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with sustenance would prove precarious and have no direct advantage unless some sort of profit was obtained. Again one would have to examine why someone would be confined and fed; if this was hidden away in a dungeon the main purpose that of demonstrating to the local population of authority would be lost. How would anyone know for certain they were in the dungeon? Down a series of winding steps is the guard room, pledge chamber and pit, all contained within 13 feet thick walls. Set in the guard room is a small hatch measuring 2 feet by 2 feet allowing access to the dismal pit, 18 feet by 5 feet and some 11 feet deep, this hatch was covered by a series of wooden doors, packed with wool or leather so designed as to make the only entrance soundproof, light tight and virtually airtight. This pit was used for the intimidation of prisoners awaiting the eventual payment of ransom, part of the darker side of castle life. The practice of kidnapping individuals and demanding ransom, 'the Black Meal' (later corrupted to blackmail) was a widespread activity in the Border region, generating a vast amount of wealth for the families individually engaged in such activity. As well as demanding payment for ransom coffers were filled by demanding protection money for not being kidnapped or attacked. Everyone paid. Most strongholds in the region employed groups of mercenaries, Rievers. These highly motivated and devious individuals would organise bloody Border raids to loot and kidnap. Indeed to be visited by such a raiding party coined the phrase, to be “bereaved”. Once an individual was taken, he was dragged back to the castle, shackled and carefully lowered through the hatch to the pit below and sealed (the shackles can still be seen on the wall of the guard room today). This may sound barbaric but in practice each victim was carefully chosen before capture; after clearly identifying their wealth and connections, allegiances and disposable wealth, as any form of ransom was usually demanded in the form of cattle. Only a tithe, or 10%, was demanded from such victims, and once contracts were drawn up between the parties this often came down to delicate negotiations rather than imprisonment or torture. However, refusal to sign any agreement would leave the unfortunate soul introduced to the pit. There was only one way in and out of the dungeon, through a narrow trap door which would gain access into the pit below. Trapped in a foul smelling, soundproof, pitch black dungeon, confined until a ransom was agreed to be paid. Starved and chained if necessary, the prisoner was eventually dragged from the pit and placed in the next room; the pledge chamber. The exact terms of the pledge, or ransom, was carefully negotiated and written in the form of a contract, witnessed and signed. From then on the treatment greatly improved, achieving the status of an honoured guest under arrest, evidenced by the en-suite facilities (the Garderobe) provided above the pit. One point to note is the toilet facilities of the pledge chamber drop into the pit; so the pit would have also worked as a cesspit, making any incarceration an extremely foul experience, one that few would endure for more than a few days. 16


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