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