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Transition From the Rectangular Keeps

As time wore and siege machines developed, castle fortifications were forced to evolve once again in order to keep up with the evolving military technology. One important factor in the castle’s evolution away from the rectangular keeps was the crusades (Gies 27).  The Western Crusaders had, by the end of the First Crusades, “secured their presence in the Holy Land” (DeVries & Smith 234). However, their claimed lands were threatened as time wore on, and the crusaders were faced with the unenviable position of reasserting their claim “with fewer soldiers than they had in the initial conquests” (DeVries & Smith 234). There were two methodologies: negotiation with the locals and castle-building; the second proved to be more reliable (DeVries & Smith 234). It became clear that the “Crusaders needed a fortification that was larger, more quickly built, and more defensible as it was being built” (DeVries & Smith 236), so they intimidated the local “older Byzantine fortresses,” a style that is described as a castle complex or a concentric castle (DeVries & Smith 236-237).

In addition to exposing them to new forms of castle construction, the crusades exposed the crusaders to the East, which “introduced to the Western world efficient methods of siege warfare and sophisticated defensive techniques” (Lepage 72). As the crusaders marched home, they brought with them knowledge that transformed siege warfare in their own lands (Toy 90). As a result, castle planning adopted a “more scientific plan” intended to counteract these newly learned siege tactics (Toy 116). This contributed “to the full development of medieval military architecture in the 13th century and its brilliant apogee in the 14th” (Lepage 91).

However, despite the Crusaders learning these tactics in the early twelfth century, back home the transition from the rectangular keep to the circular keep took place slowly (Gies 25). After all, rectangular keeps were still being built “by Henry II in his numerous late-twelfth- and early-thirteenth-century castle-building projects” (DeVries & Smith 233). One explanation for this gradual transition lies in the hassle that the circular keeps posed to its inhabitants (Gies 25). For example, the circular interiors resulting from the circular design were perceived as being “less practical for daily life than rectangular ones” (Lepage 63). For a time, there was some investigation into constructing “keeps that were circular on the outside and square on the inside” (Gies 25). For the most part, the transitional keeps that were built tried to maintain “the advantages of both forms” (Toy 90).

However, shortly after “the third Crusade at the end of the twelfth century” builders seem to have admitted defeat and accepted the round keep, with all its advantages, as the typical structure (Toy 90). This acceptance of the circular keep was likely fueled by new developments in siege warfare.  The early thirteenth century supposedly saw the development of the trebuchet (Jones 174), which was “probably introduced during the Crusades” (Lepage 96). It seems to be difficult for historians to date the trebuchet exactly (Bradbury 259) due to the “casual” use of terms by medieval chroniclers (Bradbury 261), but for the most part “evidence from the twelfth century provides a good case for its introduction then, although one has to wait for the thirteenth century for conclusive proof” (Bradbury 260).

trebuchet1

“19th Century French Three-Quarters View Drawing of a Medieval Counterweight Trebuchet.” Dictionnaire Raissonne De L’Architectecture Francaise Du Xle Au XVe Siecle. 1854-1868. Wikimedia Commons, 15 May 2006, upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/63/Trebuchet1.png. Accessed 25 Nov. 2016.

The trebuchet had counterweights and was both more “powerful” and more “accurate” than any of the previous siege engines (Jones 174). This new machine definitely gave the attackers the advantage (Jones 174-175). As a structure with defense as its primary function, the castle naturally had to evolve to counteract this new threat. The design shifted because the “number of flat surfaces prone to such bombardment” had to be decreased (Jones 174). In other words, the keeps were rounded, and even the outer wall’s “square flanking towers were replaced by semi-circular or convex mural towers” (Jones 175). An example of this new style of keep can be seen in Windsor Castle. The tower did undergo renovations later, so keep in mind that it has been updated, but it is still a good example of a circular keep.

386px-windsor_round_tower_03

Giel, Immanuel. “The Round Tower in the Middle Ward, Built by Henry II and Remodeled in the 19th Century.” Wikimedia Commons, 07 Aug. 2006, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Windsor_round_tower_03.JPG. Accessed 03 Dec. 2016.

There was also a slight change in the keep’s purpose. Previously the keep had been designated as the lord’s living space, but in the newer style all “the living quarter…were now all built in the court of the inner bailey” (Toy 116). This new style of keep was still intended as a last line of defense, but now it was not necessarily the lord’s primary residence (Toy 116). It was also “smaller than those built previously but of a more powerful and scientific design” (Toy 116). Surprisingly, if a rectangular keep had already been constructed, it was that immediately abandoned (Toy 116). Instead, “one or two outer baileys were added on the line of approach” (Toy 116). This is demonstrated by additions that were later added to Dover Castle, which is depicted in the image below. You can see the square keep surrounded by outer castle complex structures. The circular towers on the outer walls over the gate (called Constable’s Gate) were definitely added later (Brindle 53).

dover-castle-from-outside-the-gate

chaoticblackcat. “Dover Castle From Outside the Gate.” 14 July 2014.

Ultimately the English rectangular keep and its place in castle architecture’s evolution can be best summarized by a quote from Joseph and Frances Gies in the first chapter of their book Life in a Medieval Castle:

Thus the castle, born in tenth-century continental Europe as a private fortress of timber and earthwork, brought to England by the Normans, converted to stone in the shell keeps and rectangular keeps of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, refined and improved by engineering knowledge from Crusading Syria, achieved its ultimate development at the end of the thirteenth century in the western wilds of the island of Britain. (Gies 31)

 Works Cited

“19th Century French Three-Quarters View Drawing of a Medieval Counterweight Trebuchet.” Dictionnaire Raisonne De L’Architecture Francaise Du Xle Au XVe Siecle. 1854-1868. Wikipedia, 15 May 2006. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/63/Trebuchet1.png. Accessed 25 Nov. 2016.

Bradbury, Jim. “Chapter 9: Medieval Siege Weapons.” The Medieval Siege. The Boydell Press, 1992.

Brindle, Steven. Dover Castle. Edited by Katy Carter. English Heritage Guidebooks, 2012.

chaoticblackcat. “Dover Castle From Outside the Gate.” 14 July 2014.

DeVries, Kelly, and Robert Douglas Smith. “Chapter Nine: Stone Castles.” Medieval Military Technology, 2nd ed., University of Toronto Press, 2002. pp. 223-260.

Giel, Immanuel. “The Round Tower in the Middle Ward, Built by Henry II and Remodeled in the 19th Century.” Wikipedia, 07 Aug. 2006. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Windsor_round_tower_03.JPG. Accessed 03 Dec. 2016.

Gies, Joseph, and Frances Gies. “Chapter 1: The Castle Comes to England.” Life in a Medieval Castle. Perennial Library, 1974. pp. 8-31.

Jones, R.L.C. “Fortifications and Sieges in Western Europe c. 800-1450.” Medieval Warfare: A History, edited by Maurice Keen, Oxford University Press, 1999. pp. 163-185.

Lepage, Jean-Denis, G. G. “Chapter 2: The Revival of Military Architecture from the 10th to the 12th Centuries.” Castles and Fortified Cities of Medieval Europe: An Illustrated History. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2002. pp. 28-106.

Toy, Sidney. “Chapter IX: Transitional Keeps of the Twelfth Century.” Castles: Their Construction and History. 1939. Dover Publications, Inc., 1985. pp. 90-99.

