Virtual Herstmonceux

In 1775, Thomas Lennard, Lord Dacre commissioned James Lambert to sketch Herstmonceux castle before Reverend Robert Hare had the majority of the fifteenth-century castle demolished. A quick comparison of the lambert drawings and the present structure reveals that the current structure is not an authentic reconstruction of the late-medieval structure. Using methodologies developed in the field of virtual archaeology, we have reconstructed the structure as it stood in the eighteenth century. The reconstruction will allow further investigation into the social and economic units of the household, and further contextualize life at late medieval Herstmonceux, and enhance the cultural heritage programming at the Castle.

Method

While virtual archaeology regularly makes use remote sensing technologies, and visualizations built from three-dimensional datasets and visualizations, our reconstruction of Herstmonceux is based on the lambert drawings and archaeological additional textual sources. The Lambert drawings, held at the KEEP, provide a wealth of architectural data. These data include textual references to the structural dimensions of the castle including the ceiling heights of rooms, wall heights, and exterior dimensions of the walls. The Lamberts also noted the use of many of the rooms on the two floors recorded in the 1776 drawings from the Great Hall and the Chapel, to the individual courtyards and kitchens, to the bedrooms and dressing chambers.

The castle model was built in Sketchup Pro. First, the Lambert floorplan was imported as material and scaled to match the dimensions listed in the lambert drawings. These dimensions were measured against the existing extant exterior front section of the castle; one of the few sections of the original castle not demolished in the 1770s. Individual models were then created based on each lambert perspective drawing, starting with the Green Court as a Proof of concept. 

Once complete, the model was exported to the Unity game engine to explore possible applications in VR and AR. In Unity, the Castle can be placed in its environmental context. Unity supports accurate topographies built from Lidar scans, and weather, green spaces, and waterways can similarly be simulated in the engine. The use of simple VR as a tool for heritage preservation and education was also trialled using Sketchup, VRay rendering, and the free VR uploader, Veer. Fully interactive VR experiences are possible using Unity and will be explored as the project grows.

Now, the eighteenth-century castle would have seen changes since its construction in the fifteenth century, however, the overall structural layout remained the same. Some of those changes have been captured and recorded and allow us to distinguish older features from more recent construction. The Lambert drawings note the addition of a dairy structure, but also provide the courtyard as it would have been prior to that addition. Further evidence as to the makeup of the castle and its grounds can be found in a sixteenth-century description of Herstmonceux Castle and Deer Park, written by Robert Tydeslegh in 1570 and found in Edmund Venables history of the Castle. From these visual and textual data, we created a virtual recreation of Herstmonceux castle.

Future Work

The reconstruction of Herstmonceux castle is the first step in the wider virtual reconstruction of the historical estate. Future projects will include the early modern stable, which stood just west of the castle, and which has been excavated. The medieval barn, which was described in by Edward Venables in 188*, and noted in his account of Herstmonceux in the Sussex Archaeological Collection.