Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Castles in the Time of Henry II

Purpose of castles, strongholds [ferté] or keeps

A French hagiographer [of St. Gall] has given a very exact account of them. Unsympathetically he has explained that their purpose was to enable their castellans, who were constantly occupied with quarrels and massacres, to protect themselves from their enemies, to triumph over their equals, to oppress their inferiors; in short to defend themselves and dominate others.

Essentially castles were the fortified homes of the king or large land owners. Additional functions ascribable to them include the following

1. Defending the home and land of the lord and the local people
2. Status symbol of the power of a lord.
3. As a strategic fortress, for example blocking an invasion route into a land.
4. As a legal centre for the holding of trials and resolving disputes,
5. As a prison and place of execution.

During periods when the central authority of the king was weakened such as during the Anarchy during King Stephen's reign, many castles were erected illegally. Generally one required the king's permission to build a castle, "licence to crenellate".

There were few castles in England before the Norman Conquest. Indeed the success of William the Conqueror's invasion can partially be attributed to the rapidity with which his followers, who became his barons and  tenants-in-chief organised the construction of hundreds across the whole land following the invasion.

The first castles built in England were of a wooden construction - Motte and Bailey "castles", which were more like wooden fortresses in nature than castles of the popular imagination: they were so-called after the French words for mound and enclosure. A wooden palisade surrounded the enclosure, the Bailey. The Motte was generally a fortified tower on top of a hill or artificial mound. It too might have its own surrounding palisade, or was sometimes enveloped by a moat. The timber used in these constructions were often pre-fabricated, shaped to  size off site, and brought in a ready state to use to the site in order to ensure a speedy erection. Every castle had to have its own independent source of water, and considerable storage for food and forage for men and horses to withstand a siege. The principal and baron's own manor or caput of a barony generally had a castle. It was the home of the lord and his administrative headquarters. A barony of 20 or more knight's fees might be called an Honour. Sometimes an Honour comprised a chain of castles and forts controlling a given region..

The idea of a castle was that a small number of men at arms and mounted knights led by their baron well-protected when within their castle could rule the countryside, and control and subjugate a very much larger region of land surrounding the castle, that when they were secured within their castle it was very difficult to oust them from it, requiring possibly months of siege. Wooden construction, however, was vulnerable to fire, their main weakness. But it would still require a considerable organised force to capture a castle.

From about 1100 stone castles began to be built. The wooden defences began to be replaced by walls and towers of stone. These were typically a stone rectangular keep surrounded by a stone wall. The Tower of London, a typical example, had a high stone keep, one which Becket personally himself is known to have spent a great of money on maintaining it, when he was Chancellor, and Custodian of the Tower. Berkhamsted castle, is an example of a Motte and Bailey castle which acquired stone walls during the 12th century, possibly organised by Becket himself who was its custodian too.

Later in the 12th century castles with multiple concentric rings of stone walls were developed. Dover Castle is a prime example of one of these

Wikipedia Articles

Ancient Fortresses Webpages

Castles Map
English Castle Map - England.

The Early Norman Castles of England
Ella S. Armitage
The English Historical Review
Vol. 19, No. 74 (Apr., 1904), pp. 209-245

The Early Norman Castles of England (Continued)
Ella S. Armitage
The English Historical Review
Vol. 19, No. 75 (Jul., 1904), pp. 417-455

The Alleged Norman Origin of 'Castles' in England
T. Davies Pryce and Ella S. Armitage
The English Historical Review
Vol. 20, No. 80 (Oct., 1905), pp. 703-718

Correction in the October Number: The Alleged Norman Origin of 'Castles' in England
The English Historical Review
Vol. 21, No. 81 (Jan., 1906), p. 208

The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles by E. S. Armitage
J. H. Round
The English Historical Review
Vol. 27, No. 107 (Jul., 1912), pp. 544-547

Royal Castle-Building in England, 1154-1216
R. Allen Brown
The English Historical Review
Vol. 70, No. 276 (Jul., 1955), pp. 353-398

A List of Castles, 1154-1216
R. Allen Brown
The English Historical Review
Vol. 74, No. 291 (Apr., 1959), pp. 249-280

A Hand-List of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book
C. G. Harfield
The English Historical Review
Vol. 106, No. 419 (Apr., 1991), pp. 371-392

