Page 355. " I find a gatehouse with its portcullis raised "

Portcullis at Bolton Castle
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePortcullis at Bolton Castle - Credit: Frank Glover on Geograph

A portcullis is a latticed wooden or metal gate which could be raised on ropes or chains using a winch. They often have spikes on the bottom, and were used mainly in castles as a form of defence. There were usually two portcullises at the entrance of the building. The first would be raised, then closed before the inner gate was raised. This trapped enemies in the short corridor between the two gates, where they could be picked off by arrows or killed with burning material dropped from above.

Page 358. " The title derives from Ormond Castle in the Black Isle, you know, but the earldom was forfeit in 1455 after a rebellion against the Scots king. "
Avoch village
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAvoch village - Credit: Anne Burgess on Geograph

Ormond Castle, also known as Avoch Castle, was a medieval castle overlooking the village of Avoch on the Black Isle, a peninsula in the Scottish Highlands. The Barony of Ormond became an Earldom for Hugh Douglas, one of the ‘Black Douglasses.’ After the civil war in 1455 between King James II and the Black Douglasses, however, the Earldom of Ormonde was forfeit. The castle was seized and given to George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus, the ‘Red Douglas’ and enemy of the Black Douglasses. The castle is not still standing today.

Google Map

 

Page 367. " two- and three-storey houses crowded together and canted forward so that their gables threaten to meet in the middle "

A canted Tudor House
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA canted Tudor House - Credit: Graham Horn on Geograph

Canting is an architectural term for constructing part of a facade at an angle to the rest of the building. This gives the appearance of bits of the building being ‘pushed forward’ from the rest. It is particularly common in the late 16th century. A practical use of canting was that it would allow goods or furniture to be pulled up to the top rooms of the house without bumping the walls on the way up, or waste to be thrown from the window into the street without hitting the side of the house.

An image of a house (not Tudor period) which provides a good example of canting.

Page 375. " you’d think they expected Beelzebub to rise up out of the Thames and burn the city to the ground "

Beelzebub
Public DomainBeelzebub - Credit: wikimedia commons

 Beelzebub (‘Lord of the Flies’) is an old deity worshipped by the Philistines in Ekron, considered a demon and one of the princes of Hell by Christians. He is also identified with Satan in the New Testament.

 

From 2 Kings 1:

And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.

(Ahaziah is then condemned to die by God’s words because he sought advice from Beelzebub instead of God.)