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A motte-and-bailey castle is a wooden or stone keep building that sits on a raised mound called a motte and is accompanied by an enclosed courtyard called a bailey. A protective ditch surrounds it, and a fence called a palisade was the first type of castle to be built in England after the Norman conquest in 1066.
See the fact file below for more information on Motte and Bailey Castle or alternatively, you can download our 28-page Motte and Bailey Castle worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Following the success of William the Conqueror in 1066, castles were built in England and Wales. The French term motte means a clump of turf, while bailey comes from the French word baille, which refers to a low yard. The word castellum is first mentioned in Medieval manuscripts which describe the bailey complex within these massive structures.
- Based on archaeological evidence, the earliest motte-and-bailey castles were built in Normandy and Angers between 1020 and 1040.
STRUCTURE: Motte and Bailey
- A motte-and-bailey castle is made up of two parts. The motte is a raised earthwork with a fortified tower, called a keep, on top. A keep could be made of stone or wood. The bailey is an enclosed courtyard surrounded by a palisade with walls made from wooden stakes.
- Mottes were made from earth and flattened on top. Some mottes were artificial, while others were natural. Mounds could be 30 meters high and 30 to 90 meters in diameter. Meanwhile, smaller mounds had a minimum height of 3 meters and usually didn’t have military functions.
- A motte was surrounded by a ditch. On top of a mound was a keep. Wooden keeps had small balconies called bretèches. These allowed defenders to cover the fortification wall. Aside from a ditch, a bailey was also surrounded by a palisade.
- Most baileys were kidney-shaped to fit in a circular motte. A bailey typically contained halls, kitchens, barracks, stables, workshops, and stores. A bridge connects the motte to the bailey. Another defensive feature of motte-and-bailey castles is water-filled moats. Some motte-and-bailey castles had double-ditch defenses. Others were square instead of a circle. Moreover, many had more than one bailey.
- Most motte-and-bailey castles were built using earthworks and timber. Thus, limited archaeological evidence has been found.
- When William the Conqueror became King of England in 1066, castles were built in England. During his rule, three phases of castle building occurred. About 80% of these castles were motte-and-bailey.
- The first phase was the building of royal castles in strategic locations. Locations of strategic importance included coastal areas, Roman forts and roads, and river crossings.
- In the late 11th century, the second and third phases of castle building were funded by nobles and knights.
- Throughout the Medieval period, motte-and-bailey castles were built in Devon, West Sussex, Pwus, Suffolk, Salop, Mid Glamorgan, Dorset, Cambridge, Berwick, North Yorkshire, Essex, Exeter, Hants, Warwick, Nottingham, Lincoln, York, and Huntingdon.
- Motte-and-bailey castles were the first to signify the king’s power and authority. Aside from protecting royal authority, it also served as the last place of refuge during the foreign invasion and local insurrections.
- Local fiefdoms were also overseen with the construction of castles.
- It is believed that the motte-and-bailey design was from the Vikings and was transported to Normandy and Anjou. It was one of the first effective structures against assault.
- From earthworks and timber, motte-and-bailey castles adopted new technologies as they were mainly used in defensive warfare. On top of the motte, a shell keep or an outer wall made of stone were built.
- By the 12th century, motte-and-bailey castles were adopted in Wales, Germany, Denmark, the Low Countries, and Scotland. In the 13th and 14th centuries, motte-and-bailey castles became less popular. Around 1170, the building of this type of castle ceased in England.
- One of the main factors for its decline was the use of stone in castle buildings. First used in building keeps, stone replaced timber as a more reliable defensive material. Some motte-and-bailey castles were converted to stone. In addition to the keep, gatehouses were also built in stone.
- By the 14th century, most motte-and-bailey castles in England and Wales were converted into stone fortresses with multiple defensive walls.
- When fire-launching techniques developed, motte-and-bailey castles made of timber easily collapsed in fires. Timber rotted easily and repairs were costly.
- The development of castle buildings over time is characterized by the use of more reliable materials that could withstand sieges. Moreover, developments in weaponry also necessitated changes in castle design, including more walls, gatehouses, and towers.
FAMOUS MOTTE-AND-BAILEY CASTLES
- As mentioned, most motte-and-bailey castles built during the Norman rule were converted into stone keeps and concentric castles. Some are still present today.
- From having two mottes, Lewes Castle was built in motte-and-bailey design shortly after the Norman conquest. Masonry shell kept replacing its wooden palisades in the 12th century. The bailey was also reconstructed with a stone wall with towers.
- Similar to Lewes Tower, Lincoln Tower originally had two mottes. Considered one of the most well-preserved castles in England, Lincoln Castle is still in use as a courtroom and prison.
- The most famous motte-and-bailey castle built by William I was Windsor Castle. Following his conquest, William built a defensive ring of motte-and-bailey castles around London. Windsor Castle was strategically important due to its proximity to the River Thames and Windsor Forest.
- About 20 to 30 miles apart from each other, the ring of castles surrounding London included Windsor Castle, Colchester Castle, Canterbury Castle, Berkhamsted Castle, Guildford Castle, Hertford Castle, Rochester Castle, Oxford Castle, and Wallingford Castle.
- When it was built, Windsor Castle had a keep on top of a man-made motte, with a small bailey wall. The Upper Ward was built upon the construction of a second wooden bailey.
- In the time of early Norman kings, Windsor was not used as a royal residence. Henry I celebrated Whitsuntide or Pentecost in the castle in 1110. During the reign of Henry II, Windsor was extensively rebuilt. Wooden palisade was replaced with a stone wall, while a King’s Gate was also built. At this time, the keep was replaced with a stone shell keep and moved from the edge of the motte.
- By the 13th century, King John remodeled Windsor for accommodation rather than defenses. He used the castle as a base before the signing of the Magna Carta.
- Following the damage done during the First Barons’ War, Windsor’s defensive structure was strengthened by Henry III. Three new towers (Curfew, Garter, and Salisbury) were added. When Henry III married Eleanor of Provence, he built a luxurious palace in the court.
- Born at Windsor Castle, Edward III used it throughout his reign. He added three courts (Little Cloister, King’s Cloister, and the Kitchen Court) on the north side of the Upper Ward. The castle became the seat of the government and the court.
- All the Tudor monarchs except Edward VI liked Windsor. The luxurious Garter Feasts were held at the castle.
- During the English Civil War, Windsor Castle was largely used by Oliver Cromwell. When Charles II restored the monarchy, he made Windsor his principal country residence.
- It was George IV who furnished the State Apartments at Windsor. Meanwhile, Queen Victoria made Windsor the principal palace of the British monarchy.
- During WWII, Windsor Castle served as a refuge for the royal family. Since 2011, it has served as the main residence of Queen Elizabeth II.
Motte and Bailey Castle Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Motte and Bailey Castle across 28 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching about Motte and Bailey Castle which is a wooden or stone keep building that sits on a raised mound called a motte and is accompanied by an enclosed courtyard called a bailey.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Motte-and-Bailey Castle Facts
- Name My Parts
- Tell Me the Truth
- Function of Castles
- Castle Types
- Windsor Castle
- In Letters
- In Pictures
- My Motte-and-Bailey
- Historic Significance
- Tourist Spot
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Link will appear as Motte and Bailey Castle Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 7, 2022
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