Sunday, 5 May 2013

Oven remains

Recently, I have been looking at ancient bread ovens.  This example is at Kenilworth Castle in a corner of the kitchen.  The castle was founded in 1120 and was built as a stone fortress in the 14th century.  It is at this time that the medieval bread oven would have been built.
The oven at Kenilworth is made of fired clay bricks at the base and of sandstone blocks at the top.  To fire the oven up, brushwood would have been burned  for a couple of hours to heat the oven, and then the ash scraped out onto the stone floor.  The bread dough would then be placed on the hot bricks to bake and a wooden door used to seal the oven front.
At Wingfield Manor, the bread oven is made of Derbyshire gritstone and it is contemporary with the one at Kenilworth.  The Manor at South Wingfields was built between 1440 and 1450, being a classic 15th century design.
The interior of the oven is made of large gritstone blocks which form an arched dome.  It would have been fired with brushwood in the same way as the other bread ovens of the time.  Each baking would require the oven to be re-heated.  With large loaves, the hard bottom would be cut off to form trencher plates for the meals to be eaten from.  The upper crust would then go to the high table for the household family and guests.
At the side of the bread oven at Wingfield is a larger bread oven for general household baking.  If the house was occupied, the small oven would not be sufficient to supply the family and retainers with bread, so the larger oven could be used.
The back of the large oven was robbed out for building stone when Wingfield Manor was deserted in the 1700's.  It is a large oven with a very solid base.

Kenilworth Castle is owned by English Heritage and has a good car park.  Access is relatively easy and there are facilities on site, including a good cafe and shop.  The gardens are well maintained and there is a lot of staff support available for visitors.

Wingfield Manor is run by English Heritage and privately owned.  Access is only by pre-booked and pre-paid tours, you will need good footwear and there are no facilities on site, so take a bottle of water and have a toilet break before going on site.  Lots of walking and climbing of stairs. Excellent guides. Parking is on a main road layby, suitable for about 15 cars off road, and you will have to cross the busy road to gain access to the site.

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