Toy, Sidney. “Chapter X: Fortifications and Buildings of the Bailey in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.” Castles: Their Construction and History. 1939. Dover Publications, Inc., 1985. pp. 100-115.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dover Keep: One of the Last British Keeps

The White Tower was one of the first keeps built in Britain and constructed during the late eleventh century (Toy 66). Dover’s keep, on the other hand, was one of the last ones built, and it was completed a century after the White Tower in the late twelfth century (Brindle 12). It is not entirely surprising that Dover was picked as a place to build a keep. It seems that the region had been deemed strategically important early. An Iron Age hill fort was originally constructed there, and a lighthouse had been built on top of that by the Romans in the 1st century AD (“History of Castles” para. 12). Indeed, the crumbling remains of the lighthouse can still be seen within the current castle.

dovers-lighthouse

chaoticblackcat. “Dover’s Lighthouse.” 14 July 2014.

As a region declared important early on, it seems inevitable that a castle would eventually be constructed here. William the Conqueror also seems to have recognized the importance of this region because he built the first Dover castle soon after arriving (Morris 00:1:10-00:1:29), making use of the preexisting fortifications (“History of Castles” para. 12). Unfortunately, nothing of William’s version is left (Morris 00:15: 47-00:16:02). The oldest surviving castle structure at Dover was the stone keep that was constructed much later (Brindle 53).

This rectangular keep was built by Henry II, who was the great-grandson of William the Conqueror (Brindle 12). The construction took place “between 1180 and 1191” (Brown 365) and was part of the period’s great operation of rebuilding castles along the south-east coast (Brown 357). Dover’s keep was “the most elaborate and expensive, as well as the last, of the Anglo-Norman palace-keeps” (Brindle 12). The Pipe Rolls, which are historical documents from the Exchequer that recorded the royal income, say the entire expenditure on Dover “between 1155 and 1215 [was a] little under £8000” (Brown 356). That was the most spent on any English building during this particular period of castle construction (1154 to 1216), and one might “safely assume that the new fortress at Dover, the key of the kingdom, was exceptional in its military strength” (Brown 366).

Dover’s construction was guided by the master-mason Maurice, who had overseen the building of an earlier keep erected at Newcastle (Brindle 12). The areas of the Dover Castle that were under construction during this particular time period were “undertaken by Henry [II] and completed in Richard’s reign, consisting of the present keep and the walls of the inner bailey,”(Brown 365) which can be glimpsed in the picture below.

dovers-keep

chaoticblackcat. “Dover’s Keep from a Distance.” 14 July 2014.

This keep is rectangular in shape and design (DeVries & Smith 247) with an attached forebuilding (Toy 79). The base is approximately a square of 30 meters by 30 meters with a height greater than 25 meters from the base to the top of the parapets (Lepage 51). The walls are about six meters thick (Lepage 51) and are supported by multiple buttresses (Toy 79).

The keep has three levels, though it is technically four stories high (Toy 79). The top story was a fake “screening a countersunk roof” (Brindle 12). It seems that “this was a fairly standard feature of 11th– and 12th-century keeps, which seem to have been built as much for show, as symbols of lordship and places to entertain great visitors” (Brindle 20). These three official levels consisted of a basement and two stories (DeVries & Smith 247).

The two stories had “nearly identical suites of rooms” (Brindle 15). The halls of each level are created “by a cross wall which ascends through the full height of the keep, dividing each floor into two long halls” (Toy 79). In addition to the halls, both levels had “a number of smaller chambers, a latrine (which emptied its contents onto the outside castle yard), a well, and a chapel” (DeVries & Smith 247). The second floor was for high-ranking residents (Brindle 15). The keep’s floors were connected by “two large circular stairways, one at the north-east and the other at the south-west corners” (Toy 80). Since they accessed all of the keep’s levels they were probably spaces open for public access (Brindle 15). One of the roof entrances to the spiral staircase can be seen in the picture below.

dover-staircase-roof-entrance

chaoticblackcat. “Dover’s Staircase: Roof Entrance.” 14 July 2014.

The other area constructed alongside the keep was inner bailey walls, which were “built of rubble masonry faced in Kentish ragstone” (Brindle 9). Based on “foundations from the late 12th or early 13th century” that were found during excavations, it is likely that “Henry II and his builders evidently intended the inner bailey to house other buildings as well as the great tower” (Brindle 10). These walls can be seen in the picture below.

dover-castle-the-palace-gate

chaoticblackcat. “Dover’s Palace Gate: The Inner Bailey.” 14 July 2014.

Overall, Dover’s designs were slightly different from the early design of the White Tower. At Dover, “the entrance was on the third [story]” (Toy 66). Dover also had two chapels in the forebuilding, built one on top of the other (Toy 66). The relatively newer keeps, like Dover, had “a postern or sally-port providing escape from the keep in the event of its main entrance being carried by the enemy” (Toy 66). The differences in design between the White Tower and Dover Keep are not entirely surprising. There is a good century between the two keeps’ constructions. Keeping in mind the fact that they were two separate buildings and therefore unlikely to be exact copies of each other, there is still quite a few differences between the two.

It is important to keep in mind that Dover keep was one of the last rectangular keeps to be built (Brindle 12). As one of the last rectangular keeps, it was likely built in the midst of the transition away from the traditional keeps. As the thirteenth century progressed, castle builders stopped making these rectangular keeps turning instead to newer designs that had been influenced by information gleaned during the crusades (Lepage 70). This sentiment is nicely phrased by Kelly DeVries and Robert Douglas Smith who write in their book Medieval Military Technology:

The Norman rectangular castle style continued in use in later fortification construction and was especially favored by Henry II in his numerous late-twelfth- and early-thirteenth-century castle-building projects. However, by the middle of the thirteenth century, its popularity had diminished, replaced by a round-shaped castle style that nevertheless retained the residential aspects introduced by earlier Norman castles. (DeVries & Smith 233)

Works Cited

Brindle, Steven. Dover Castle. Edited by Katy Carter. English Heritage Guidebooks, 2012.

Brown, R. Allen. “Royal Castle-Building in England, 1154-1216.” The English Historical Review, vol. 70, no. 276, 1955, pp. 353-398. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/559071. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.

chaoticblackcat. “Dover’s Lighthouse.” 14 July 2014.

chaoticblackcat. “Dover’s Keep from a Distance.” 14 July 2014.

chaoticblackcat. “Dover’s Palace Gate: The Inner Bailey.” 14 July 2014.

chaoticblackcat. “Dover’s Staircase: Roof Entrance.” 14 July 2014.

DeVries, Kelly, and Robert Douglas Smith. Medieval Military Technology, 2nd ed., University of Toronto Press, 2002.

“History of Castles.” Historic UK: The History and Heritage Accommodation Guide. www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/History-of-Castles/. Accessed 01 Dec. 2016.

Lepage, Jean-Denis, G. G. “Chapter 2: The Revival of Military Architecture from the 10th to the 12th Centuries.” Castles and Fortified Cities of Medieval Europe: An Illustrated History. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2002. pp. 28-106.

Morris, Marc. “Castle Episode 1: Tower of London & Dover Castle.” Discovery Channel, Youtube, uploaded by HistoriaandHistory, 2003, www.youtube.com/watch?v=slLf1Nq8o2Q. Accessed 06 Dec. 2016.

Toy, Sidney. “Chapter VII: Rectangular Keeps or Donjons.” Castles: Their Construction and History. 1939. Dover Publications, Inc., 1985. pp. 66-81.

