After the Norman Conquest in 1066, King William the Conqueror granted his supporters land to hold for him. In return for the land, it was their responsibility to insure peace in the area granted to them and to answer the call to war when it came. The new nobility built motte and bailey castles to defend their territory. The early castles were constructed of wood usually on high ground or on river bends land using forced labour.
The motte and bailey castles could be built quickly and provided protection against rebellion. Being constructed of wood, they were only temporary and susceptible to fire. Construction began by digging a motte large mound of earth with a flat top. Then, they built a keep (tower house) surrounded by a fence that would serve as the Norman lord’s home. Next, the bailey was constructed at the foot of the motte. This included the buildings where the workers and soldiers lived and worked. It was surrounded both by a fence and, where possible, a moat of water with a drawbridge.
After the Normans established themselves, they began to build in stone. Although the stone structures took a long time to build, they were extremely well made, very strong and well protected making them difficult to destroy or capture. Some of these castles still stand almost 1,000 years later. The castle was also a residence with different rooms for the Lord and his family. The Tower keep was reached by a wooden bridge from the bailey. The tower keep generally had two or three stories. The kitchen and storeroom were on the ground floor. The Great Hall was located on the first floor and the lord’s apartments on the top floor.
Outside the keep was the ‘bailey’ which contained stables and outbuildings. Surrounding the bailey was a stone wall which itself had built into it many guard towers for extra protection. A moat was then dug around the wall. A spiral staircase would lead up to the battlements on the roof, which was guarded by soldiers.
A good example of an early castle is the White Tower. It is part of the Tower of London which is situated on north bank of theThames River. William the Conqueror began work on the castle in 1078. It is the most famous Castle Keep in Great Britain. The original structure on the site was a motte and bailey castle. The White Tower is 90 feet high. The thickness of the walls ranged from 15 feet at the base to almost 11 feet in the upper stories. Above the battlements four turrets were built. The East and South sides of the White Tower were protected to the by the old Roman London City walls. The entrance to the Tower was on the first floor accessed via a removable staircase, designed to make invasion of the White Tower more difficult.
Tomorrow, Oath of Fealty Rita Bay