Friday 27 April 2012

X is for X Castles – a potted history

Castles are a type of fortified structure – usually a private residence owned by the Crown, lord or noble.
Portchester Castle, Hampshire was built within a Roman
fort.  Despite adaptation as a medieval castle, it is
the best preserved Roman fort north of the Alps

This is distinct from a palace, which was not fortified; from a fortress, which was not always a residence for nobility; and from a fortified settlement, which was a public defence .... though there are similarities among these types of construction.

Usage of the term ‘castle’ has varied over time and has been applied to structures as diverse as ancient hill forts to more ‘recent’ country houses.

Positioning early on would be on high ground (natural or man-made) for defence of the local area; access to water would be essential – both as a drinking supply, as well as for transport (easier than dirt tracks).

The burh wall at Wallingford, Oxfordshire
Earth and timber forts had their defences strengthened by stone.  The Romans (AD 43 – AD 410) brought us new ways of building, found new sites and made permanent settlements.

A Burh is on Old English name for a fortified town or defended site, sometimes centred on a hill fort; the boundaries of ancient burhs can often still be traced to modern urban borough limits.

Most of these Burhs were founded by Alfred the Great, who reigned 871 – 899, in a consciously planned policy that was continued under his Mercian heirs.   You will recognise some of these boroughs today – Chester, Winchester and Stafford.
Reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon
royal palace at Cheddar, Somerset,
around 1,000 AD

There had been regular attacks from overseas invaders – the Angles and Saxons, then the Vikings – after the Romans had retreated back into Europe.

Skirmishes continued against the local tribes - the Celts, the Welsh, the Scots and the Picts. 

Viking long house - reconstruction -
from the ring castle at Fyrkat, near
Hobro, Denmark
In the meantime the original Vikings were still ravaging the English coasts and sending in invading parties. 

The Normans were descended from their Norse Viking conquerors.  Their identity emerged in the first half of the 10th century, gradually evolving over succeeding centuries.

The Norman "White Tower", the Keep of the Tower of
London, exemplifies all uses of a Castle (as we would
expect in a capital city) including city defence, place of
residence, place of refuge in times of crisis, a prison

The Normans with their quick adaptability expressed in their willingness to take on local men of talent, to marry the high-born local women; ...

... and being confident enough to use the literate clerks of the church for their own purposes were able to consolidate their holdings, both in France and England.

King Ethelred II of England had married Emma, sister of Duke Richard II of Normandy; they fled to Normandy – thereafter the Norman-educated mind influenced the future of England.

The Normans in the 10th century began building mainly timber castles in France; the Saxon lords in England began building fortified houses in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Warwick Castle and the River Avon: built by
William the Conqueror in 1068, within or adjacent to
the Anglo-Saxon burh - authorised by Ethelfleda,
daughter of Alfred the Great.  Strategically an important
site on the Fosse Way
King Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066) authorised the Normans to build a motte and bailey castle at Ludlow in about 1050 – so the Normans were used to living and working in England.

In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded, conquered and used stone to build strong, defensive castles.  We know from the Domesday Book that they populated the bulk of England and Wales.

England’s feudal kingdom under Edward I (1272 – 1307) expands the castle growth into north Wales and Scotland to subjugate those peoples.  Edward’s strategic castle building project was one of the biggest in all of Europe.

Edward I's Harlech Castle, Wales design
was influenced by Edward's experiences
in the Crusades (built 1280)

Forays overseas, including the Crusades, opened Royal minds to new building techniques – for instance strong towers, which are later called ‘keeps’.

Fortification changes seen in the Holy Land, northern and western Europe influenced castle builders in England.  

‘Modernisation’ takes place – concentric castles appear in the early 1200s.  By the mid 1300s cannon was on the scene, so gun-ports were added to castle walls.

Once armies were able to go to sea then coastal defences became a necessity.

During this time the role of the King, the nobles, the church  and their peoples were influencing the location of castles as medieval society adapted.  High status features, such as fish ponds, were a statement of power and control of resources.

Leeds Castle - built for show (status) rather than defence.
The landscape has been managed since the 13th century.
The castle overlooks artificial fish ponds and lakes and is
within a medieval deer park.