 

 

 

 

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The White Tower: the Early “Prototype”

A more specific example of the rectangular keep castle design can be seen in the White Tower in London. The castle was built in a location that was clearly strategically important: the capital. This castle, as one of the earliest keeps on the British Isle, was crucial to the development Britain’s stone keeps (Morris 00:45:54-00:46:03). As stated in earlier posts, this castle proved to be the “prototype” for later keeps in Britain (Morris 00:40:19-00:40:25).

The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror (DeVries & Smith 230-231). William the Conqueror’s chaplain, William de Poitiers, writes about an advance force being ordered to build this fortress with the intention that it would protect the new king against the unruly locals of London (Morris 198). It seems William the Conqueror wanted something more than the motte-and-bailey castle to secure this city. Geoffrey Hindley writes in his book Medieval Sieges & Siegecraft that:

When William the Conqueror decided to build the Tower of London he wanted more than safety for his soldier; he also needed a secure base for their operations, a place from which they could control what was even then one of the major cities of northern Europe and a place from which he could, at will, harry the subject population. (Hindley para. 24)

If this true, the flammable motte-and-bailey castle with all of its disadvantages would have been ill-suited to keep the many harassed Londoners at bay. Indeed, as a building in the capital, it was likely constructed with the intent that it would be a permanent “primary personal residence” (DeVries & Smith 231).

It is not entirely certain when the work on the White Tower began (Dolman et. al. 7). It seems certain that the work had begun sometimes in the 1070s (Toy 66). It was certainly underway in the 1090s as indicated by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which records that in A.D. 1097 that “many counties also that were confined to London by work were grievously oppressed on account of the wall that they were building about the tower”. In any case, the White Tower was completed by 1100 (Dolman et. al. 7).

The White Tower was likely the work of Gundulf who was the Bishop of Rochester (DeVries & Smith 230-231). Crucial to the Tower’s design was the fortress’s “three main functions,” which were typical of keeps of the time (Dolman et. al. 49). Firstly, it was designed to be an impenetrable fortress that could withstand a siege (Dolman et. al. 49). Recalling what William Poitiers said and considering the riotous circumstances surrounding the Norman Conquest, it makes sense that this was the White Tower’s primary purpose. Secondly, the interiors were designed to house the king and provide “a setting for major governmental and ceremonial functions” (Dolman, et. al. 49). Thirdly, it was intended to reassert Norman control over the local populace (Dolman, et. al. 49). One aspect of this purpose is demonstrated by the building’s stone construction and intimidating design (Morris 00:40:45-00:41:49).

The White Tower’s name originated from the whitewashing that it underwent (DeVries & Smith 231). It rose 90 feet tall from the bottom of the ground to the top of the parapet (Toy 70). The White Tower’s walls were and are thick with measurements of “12 feet to 15 feet at the base” (Toy 70). Those walls “are built of ragstone rubble with ashlar dressings” (Toy 70). The corners were further reinforced by pilasters buttresses (Toy 70). “The entrance was at the second [story] on the south” side (Toy 70) and was reached by stair built outside the keep (Dolman et. al. 50), which was protected by “a forebuilding” that no longer exists today (Toy 70). “The entranceway itself, complete with barrel-vault, [had] arched seats for sentries and arrangements for barring the door” (Dolman et. al. 50). A picture of the keep is provided below, and one can see the external stairs leading to the entrance.

800px-whitetowerlondon

Padraig. “The Original Entrance to the White Tower Was at First-Floor Level.” Wikipedia, 19 March 2007, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Tower_(Tower_of_London)#/media/File:Whitetowerlondon.jpg. Accessed 25 Nov. 2015.

Today, the keep’s interior is divided into four stories—if one includes the basement along with the three floors (Toy 70). However, there is evidence suggesting that one of the floors was added in the 15th century, so it is likely that at the time of its original completion the Tower only had two floors and a basement (Dolman et. al. 49). The first level was designed to conduct the governmental business of the land while the second level contained the “residential chambers” (DeVries & Smith 231). Spiral staircases connected the various stories and the roof (DeVries & Smith 231).

The Tower’s floors were further “divided into two large halls,” with the Tower’s largest hall “measure[ing] 28 by 11.3 meters” (DeVries & Smith 231). The Tower “has a large apsidal projection for a chapel at the south end of the east wall” (Toy 70). This chapel of St. John was unlike the other floors in that it “rose from the basement to the roof and included a crypt and sub-crypt” (DeVries & Smith 231). You can see the projection that houses the chapel in the picture below and the chapel interior in the picture below that.

800px-tower_of_london_white_tower

Gagnon, Bernard. “Tower of London White Tower.” Wikimedia Commons, 29 Aug. 2007, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tower_of_London_White_Tower.jpg. Accessed 24 Nov. 2016.

st_johns_chapel_inside_the_white_tower

Geer, Samuel Taylor. “St. John’s Chapel Inside the White Tower at the Tower of London.” Wikimedia Commons, 07 Sept. 2014, upload.wikimeda.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/St_John%27s_Chapel_inside_the_White_Tower.JPG. Accessed 04 Dec. 2016.

Due to the Tower of London’s strategic position, it is no surprise that it continued to be developed throughout the centuries with many kings adding additions to the building (Dolman, et. al. 14-15). It is important to remember that when analyzing the structure. At the time of its initial completion, the structure consisted of the White Tower and outer walls, two of which were of Roman origin (Dolman, et. al. 8). The tower remained unchanged for about a century until it gained a two towered curtain walls in the extensive construction period of 1190 to 1285 (Dolman, et. al. 14-15). Additional modifications were to come, but the White Tower keep still stands in the center of the Tower of London (Dolman, et. al. 6). It remains one of the “grandest example of Norman stone castle building” (DeVries & Smith 231).

Works Cited

DeVries, Kelly, and Robert Douglas Smith. “Chapter Nine: Stone Castles.” Medieval Military Technology, 2nd ed., University of Toronto Press, 2002. pp. 223-260.

Dolman, Brett, et. al. Experience the Tower of London. Historic Royal Palaces, 2013.

Gagnon, Bernard. “Tower of London White Tower.” Wikimedia Commons, 29 Aug. 2007.  commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tower_of_London_White_Tower.jpg. Accessed 24 Nov. 2016.

Geer, Samuel Taylor. “St. John’s Chapel Inside the White Tower at the Tower of London.” Wikimedia Commons, 07 Sept. 2014, upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/St_John%27s_Chapel_inside_the_White_Tower.JPG. Accessed 04 Dec. 2016.

Hindley, Geoffrey. “Chapter Seven: Attack and Defense.” Medieval Sieges & Siegecraft. NewYork: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009, EBSCO Host, web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?nobk=y&sid=a1f019df-6781-4b9a-9888-dfa51b59e708@sessionmgr4008&vid=44&hid=4204&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==#AN=648279&db=nlebk. Accessed 02 Nov 2016.

Morris, Marc. “Castle Episode 1: Tower of London & Dover Castle.” Discovery Channel, Youtube, uploaded by HistoriaandHistory, 2003, www.youtube.com/watch?v=slLf1Nq8o2Q. Accessed 06 Dec. 2016.

—. “Chapter 13: Insurrection.” The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England. Pegasus Books, 2012, pp. 205-231.

