Friday, 29 January 2010

Castle History

To summarize i was thinking to my self, why are we designing a round castle? where did the round castle come from? what other types of castle were there? who's idea was it to build such a thing and what were castle's used for?

Then i understand that many castles were then modified in some way after its initial reason was no longer needed. Then i moved on to think what type of people lived here or owned these castles? What did a castle mean?

Castles were brought into England by Duke William of Normandy (William the Conqueror) as an advance tactic for the Invasion of the throne of England.

Motte and Bailey
The first castle was a Motte and Bailey. The Motte was an earth mound which had a wooden tower (later to be built with stone) on the top which was used by the Lord residence and observation post. Along side the Motte was the Bailey which was a larger shorter mound where the main activities of the castle went on.

Motte and Bailey castle's were quick, efficient and easily built up and down the land of Britain in 1066 during the Norman Invasion. England had no castles so the invasion was successful.

Norman Stone Square Castle Keeps
After the invasion of England the Motte and Bailey castles were not easy to defend from attackers, as they could easily be set on fire and the wood was rotting in the earth.
This lead the Normans to build stone square keeps which were easy to build but easy to batter down or collapse in battle. However 'splayed plinths' were added when working the construction to support the tower.

Rochester Castle

Round Stone Castle Keeps
So the reason for having a round tower was because even though they were more difficult and complex to build, the round shape would cause arrows and later cannon balls to bounce off without causing a great deal of damage. Round were not subjected to undermining when being attacked, which is when the enemy would mine underneath a towers structure and take the earth away and replace the earth to support the structure with wooden beams. The miners would then set the beams on fire leaving no support for the square tower which would then lead the tower to collapse.
One of the earliest round keep castles know in England was at New Buckingham Castle built 1150.

Clifford's Tower - York Castle

Round and Shell Stone Castle Keeps
This involved having a huge thick circular wall surrounding the inner keep, this was because the mound of earth could not hold the weight of the stone. The walls of the inner keep were usually hollow in effect of the weight bared. trouble with this design is that there wasn't a great defense going on here.

Restormel Castle - Cornwall

Concentric Castles
Concentric castles were huge, they did not house one keep but many keeps, they had more than one outer wall, one lower than the inner wall so that archers could fire over the first wall of defense. The walls surrounded the new towns built around the castle, built by King Edward the 1st to subjugate the Welsh, King Edward the 1st had bankrupted England as they were so costly to make. Although kings later would make good use of these Castles.

Caernarfon Castle Conway Harlech - Wales

Here's some figures of the variations in designing a keep
  • Castle Rising Castle: 50 feet high with walls 7 feet thick.
  • Dover Castle: 83 feet high with walls 12 feet thick.
  • Newcastle Castle: 75 feet high with walls 18 feet thick.
  • Norham Castle: 90 feet high with walls 15 feet thick.
  • Kenilworth Castle: 80 feet high with walls 14 feet thick.

In my next post i will be looking at the different areas in medieval styles of castle architecture, between 1066 - 1603. Romanesque of the Normans, Edwardian of the concentric castles, Gothic style in favor by the Plantagenets and then the coastal forts and palaces of the Tudors during the Renaissance. From fortification to practical use and comfort.

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