Castles from 1066-1500
After 1066, the battle of Hastings in which William the conquerer won, he decided to start a massive castle building programme. The Normans were considered to be ‘master’ castle builder. The castles were a sign of Norman might and acted as a deterant to any English uprising. To quickly build fortified areas he used motte and bailey castles.
These were quick to build and provided safety for the soldiers that lived inside. They were made of wood and elevated onto a motte to give a height advantage over the surrounding area. The problem with this type of fortified castle was that wood is a weak material, it rots with age and is easily burnt during an invasion. Fire was the best way to attack a motte and bailey castle usually by putting a bonfire against the fence or archers with fire arrows spreading fire throughout the camp. Once Williams had firmly astablished his rule in England he built stone keep castles. These were more permanent and would last for centuries. The most famous is the white tower at the tower of London.
A keep castle is made of stone and because stone is stronger than wood you could build up high and therefore see for miles over the surrounding countryside. The walls could be made very thick and very strong.
The two weaknesses of this strong stone castle was that if you were safe inside your attackers could just go around you or they could surround you and cut off your food and water supplies, starving out everyone on the inside. The thick stone walls of a keep castle were difficult for men to knock down so often a battering ram was used to weaken and destroy walls and doors.
Ladders were also used to gain access over the high walls but arrows, boiling water would slow down the attacker’s progress. Or the ladder could simply be pushed away. The bell free or siege tower was developed to stop the above from happening, it was a tower mounted on wheels that could be pushed up against the castle walls and provided...
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