Norman Castles

Norman Castles.

The Normans left their mark on the world in many ways. One of these ways was large architectural projects. These included Churches, Cathedrals and Castles. Castles are primarily military buildings and during the 11th century and in subsequent centuries were frequently built by Knights, Lords and Kings to protect themselves and also to project power into any areas they conquered.

Early Norman castles were relatively simple in nature. The featured a motte and bailey design and were largely constructed from wood. The Motte was a mound of earth that the main castle building, be it a tower or a keep, would be built upon. This should not be confused with moats which were large ditches surrounding castles that were sometimes filled with water. The Bailey was an area around the Motte that would contain further castle buildings and act as an area for refugee when the territory the castle saw over was attacked. This area would be surrounded by a wooden palisade to protect those inside.

Castles were built of stone where possible and many early castles had their wooden defensive structures replaced with stone ones as the Lord in charge of the castle saw his fortunes rise. Castles can be seen across much of Europe and weren’t a distinctly Norman feature, however, they were the people that introduced castles to the British Isles.

Castles went through many stages of development with modern forts being the result although there are few military buildings built in the modern period which can compare with the grandeur of a castle. With so many castles identified I will talk about only a handful here although the list may very well grow in the future. This site is a useful resource for anyone wishing to browse a list of castles built by the Normans http://www.essentially-england.com/norman-castles-a-to-z.html.

Historic UK also has a fantastic interactive map showing castles around England, additional maps show castles from the other constituent parts of the British Isles. http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/CastlesinEngland/.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London, The White tower, Norman castles

A Jon Sullivan photo of the Tower of London.

The most famous of the Norman castles is the Tower of London.This castle in the Heart of London is extremely well preserved and is still used by the British Monarch to store and Display the Crown Jewels. The castle was originally built by William the conqueror as a seat of Power within the capitol. Work on the castle began in 1066 shortly after the Norman army had taken London. Less than 20 years later the Iconic white Tower started construction. This is the large square central keep of the Tower which can be seen today. The Castle was used as a prison starting only a few decades after its initial construction, something that it would be known for in its subsequent history.

 

Colchester castle, Norman castle, Normans

The front of Colchester castle, picture taken by By George Gastin, via Wikimedia Commons

Colchester Castle

Colchester is known for its Roman history but it also boasts an impressive castle built by the Normans. This castle can still be visited today with the keep still intact. This is the largest keep built by the Normans. The construction of the castle began in 1069 by order of William the conqueror as part of the initial¬†project to build Norman castles across the British Isles. This castle isn’t just interesting because of the size of its keep but also because of the materials used in the construction. Colchester had been a thriving Roman town with many Roman artefacts still recovered to the present day. The Normans utilised some of these Roman finds, specifically the bricks and the tiles, to aid their construction of the keep. These can be seen clearly on the outside of the keep and in the image opposite.

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