Medieval Castle History

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.


Roman Fort

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.

motte bailey wooden castles

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.

King William The Conqueror Medieval KIngs

William The Conqueror *Norman Conquest

After the conquest, William the Conqueror ordered the construction of castles throughout England in order to protect his rule.

Motte Bailey Medieval Castle

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.

Dover Castle *Norman Stone Castle

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.

Castle Keep

Castle Keep

Dover Castle Fortress

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.

beaumaris ga9e6e6131 640

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 *Pefect Example of a Concentric Castle

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.


Norman Nobility

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 Gunpowder Weapons

Medieval Gunpowder Weapons

Medieval Castles History Summary

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.

Early Stone and Wood Motte Bailey Castle

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.

Medieval Motte Bailey Castle Design

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.