Padraig. “The Original Entrance to the White Tower Was at First-floor Level.” Wikipedia, 19 March 2007. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Tower_(Tower_of_London)#/media/File:Whitetowerlondon.jpg. Accessed 25 Nov. 2015.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Translated by James Ingram, 1823. Yale Law School: Lillian Goldman Law Library, 2008. avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/ang11.asp. Accessed 25 Nov. 2016.

Toy, Sidney. “Chapter VII: Rectangular Keeps or Donjons.” Castles: Their Construction and History. 1939. Dover Publications, Inc., 1985. pp. 66-81.

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Siege Practicality of the Rectangular Keep

Castle construction was closely related to the development of siege warfare (Jones 163). This is because the development of these private fortifications made warfare trickier (Jones 163), and the very art of “siegecraft was developed to overcome defensive obstacles” (Jones 165). Though they were largely responding to changes in siege engines, the castle’s “defenses appear to have kept pace with changes in weaponry” for the most part (Jones 165). They maintained their importance, and seizing these defenses was often a crucial part of warfare (Gillingham 79). In his book The Medieval Siege, Jim Bradbury conjures a similar scene by writing:

The rapid spread of castles as the main form of fortification inevitably affected warfare. From the eleventh century, siege warfare was dominated by castles, and this central medieval period was an age of war: the Norman Conquest of England, the civil war of Stephen’s reign,… It was an age of war, yet marked by only a handful of pitched battles. (Bradbury 71)

Jim Bradbury further claims “that warfare consisted of perhaps one per cent battles and ninety-nine per cent sieges” (71); however, Bernard Bachrach asserts that “the major wars of the period 950-1200, which Bradbury sees largely in terms of castle warfare, were in fact, focused upon the old Roman cities and lesser fortifications” (128). Bachrach believes that this focus given to castle sieges by historian is driven by an emphasis on knightly warfare (127). However, with this in mind, it seems certain that the threat of a siege still existed in England, even if it was limited to knightly warfare.

This threat is demonstrated by an event that happened in the reign of Henry I. Ordericus Vitalis writes in the Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy that upon being summoned by King Henry to “plead in his court to an indictment containing forty-five counts of offense,” Earl Robert de Belesme choose to flee instead (331). In response:

…he [King Henry] proclaimed him [Robert de Belesme] a traitor unless he returned, and submitting to judgment, was ready to do right. The rebel, being once more summoned to appear in court, gave a flat refusal, and, what is more, lost no time in adding to the fortifications of his castles in every quarter by trenches and walls, and in demanding aid from his Norman kinsmen, and the alien Welsh, and all his allies. The king called out the whole military array of England, and laying siege to Arundel castle, which stands near the sea-coast, he erected forts, and stationed his officers in them with bodies of troops for three months (Ordericus Vitalis 332)

Admittedly, as it is described by Ordericus Vitalis, this particular siege ended on a rather flat note with Arundel castle calling a truce in order to ask the accused earl for permission to surrender, which he reluctantly gave (332). However, sieges did not necessarily end this amicably. The primary purpose of the tower was to protect inhabitants that had no intention of surrendering, and this purpose is evident in the castle’s very architecture.

Based upon their construction, stone rectangular keeps had some advantages in the siegecraft. “Masonry offered far greater resistance against stone-throwing siege engines” than the wood of previous castles, and it was certainly harder to set on fire or physically assault (Jones 172-173). The height of these massive and thick walls “increased the dominance of the defenders and worsened the inferior position of the attackers” (Lepage 54). The tall walls of the design thwarted potential escaladers (Jones 173). It likely would require a longer ladder, and the longer climbing time was ample time for the defenders to aim at the scaling invaders. The walls had to be thick in order to resist the battering ram (Lepage 46), and they were further “strengthened by buttresses” (Toy 66). There was a similar tactic implemented in landscaping the surrounding areas with moats that hindered the approach of siege towers (Jones 173). Other smaller details were surprisingly adapted for defense too. The spiral staircases, for example, “turn[ed] counterclockwise so that an aggressor was forced to present his vulnerable right side [since] the shield was always worn on the left arm” (Lepage 52).

The roof of the keep defending the keep often had a crenellated parapet, which was a defensive advantage (DeVries & Smith 230). This crenellation was comprised of the merlon and the crenel (Lepage 48). The crenels were the gaps from which the castle inhabitants could attack the invaders (either by shooting arrows or throwing something); whereas, the merlon were the vertical structures that the shooters could use as cover while reloading their weapon or grabbing something else to chuck at the invaders (Lepage 48).

dover-castle-crenellation

chaoticblackcat. “Dover Keep’s Crenellation.” 14 July 2014.

“By the mid-twelfth century, even minor castles were able to resist aggressive action for considerable periods” (Jones 173). With adequate provisions, these stone fortifications could withstand the sieges of their day (Jones 173).  In fact, during their prime, these towers mainly fell due to “treason, attrition, or surprise” (Lepage 54). As a result, the time it took to siege the castle could drag on for quite a while with an average “between four and six weeks” (Jones 173).

However, as time wore on the rectangular keeps proved that they did have some disadvantages alongside their advantages (Gies 24). One of the castle’s defensive actions consisted of “plunging fire or vertical flanking,” which involved shooting arrows downward (Lepage 49). Unfortunately, the logistics of the height combined with this defensive tactic resulted in blind spots at the tower’s base that “afforded shelter to attackers in the form of ‘dead ground’ that defensive fire could not reach” (Gies 24). The response designed to overcome this problem was hoarding (Lepage 49). “A hoarding, also called hourd, brattice or propugnacula, formed a wooden balcony made of removable scaffolding” that was attached to the wall and constructed over the blind spot (Lepage 49). An example can be seen below. In this French reconstruction, the hoarding is the dark grey wooden structure that tops the castle’s walls.

carcassonne_wall_south

App1990. “Carcassonne Wall South.” Wikimedia Commons, 29 Aug. 2013, upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Carcassonne_wall_south.JPG. Accessed 04 Dec. 2016.

Sometimes they were constant structures left there all year round; other times they were temporary and only brought out when needed (Lepage 49). However, the hoarding was, in many ways, an inadequate solution (Lepage 52). As wooden structures, they were susceptible to fire; they obscured crenellation, and they required loopholes to overcome their own blind-spots (Lepage 52). At the end of the 13th century, they had evolved into “permanent masonry machicolation” (Lepage 52).

The donjon’s entrance proved to be one of its weakest spots as well (Lepage 52). Attempts were made to counteract this. Aware that it was a potential vulnerability, keeps usually had “only one entrance” (Lepage 52). It could be “access[ed] only by a removable ladder or a spiral staircase” built in a masonic structure called a forebuilding” (Lepage 52). The door itself was built specifically narrowed so that whole armies would have to go through the space one by one (Lepage 52-53). Due to the nature of its construction, it could be “closed and blocked from inside by means of strong transverse beams” (Lepage 53).

When analyzing the siege practicality of this castle design, it is important to remember the perspective of the time period. In the beginning, the keep’s advantages seem to have outweighed the disadvantages. After all, keeps were constructed in England for roughly a hundred years during the twelfth century (Gies 24). However, as siegecraft evolved, problems developed. For example, the rectangular corners proved to be “vulnerable to the sapper, or miner, and the battering ram” (Gies 24-25). The rectangular keep might seem rather primitive in light of later developments, but “without the great stone-throwing machines known as trebuchets, there was not much an enemy at the gates could do, beyond mounting
a blockade and trying to starve a garrison into submission” (Cawthorne, para. 30).

