15. The Strong Tower and the Great Hall Cellar
The Strong Tower was known for many years as ‘Mervyn’s Tower’ following the publication of Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott.
Within the basement, or kitchen cellars, the main chamber has a small ledge, of unknown purpose, running the length of its North wall. At the base of this wall is a drain (currently obscured) which discharges into the chute of the latrine above, which in turn exits at the base of the tower into a culvert.
The South West chamber wall has a small rectangular hole through to the Great Hall cross-passage. This was necessary to allow the insertion of the door-bar used to help secure the inner door to the small portcullis leading out to the West court.
The first floor of the Strong Tower included the buttery, named after the beer butts (barrels) which held the supplies of wine and ale, and the pantry, which stored the bread. These chambers led to the screens passage, a wooden partition which separated the Great Hall from the service end.
The top floor chambers serve as lodgings for a senior household officer, such as a Steward of the castle. Typically, one steward would supervise the household staff, and another would manage the castle estate.
The small portcullis at the end of the Hall ground floor cross-passage is more for show, since the large windows above negated any military purpose. It opened into the outer court, providing access to the Water Gate in the south curtain wall. It was raised or lowered via a rope passing through the hole in a window sill above to a windlass.
The cellar stone vaulting supports the main floor above, and provided space to store wine and beer. Sconces (wall candle or torch holders) are shown occupying the pockets which are still evident in each internal wall panel.