The Building of Castles

The Normans were master castle builders.

After 1066, England had a massive castle building programme on the orders of William the Conqueror. First, motte and bailey castles were built. Once William had firmly established his rule in England, he built huge stone keep castles.

By the time of Edward I, concentric castles were being built. Castles were a very good way for the Normans to expand their grip on the English people and to create fear by the English.

They castles kept the King and his Lords and their families safe.

Motte and bailey castles

Kings and Lords ordered the peasants to build the castles for them.
First, the peasants chopped down trees to build a wooden fence. This was called a palisade. The space inside the fence was called a bailey. Outside the fence they dug a ditch to keep people out. They used the soil from the ditch to make a big hill in the middle. This was called a motte. On top of the motte they built a wooden tower for the lord, his family and his soldiers to live in.
– They were, after all, invaders.

Stone Keep Castles

Motte and bailey castles were only temporary features while stone keep castles were built to last. They were the ultimate sign of William the Conquerors power over the English. William had decided to make London his capital. To defend his supply ships coming up the River Thames, he built the imposing White Tower that was meant to intimidate those who lived in London. It was the highest building in London at that time. William ensured that the White Tower had everything he needed kept within it, should it ever be put in the position whereby it was isolated. The White Tower was massively strong – it was never taken in combat.

Here a picture of Caernarvon Castle in Gwynedd, northwest Wales. This castle was never finished.

Concentric Castles

As time moved on and those with power felt more comfortable, they could afford to build bigger castles. These castles were bigger in all respects than square keep castles.
War broke out (again) between England and Wales.
After the English victory numerous concentric castles in north-west Wales was built.
Edward I believed that this was a vulnerable part of his kingdom and that the Welsh could not be trusted. He built these massive castles to demonstrate to the Welsh his power. Bigger castles housed more troops so the threat to the Welsh in that region was very obvious.

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