Saturday 28 April 2012

Y is for the Why Castles are like they are ...

Why are Castles like they are – here is a glossary of terms, with some extra footage for good luck.
Bodiam Castle - built after the owner applied for a
licence to crenellate (to build) 

Why were castles built?  Leaders, Kings and nobles built castles to control their land and peoples, then during times of war to protect them and their family from attackers.  Kings and Lords also built castles to show how big and powerful they were.

Launceston Castle

Norman timber motte and bailey castles – none of these timbers survive in England, although the mounds are still there as in my K for Knepp.  A Norman motte and bailey earthwork castle can be found at Launceston in Cornwall, dated to 1067. 

Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight - a
reconstruction as it would have been
during the 14th C, showing the keep
built on the motte (top) and
bailey at the bottom
The Keep was a great tower and usually the most strongly defended point of a castle before the introduction of concentric defence.  The great tower until the 1500s was known as a “donjon” – with our dungeon becoming a corrupted form.  WarkworthCastle shows a large tower keep.

Curtain walls were defensive walls enclosing a bailey – at Windsor castle there are two stone curtain walls surrounding the two baileys, with the Keep on a motte in the centre – see my Queen’s Castle.

They had to be high enough to make scaling the walls with ladders difficult and thick enough to withstand bombardment from siege engines, which from the 15th C onward, included artillery.

A trebuchet (a type of siege engine)

A typical wall could be 3m (10 ft) thick and 12m (39 ft) tall – though each castle’s walls would vary.  To protect them from undermining, curtain walls were sometimes given a stone skirt around their bases.  Walkways along the tops and battlements would give them further protection.

Barbican Gate at Glencarm Castle,
Co Antrim, Northern Ireland
The Gatehouse – the entrance was often the weakest part in a circuit of defences.  To overcome this the gatehouse was developed allowing those inside to control the flow of traffic.  There were one or more portcullises – a wooden grille reinforced with metal to block a passage – and arrow-slits from which to harry the enemy.

Towers were added to the gatehouse for extra visual and actual protection; extra length meant invaders had to spend under fire and in a confined space.  A barbican was an extra defence and outer building added to the gatehouse, and may have included bridging across a ditch.

A moat was a defensive ditch with steep sides, and could be either dry or filled with water.  Its purpose was two-fold: to stop devices such as siege towers from reaching the curtain wall, and/or to prevent the walls from being undermined.

Caerlaverock Castle, Scotland
Water moats were often found in low-lying areas and were usually crossed by a drawbridge.  Fortified islands could be added to the moat, adding another layer of defence.

Other features would be battlements surmounting the curtain walls and gatehouses, which could comprise several elements: 

crenellations (gaps and solid stone); hoardings were extra wooden constructs allowing defenders to shoot at, or drop objects on attackers below; while machicolations giving a similar use were stone projections.

Until the 12th century, stone built and earth and timber castles were contemporary, with stone being preferred, and as the timber and earthwork sites declined, stone castles could be built where appropriate as conditions changed, and could be ‘made to’ fit the lay of the land.

Caerphilly Castle - used an early concentric design

At the same time there was a change in castle architecture – the Crusaders had learned much about fortification from their conflicts with the Saracens and exposure to Byzantine architecture ... the time had come for composite castles or concentric castles.

Castle design had changed, master masons were the architects and engineers of their day; concentric castles had their buildings in the centre and new castles of this design had no keep; while composite castles were made up of different parts – usually a mixture of old and new.

Caerphilly Castle (above) is a medieval castle in South Wales.  It is second in size only to Windsor Castle; built mainly between 1268 and 1271 and is an early example of a concentric castle with extensive water defences.

Only the richest and most powerful men had the money to build a great castle.  Officers of the king or lord had to buy building materials, transport them, find labourers, pay them and supervisor their work.

Conway Castle - one of Edward I's castle
building programme
The simplest timber castle would take 6 – 9 months to finish, depending on the weather.  Stone castles took a lot longer to complete, some as long as 8 -10 years!  They needed warm sunshine to harden the mortar between huge blocks of stone, and dry dirt roads to move heavy equipment and building materials (some might come by river).

Edward I’s castles each required at least a thousand men.  Unskilled and skilled craftsmen travelled far and wide, some from abroad, to work on the project:

Ø the master masons masterminded the construct;
Ø the stonemasons chose, worked and cut the stone to ensure strong walls;
Ø carpenters helped make the scaffolding, and cut the timber for floors and rafters;
Ø ditchers came from low-lying flat wet areas (East Anglia or the Low Countries {The Netherlands}) to dig the castle’s foundations, its moat and other important ditches and ramparts.

