Motte & Bailey Castles

Before any kind of fortification existed during the medieval period certain towns, places of interest or important locations were open to attacks and pillage. Structures whose sole purpose was to defend against these attacks were introduced.

Vikings Raids on Ireland

The Normans

Normans is a term that derives from “Norsemen”, Normans were originally the descendants of the Vikings who arrived in continental Europe during the Viking Age. During the 10th century, Vikings raids gave way to permanent Viking settlements in what was later the Duchy of Normandy.


Norman Nobility

Inspired by the castles that were built by the Franks in Francia, the Normans developed their own style of building castles which is known today as the ‘motte and bailey’, style castle. From the 10th century onward these types of castles started popping up in Europe on all fronts, they started appearing in the Holy Roman Empire during the 11th century.

Early Stone and Wood Motte Bailey Castle


What is a Motte & Bailey Castle?

A motte and bailey castle is a fortified structure built with a wooden or stone keep which was situated on the top of a raised dirt mound called a motte and accompanied by a protective ditch with its own palisade which surrounds the courtyard which is called the bailey.

motte bailey wooden castles

Why Were Motte & Bailey’s Castles Built?

During the medieval period, having anything to protect an important location was always welcome, especially if it was cheap and easy to make.  Motte and bailey castles fitted the bill as they were easy to build, even with unskilled labour, and yet still provided a very formidable defence.

Norman Conquest of England

Norman Conquest of England

During the Norman invasion of England in 1066, motte and bailey castles were introduced to this territory and rapidly started appearing in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland during the 12th and 13th centuries.

Motte & Bailey Castle Defences

The defence that the castle design provided, at that time, was advanced compared to previous castle designs. The Normans were able to build a network of castles across England and other lands such as Sicily quickly which enabled them to contain uprisings and expand their empire.

Anglo Saxon Warfare

Stone Motte & Bailey Castles

Earlier castles of this type were constructed of wood as the medieval period progressed more stone was used until they became the complete stone castles we see today.

Arundel *Stone Motte & Bailey Castle

Arundel Castle *Stone Norman Castle

Another reason that stone was used was because of the advancement of siege weapons and tactics that nullified the defences of wooden structures.

Siege Weapons Castles

Around the start of the 12th century, wood was no longer used and all the existing castles were either upgraded to stone keeps or were abandoned.

Alnwick Castle Norman Motte Bailey Stone Castle

Alnwick Castle *Stone Norman Castle

Warwick Castle Norman Motte Bailey Stone Castle

Warwick Castle *Stone Norman Castle

Castle design would advance even further as the medieval period progressed with moats, arrowslits, gatehouses, round towers, and murder holes added to these already formidable stone structures and this led to the creation of the mighty concentric castle with its multiple defensive walls!

Medieval Castle Parts Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

medieval concentric castle parts

Concentric Castle

End of the Motte & Bailey Castle

The motte and bailey castle provided formidable defense against attackers during the earlier stages of the medieval period and as time passed by during the middle ages they were either neglected or turned into stone castles that held the same design.

Windsor Castle Motte Bailey *Stone Norman Castle

Windsor Castle *Stone Norman Castle