12. Leicester's Apartments
Leicester’s Apartments were previously and also known as Henry VIII’s lodgings, as these had only recently been constructed in about 1532, but it was recorded at the time that the resulting east elevation would be much improved by rebuilding those parts in timber with stone from the demolished abbey. Local historian Dr. Richard Morris, writing in 2006, suggests that this work was never carried out, and that walls above the original curtain walling remained timber framed, but plastered and painted to resemble the adjacent stonework.
The portcullis entrance to the inner court is served by a porter’s lodge. The paving here still exhibits traces of cartwheel tracks, 4 feet 8½ inches apart. This is exactly the same as the gauge of a modern railway! A popular explanation is that this is the combined width of the backsides of 2 horses, and thus the standard distance between the wheels of a Roman chariot. These wheels created ruts in Roman roadways, and therefore when horse drawn wagons and coaches were built, they had to use the same spacing or risk damage to their wheels. Wagons built for the first railways continued with the same familiar dimensions, and the gauge of the track was thereby established. As recently as 1971 the local historian John Drew observed similar ‘deeply rutted cart tracks’ within Mortimer’s Tower, correctly predicting that these would soon be worn away by a constant stream of visitors.
The elaborately carved classical entrance in the inner court, bearing the initials ‘R L’ for Robert, earl of Leicester, was removed in 1650 by Colonel Hawkesworth for use as his entrance porch to the north gatehouse, where it remains today.