 Works Cited

App1990. “Carcassonne Wall South.” Wikimedia Commons, 29 Aug. 2013, upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Carcassonne_wall_south.JPG. Accessed 04 Dec. 2016.

Bachrach, Bernard S. “Medieval Siege Warfare: A Reconnaissance.” The Journal of Military History, vol. 58, no. 01, 1994, pp. 119-133. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2944182. Accessed 10 Nov. 2016.

Bradbury, Jim. “Chapter 4: Kings, Counts, and Castellans, 1050-1200.” The Medieval Siege. The Boydell Press, 1992.

Cawthorne, Ellie. “Castles of the Conqueror.” BBC History Magazine, 11 Oct. 2016. www.historyextra.com/article/bbc-history-magazine/castles-william-the-conqueror-norman-conquest-1066. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.

chaoticblackcat. “Dover Keep’s Crenellation.” 14 July 2014.

DeVries, Kelly, and Robert Douglas Smith. “Chapter Nine: Stone Castles.” Medieval Military Technology, 2nd ed., University of Toronto Press, 2002. pp. 223-260.

Jones, R.L.C. “Fortifications and Sieges in Western Europe c. 800-1450.” Medieval Warfare: A History, edited by Maurice Keen, Oxford University Press, 1999. pp. 163-185.

Gies, Joseph, and Frances Gies. “Chapter 1: The Castle Comes to England.” Life in a Medieval Castle. Perennial Library, 1974. pp. 8-31.

Gillingham, John. “An Age of Expansion c. 1020-1204.” Medieval Warfare: A History, edited by Maurice Keen, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 59-88.

Lepage, Jean-Denis, G. G. “Chapter 2: The Revival of Military Architecture from the 10th to the 12th Centuries.” Castles and Fortified Cities of Medieval Europe: An Illustrated History. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2002. pp. 28-106.

Toy, Sidney. “Chapter VII: Rectangular Keeps or Donjons.” Castles: Their Construction and History. 1939. Dover Publications, Inc., 1985. pp. 66-81.

Vitalis, Ordericus. The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy. Translated by Thomas Forester, London: Bohn, 1853. E.J. Pratt Library, University of Toronto, Archive, archive.org/details/ecclesiasticalhi02ordeuoft. Accessed 26 Nov. 2016.

 

 

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The Rectangular Keep’s Typical Design

A castle largely signifies power partly because they were built by people in power. After all, the primary castle builders were royalty and “those aspiring to greater power” (Bradbury 70). The castle structure was so intertwined with power that, in many ways, attacking a castle was the equivalent of attacking the area’s dominant power (Bradbury 79). As symbols of power and control and defensive structures, castles needed to be both impressive and resilient.

In England, the eleventh century onward did consist of conflicts like the finalization of the “Norman Conquest of England, the civil war of Stephen’s reign, [and the] wars between France and England” (Bradbury 71). An example of this is mentioned in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle where, during the civil unrest of King Stephen’s reign of the mid-twelfth century, castle building resumed (Bradbury 70). One specific passage from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that in A.D. 1137:

They filled the land full of castles. They cruelly oppressed the wretched men of the land with castle-works; and when the castles were made, they filled them with devils and evil men. Then took they those whom they supposed to have any goods, both by night and by day, labouring men and women, and threw them into prison for their gold and silver, and inflicted on them unutterable tortures; for never were any martyrs so tortured as they were. (The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle A.D. 1137)

During this time period, stone was the main building material, with particular emphasis on “well-cut ashlar” (Bradbury 70). Due to the new preference for stone, “architects, quarrymen, master-builders, masons, and stone-hewers” were esteemed for their constructive skills (Lepage 41-42). The value placed upon them is not entirely surprising considering that the strength of most medieval fortifications mainly relied “on its extreme solidity of construction” (Hindley para. 4). Castle construction was often immense with “workmen from miles around” being called in to help in the production, which could be quite expensive at times (“Lords and Ladies” para 4).

The rectangular keep was “a more compact form of stronghold” (Toy 66). The rectangular “great-tower was high, massive and vertical” (Lepage 46). These types of castles can still be seen today across Britain in various states of ruin. For example, the keep of Rochester Castle is much better preserved than the keep of Scarborough Castle.

450px-scarborough_castle_keep_2007

Montgomery, Stephen. “The 12-Century Keep.” Wikimedia Commons, 16 Sept. 2007, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scarborough_Castle_keep,_2007.jpg. Accessed 03 Dec. 2016.

800px-rochester_castle_keep_0022

Rutter, Clem. “Rochester Castle Keep 0022.” Wikimedia Commons, 29 Sept. 2011, upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/Rochester_Castle_Keep_0022.JPG. Accessed 04 Dec. 2016.

As a result of this dependence upon the advantages of the defensive construction, the comfort of the inhabitants often took a backseat (DeVries & Smith 230). This emphasis on defense can be seen in the construction of the castle’s prized feature: the walls (DeVries & Smith 230). The “walls could range from 15 to 30 feet in thickness” (Hindley para. 4) with the thickest region often being the base (DeVries & Smith 230). The walls were plain with buttresses at the corners and in the middle of each side (Yarwood 47). Stone constructions replaced the wooden outer defenses of the previous motte-and-bailey design (Gies 24). This outer wall consisted of “cut stone courses enclosing a rubble core,” was crenelated as well (Gies 24) and usually surrounded the bailey and castle (DeVries & Smith 230). The walls during the “eleventh and early twelfth century castles” sometimes only had battlements, but most “were strengthened at strategic points by square towers, projecting on the outside” (Toy 100). The straight lines of the design often resulted in an “oblong” shape (“Lords and Ladies” para 4). If the castle was on level ground, there was usually an additional defense outside the curtain wall: a moat (Toy 100).

The roof of the keep was usually flat (DeVries & Smith 230) though some sections had enough of a pitch that water drained off it (Yarwood 47). It often had a crenellated parapet as a defensive advantage (DeVries & Smith 230) though some keeps’ parapets have eroded away with time (Yarwood 48). This crenellation is one of the distinctive features usually associated with castles. The crenellation was comprised of two parts: the merlon and the crenel (Lepage 48). The crenels were the gaps that “allowed defender to shoot arrow and throw down missiles” whereas the merlon were the vertical stone structures that “offered shelter while reloading a bow or a crossbow” (Lepage 48). The crenellation usually extended to the outer wall defending the keep, and this crenellated wall was an added sign of “prestige” and “social sign” (Lepage 48), which is impressive considering that merely being able to own a castle was already considered prestigious (DeVries & Smith 227). An example can be seen in the diagram to the bottom right.

dover-castle-crenellation

chaoticblackcat. “Dover Keep’s Crenellation.” 14 July 2014.

By this period, “the end of the eleventh and the beginning of the twelfth centuries, the function of castles began to change” with more castles doubling grand “as royal and noble residences” (DeVries & Smith 227-228). Their design meant that they were “convenient and secure” (Toy 66). This meant that the keeps usually had grand rooms like a “principal hall on the entrance floor,” and there was often a chapel—a must in the highly religious medieval ages (Toy 66). The keep also included rooms necessary for daily living: “the lord’s apartment, halls, chambers, staircases, kitchens, chapels, fireplaces, storerooms, latrines (which at times opened directly onto the outer keep walls), and sometimes even a dungeon,” which could double as a storeroom (DeVries & Smith 230).