Also found near a castle, sometimes even within its defences was the parish church.  This signified a close relationship between feudal lords and the Church, one of the most important institutions of medieval society.

During the next couple of hundred years the building of castles was consolidated, with Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) reinforcing the eastern, southern and western English coastal castle defences.

Deal Castle, Kent built 1539/40 - one of Henry VIII
artillery (coastal) fortifications or device forts 

By the 1600s the great age of castle building draws to a close; with many of them being abandoned by the 1800s.  

This was due to insufficient investment for maintenance and the Crown was increasingly selective about which royal castles it maintained, while others were left to decay.

Windsor, Leeds (Kent), Rockingham and Moor End (both in Northamptonshire) were kept up as comfortable accommodation residences; Nottingham and York formed the backbone for royal authority in the north, while Chester, Gloucester and Bristol forming the equivalents in the west.

Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire - after its
redesign at the beginning of the 17th C
Even major fortifications such as the castles of North Wales and the northern border castles of Carlisle, Bamburgh and Newcastle-upon-Tyne saw funding and maintenance reduced. 

Many royal castles continued to have a role as the county gaol, with the gatehouse frequently being used as the principal place of residence (facility), when the Crown was not in town.

There are a few hundred castles listed (including fortified manor houses, halls etc), with many more castles of which only earthworks, fragments or nothing actually remains (albeit they are known about) in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Kenilworth Castle - the recently restored
Elizabethan Knot Garden, designed to
reproduce the appearance of the
gardens in 1575
Today as I have tried to show you through the A - W postings a variety of Castles - there are many to tempt you to visit and many I have not shown.

Fortunately our heritage through these castles as residences today, ruins, ongoing restoration and/or refurbishment is available to showcase our rich history.

That is X for Castles – a potted history of Castles through the ages – part of the ABC series Aspects of British Castles.

Bob Scotney and I both featured Warkworth Castle for our W post – Bob’s link is here.

Added in 2016 to my post on St Nicolas Church, Pevensey ... via Mel of A Heron's View ... re sweat rooms in castles - he sent me off to look for sweat rooms ... but I found this article instead: 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Lynn said...

This X post is truly inspired - I wondered what you would do for X!

I would love to visit all these castles you have shown - I've enjoyed your posts.

Old Kitty said...

It's incredible just how many castles were built over the centuries!!! And kudos to the architects and craftspeople and all labourers too!!! Take care


I did wonder what you were going to come up with for X, this was really great, it must have been hard to gather all that information.
Off to see Danny Boy tonight and tomorrow night so may be a bit behind commenting but will catch up Sunday.


T. Powell Coltrin said...

great X post. I enjoyed it. That Deal Castle is the deal. :) Very interesting.


Jo said...

Castles certainly add to the rich pageant of our history and act as markers along the way. Interesting post Hilary, thanks.

Bob Scotney said...

Hilary, you have saved me some work as had promised myself I would check out the background to castles in general.
Enjoyed this post vey much.

Laura S. said...

Hello, Hilary! This is a fascinating post. Thanks for teaching me something new!

Have a lovely weekend and happy A to Z!!

Julie Flanders said...

I loved reading all of this background and learning so much about the role of castles through history. I also never really thought about a difference between a palace and a castle, kind of thought of them as interchangeable, but the difference is clear. Fascinating as always, Hilary. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lynn .. many thanks - it seemed sensible to do some summing up .. and X factored it in!

I'm so grateful you've enjoyed all the posts and want to visit - hope you get here one day ..

@ Old Kitty - there were hundreds if not thousands built over the centuries and you're so right to give credit to the workers of this world.

@ Yvonne - delighted you enjoyed the post and that X satisfied the spot!

I do hope you enjoy your time away seeing Danny sing .. and just enjoying the concert and being relaxed ..

@ Teresa - delighted you enjoyed the X post - many thanks .. Deal looks an interesting castle doesn't it ..

@ Jo - so pleased you enjoyed the post and you summed it up appropriately - they add to the rich pageant that is our history, acting as major markers along the way ..

