Medieval castle history extends back to the early medieval period, although during these times castle building was rather rudimentary. Castles built during these times were mainly fortifications without any proper structure and built on old Roman fortifications.
The major advancements of the medieval castle started with the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. After this, medieval castles began to be constructed with more elaborate designs and stone was used instead of wood.
Early Medieval Castles
Early medieval times are times in medieval castle history when castles lacked several crucial features. For instance, during the early medieval times, castles lacked towers and arrow-slits and there was usually only one central keep.
These castles made rich use of wood instead of stone which made them vulnerable to fire and attack by heavy weapons. During this time the breakdown of the Carolingian Empire fragmented Europe and various local lords constructed rudimentary castles for their protection.
Later Medieval Castles
The design and quality of castles in the medieval period took a dramatic turn after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.
William The Conqueror *Norman Conquest
After the conquest, William the Conqueror ordered the construction of castles throughout England in order to protect his rule.
These castles were called Motte and Bailey castles, earlier castles were made of wood, then wood and stone, and later Norman castles were made heavy use of stone which made them stronger and relatively immune to fire.
Arundel Castle *Norman Stone Castle
Other important features of these castles included a castle keep, curtain walls, gatehouse, arrow-slits, an elaborate defence mechanism, moat, and others.
Dover Castle Fortress
History of Castle Design
The history of castle design can also be traced back to the early medieval times, although attention to aesthetics began to be paid during the middle and late medieval times. It was during this later medieval period that grand castles began to be constructed with special emphasis on design as the appearance and size of the castle reflected the power and prestige of the owner.
Concentric Castles, which had inner and outer walls and became famous during the late medieval times, are very important in medieval castle history with respect to design and architecture.
Beaumaris Castle *Perfect Example of a Concentric Castle
Medieval Castle Decline
After medieval times, castles became less popular and the nobility increasingly began to prefer country houses over castles. These were times when the political situation of Europe was becoming relatively stable and thus there was hardly any need of constructing castles.
Older castles were hard to defend in the face of new gun powder such as canons and other new technologies of warfare. Thus while medieval castle history did not end with the medieval times, its decline had started because of the political and scientific changes.
Medieval castle history includes several castle types from early to late medieval times. Medieval castle history begins with simple fortifications that did not follow any set design. This was followed by Motte and Bailey castles around the central period of medieval times.
Motte was a mound of earth where a castle keep was situated and Bailey was a separate piece of land usually connected to the Motte with a bridge. Another famous medieval castle type that became popular during the late medieval times was a concentric castle which had multiple layers of walls for added protection.
Arundel Castle Motte & Bailey Castle
During the middle and late medieval times, more attention was also paid to the aesthetics as castle size and design became the status symbol. The trend of building new castles began to decline by the end of medieval times due to political changes and new warfare technologies.