In many ways, the very appearance of these massive keeps initially proved to be “a deterrent to attackers” (Lepage 54). “During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the stone castle was seen in medieval society as a representation of power, strength, and defense” (DeVries & Smith 227). Not surprising consider that the building was tall, thick, and made of stone. The crenellation of the roof added to the keep’s intimidation factor because “enemies never knew if they were occupied by defenders armed with lethal bows and arrows” or not (Lepage 52). In addition to being the last line of defense, the keep acted also as the castle’s “main storehouse and residence,” (“Lords and Ladies” para 6). It provided both protection and a primitive form of grandeur.

Works Cited

Bradbury, Jim. “Chapter 4: Kings, Counts, and Castellans, 1050-1200.” The Medieval Siege. The Boydell Press, 1992.

chaoticblackcat. “Dover Keep’s Crenellation.” 14 July 2014.

DeVries, Kelly, and Robert Douglas Smith. “Chapter Nine: Stone Castles.” Medieval Military Technology, 2nd ed., University of Toronto Press, 2002. pp. 223-260.

Gies, Joseph, and Frances Gies. “Chapter 1: The Castle Comes to England.” Life in a Medieval Castle. Perennial Library, 1974. pp. 8-31.

Hindley, Geoffrey. “Chapter Seven: Attack and Defense.” Medieval Sieges & Siegecraft. NewYork: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009, EBSCO Host, web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?nobk=y&sid=a1f019df-6781-4b9a-9888-dfa51b59e708@sessionmgr4008&vid=44&hid=4204&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==#AN=648279&db=nlebk. Accessed 02 Nov 2016.

Lepage, Jean-Denis, G. G. “Chapter 2: The Revival of Military Architecture from the 10th to the 12th Centuries.” Castles and Fortified Cities of Medieval Europe: An Illustrated History. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2002. pp. 28-106.

“Lords and Ladies: Building Castles.” World Eras, edited by Jeremiah Hackett, vol. 4: Medieval Europe, 814-1350, Gale, 2002, pp. 261-264. World History in Context, ic.galegroup.com/ic/whic/ReferenceDetailsPage/ReferenceDetailsWindow?zid=d391957e768416dfc15a2f18fcdbb228&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CCX3034900130&userGroupName=san66643&source=Bookmark&u=san66643&jsid=3d5fea2430186f47d5ea12f37e71aa8c. Accessed 27 Nov. 2016.

Montgomery, Stephen. “The 12th-century Keep.” Wikimedia Commons, 16 Sept. 2007, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scarborough_Castle_keep,_2007.jpg. Accessed 03 Dec. 2016.

Rutter, Clem. “Chroniclers Record that the Rebels Garrisoned the Castle With Between 95 and 140 Knights.” Wikimedia Commons, 29 Sept. 2011. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/Rochester_Castle_Keep_0022.JPG. Accessed 04 Dec. 2016.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Translated by James Ingram, 1823. Yale Law School: Lillian Goldman Law Library, 2008. avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/ang12.asp. Accessed 25 Nov. 2016.

Toy, Sidney. “Chapter VII: Rectangular Keeps or Donjons.” Castles: Their Construction and History. 1939. Dover Publications, Inc., 1985. pp. 66-81.

Toy, Sidney. “Chapter X: Fortifications and Buildings of the Bailey in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.” Castles: Their Construction and History. 1939. Dover Publications, Inc., 1985. pp. 100-115

Yarwood, Doreen. “Chapter II: Norman and Early English Gothic 1066-1275.” The Architecture of England: From Prehistoric Times to the Present Day. London: B.T. Batsford LTD, 1963. pp. 29-73.

 

 

 

 

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The Transition of the Motte-and-Bailey to the Rectangular Keep (Donjon)

Most scholars agree that William the Conqueror certainly made use of the motte-and-bailey castle design in his conquest of England, using them to control a country that had not had much experience with them previously (Dawson para. 1). Most historians believe that the Normans’ rapid construction of castles in the aftermath of the conquest “was the most extensive and rapid castle building program in history” (DeVries & Smith 217). It seems like a difficult claim to believe considering most scholars cannot seem to provide a definite number of castles that were produced. However, it is understandable when one considers that it is currently estimated that over five hundred were built by 1087 (Gillingham 73). However, that was not the only contribution William made to castle history. He contributed to England’s transition from the motte-and-bailey castle to the rectangular keep (also called a donjon) by building some of the first keeps in Britain—the White Tower in London and Colchester Castle (DeVries & Smith 217).

The transition from motte-and-bailey castles rested partly on the advantages and disadvantages of the design. The motte-and-bailey castles were advantageous because they were easy to build, so “unskilled labor” could be used during the construction (DeVries & Smith 220). The fact that “on occasion they also seem to have played a strong role in stopping large armies” proved to be incentive enough for their construction (DeVries & Smith 220). As England saw, the motte-and-baileys could be rapidly constructed and used to maintain control over the surrounding land.

However, the motte-and-bailey castle had some disadvantages that became problematic as siege warfare developed. As a wooden structure, there was the potential problem that the castle could go up in flames due to an “internal domestic source” or a deliberate, “external, hostile action in time of war” (Lepage 37-38). In addition to being a fire hazard, the wood also required continual maintenance and proved ill-suited for heavy assaults (DeVries & Smith 220).  The motte-and-baileys may have proved advantageous to the Normans who sought to quickly gain control of the newly conquered territory, but they were by no means invincible and—in many ways—soon became ill-suited for withstanding sieges. For example, castles constructed from stone were better suited to withstand both “fire and physical bombardment” (Jones 173).

The concept of using stone to build castles had existed prior to William the Conqueror’s keeps (DeVries & Smith 224). In fact, “the earliest now-surviving stone castles were built in France during the late tenth century” by Fulk Nerra, the Count of Anjou (Jones 172). These castles were—with the exception of Langeais—mostly stone versions of the motte-and-bailey (Jones 172). The only thing that really changed was the construction material resulting in circular shell keeps (Dawson para. 4). Overall, this stone version of the motte-and-bailey seems not to be very prevalent in England during this period (DeVries & Smith 229). Some say this is partly because “they lacked the strength and solidity of rectangular keeps” (Yarwood 48). Perhaps it was because the rectangular keep was much more massive in size. Whatever the reason, the “rectangular tower keep” was far more common (DeVries & Smith 229), and some say it was “the most striking legacy of Norman castle building” (Dawson para. 8).

It is important to note that this shift in design from the motte-and-baileys to rectangular stone keeps was not instantaneous or drastic (Lepage 38). Often the type of castle that was built depended heavily on the circumstances in question, like the amount of money the lord could afford to spend (Lepage 38). Those who could not afford to sculpt their castles out of stone had to rely on old-fashioned wooden ones (Lepage 46). Not everything about the motte-and-bailey design was immediately abandoned either, with some of the elements of the motte-and-bailey castle design still being preserved in the newer rectangular keep. For example, the primary focus for the castle defenders “was still based on the holding of the outer line of [defenses]” (Jones 172). These outer walls were just made of stone versus wood (Jones 172). Aspects of the motte and bailey clearly remained, considering how the keeps were built on the bailey (Toy 66).

England’s evolution from these stone versions of the motte-and-bailey to the more rectangular stone keep (or donjon) was fueled by a few factors. William was likely aware of the rectangular keep design because it “was used by the Normans in France from the beginning of the 11th Century” (Dawson para. 8). If wooden motte-and-bailey were constructed because that they could be constructed quickly, it makes sense that afterwards the more durable stone rectangular keep that began being built. Rectangular keeps certainly spread all over England during the twelfth century (Toy 66).