@ Bob - oh great .. glad it's helped you (it certainly helped me!). Very glad you enjoyed the information ..

@ Laura - great to meet you .. and so lovely to know you enjoyed the post and that you felt you learnt something ..

@ Julie - let me tell you I've learnt so much!! and highlighted things I hadn't realised - so delighted to read you appreciate the posts and this one particularly ..

Thank you so much everyone! Just finished tomorrow's post .. better just in time than anything else ..

Cheers and here's to the last A -Z weekend .. I'm going to be revisiting and rereading so many posts - so great to meet so many new people and see my old friends - thank you to you all .. Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

All your posts have been X-cellent, but this one is X-tra special in pulling them all together. You've really taught us a lot about castles.

Luanne G. Smith said...

Great summation of the evolution of castles and palaces. Have to admit I did like seeing the cannons pointing down on Edinburgh from the castle walls. Who would dare attack!

Though I did read there was an accidental cannon ball lodged in one of the buildings below. Oops.

Theresa Milstein said...

A preserved Roman castle so north? I had no idea! It's got a different look to it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Hilary! I was wondering if there were any castles that started with the letter X. I enjoyed your post very much.

Leeds Castle is such a pretty castle. I can see it used as the setting for a romance novel. I also think that picture would make a very nice postcard.

I like the design of Deal Castle. Quite unique.

Again, wonderful post.

Susan Scheid said...

An Xcellent use of the X, my friend. Enjoyed your potted history!

Friko said...

You've done well with your castle ABC and giving us an overview of the history of castles is a good idea.

klahanie said...

Hey Hilary,
I knew you would come up with another Xceptional posting and I'm not potting you on.
And before I make a complete castle of myself, I'm outta' here...

Unknown said...

I didn't know there was such a difference between castle and palace. It's so interesting the examples you gave.

Betsy Brock said...

That Portchestshire castles even has a moat...the things of fairy tales! So neat! I wondered if you would have a castle for X! :)

Denise Covey said...

Hi Hilary. Finally one I've visited - Leeds Castle, so pretty. Had a delightful morning visiting here and enjoying the lovely walks.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan - many thanks .. I wanted to know and guessed it would be useful X post to do .. so appreciate the comment.

@ Luanne - many thanks .. I like seeing the cannon too (not sure why!) - but it gives the castles more meaning in some way ... though an interesting twist comes in up in my Y post!

I've been to Edinburgh Castle in the dark for the Tattoo .. but must go back and see it again ... even dropping a cannon ball would be a big blue on those below wouldn't it .. Oops as you say!

@ Theresa - amazing isn't it - to know the fort is preserved within the medieval battlements of the castle ..

@ Susanne - once I'd had a brief search .. I thought XYZ could be summaries. Glad you enjoyed it so much - thank you.

Leeds has a beautiful setting .. and I'm sure many films and tv programmes have been set there - I'm sure there are postcards for sale at the castle.

Seeing Castles from the air give us the visual of their layout etc .. so I was happy to use Deal as an example.

@ Susan - delighted you enjoyed my pottering around castles and their histories ...

@ Friko - good to know you enjoyed this overview summation .. thanks.

@ Gary - thanks so much .. good to see you .. my castling is almost over - sad really!

@ Clarissa - I learnt so much during April .. feel a newly educated woman! Very pleased you enjoyed the examples ..

@ Betsy - Portchester castle is imposing isn't .. it's probably on a creek of the sea on one side using that as the moat - I failed for an X castle, but came up with 2nd best (I hope!) ...

@ Denise - so pleased I managed to include one castle you've visited! Glad you enjoyed your morning walk around a few of our castles ..

Cheers everyone - many thanks .. off to visit now .. Hilary

Simon Kewin said...

Ah, fascinating. I wondered what you'd do for X!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Simon - this seemed the easiest way round, and gave me a chance to answer some of the questions that were rolling around in my head ... which seem to resonate with everyone.

Cheers Hilary

Robyn Campbell said...

I wondered how you would fill the X spot. You are awesome, Hilary. What a great lesson. :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Robyn .. many thanks - I enjoyed doing this one .. sort of tied things together in my head ..

