The following is an extract from a discussion paper written by Peter Brown of Peter Brown Associates, freelance archaeologist.
This short note attempts to pull together the current thinking on the date of the medieval garden, as an aid to interpretation and further research. Given the good preservation of the site and the associated viewing mount it is important that the evidence is examined in detail. The views are mine and are open to discussion or reinterpretation.
The known facts
Firstly, we have a 1413 reference to a ‘garden ditched around with water on the north side of the castle there’. Taken with the other detail therein, this leaves no doubt that the account refers to the NW portion of the outer bailey, rectangular on three sides and still ditched around. We do not know anything more about the garden at this time.
Secondly, we have pottery evidence from the silt in the ditch dividing the outer bailey into east and west portions. This dates between 1300 and 1400, though cannot be tied down more specifically.
Taken together, these facts suggest that the outer bailey was divided during the 14th century for the purpose of separating a garden on the west side from the service area (with stables) to the east – the area where the car park still stands.
The date of the garden
It is highly unlikely that the garden would be created while Whittington was still a front-line border fortress during the Welsh Wars. These did not formally cease until the 1280s and so we need to consider possible builders of the garden after that date. Details of the lives of the main contenders are provided in the appendix below.
Fulk V (1251-1315)
This Fulk owned the manor from the end of the Welsh Wars until his death in 1315.
He is a possible garden builder, but given the closeness to the end of the conflicts and the dating of the pottery, not as strong as his immediate successors.
Fulk VI ( – 1336)
He was a major supporter of the King in his wars elsewhere and a wealthy man. Gardens, fruits and herbage are described at the Castle in 1330 (see below). Despite a dispute in 1330 and the confiscation of his lands, these were soon restored. This Fulk is an attractive prospect for creating the garden between 1315 and 1336.
Fulk VII ( -1349)
He was another close ally of the King and a key player in the wars with France.
A garden worth 6d is mentioned in his Inquisition post-mortem of 1350.
His death in 1349 was probably due to plague, so unexpected.
At the 1350 Inquisition the Castle was in some disrepair.
A strong contender as the builder.
The period from 1349 to our account of 1413 sees a large number of owners and periods of wardship. Despite a thorough study of these, there is no plausible context for the creation of the existing garden in this period, when the Castle is consistently described as being in poor repair and rebuilding work was undertaken several times.
The one interesting feature of this period was the three-year wardship of Alice Perrers, the King’s mistress, in the 1370s. (‘The Castle is of no net value, but is in great need of repair. There are two gardens worth 5s yearly’).
Two ponds were drained in her time, but we do not know why. There is no evidence that she had any special interest in Whittington when she owned more than 50 manors.
Taking all of this together, the most likely candidates for the construction of the formal garden are Fulk VI, perhaps in the 1320s or Fulk VII in the 1340s. Fulk V at the start of the century seems a lesser possibility.
None of the evidence refers to the viewing mount, though archaeological instinct suggests that the mount is contemporary with the cutting of the bailey ditch and the demarcating of the present garden.
The (apparently) non-axial arrangement of the rectangular garden features supports the view that the mount is contemporary with the formal medieval garden, as this layout suggests that the grid was aligned to provide symmetrical views from the mount.
Unless further work is approved for the mount and/or garden, we are unlikely to have a clearer picture of the garden or its date than the current evidence provides, though there may be different interpretations placed on this.