Another reason for the change in construction seems to have been a change in enemy. As time progressed, the main insurgents to the Norman kings’ rule were not the unruly peasantry but fellow Norman lords (Dawson para. 3). This is demonstrated by the chronicler Ordericus Vitalis who details a revolt led against William Rufus (William the Conqueror’s son) by Robert de Mowbray in his book The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy (17). He writes that:

The great body of the Normans who, becoming rich in England with wealth gained by the labours of others, were filled with arrogance, were still urged onward by the incentives of an insatiable avarice and pride. It was to them a source of envy and grief that William Rufus was distinguished for his courage and merit, and fearing no one, governed all his subjects with a firm hand. In their insolence they leagued together and formed a foul conspiracy against the king, and disregarding the fealty which they had sworn to their lord, fell into the disgraceful crime of treason. (Ordericus Vitalis The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy 17)

In response, William laid siege to Robert’s castle of Bamborough (Vitalis 19). This particular siege came to an end when “Robert de Mowbray, disgusted and wearied with the long blockade came out by night and attempting to pass from one castle to another fell into the enemies’ hands” (Vitalis 20). In later eras where royal authority was less secure, like Stephen’s rule, the reliance on castles increased as well (Dawson para. 3).

These incidents demonstrate that sieges were still underway. Unfortunately, “by the early twelfth century, siege tactics were well understood by most military commanders,” resulting in an increase in siege success (Jones 172). Castles naturally had to evolve in order to combat this new assault efficiency (Jones 172). This led to the development of designs like the rectangular keep or donjon, as it was also called  (DeVries & Smith 229). Two examples of this design are demonstrated below by the keeps of Colchester Castle and Clitheroe Castle.

colchester_castle_800

Sannse. “Colchester Castle, Front and SE Corner.” Wikimedia Commons, 21 May 2004, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Colchester_castle_800.jpg. Accessed 04 Dec. 2016.

450px-clitheroe_castle_05

Giel, Immanuel. “Clitheroe Castle 05.” Wikimedia Commons, July 2010, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clitheroe_Castle_05.jpg.. Accessed 04 Dec. 2016.

The donjon “offer[ed] active defensive options by its elevation, as well as passive resistance as a place of last refuge” (Jones 172). Rectangular keeps were more impressive in size, with most keeps “cover[ing] an area more than 30 meters square” (DeVries & Smith 229-230). The keep’s sheer size and weight meant that it had to be constructed on the bailey (DeVries & Smith 230).

The keeps’ popularity was partially because they were well-suited defenses against the time period’s siege methods, which were fairly insufficient when compared with later developments (Lepage 54). These siege methods would gradually develop, and the castle’s design would evolve again along with it. However, during this time period, the current design coupled with adequate stores enabled the castle’s garrison to potentially “hold out for months, even a year and more” (Hindley para. 4). The evolution of castles from wooden structures to stone fortifications proved to be an important step “in the evolution of the power” (Lepage 45). This development contributed to a golden age in castle construction in later centuries where “the wealthiest would be able to build, confiscate, or dismantle castles according to their own interest and strategy” (Lepage 45).

Works Cited

Dawson, David. “The English Castle, Part #2.” Britannia History, 2007, www.britannia.com/history/david2.html. Accessed 26 Nov. 2016.

DeVries, Kelly, and Robert Douglas Smith. “Chapter Eight: Motte-and-Bailey Castles.” Medieval Military Technology, 2nd ed., University of Toronto Press, 2002. pp. 211-222.

DeVries, Kelly, and Robert Douglas Smith. “Chapter Nine: Stone Castles.” Medieval Military Technology, 2nd ed., University of Toronto Press, 2002. pp. 223-260.

Giel, Immanuel. “Clitheroe Castle 05.” Wikimedia Commons, July 2010, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clitheroe_Castle_05.jpg.  Accessed 04 Dec. 2016.

Gillingham, John. “An Age of Expansion c. 1020-1204.” Medieval Warfare: A History, edited by Maurice Keen, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 59-88.

Hindley, Geoffrey. “Chapter Seven: Attack and Defense.” Medieval Sieges & Siegecraft. NewYork: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009, EBSCO Host, web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?nobk=y&sid=a1f019df-6781-4b9a-9888-dfa51b59e708@sessionmgr4008&vid=44&hid=4204&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==#AN=648279&db=nlebk. Accessed 02 Nov 2016.

Jones, R.L.C. “Fortifications and Sieges in Western Europe c. 800-1450.” Medieval Warfare: A History, edited by Maurice Keen, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 163-185.

Lepage, Jean-Denis, G. G. “Chapter Two: The Revival of Military Architecture from the 10th to the 12th Centuries.” Castles and Fortified Cities of Medieval Europe: An Illustrated History. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2002. pp. 28-106.

Sannse. “Colchester Castle, Front and SE Corner.” Wikimedia Commons, 21 May 2004, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Colchester_castle_800.jpg. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.

Toy, Sidney. “Chapter VII: Rectangular Keeps or Donjons.” Castles: Their Construction and History. 1939. Dover Publications, Inc., 1985. pp. 66-81.

Vitalis, Ordericus. The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy. Translated by Thomas Forester, London: Bohn, 1853. E.J. Pratt Library, University of Toronto, Archive, archive.org/details/ecclesiasticalhi02ordeuoft. Accessed 26 Nov. 2016.

Yarwood, Doreen. “Chapter II: Norman and Early English Gothic 1066-1275.” The Architecture of England: From Prehistoric Times to the Present Day. London: B.T. Batsford LTD, 1963. pp. 29-73.

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William the Conqueror Introduces the Castle to England

Some might find it surprising, perhaps even down right odd, that the early Anglo-Saxon English had hardly any motte-and-bailey castles (Morris 208). Despite the clear development of castles in France, the English did not have many in the years before the Norman Conquest of 1066 (Brown 126). There were a few exceptions as noted by The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1051 which records a few castles being built along the English and Welsh border by Edward the Confessor, who had French help in the construction (Cawthorne para. 4). For the most part, the Anglo-Saxons of the eleventh century relied on their own fortifications, which “consist[ed] of royal boroughs, which were communal and not private and residential fortresses” like the castles (Brown 127).

This difference in fortification building between the French and the English was partly due to the Vikings (Morris 00:4:07-00:4:17). England had managed to muster a unified response that drove the Vikings out, whereas France’s response was much more fragmented, resulting in nobles building “private fortifications” in order to protect themselves (Morris 00:4:20-00:5:00).

Despite their fortifications, the French were never able to fully drive the Vikings out of France (Morris 00:5:05-00:5:21). Ultimately, some Vikings ended up settling in a region in northern France that had been offered “in A.D. 911 [by] the Frankish King Charles” in an attempt to limit the severity of the devastation in France that they continually wrought with their raids (Etrusia para. 3). That area became known as Normandy, and it is almost ironic that these former Vikings began building castles too (Morris 00:5:25-00:5:55). Indeed it seems that “by the middle of the eleventh century, the Normans were experts at building them” (Morris 00:12:50-00:12:55). One Norman in particular seemed to be all too aware of the motte-and-bailey castles’ strategic importance, often building them in his duchy of Normandy and his conquered territories (DeVries & Smith 214). His name was William the Conqueror (Devries & Smith 214).

