King John and the Great Siege at Rochester (1215 A.D) ~ Dr. Peter Purton

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1y May 21, 2020

King John and the great siege of Rochester, 1215 Lecture by Dr. Peter Purton (10-4-2020.)

Between Tuesday, 13 October and Sunday 30 November 1215, the city and castle of Rochester in Kent, in south-east England, was captured by King John’s army following an epic siege, one of the greatest in English history.

It attracted the attention of many contemporary chroniclers as well as that of later historians. For the modern tourist, the fate and the critical function of forty fat pigs naturally attracts much attention - given their part in bringing down the corner of the great tower and leading directly to the castle’s fall, this is understandable.

But the detailed evidence that is unusually available for this siege is also instructive in demonstrating many of the elements of a large-scale medieval siege, as well as revealing contemporary attitudes to warfare, chivalry, loyalty and rebellion, and human life itself.

In 2015, the Castle Studies Group, an organisation of archaeologists, historians and amateur folk sharing an interest in all aspects of medieval castles, organised a conference in Rochester to mark the 800th anniversary of King John’s siege, coinciding with an exhibition to mark the event in the city’s guildhall. This lecture is based on a paper he gave there. He was pleased to acknowledge the help he had from the late Derek Renn, and from Richard Dunn, director of the nearby Royal Engineers’ Museum.

Between local antiquarians, archaeological and historical studies and contemporary medieval accounts and records, we can reconstruct what happened that autumn with remarkable reliability: but there remain many gaps in the surviving records that have not been resolved through archaeology – this is an attempt to plug those gaps with hypotheses that agree with the evidence and are consistent with contemporary techniques, technology and ways of thinking.

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Peter Purton, BA (Hons), DPhil (Oxon), FSA has 5 published books including:

  • A history of the early medieval siege c.450-1200 (Boydell Press, 2009)


  • A history of the late medieval siege c.1200-1500 (Boydell Press, 2010)


  • The medieval military engineer; from the Roman empire to the sixteenth century (Boydell Press, 2018)


And numerous articles published in a number of collections and journals, the list can be viewed at academia.edu.

Academia Profile: https://independent.academia.edu/peterpurton

Website: https://peterpurton.academia.edu/

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Video Attribution for footage of Rochester Castle goes to ROCHESTER CASTLE | KENT by TOM OUTDOORS.

And Rochester Castle and Cathedral 4K Dji Mavic Pro by Oszibusz

Music provided by Royalty Free Music:

Music used: For You King by Ender Güney

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

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