By Lady Máirghréad Stíobhard inghean uí Choinne
This castle appears as it would in a pine forest in Europe, but it’s actually situated in a part of Thescorre known as Bergen, NY. Bergen is located midway between Rochester and Buffalo.
To reach the castle, you must first drive down one of two long drives winding through the pine-studded woods near the Bergen Swamp where you will see the beautiful crenelated outer castle walls decorated with metal-worked shields – both built by the owner.
Many gentles from the northwestern portions of Æthelmearc are familiar with Schloss van Tannenacker, or “Castle of the Pine Forest” or “Castle of the Fir Farmland”. This is the castle of Lord Richard von Tanner. His wife, Xiling, daughter, Lady Nicole du Marias (also known as Nikki of the Swamp) and son-in-law, m’lord Richard of the Swamp, also inhabit the schloss.
Through their generosity, the Schloss and the striking grounds surrounding it have been offered as a site for occasional events including Thescorre Baronial Champs, Thescorre Baronial Picnics, Thescorre Archery practice, Threadworkers Guild, Cauldron Blue Cooks’ Guild, Heraldic Roundtables and Kingdom Curias (and Royal crash space) in Thescorre. For those who have never seen this Thescorre castle, we offer you another photographic tour of a castle in Æthelmearc and encourage you to attend an event or practice there.
When Lord Richard was a child, one of his favorite books was “Grimm’s Fairytales” illustrated by Fritz Kredel. This version of the fairytales was translated from the German by Mrs. E. V. Lucas, Lucy Crane, and Marian Edwardes. The book was copyrighted in the 1940’s by Grosset and Dunlap. Richard began planning to build a castle modeled on the Kredel illustration from the end papers of this “Grimm’s Fairytales” when he was about twelve years old (1955). The oak tree that was felled on Lord Richard’s grandfather’s farmland where the castle now stands was prepared in the early 1950’s at the direction of Lord Richard to be used in construction of the castle doors and the keep balcony – all when Lord Richard was still a child. As Lord Richard says “I planted most of the [new] trees during grade school, high school and am still planting.” All the lumber for the house was cut and air-drying by the time he graduated from High school.
Kredel was born in Germany and most likely took his inspiration for the castle from the many fortifications surrounding his home in Germany.
Nuremberg Castle’s Sinwell Round Tower is a typical example of German round tower fortified castles. The first mention of this castle in historical records is in 1105. In 1140, King Conrad III started building a second castle on the site, to be used as a royal residence. This was adjoined to the original round tower. This expansion of fortified castles to include additional space for living quarters, gathering and sheltering during strife was typical in Germany and in other parts of Europe.
Richard drew up his own architectural plans while still in high school, and crafted many of the materials used in the castle in his shop which is also on the grounds of the castle. Richard designed and constructed every aspect of the castle: the castle walls, the parapets, the many gardens, the outdoor bread oven, the outdoor copper smoker, the wishing well, the chapel and elevated walk as well as the modern amenities such as the bathhouse. How could this be possible one might ask? Lord Richard, who considers himself to be an artist, has several degrees and certifications: Concept design Engineering (mechanical), Mathematics, Physics, Ancient Mythology, NYS education BS, Stick and TIG Welding and Electrical Technician just to mention a few. More importantly, he has the practical experience and passion to put this learning to use. He has been designing and building Schoss von Tannenacker for the past 60 years and continues to add new features each year.
Thescorre’s castle, much like the castle of Their Highnesses Byron and Ariella in the Debatable Lands, is divided into “period sections” and “modern sections”, so that one can, as Prince Byron said, “suspend our disbelief when we want to, but still live comfortably.” At Schloss von Tannanaker, not only are the appearance, the construction and most of the furnishings within the period sections of the house researched and documentable, many of them were made by Lord Richard from materials taken from the land surrounding the castle. Some of the furnishings were also made by Lord Richard’s grandfather in the 19th century. The same is true for the wrought iron door hardware, stained glass windows, brass decorative signs on the long drives into the castle, and many other accouterments of the castle and its grounds.
Lord Richard strove to be authentic and affordable in the construction of his castle which remains a work in progress. As is often discussed, the two basic philosophies of castle reconstruction are authenticity of style, and authenticity of materials. Lord Richard strives for authenticity of style with a few exceptions, and in many cases authenticity of materials as well. He can achieve this because he is harvesting many of the materials from the land surrounding the castle just as was done in medieval times: felling trees and digging stone to produce lumber and masonry.
Planning began in the 1950’s along with gathering materials from the surrounding land such as wood and stone. Construction began in the 1969 with the clearing of the land, followed by pouring of the foundation. The foundation is several feet thick and the entire castle is designed by Lord Richard and constructed to withstand forces of nature such as an earthquake.
The walls of the castle and surrounding structures are built using wooden forms, mortar, stones and are reinforced with rebar. The wooden forms are removed during the final steps of construction.
Exterior of the Schloss
Lord Richard has elevated repurposing materials to a new level in the construction of his castle. One of many examples in addition to lumber and stone from the surrounding land is the beautiful stairway leading from the second level of the round tower to the courtyard outside first level. These wonderful natural stone stairs were originally located in a neighboring town. Lord Richard learned that they were going to be destroyed during some new construction and “adopted” the stairs, incorporating them into his design. Again, it was not unknown in medieval times for materials to be repurposed in construction or expansion of a structure. To set the scene, when you step outside of the upper gallery level of the main round tower, there is a lovely pool overlooking the rear grounds. These stone stairs lead to the courtyard and to one of the many water features built into the castle grounds.
