Castles of England/Civil War Castles

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History of the Period[edit]

In 1120 Prince William, the only son of Henry I, was drowned when the ship carrying him home sank. Following William's death there were two possible heirs to the throne: Henry's daughter, Matilda, and his nephew Stephen. On Henry's death, Stephen became king. Some nobles would have preferred Matilda, sparking a 14 year civil war.

Matilda married Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, who was also known as "Plantagenet". While Geoffrey attempted to gain control of Normandy, Matilda battled with Stephen for control of England. After capturing Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln, she forced him to allow the throne to pass to her son, who would become Henry II - the first of the Plantagenet kings. He was succeeded by his son, Richard the Lionheart who was succeeded by John.

During this period of internal strife, the castle played an important role and the nature of the fighting lead to the development of specialised siege equipment.

Shell Keeps[edit]

Castle engineers during the Norman period did not trust the motte to support the enormous weight of a stone keep. A common solution was to replace the palisade with a stone wall then build wooden buildings backing onto the inside of the wall. This construction was lighter than a keep and prevented the walls from being undermined, meaning they could be thinner and lighter.

Great Towers[edit]

In the 12th century great towers (also known as a donjon or keep) began to appear as a replacement for the motte as the strong point of the castle. The great tower had thick heavy walls, sometimes up to seven metres thick, and could resist the latest siege machinery while also providing better and more spacious living quarters for the castle owner. Older castles were rebuilt with great towers by either demolishing the motte or constructing the tower on top of the motte. The latter option was less common as the motte could rarely take the weight of a great tower without risk of collapse. In many early castle designs the keep was situated at or near the entrance to the castle to protect this weak point.

Castles of the Period[edit]

Castle Rising[edit]

The keep of Castle Rising

History of the Castle[edit]

The construction of Castle Rising began in 1138. The keep is surrounded by an enormous earthworks that were built up during the 12th century, possibly in response to the 1173-1174 revolt led by Hugh Bigod in Norfolk.

Between 1330 and 1358 Isabella of France lived in Castle Rising.

Design of the Castle[edit]

Orford Castle[edit]

Orford Castle

History of the Castle[edit]

The construction of Orford Castle began in 1165 on the orders of Henry II and was completed in 1173. The design of the keep, a polygonal tower, is unique being circular in cross-section with three abutting rectangular towers. The castle tower is enclosed by a curtain wall with a gatehouse and flanking towers.

Four years after completion, Orford Castle was garrisoned by the 1st Earl of Norfolk when he joined the rebellion of Henry the Young King. In the 13th century Prince Louis of France occupied Orford Castle following his invasion of England in 1216. The castle declined in importance during the later part of the 13th century and was sold by Edward I.

Design of the Castle[edit]

Plan of Orford Castle keep.

Richmond Castle[edit]

The keep of Richmond Castle, it was a 12th century addition to the original castle

History of the Castle[edit]

Alan the Red of Brittany began construction of Richmond Castle in the Yorkshire Dales began in 1071. Once complete it was used as the headquarters of the "Honour of Richmond", a group of estates in the surrounding area.

Design of the Castle[edit]

Richmond Castle is built from stone and originally had a towered curtain wall and gatehouse but no keep. Walls guarded only two sides of the three sided hilltop as no wall was felt necessary on the third side due to the steep cliff and river.