Cheers Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'm behind again. But I'll catch up. They say there are remnants of Viking long houses in the Maritime. Makes sense. Our east coast was probably a lot closer in those times.

Juliet said...

I wondered what you would do for Z! This is most ingeneous. What a roll call, and what a fantastic series you have produced Hilary. I haven't managed to comment on all of them, but have certainly been aware of most. Thank you.

Juliet said...

Oh, my comment has gone on to your X post, sorry.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joylene - no worries, good to see you.

Certainly the Vikings came over to Canada via Iceland - amazing journeys they covered - not one I'd like to make! They've found archaeological evidence of such explorations ...

@ Juliet - no worries re landing here .. delighted you enjoyed the posts - thanks for being around for the A - Z ..

Cheers for now - I'm off to catch up on some commenting .. Hilary

Unknown said...

You've succeeded in writing a 'mini-history' of 'castles' as kind of building, as well as the mix and conflict between different nations (such as local, Celtic and Norse) that each added an ingredient to English history.

I really enjoyed reading this. So much said in so few words!
Thanks for sharing.
Best wishes,
Anna's RFW challenge 39

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anna .. many thanks - glad you've enjoyed this X potted history.

I really appreciate your comments .. especially the 'said in so few words' ...

Cheers - Hilary

Francine Howarth said...

Hi Hilary,

Over from RFW!

Funny this post should be about castles, and a fantastic brief on history of English castles. I live in Pembrokeshire where there are more castles per square mile than than the whole of Wales and old Wessex. Castles and their history can be really inspirational for authors! ;)


Denise Covey said...

Hi Hilary. Great post for the repost. Make sure you tell Francine you posted about some Welsh castles. I took my time reading this time, rather than the rushed read in April. Good choice.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Francene - glad you enjoyed the potted history of castles .. my A - Zs included Welsh, Scottish and one Irish castle.

I hadn't heard the phrase "more castles per square mile than in the whole of Wales and old Wessex".

There are lots of castles that's for sure .. and the history attached is exceedingly woven together.

@ Denise - Francine got here first .. so thanks for the thumbs up - I thought of you as I reposted this! and your talk about sitting down with a cup of tea to read.

As I did with your wonderful autobiographical blogger's stories ..

Cheers to you both .. many thanks for coming over - Hilary

Charmaine Clancy said...

Wow, there is so much to learn about castles! Would be fascinating study, the most interesting people resided in them :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Charmaine .. thanks for coming over from RFW - yes ... this is definitely a very potted history! But you are so right re the interesting people living within their walls .. good to meet you -

Have a great weekend .. cheers Hilary

Denise Covey said...

Hi Hilary. Caught your comment on Donna's post. Don't know if you meant during April or now that you got few comments. RFW members will eventually get around to you over the weekend! We let it be known that we expect everyone if they possibly can to visit each linked post. Of course we have a few who don't.

Again, great post.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Denise .. no - I meant during April (the A - Z challengers) .. so the new RFW are an added bonus -thank you!

I hope to get round this weekend too to the RFW .. and seem to be getting new followers, which is very nice!

Cheers Hilary

The Poet said...

Dear Hilary,
Thank you for the history and beautiful pictures. Well done my dear.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Andy - good to meet you - very pleased you enjoyed the history and photos .. cheers Hilary

Scheherazade said...

That was a thoroughly enjoyable and educational post. Thanks for sharing.

dolorah said...

Loved this post Hilary. I'm glad you selected it to repost for RFW. Nothing more romantic to me than a good story with castles and highlanders :)

Thanks for playing along.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Scheherazade - delighted to read you enjoyed this post and perhaps other castle posts.

@ Donna - many thanks - this I think was my best post ..

.. but you're right there is nothing more romantic than a good story with castles and highlanders!!

Cheers Scheherazade and Donna - many thanks for visiting from RFW .. Hilary

Arlee Bird said...

What an amazing history and so much remaining to be seen. This was an outstanding post to refeature.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee - many thanks .. glad a few more are visiting this post.

You've done such a sterling job on this year's challenge - thanks so much .. I just enjoy being a part of it.. Cheers for now - Hilary