The grounds include not only the outer castle wall, decorated with shields in the mortar and hanging from the walls and gates, the parapets of the outer walls, the chapel, the bread oven, a copper smoker, and three distinct themed gardens: the Zen Garden, the Roman Ruins Garden, and the Secret Garden. The paths that connect these gardens are lush with various native and ornamental plants and extensive water features including bridges and pools.
By 1970, work could begin on the interior. The castle took 27 years for Lord Richard to complete to a state of fulfilling his initial plans. If you ask, he will tell you he is still building it! Just this year he and his family completed an additional stone wall and an elevated wooden walkway joining the northeast and southeast parapets of the outer wall towers. The stairs within the parapets can be used to access the wooden walkway.
Interior of the Schloss
Lord Richard was very particular when constructing the interior of the castle. He fabricated metal lighting to look like sconces, and created the interior and exterior wood doors from trees harvested from the surrounding land and decorated with hardware he in large part also fabricated. The main entrance features a “portcullis” gate.
Lord Richard designed and crafted all the stained glass windows in the castle and those in some adjacent structures.
The Round Tower
The Great Hall, or the Round Tower, can only accommodate about twenty people on the lower level. This size round tower was not uncommon in the middle ages when a local lord was defending his own territorial lands. That is why the round tower has been used only for curias and for occasional crash space for Royals and for tours. However, the large tents that are outside but within the outer castle walls can accommodate a hundred or more people. Feasts and sideboards are seated outside the main castle. The site has been rented for weddings and other mundane events.
Lord Richard has decorated the inside of the Round Tower with many articles that he handcrafted himself. There are metal-worked shields representing Æthelmearc in the upper gallery, in addition to swords and many period articles. Lord Richard, as mentioned previously, designed and built all the stained glass windows himself. These include the ones in the main castle round tower keep and the chapel.
The southern or “modern” wing of the castle is reserved for the family’s private living quarters. It is not used when events are held at the castle. In fact, for large, outdoor events, Lord Richard prefers to organize small private tours during the day to reduce traffic through the interior of the castle and to explain the highlights of the castle and its construction.
The gallery opposite the second floor fireplace can be employed with permission for a musician’s gallery. This gallery makes a good vantage point for watching people in the Great Hall of the Round Tower below. The interior stairs from the first floor of the Round Tower to the second floor are made of oak also harvested from the lands surrounding the castle. There is a koi pond built into the hall underneath this interior stairway.
Lord Richard began participating in the SCA in about 2005. Lady Nikki was quick to follow and eventually introduced her husband, m’lord Richard, to the Society. Lord Richard has been Baronial Arts and Science Champion and has placed first twice in Ice Dragon Arts and Sciences competitions. Lady Nikki has been Baronial Gold Key and Chirurgeon and remains in the Chirurgeon’s Guild. These are just a few examples of this family’s service to the Barony and Kingdom. The many, many events, practices, and other meetings that they have hosted at Schloss von Tannenacker were previously listed.
Not only is Lord Richard a master builder of concrete castles, he also undertook the task of building a scale model of a medieval castle using a period wafer cookie redaction. This cookie castle subtlety was entered into the Ice Dragon Arts and Science competition and subsequently won first place. The cookie castle even had a spiral staircase just as Schloss von Tannenacker does.
There is ample room and an engaging atmosphere for martial activities, arts and sciences, and bardic activities at the Schloss. For this reason, the castle has been the preferred site for Thescorre Baronial championships in recent years.
Whether the event calls for heavy weapons melees, fencing, thrown weapons, or archery, Lord Richard has accommodated all.
Scadians have enjoyed martial activities at the castle with shelter from the sun or rain under the pines and bright, open fields when desired.
A thrown weapons range is traditionally set up as well in the fields beyond the pines near the southeast parapet of the outer wall. Again, the parapets and upper gallery level balconies are wonderful spots from which to view martial activities.
Arts and Science and Bardic activities are welcome at the castle. There is ample tent space for displays. A large fire is traditionally built for the bardic circle competition. Lord Richard provides firewood gratis to the populace for their private fires as well.
The castle is Lord Richard’s private home, so please do not show up unannounced. However, Lord Richard welcomes guests at regularly planned events and practices or, if arranged, for a private tour. If you would like to visit the castle, we encourage you to attend an event or practice or meeting held at the castle. The past four Thescorre Baronial Champs have been held in the latter half of May on the castle grounds.
A Baronial Champs event will undoubtedly feature Archery Thrown Weapons, Heavy Weapons, Fencing, Bardic, and Arts & Sciences. All may participate, but Thescorre Champions must be subjects of the Barony.
The Thescorre loaner gear is generally made available at these events and at practices.
Thescorre Baronial Champs is traditionally a camping event with the Schloss site open Friday afternoon and closing Sunday morning.
It is traditional that everyone wear garb for the day.
Bids for Thescorre Baronial Champs are due in December 2015…..but if tradition holds, the event may likely be at Schloss von Tannenacker.
Regardless, many heartfelt thanks to Lord Richard and his family for sharing their beautiful, inspiring medieval home and preparing the ground and castle for Thescorre’s use and use by so many others from the Kingdom of Æthelmearc for so many memorable occasions.
Questions? Contact the author, Lady Máirghréad Stíobhard inghean uí Choinne.
– All photos unless otherwise noted are the courtesy of Richard von Tanner, Nikki of the Swamp, Abigail Hope Kelhog, and the author.