The knowledge of castle design was imported to England by William the Conqueror who brought it with him when he crossed the English Channel in 1066 (Hudson para. 36). The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the events relevant to William the Conqueror’s conquest of England, including William’s construction of castles (MacLeod para. 2). The tapestry provides an interesting portrayal of the type of castle being built showing that “they were originally built as wooden stockades placed atop artificial mounds,” which is recognizable as a motte-and-bailey design (MacLeod para. 2). In the early months of his conquest alone, “William built at least three motte-and-bailey castles” (DeVries & Smith 214). A section of the Bayeux Tapestry (shown below) depicts the second motte-and-bailey castle he built in England, which was constructed at Hastings (DeVries & Smith 214) and involved repurposing sections of the old Iron Age hill fort (Cawthorne para. 10). This construction is collaborated by other sources too like The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of A.D. 1066: “they constructed a castle at the port of Hastings”.

800px-tapestry_by_unknown_weaver_-_the_bayeux_tapestry_detail_-_wga24172

Unknown Weaver. “The Construction of Hastings Castle Depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.” Bayeux Tapestry. English (c. 1080). Museum of Reading. Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hastings_Castle#/media/File:Tapestry_by_unknown_weaver_-_The _Bayeux_Tapestry_(detail)_-_WGA24172.jpg. Accessed 17, Nov. 2016.

It might seem like William’s conquest of England was finalized when his army defeated King Harold’s at the Battle of Hastings (Dolman, et. al). However, the London nobles simply picked another king, forcing William to revert to conquering the land (Morris 00:15:23-00:15:35). As he marched, William continued to construct motte-and-bailey castles, which proved useful in maintaining control over the lands that he had seized (DeVries & Smith 215). William marched toward London, but The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of A.D. 1066 says that rather than attack it directly, he “ravaged all the country that he overran”. The scare tactic worked, and the leading nobles of the capital ultimately submitted to William (Dolman, et. al 7). He was now recognized as King of England.

Unfortunately, the majority of the English population was naturally resistant to the idea of being ruled by a foreign power and vented their dissatisfaction in the form of rebellions (Morris 00:22:14-00:22:30). Realizing the difficulties that naturally come with using a limited amount of soldiers to maintain control over a huge populous, William turned to erecting castles (DeVries & Smith 215). Hundreds of motte-and-bailey castles were built to help manage the conquered people (Hindley para. 26). In fact “by counting all the [earthy remains of the] old motte-and-baileys, historians now agree that about five hundred castles were built in the first twenty years after the conquest” (Morris 00:38:30-00:38:40).The castles seem to have largely been a success. The revolts were “quite easily put down by the Normans, with a motte-and-bailey castle often playing a role in the suppression” (DeVries & Smith 215).

Most historians acknowledge that the success of the Norman Conquest was, in part, related to their use of castles (Morris 00:39:15-00:39:36). Castles provided a defendable base from which the cavalry garrison could control their surrounding (Morris 00:11:38-00:12:18).The English themselves seem to have noticed this fact too. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle dating from A.D. 1066 bemoans that “Earl William lived here afterwards, and wrought castles widely through this country, and harassed the miserable people; and ever since has evil increased very much. May the end be good, when God will”. The English chronicler and Benedictine monk Ordericus Vitalis also makes the connection between the Norman success and the lack of native English castles (Brown 127). He writes that “‘the fortifications that the Normans called castles were scarcely known in the English provinces, and so the English—in spite of their courage and love of fighting—could put up only a weak resistance to their enemies’” (quoted in Morris 208).

However, William the Conqueror seemed to recognize that motte-and-bailey castles were “temporary defenses” (DeVries & Smith 223). He turned to constructing something more permanent. This resulted in keeps like the White Tower located in London, which was the “prototype” for the castles that would later develop in Britain (Morris 00:40:19-00:40:25).

the-white-tower-tower-of-london

chaoticblackcat. “The White Tower, Tower of London.” 22 June 2014.

There had been stone castles previously in France, and indeed, the Tower’s design “may have been borrowed from a particular building in Normandy of about AD 1000” (Dolman, et. al. 49). But, fueled by an element of paranoia resulting from the unrest in the newly conquered land, the newer compact design essentially combined the multiple rooms that the king would require (the apartments, the chapel, etc.) into one building protected by thick stone walls (Morris 00:41:50-00:42:27). Similar stone keeps started being built in Britain in imitation of it (Dolman, et. al. 49). This intimidating design was known as the ‘keep’ or donjon in Norman French (Hindley para. 26). This design would soon replace the motte-and-baileys as the new preferred castle structure and would be the preferred structure until its own replacement.

Works Cited

Brown, R. Allen.“The Norman Conquest.” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, vol.17, 1967, pp. 109-130, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3678722. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.

Cawthorne, Ellie. “Castles of the Conqueror.” BBC History Magazine, 11 Oct. 2016. www.historyextra.com/article/bbc-history-magazine/castles-william-the-conqueror-norman-conquest-1066. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.

chaoticblackcat. “The White Tower, Tower of London.” 22 June 2014.

DeVries, Kelly, and Robert Douglas Smith. “Chapter Eight: Motte-and-Bailey Castles.” Medieval Military Technology, 2nd ed., University of Toronto Press, 2002. pp. 211-222.

DeVries, Kelly, and Robert Douglas Smith. “Chapter Nine: Stone Castles.” Medieval Military Technology, 2nd ed., University of Toronto Press, 2002. pp. 223-260.

Dolman, Brett, et. al. Experience the Tower of London. Historic Royal Palaces, 2013.

Etrusia. “Who Were the Normans?” The Normans: The Norman Invasion and Conquest of England. normans.etrusia.co.uk/whowere.php. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.

Hindley, Geoffrey. “Chapter Two: Strong Points in a Landscape.” Medieval Sieges & Siegecraft. NewYork: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009, EBSCO Host, web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?nobk=y&sid=a1f019df-6781-4b9a-9888-dfa51b59e708@sessionmgr4008&vid=44&hid=4204&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==#AN=648279&db=nlebk. Accessed 02 Nov 2016.

Hudson, John. “Overview: The Normans, 1066-1154.” BBC, 20 June 2011. www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/normans/overview_normans_01.shtml#five. Accessed 18 Nov. 2016.

MacLeod, Dave. “The Bayeux Tapestry: Unpicking the Past.” BBC, 17 Feb. 2011, www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/normans/bayeux_tapestry_gallery_06.shtml. Accessed 18 Nov. 2016.

Morris, Marc. “Castle Episode 1: Tower of London & Dover Castle.” Discovery Channel, Youtube, uploaded by HistoriaandHistory, 2003, www.youtube.com/watch?v=slLf1Nq8o2Q. Accessed 06 Dec. 2016.

—. “Chapter 13: Insurrection.” The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England. Pegasus Books, 2012, pp. 205-231.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Translated by James Ingram, 1823. Yale Law School: Lillian Goldman Law Library, 2008. avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/ang11.asp. Accessed 25 Nov. 2016.

Unknown Weaver. “The Construction of Hastings Castle Depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.” Bayeux Tapestry. English (c. 1070s). Museum of Reading. Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hastings_Castle#/media/File:Tapestry_by_unknown_weaver_-_The_Bayeux_Tapestry_(detail)_-_WGA24172.jpg. Accessed 17, Nov. 2016.

 

 

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