This door is to be found in Chepstow Castle in Chepstow (called Striguil in the 12th century) in Wales. The door dates from the 12th century. While this in itself makes the door interesting, how it was discovered and what it meant adds even greater significance. This door hung in the doorway of the main gatehouse of the castle.
The building of the gatehouse can be dated with reasonable certainty to the rule of William Marshal. Marshal gained the castle in 1189 through marriage to Isabel de Clare. This can be surmised for three main reasons.
1. A Short Cross Silver penny of Henry II was found in the foundations of the gatehouse. These pennies weren’t minted until the mid 1180’s.
2. The wood of the doors was dated using dendrochronology to an estimated felling date of between 1159 and 1189.
3. Pre 1189 the castle was in the hands of the crown as part of a wardship, held by Henry II, until its heiress Isabel de Clare married. Thus Henry II had no incentive to build a huge gatehouse at a castle which he was going to have to hand over to Isabel’s husband.
This is where it gets interesting. Marshal most likely built the gatehouse shortly after he became Lord of Striguil. There is no way he should have had the funds for such an impressive construction, because prior to his marriage he only had a very small landed estate. So where did the money come from? Marshal was known as the most successful tourney knight of his age, but the fact that he had the resources to at least begin the construction of the gatehouse show he must have been truly spectacular.
Information sourced from
Richard Avent & Dan Miles, “The Main Gatehouse” in Rick Turner & Andy Johnson, (eds) Chepstow Castle, Its History and Buildings, Logaston: Logaston Press, 2006, pp. 51-62, pp. 52-53.