Castle guard
The Archaeological Journal (1902) Vol 59 p.144

English Castles in the Early Middle Ages: Their Number, Location, and Legal Position
Author(s): Sidney Painter
Source: Speculum, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Jul., 1935), pp. 321-332
Published by: Medieval Academy of America
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2848384

G. T. Clark, Esq. (1881) 'The Castles of England and Wales at the Latter Part of the Twelfth Century'.
Archaeological Journal 38 (pp. 258-276, 336-351) PDF

G. T. Clark, Esq., F.S.A (1882) 'The Castles of England and Wales at the Latter Part of the Twelfth Century (concluded.)'.
Archaeological Journal 39 (pp. 154-176) PDF


In October he [Henry II] wrote to Prince Henry [the Young King] directing him to restore the Honour of Saltwood to the Archbishop. 
29 December, Becket was murdered, the assassins having rested at Saltwood the preceding night.

W. H. St. John Hope, M.A. (1903) 'English Fortresses and Castles of the tenth and eleventh centuries'.

Rev. C. H. Hartshorne (1844) 'Rockingham Castle'.

Rev. C. H. Hartshorne (1846) 'The Castle and Parliaments of Northampton'.

E. S. Armitage (1912)
The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles

Adrian Pettifer (2002). English Castles: A Guide by Counties. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-0-85115-782-5.

Abigail Wheatley (2004). The Idea of the Castle in Medieval England. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 6–. ISBN 978-1-903153-14-7.

Christopher Gravett (2003). Norman Stone Castles: The British Isles ,1066-1216. Osprey Publishing. pp. 4–. ISBN 978-1-84176-602-7.

Castles and Strategy in Norman and Early Angevin England
John H. Beeler
Vol. 31, No. 4 (Oct., 1956), pp. 581-601

History of European Ideas
Volume 14, Issue 6, 1992
Review of
The medieval castle in England and Wales: a social and political history
Pounds, N. J. G

Norman J. G. Pounds (1994). The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: A Political and Social History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-521-45828-3.

The Antiquaries Journal
Volume 78 / Issue 01 / September 1998, pp 111-176
The So-Called Gundulf's Tower at Rochester Cathedral. A Reconsideration of its History, Date and Function
J. Philip McAleer

Peter Ettel; Anne-Marie Flambard Héricher; T. E. McNeil (2002). "Pamela Marshall: The Ceremonial Function of the Donjon in the Twelfth Century"Château-Gaillard: études de castellologie médiévale, 20 : actes du colloque international de Gwatt (Suisse), 2-10 septembre 2000. Publications du CRAHM. pp. 141–. ISBN 978-2-902685-11-0.

Oliver Creighton (2003). Medieval Castles. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7478-0546-5.

Lise Hull (January 2006). Britain's Medieval Castles. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-275-98414-4.

Robert Liddiard (2003). Anglo-Norman Castles. Boydell Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-85115-904-1.


Telegraph.co.uk. (2009).
Henry II 'spent a fortune on Dover Castle to counter Becket cult'

Daily Mail Online. (2013)
Henry II's lavish 12th century court brought back to life at Dover Castle.



Walter Cranston Larned (2005). Churches and Castles of Mediaeval France. Cosimo, Inc. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-1-59605-459-2.

J. E. Kaufmann; H. W. Kaufmann (2004). The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages. Da Capo Press. pp. 213–. ISBN 0-306-81358-0.

Christopher Gravett (2012). Norman Stone Castles (2): Europe 950-1204. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78200-145-4.

Histoire d'Argentan par Louis Barbay 1922 

Château de Chinon - YouTube

Chateau de Chinon

Dawson Turner (1820). Account of a Tour in Normandy. Falaise Castle: J. and A. Arch. pp. 264–.

Victor-Adolphe Malte-Brun; Plon (1865). La France illustrée. Géographie, histoire, administration et statistique. Trye-Chateau: Gustave Barba. pp. 49–.

Royal Castle-Building in England, 1154-1216
R. Allen Brown
The English Historical Review
Vol. 70, No. 276 (Jul., 1955), pp. 353-398
Published by: Oxford University Press

Anglo-Norman Castles By Robert Liddiard
Chapter 7: R. Allen Brown-  Royal Castle-Building in England, 1154—1216

No comments:

Post a Comment