The first castles were built by the Normans.
The great age of castles began almost 1,000 years ago and lasted for nearly 500 years.

The Normans introduced the first proper castles, starting with the wooden Motte and Bailey castles, to England after their victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. They needed to protect their new kingdom, so they spent a lot of their time castle building.

The wooden Motte and Bailey castles were quick to build using just earth and timber. They were replaced by stone castles as stone lasts longer, many can still be seen today.

Motte and Bailey (Motte - mound or earth Bailey- enclosure)external image th?id=H.4676275434029766&pid=1.7&w=223&h=130&c=7&rs=1
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The sides of the motte were so steep that it would have been impossible to run up them in one go. For added potection, a deep ditch was dug around the bottom of the motte.

At the bottom of the motte was the bailey. The bailey varied in size from one to three acres.
Inside the bailey, lived the followers of the Lord who ran the castle. There were many buildings inside the bailey including stables, storehouses, bakeries, kitchens, houses, and quarters for soldiers.

A strong wooden fence (palisade) surrounded the buildings.

The bailey was surrounded by a ditch, called a fosse.


  • Motte and bailey castles were quick to build and cheap. Some took a couple of weeks!
  • The huge motte with its timber tower on top gave the defenders an advantage.
  • The bailey was designed so that any point on its outer edge would be within bowshot of the tower.


  • Wooden castles were not very strong.
  • The wooden structures caught fire easily.

During the 12th century many castles were improved and strengthened by using stone as the main building material.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

The wooden defences of motte and bailey castles were replaced by walls and towers of stone.


Even though timber was strong against spears and arrows against fire they were useless.
Stone is more durable and resistant than wood and so it became the preferred building materials for castles.

Stone castles were built taller and gave better protection against attack, fire and cold rainy weather.

The rectangular Keep
  • After the Normans invaded England, they began building rectangular stone keeps.
  • The White Tower at the Tower of London was started in 1070.
  • The first castles of stone had rectangular towers surrounded by high stone walls

The rounded Keep
  • Later, castles with round towers were built.

Concentric Castles

  • Two or three walls around the keep.
  • Inside walls were built higher than the outside walls. Defenders could fire arrows over the heads of the soldiers defending the outside walls.
  • Many walls meant that if an enemy broke through the outer wall there was a second castle defended and with stores
  • The space between the two walls was known as the death hole. If you were trapped within the walls you would die.
  • Some had a moat for additional protection.

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