Medieval Castles of England and Wales

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2017-05-23
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Shire Publications
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Designed both to protect the inhabitants of the towns they towered over and cow them into submission, castles dominated the landscape of Medieval England and Wales. Though some were built before 1066, the Norman Conquest left a lasting legacy of domination in the form of fortifications ranging from small earthworks now barely discernible, to mighty and dominating stone fortresses.

This book examines why medieval English kings and Welsh princes constructed castles, their importance in warfare and domestic politics, and the day-to-day lives of those who lived and worked within them. It also shows how the development of new technologies affected their construction and design, and why they eventually fell into disrepair in the late Middle Ages. Beautifully illustrated with stunning photographs, this is the perfect guide for any castle enthusiast seeking to discover more about medieval castles and their inhabitants.

Author Biography

For Bernard Lowry, childhood visits to North Wales led to an early fascination for fortifications and to later travels seeking out the major fortifications of Britain and Europe. He is a founder-member of the Castles Study Group and ex-Honorary Secretary of the Fortress Study Group, for whom he has written many articles. In addition he is the author of several books on modern fortifications.

Table of Contents

1066: castles of the Conqueror This chapter will begin with a brief description of the Anglo-Saxon, Roman and earlier fortifications (made use of by the Normans) in England before 1066 together with a mention of the handful of castles built by Norman lords before 1066. Then follows a brief description of Duke Wiiliam's campaign and the types of castle built: ringworks, motte and bailey castles, hall and tower keeps as well as the re-use of Anglo-Saxon, Roman and prehistoric fortifications. How these were built and how they might have appeared will be discussed. The use of timber predominates although there is early building in stone.
Castles of Settlement The chapter will cover the development of the earlier castles mentioned above, their growth and sophistication and the introduction of round towers and keeps. The growing complexity of gateways, and the provision of barbicans, arrow slits, drawbridges and portcullises. Also the development of walled towns as adjuncts to the castle bringing markets and settlement. The castle as royal or lordly residence (issue of Licences to Crenellate) or palace, a centre of justice, a base for military operations, a control over local mineral assets etc.
Castles of conflict The chapter will look at the castle under siege with examples of actual medieval sieges. Also discussed will be the role of siege artillery, mining and counter measures. The Welsh Wars and the mighty castles of Edward I will be introduced. Fortified sites would be put back into service in the English Civil War of the seventeenth century and, surprisingly, again in the Second World War.
Castle building Discussed will be the choosing of sites, the choice of moats or ditches, provision of water supply, the acquisition of masonry and lime, transport of materials, scaffolding, cranes etc. The role of the master mason as architect and builder plus the use of other specialists such as carpenters, plumbers and blacksmiths.
Life in a castle The martial side of the castle as a barracks and war store will be discussed as well as other uses such as a palace and home, centre of justice, hunting lodge or controller of local mineral rights. Comforts (or otherwise!) of life in the castle such as furnishings, windows, stables, chapels, provision of sanitation, heating and cooking will also be covered.
The castle in decline Although there was a flowering of great castles in the fourteenth century even the great Edwardian castles had not been fully completed and many castles gradually fell into disrepair. By the later Middle Ages the threat from France and the Welsh princes, apart from Glyndwr's revolt at the beginning of the fifeenth century, had greatly diminished, leading to a move away from the discomfort of castle life and towards new semi-fortified houses sufficiently strong to resist local unrest. The introduction of cannon in warfare sounded the final knell of the medieval castle.
Glossary of terms
Castles to visit

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