This month BBYAC went on our first field trip of 2015, wrapping up warm on a cold March day to visit Tretower Court and Castle, a Cadw site near Crickhowell. We were transported back in time to the 1450s to meet the House Steward, who took us on a tour of the medieval garden where we found out that the Vaughan family who built Tretower Court showed off their wealth not only in the buildings but also in the exotic trees in their garden including a Mulberry Tree that would have been imported from China and a ‘Dog’s Bottom’ or Medlar Tree. We learned that everything in the garden would have had a use, from pears and apples for making cider, herbs for making medicines and flavouring food, and even grapes – not for making wine but for making antiseptic.
After our tour of the garden we moved inside to the kitchen, where we learned all about the different things the medieval household would eat, where they came from and how food was preserved, stored and prepared. We then all tried out hand at making Marchpanes in Rose molds that Edward of York (the Vaughan Family were York supporters in the Wars of the Roses) would have been proud of – marchpane, that’s decorative medieval marizpan to you and me.
We then moved through to the Great Hall where we learned all about the make up of a medieval household, and how status and rank dictated where you sat and what you ate. We finished helping the House Steward by helping set the tables and learning that in the medieval period that only cutlery you got when eating was a spoon – forks were rather posh things that only that Italians used, and everybody brought and used their own knifes.
We then went out for a guided tour with Ian the Custodian at Tretower to visit the Castle remains, learn all about their history, and how to read the building as an archaeologist to work out how the building was adapted and changed over time.
We then made our way back to the house for a final look around and to have a look at one very important aspect of medieval life, the garderobe – that’s the toilet, and the collection pits beneath that the servants of the house, and probably the children servants, had to empty. Yuk!
We all had a great time and learned a lot, and would like the thank the Cadw staff that helped to bring the site to life.