Tuesday, 16 February 2016


I'm sure you'll watch this and get inspired...

Video guide:

A motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade. Relatively easy to build with unskilled, often forced, labour, but still militarily formidable, these castles were built across northern Europe from the 10th century onwards, spreading from Normandy and Anjou in France, into the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century. The Normans introduced the design into England and Wales following their invasion in 1066. Motte-and-bailey castles were adopted in Scotland, Ireland, the Low Countries and Denmark in the 12th and 13th centuries. By the end of the 13th century, the design was largely superseded by alternative forms of fortification, but the earthworks remain a prominent feature in many countries.
Screenshot from http://www.ancientfortresses.org/motte-and-bailey-castles.htm

What were the first castles like?
The first proper castles built in England were the Motte and Bailey castles.
The term motte and bailey castle comes from Norman French words for mound and enclosed land.
Motte - mound or 'clod of earth'
Bailey - enclosure.
Who introduced the Motte and Bailey Castles to England?
The Normans from France, introduced the Motte and Bailey castle to England, when they invaded the country in 1066. It is believed that as many as 1000 Motte and Bailey Castles were built in England by the Normans.
How were Motte and Bailey Castles built?
The most important part of the Motte and Bailey castle was the Keep. It was built on a huge mound (the motte). Mottes ranged from 25 feet (8 metres) to over 80 feet (24 metres) in height
The sides of the motte were so steep that it would have been impossible to run up them in one go For added potection, a deep ditch was dug around the bottom of the motte.
At the bottom of the motte was the bailey. The bailey varied in size from one to three acres.
Inside the bailey, lived the followers of the Lord who ran the castle. There were many buildings inside the bailey including stables, storehouses, bakeries, kitchens, houses, and quarters for soldiers.
A strong wooden fence (palisade) surrounded the buildings.
The bailey was surrounded by a ditch, called a fosse.

What were the advantages of motte and bailey castles?
Motte and bailey castles were quick and cheap to erect - - some only took a couple of weeks!
The huge motte with its timber tower on top gave the defenders an advantage.
The bailey was designed so that any point on its circumference (outer edge) would be within bowshot of the tower.
What were the disadvantages of motte and bailey castles?
How and why did Norman castle building material change?
Wooden castles were not very strong.
The wooden structures caught fire easily.
Stone was much stronger
From around 1100 onwards, people began to build castles in stone.

The first record of a motte and bailey castle in France appeared at the start of the 11th Century. The first recorded motte in England was in 1051 when French castle builders were building one for the English king in Hereford. However, the French were unpopular with the local population and the French builders left without anything substantial being built.
After his victory at Hastings in 1066, William moved around the south coast to Dover. Here he built his third English castle after Pevensey and Hastings. The motte and bailey castle at Dover took just eight days to build – according to William of Poitiers who was William’s chaplain. Was such a feat possible?
Building castles then was very labour intensive. William and his men were invaders and his army would have had to be on a constant guard especially in the immediate days after Hastings. Research on one of William’s motte and bailey castles at Hampstead Marshall shows that the motte contains 22,000 tons of soil. This motte took fifty men eighty days to build. Using this as a guide, the motte at Dover would have needed 500 men to complete in eight days. It is possible that local towns people were coerced into working extremely hard to complete the task. However, building a motte was a skilled achievement. The mottes were built layer upon layer. There would be a layer of soil that was capped with a layer of stones that was capped with a layer of soil and so on. The stone layers were needed to strengthen the motte and to assist drainage.
William accepted the surrender of the Anglo-Saxon nobles at Berkhamsted Castle, north-west of London – arguably his finest motte and bailey castle. This meant that he did not have to fight for London – and the people of London were spared their city being torched.
William started his reign as king of England with uncharacteristic diplomacy. He allowed the Saxon nobles to keep their land and he tried to learn English. However, for two years up to 1068, he was faced with rebellions throughout his new kingdom. William responded by marching his feared army to a trouble spot and re-asserting his authority. He then had a castle built there – a very visible sign of the Norman’s power. Castles were built in Exeter, Warwick, Nottingham, Lincoln, Huntingdon, Cambridge and York. However, this series of castle building did not cause the problem to disappear. Those who rebelled against William’s power, gathered in the north of England. In 1069, they targeted the most obvious sign of William’s authority – the castle of York. This castle was not heavily defended and the Normans soldiers there were beaten and the castle was burnt to the ground.

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