St Mawes Castle, Cornwall -
one of Henry VIII's Henrician Castles
on the east side of the Carrick Roads
see my Pendennis Castle

By the 1500s the role of fortifications had changed once more with the development of artillery capable of breaching even thick stone walls.  Henry VIII fearing invasion led to the building of a series of new fortresses known as Device Forts or Henrician Castles. 

These were designed to defend against artillery, and since they were not private residences, but national fortifications, they do not possess what architectural historians have come to see as the defining characteristics of a castle.

University College, Durham Castle - it has been
wholly occupied by the University since 1840

Essentially that covers castles at their basic best ... by the 1600s castles were going into decline – as we have seen some have withstood the test of time and we are able to enjoy them today;

Some are ruins, some have been restored, some are put to new uses: wedding venues, hotels, open gardens, event parks; some were rebuilt as castellated mansions, some restored to their former glory ... as is always the case with the human being – he reinvents .... and we here in England have some of the best on show.

So if anyone can define a Castle ... please start counting ... and put us all out of our misery as to how many there are ... any takers?!

That is Y for Why the Castles – part of the ABC series of Aspects of British Castles.

Bob Scotney very cleverly featured Xanten Castle in Germany for his X post yesterday ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories      


Amanda Heitler said...

Hilary, I've loved this series. So interesting. It's been a joy to read.

Juliet said...

Oh, I've got behind after some busy days. This is so informative Hilary. I've learned a lot about castles over the last few weeks, and I'm feeling very grateful that I don't need to live behind such fortifications. Thank you for all the research you put into this series.

Diane said...

I have been trying to catch up and the posts that I missed earlier are all of great interest. Thanks for this series Hilary.
This last post is really informative but it made me think how 'simple' fighting was in those days. War today takes on a completely different meaning!! Diane


I must congratulate you Hilary on the wonderful series about castles.Have enjoyed for Z?


Lynn said...

Castles - they live in my dreams. And these posts have been such lovely support for that.

Jo said...

I still don't quite understand all the terms for parts of castles, but this has definitely been an interesting series of blogs.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

How many? I just did a a Google search and it said 10,852,383. That's a lot!
Thanks for stopping by a couple times this month, Hilary. I've been so busy trying to keep up with all of it and haven't been making my usual rounds. Will do better in May!

Unknown said...

I think it would be lovely to go to a university in a castle. Wouldn't you? How grand.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Amanda .. many thanks and so pleased you enjoyed the various castles and info.

@ Juliet - never mind life takes us on sometimes - like you, I've learnt loads about castles .. I'd love to live in one of the rich castles! Delighted you enjoyed the series ..

@ Diane - so pleased you enjoyed the read - France has so much to offer.

Well warfare probably was - if your feet didn't conk out in the process of trudging around the countryside, or across countries!

War today is horrific .. there's a great concentric castle in Syria - I was pleased to see it's on the Lebanon border, west of Homs though ... I hope it survives - as the Taleban weren't too kind to some other ancient very precious monuments in Afghanistan (I seem to recall). Krak des Chevaliers - is the name of the 13th C Syrian castle.

@ Yvonne - enjoy the concert. I really appreciate your comment - thank you.

@ Lynn - well there here for a little vicarious inspiration occasionally - should you wish to return.

@ Jo - sorry I haven't quite set everyone out for you .. but glad you've enjoyed the posts.

@ Alex ... nearly 11 million .. I googled and got 1,500 standing castles for England & 500 more if we add in Wales and Scotland .. it's so subjective - what is a castle? That much I learnt from my own posts ...!

No worries - you must be frantic with all the visits ... I don't think I could cope!!

@ Clarissa - yes, I so like the photo of University College, Durham .. looks just beautiful.

Being at school on the hill above Oxford for nine years and then around it for another couple of years - makes my attachment to Oxford quite strong - so Durham rings a bell.

Cheers everyone - am so pleased you've enjoyed the series - one to go .. see you at Z. Hilary

Bossy Betty said...

You've convinced me I need my own castle....

Lynn Proctor said...

this has been a wonderful post series--i have learned so much--thanks

Martha said...

Like Betty I think I need a castle of my own too after reading your posts for the A-Z challenge!

Alexandra Heep said...

Fascinating, especially the part about sunshine being needed to harden the mortar.

That makes the longevity of castles in the colder, northern climates even more impressive.

