Nursery Rhymes

Destroying Motte and Bailey Castles

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Destroying Motte and Bailey Castles - the English rebels
The Normans took everything from the English. The Normans built the Motte and Bailey castles in order to intimidate and subjugate the people of England. Following the Battle of Hastings the Saxons English were again crushed at Canterbury and Dover. In February 1067 another rebellion against the Normans erupted.

The English, who were led by Harold's mother Gytha, resisted the Normans at Exeter but are defeated by the Normans. In 1068 there was another English Rebellion. William the Conqueror responded with the  "Harrying of the North". In 1070 another rebellion arose against the Normans. Hereward the Wake led the English, with Harold's brother the Earl Morcar, against the Normans at Peterborough but they are also defeated. The defeats were understandable to beat the Normans the English rebels were faced with destroying the Motte and Bailey castles.   

Defending and Attacking a Motte and Bailey Castle - Destroying Motte and Bailey Castles
Attacking a Motte and Bailey castle would have proved extremely difficult for the English rebels - destroying Motte and Bailey Castles would have been a gargantuan feat. Their objective would have been to reach the Tower, or Keep and destroy the castle and its hated Norman inhabitants. The Attackers of Motte and Bailey Castles would have had to negotiate the following defensive obstacles under constant fire from the arrows of the soldiers in their attempts to destroy a Motte and Bailey castle:

  • The perimeter ditch, which surrounded the Motte and Bailey castle complex. The ditch would have been filled with water or long, sharp stakes
  • Storm or fire the highly defended gate of the Bailey
  • Fight the soldiers who were defending the Bailey
  • Replace the wooden bridge which provided access to the top of the motte and the tower. This rarely happened as the defenders would have no doubt burnt the bridge
  • Without the bridge the attackers would have had to climb or crawl up the steep mound to the pinnacle of the Motte
  • They would then have had to get through the gate of the motte
  • Normans would have all the time been firing arrows from the top or ramparts of the fence from the crenellations
  • If the attackers actually got through the Motte gate they would then have had to take the tower
  • Fire would have been their main strength
  • It therefore was not long before the Normans replaced the wooden Motte and Bailey Castles with stone castles
  • The weight of the stone made it difficult to build on top of high mounds, or Mottes
  • The Norman stone castles were therefore built within the bailey area of the castle

Destroying Motte and Bailey Castles
It is easy to understand the difficulty the English rebels would have had in destroying the Motte and Bailey castles of the Normans. The struggles between the hated Norman conquerors and the vanquished English Saxons raged for hundreds of years. The legend of Robin Hood is believed to have created following the exploits of Hereward the Wake and his attempts to lead a rebellion against the Normans which included the failures of destroying the Norman Motte and Bailey castles.

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