Castle Development in Medieval Britain

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"]The entrance to Bodiam Castle. Castle[/caption]

The story begins in the 11th century, when castles were introduced to Britain, and ends in the 17th century, when they were largely abandoned.

The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 introduced feudalism to England, and with it the castles. In fact, castles were the means by which William I (1066 -1087) secured his hold on England following their victory over the English army at the battle of Hastings.

Thus William moved to Hastings from a fortified base. Immediately after his victory at Hastings, William consolidated his position by building a castle.

After this, his first move was to Dover. There he found a rudimentary Saxon fort, but he was not satisfied, and spent eight days rebuilding and strengthening it.

So William moved forward at each stage only when he had a prepared defence to fall back on. Later, after the formal surrender of the English clergy and nobility, William had the country surveyed; and, he ordered a vast programme of castle-building. In the years immediately after Hastings, the king’s aim was to put up as many of these small castles as he could conveniently defend.

Between 1066 and 1071, Norman castles were built, among others, at Lincoln, Shrewsbury, Cambridge, Warwick, Oxford, Pevensey, Hastings and Dover. London and York 12 had two each. By time of his death, William and his men had set up 86 castles and his castle-building programme was continued remorselessly by his successors, Rufus (1087-1100) and Henry I (1100-35).

Under their direction or patronage the first identifiable architects emerge. Thus William II chief lay castle-builder was Robert, Lord of Bellême, a warrior who was also described as a ‘skilful artificer’.

Even more prominent was Archbishop Lanfranc’s protégé and master-builder Gundulf, promoted Bishop of Rochester. He was ‘very competent and skilful at building in stone’, and thus dominated the second stage of the Norman programme, when stone was replacing timber.

Gundulf built the White Tower in London, the first rectangular stone keep in England, dating probably from 1079.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"]The symmetry of Bodiam Castle is designed to be reflected perfectly in the moat. (Photo by Getty Images) The symmetry of Bodiam Castle[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"]Castle Rising, in Norwich, has Castle Rising, in Norwich[/caption]

William I could not have conquered and held England without building castles in large numbers, and entrusting his tenants-in chief with their custody. Many more came into existence as his successors pushed into Wales and to the north.

But this dispersal of power to feudatories necessarily posed a threat to the monarchy. The Conquer was well aware of this and introduced structural modifications in the feudal system to check baronial autonomy.

He combined seven thousand small estates into less than two hundred major lordships, held by tenants-in-chief. This enabled a small occupying force of Normans to hold down a nation. And from William’s point of view a few large barons were easier to control than a multitude of small ones.

Castles were an integral and essential part of the feudal system. Without a castle (or castles) no baron could exercise the power placed in his hands by the king, and if he could not exercise power then the whole system could break down into anarchy, as indeed it did from time to time.

The castle was the local base, which provided law enforcement, justice, defence, and all the functions which in another system would be provided by the central government.

As can be imagined, the system was wide open to abuse. Many of the great barons behaved at times like independent princes and carried on petty warfare against each other, extending their land and power as they saw fit.

Weak kings, such as Henry III (1216 -72), had endless trouble with them. Strong kings, like his son, Edward I (1272 -1307) kept them firmly under control and then the system worked as well as could be expected. When under the Tudor kings (from 1485 on) strong central government came to England, the day of the feudal castle was finally over.

Castle" is a wide-ranging history of some of the most magnificent buildings in Britain. It explores many of the country's most famous and best-loved castles, as well as some little-known national treasures.

It is, in some respects, an epic tale, driven by characters like William the Conqueror, "Bad" King John and Edward I, who, by building and besieging castles, shaped the fate of the nation.

At the same time, however, it is a more homely story, about the adventures, struggles and ambitions of lesser-known individuals, and how every aspect of their lives was wrapped up in the castles they built.

As Marc Morris shows, there is more to castles than drawbridges and battlements, portcullises and arrow-loops. Be it ever so grand or ever so humble, a castle is first and foremost a home. It may look tough and defensible on the outside, but on the inside, a castle is all about luxury and creature comforts.

Inside real castles, we do no necessarily find cannons and suits of Armour, but we do discover great halls, huge kitchens, private chambers and chapels all rooms which were once luxurious and lavish, and which made these buildings perfect residences for their owners.

To understand castles  who built them, who lived in them, and why - is to understand the forces that shaped medieval Britain.

If you ever want to know about how castles developed in Medieval Bratain It is for that reason I recommend this book. If you are interested in the subject of castles, you will find this book a very interesting with illustrations and photographs that help explain the concepts, Dr.Morris has brought this story alive in a very interesting, storytelling way providing insights that had never occurred before  BUY NOW

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