The great historian Sir Charles Oman was commissioned by the Great Western Railway to write a study of castles in the regions served by their lines. The result of this collaboration, published in 1926 was this wonderfully handsome and incredibly informative book, mixing history and military architecture, and telling us all we need to know about the castles themselves and the families who lived in them.
Oman covers the castles of the Thames Valley, the West Country, the West Midlands, the Welsh Marches and Wales itself, some eighty in all, both intact and ruined. He explains the origins of castles, their purpose, use and roles in history. The jewel in the crown is Windsor, the great fortress dominating the western approaches to London, and long the principal residence and last resting place of Britain’s Royal family outside the capital. Warwick and Kenilworth are the main castles in the Midlands, the one a magnificent fortress overlooking the river Avon, the other the scene of spectacular shows staged for Queen Elizabeth I by her favourite Robert Dudley. Two of the great ring of castles built by Edward I to subdue North Wales – Harlech, and Criccieth – both feature prominently; as do castles which have played a prominent part in English history, like Berkeley, scene of the gruesome murder of Edward II; and the coastal fortresses of Cornwall – including St Michael’s Mount – built to repel the invading French. Oman personally visited all but six of the castles he writes of, accompanied by his son, responsible for taking most of the photographs in this book. Apart from Oman’s learned but accessible prose, one of the book’s glories is its lavish illustrations. There are 105 in all, including 67 beautiful; five castle plans; two colour plates and two maps. It is a book that all lovers of English and Welsh history should own.
Sir Charles Oman’s Castles
A beautifully produced history and guide to eighty of England’s and Wales’s finest castles – including Windsor, Warwick and Kenilworth – in the western regions served by the Great Western Railway. Its author is the great historian Sir Charles Oman, and the commission is clearly a labour of love, with his learned but accessibly prose complemented by 105 illustrations, including fine photographs and line drawings along with maps and plans. A book to treasure.