Susan Scheid said...

I don't dare even hazard a guess on the number of castles, but I want you to know that I've printed a copy of this post, as it so happens I will be on the grounds of a castle next Wednesday (5/9)! The castle is St. Donat's Castle, in Wales (when you have a chance to come over my way, you'll see I'm headed for the Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music--and one of the concerts is on St. Donat's grounds). I do wonder how many turns of the alphabet it would take to cover all the castles in the UK. Quite a number, I would think!

Teresa Cypher said...

Wow, almost the end...and I just discovered this blog. Amazing post--and just one in a series! I have a whole list of castle posts to look forward to! I now know more about the "Y = whys" of castle and their construction than I knew all of my years before. :-)

Heather Murphy said...

The architecture is amazing in some of these castles. I had no idea there were so many. You have given me quite an education this month

D.G. Hudson said...

Very interesting post, loved reading about the variations and the crenellations (new word for me) I knew their use, but not that word for the style of top finish on the towers and tops of castles. (I always thought of the archers and the boiling oil routine.)

I recovered some more comments of yours and will be replying today sometime.

I'll catch up on the posts I missed.

Manzanita said...

What a great job you did on this. You took the castle core and put it together stone by stone. Thank you for putting so much research into this outstanding theme and bestowing enlightenment on truths I mzy not have looked up for myself.
Happy Y Day

Ruth said...

I love castles. I already knew why, but it is just great to hear about and see the beautiful pictures.

Inger said...

I read this and most of X and found it fascinating, but I am a bit tired right now, so I have to come back to X later. I love the picture of the castle with the moat. What a photo! And all this is so great, I wonder if you have thought about a book. I heard people made e-books from their efforts in the last A to Z Challenge.

Anonymous said...

Another interesting post. I like how Bodiam Castle reflects in the water. What a beautiful setting for a story.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That's all I can say. What an amazing series. One of the best in all the A to Z Challenge and I do mean that! Well done Hilary.

I wonder how moats in stories I read as a kid had alligators in them?

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hilary, this series is fascinating and filled with so much information. I'm now convinced I haven't seen nearly enough castles in my travels. :D

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Betty - expensive upkeep! but would be just lovely to be able to afford to own one.

@ Karen - ALL the castles? that's a lot of visiting! But it does sound a great idea - a retirement visit and tour of some of them.

@ Lynn - delighted you've enjoyed the ABC through castles ..

@ Martha - well that's great if a few of you own a castle or two - we can all visit!

@ Alexandra - I found that snippet interesting .. but they were good builders and understood working with stone and the land.

@ Susan - how fantastic you're going to be here in the UK - I just hope it's not this weekend .. it is very wet and freezing!

St Donat's - so pleased you told me about it .. what a fascinating castle - now arts centre, reputedly the most haunted place in Wales!!

Worthwhile going over to Wiki for a read up ..

The castle looks like a church .. Hearst bought it - isn't the place he bought for his mistress? There was a tv programme on it fairly recently I think ..

Lots of ABCs .. and I think I'd be sick of castles before I'd have done 10 rounds .. and then what would I do for Q, X and Z??

Enjoy the concerts and your visit -hope you brought your thermals with you!!

@ Teresa - many thanks, and so pleased to see you here .. enjoy the other posts. Surprisingly I've taught myself more than I knew back in March!!

@ Heather - delighted you've enjoyed the series .. I'd have loved to do more on architecture - to educate myself!

@ DG - there are so many terms I haven't used .. but glad I included crenellations - and I learnt what it meant .. as I did machicolations .. which was a new word to me. I think the boiling oil was at the Gatehouse where there would be a concentration of men.

Thanks for recovering the comments - I'll be over to check again ..

@ Manzanita - well your Hunza posts have been so interesting.

I'm just glad my posting has given us all a better understanding of castles - if the A-Z wasn't here I wouldn't have found out this information.

@ Ruth - glad you've enjoyed the posts - castles are magical aren't they ...

@ Inger - many thanks .. delighted that you've enjoyed the read and the photos. Professional photographers show their subjects in such great light - castles make excellent photos .. glimmering in the moat.

Many thanks re the thought of an ebook .. I need the photos to really cover the visual representation .. and that aspect is not simple for the book or the reference.

@ Susanne - Bodiam is a pretty castle .. it was not built for defence, though you'd be forgiven for thinking so!

@ Stephen - really appreciate this .. I've enjoyed doing the posts, and finding everyone loves them makes it extra worthwhile.

