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In the first four posts on Architectural Photography, we covered the CHURCHES and CATHEDRALS (Although we did not use this book in our posts, useful reading certainly would be the Handbook to the Cathedrals of England, by Richard John King, published in 1862 by Publisher John Murray in London, we have been told).

Now off to the CASTLES and to those most important places, very influential in helping to spread Western thought and learning through out the once mighty British Empire: The great learning centers located in Oxford.

We start, however, with some views of Kenilworth Castle, like the large albumen print above from our archive. This Castle was built from local red sandstone and with its five hundred years of building history behind it, it is now considered one of the finest surviving structures of the later Middle Ages in England due to the size, scope and quality of the buildings. It is located in the Midlands near the town of Kenilworth in Warwickshire. It is an enormous ruin and a major tourist attraction.

This particular view has the legend 17065 Kenilworth Castle but is unsigned. like the other ones we will post it is by the hand of the Scottish photographer James Valentine (JV). The viewpoint here is from the so called Tiltyard, a stretch of 500 feet with walls on either side used for the Medieval game of Jousting.


The castle was built by King Henry I’s Lord Chamberlain Geoffrey de Clinton in 1120 to offset the increasing power of Roger de Beaumont, the Earl of Warwick some 8 miles south where the Castle of Warwick is located. Both Castles played enormously important roles throughout English history.

The massive building (in the top photo on the right), or what is left of it, is the Norman Keep from around 1120 and the building in the foreground is called the Leicester Building. It was constructed by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, given to him by Queen Elizabeth I around the 1560’s and used to entertain this Queen in splendid surroundings. He also constructed a gatehouse of which we have no pictures in our archive.

In this mid-Sixteenth Century etching (shown below) by etcher Wenceslas Hollar we see the long 500 ft. Tiltyard in the bottom right hand corner with the number 24.The place was partially immortalized by Sir Walter Scott in his 1826 novel  Kenilworth which recounts and popularizes the history of the place in a romantic way and ever since scores of tourists flock to see these incredible ruins. Below is a very nice contemporary view of the castle today from approximately the same viewpoint. (courtesy 2004 JV Forrester)

King Henry II took the Castle back from Geoffrey de Clinton’s descendants to ward off a military threat by the King’s son. It came into Royal hands again under John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who also had pretensions to the the throne of Spanish Castille e Leon, through his wife, was the protector of King Richard II. He built a beautiful Banquet Hall in 1392 that would be the model for the later Westminster Hall on the castle grounds. Posted below is an albumen view of the Banquet Hall.

More important perhaps, he extended the entire fortress and made the surrounding moat into the largest artificial lake defense in all of England, meaning a lake surrounded the entire relatively low castle outer walls. This “mere” extended naturally on both sides of the Tiltyard. During the middle of the thirteenth century the castle came under siege that lasted for a six month period. The longest siege period endured by any English Castle. Below a view of the outer court numbered 2586 and initialed JV.

John’s son Henry Bolingbroke disposed Richard II and later became King Henry IV thus keeping the property in Royal hands. The lake was drained during the seventeenth century, and the castle was slighted to pose less of a military threat and thus the lake is not visible in any pictures if you were wondering where the water was!

A view from the west side (above) number 4611 signed with the initials JV. measures 8x 5.5 inches (20.5×13.5cms) like the ones above. 

While writing this post, I kept thinking that it would be nice to understand the splendor of the Elizabethan time and perhaps to understand what one would read at this most important castle during those days. Believe me, I had to dig real deep, but I remembered that by chance I recently bought an important 1936 book sale catalog held in London of an enormously important Dutch book collection.

sotheby mensing sale coverSo surely, I would find something in this catalog to illustrate the story. After all great book collectors like Lessing J. Rosenwald bought many illustrated manuscripts and books at that sale. (the famous Rosenwald collection is now housed at the special collection department of the Library of Congress)

And sure enough I did. You will have to bear with me and read the very fascinating opening statement of the Sotheby’s catalog to come to the very last paragraph to see that what we are illustrating is very apropos.

sotheby mensing introsotheby mensing intro2

sotheby mensing intro 3

sotheby book description

This cost 230 real English pounds in 1936! This was “Real” money in those days. The book above was once owned by Robert Hoe (1839-1909) one of America’s great book collectors from New York City and the owner of a printing press business. His extensive collection that brought several million dollars when it was sold in 1912. Most likely Anton Mensing bought the book at that sale.

Robert Hoe was one of the founders and first President of the influential Grolier Book Collecors Club in New York City. His enormous collection contributed much to the knowledge of the bibliography of books in the United States in the early twentieth century. Several books about the Hoe collection can be downloaded free on Google books. (the library of Robert Hoe by Bierstadt is one of those)  Below are links to other posts in this series. We hope you enjoy them!

Part 4 England and Scotland

Part 3 England and Scotland

Part 2 England and Scotland

Part 1 England and Scotland