This is the public gallery. Members of the public were allowed to sit in on any court case. You can still go into a court and sit in the public gallery. I think you would find it interesting to see how the courts work. In the public gallery you would find all kinds of people. They might be friends or family of the accused. They might be law sudents or just people looking for shelter. Imagine what they would have seen. There have been some intriguing trials held here!
Let me tell you about another man who came here to Leicester Castle’s Great Hall.
JOHN OF GAUNT inherited Leicester Castle in 1361. He was one of the richest men in England. He owned 30 castles, but Leicester was his favourite. He always liked Leicester Castle and he stayed here until his death in 1399. John of Gaunt held many banquets and balls here at Leicester Castle. His guests included King Richard II and his close friend Geoffrey Chaucer. I’ll tell you more about Geoffrey Chaucer later. John of Gaunts cellar is an underground room that is still here, hidden underneath Leicester Castle.
Did you know? John of Gaunt’s cellar was built just after his death in 1399. It wasn’t even his cellar! It was just named after him. He did make a lot of improvements to Leicester Castle though, and he helped to make it one of the grandest in the whole land! John of Gaunt’s cellar was used as a prison during the Napoleonic wars. A lot of the French soldiers held there scratched graffiti into the stone walls. John of Gaunt’s Cellar is still here, under the ground, not far from where you are standing. You can still see the graffiti that was left by those soldiers.
Did I mention Geoffrey Chaucer? Geoffrey Chaucer was a well known author and poet and he knew a lot of powerful people. In 1374, King Edward III granted Geoffrey Chaucer a gallon of wine every day for the rest of his life. It was to be collected on St George’s Day, when artistic endeavours were traditionally rewarded. That’s an awful lot of wine!
Later it was changed so that he got money instead. Perhaps he couldn’t drink all that wine. Geoffrey Chaucer was a good friend of John of Gaunt and often stayed here at Leicester Castle. Geoffrey Chaucer is best known as the author of The Canterbury Tales. That is a collection of stories written in a very old style of English. It can be hard to understand at first but they are very important stories. Geoffrey Chaucer was also a well known poet. He would probably have written a lot of those well known stories and poems right here in Leicester. He also got married very close to here at St Mary De Castro Church.
When you leave this building you will be able to see the church just across the courtyard. It’s the church of St Mary De Castro. Just like the Great Hall, the church has stood for a long time and would have been an important part of life for those who lived and worked around Leicester Castle. Geoffrey Chaucer married Philippa (de) Roet in that very church in 1366. It would have been a very grand occasion.
Right! Let's test that memory. I have a game for you...