Peter Pan and his crocodile? Poetic licence .. we don't have crocs or alligators here in the UK .. dragons perhaps?! Fantasyland?

@ Patricia - great that you've enjoyed the posts sufficiently to consider coming over for another visit?

Cheers everyone - it's wonderful you've enjoyed your visits and I'm really grateful for your appreciation .... enjoy Sunday and see you for Z tomorrow! Hilary

Talli Roland said...

Oh, finally, a castle I've been to: Caerphilly!

More fascinating facts, Hilary. Thank you!

Unknown said...

This has been a fascinating series, Hilary. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

What wonderful pictures too. I need to go castle-visiting some time soon.

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Mimi said...

How wonderful to live in a place with such antiquity! Castles have always been a part of children's dreams. To have them popping out all over the landscape must be awesome. THank you for your castle journey. Can't wait until you get to Z

Mimi Torchia Boothby

Jenni Steel said...

Today, I left Alnwick and I decided to return home by the coast route. So leaving the castle behind I picked the road for Dunstanburgh Castle where I used to visit when I was young.

Then I carried on to Craster, Warkworth Castle so in someways I feel I have travelled with you on this post.

I came online to try and catch up on some of the posts I haven't been able to read. I was surprised to see you had written about them.

I did enjoy them very much. So thank you Hilary. Here's to Z the last post!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talli - I know I could have done so many, but tried to show different ones .. I haven't been to Caerphilly! Glad you enjoyed the post - many thanks.

@ Mimi - we do have lots of antiquity .. considering I was only writing about 23 castles! There's all the monuments, museums, etc etc etc .. but I'm so pleased you've enjoyed the tour.

@ Jenni - isn't it amazing - Alnwick wasn't open all those years ago, but we visited Dunstanburgh .. and it's an area I'd love to revisit.

I posted about Alnwick Castle though nearly 2 years ago!

I haven't mentioned Craster - but Warkworth came up under W ... as you say we were travelling along the same roads. Bob Scotney also posted on Warkworth .. worth reading together.

So pleased you all enjoyed the posts - just makes my day! Cheers and here's to Z tomorrow!!! Hilary

Robyn Campbell said...

Hilary, you have worked so hard this month. You and Bob had the best and most informative posts. It has been a pleasure. :-)

The Rambling Pages said...

I stopped by from the A-Z Challenge to say HI and have ended up really enjoying your post and feeling like I have learnt something. I visited many of the castles you mentioned as a child as my dad loves history and 2 weekends ago we went to Edinburgh and took the kids to Edinburgh castle. This was so informative, I wish I could of read it prior to out visit!

Empty Nest Insider said...

I've also enjoyed your A to Z exploration on castles Hilary! It would be exciting to attend college at a castle! Julie

Nas said...

Hilary, I've loved reading and learning about castles through your A-Z posts!

Thanks so much.

Chuck said...

Hilary, this has been a fantastic trip through your country and its fabulous history...and that's just with then castles! You could spend a lot of time traveling there and seeing castle after castle and still not be sure you'd seen them all. Great A-Z topic, one of the best I have followed this year.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Robyn - many thanks - I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing .. and I learnt so much.

So pleased Bob and I approached our Castle posts in a different way - which has added to everyone's appreciation of these bastions on the landscape.

@ The Rambling Pages - I know we can't all get round everyone .. I have to do some catching up. See you soon!

So good to meet you here - and brilliant that you've been to Edinburgh Castle .. and the family loves history.

@ Julie - I owe you masses of visits! I'm on my way. Yes to be at University College Durham would be fascinating .. I've a friend who was there - not sure if she was in that College or not - I'll have to check.

@ Nas - many thanks .. so pleased you've enjoyed the visits.

@ Chuck - really appreciate your comment - I've enjoyed doing the posts .. and seen some of the country I don't know, while certainly learning about my own history.

Thank you so much - I owe a few visits .. I'll be catching up .. cheers Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shirley - sorry your comment got rescued from Blogger spam!

I have to say I've been fascinated by the series too - especially with Bob's castles and his historical postings .. as well as the interesting hauntings ..

I too would love to go castle-visiting again .. many thanks - sorry comment got bagged by blogger-spam ..

Cheers and see you soon .. Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

Now I know whY some castles are crumbling while others are standing. I thought it was just age.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. glad you appreciated why some still stand etc ..

Also some were destroyed, roof taken down, so they didn't incur taxes after WW2 ...

Those things are tough! Good to see you .. cheers Hilary