a bull (Morford, Lenardon & Sham, 2011). The beautiful carving above shows the head of Sol with his radiating nimbus (halo) behind his head and his whip (for driving the sun-chariot) set over his left shoulder. Although not typically classical, the dramatic style shows that the worship of the Syrian god was spread wide across the entire empire and celebrated at Corbridge.