Nursery Rhymes

Motte and Bailey Castle

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

The Motte and Bailey Castle
The Middle Ages encompass one of the most violent periods in English History are are epitomised by the castles of the Middle Ages. The development, architecture and building of these great fortresses changed as time progressed, influenced by important historical events such as the crusades and the technology of siege warfare. This page provides interesting and important information about the Motte and Bailey Castle built by the Normans. 

What is a Motte and Bailey Castle?
A Motte and Bailey Castle is a term used to describe the castles which were introduced to England by the Normans. The Normans used the Motte and Bailey castle as a base for controlling the native English population. The Motte and Bailey Castle Layout consisted of several major elements:

  • The Castle foundations or mounds - Two mounds of earth were built consisting of a high and extremely steep mound which was called the Motte. The Motte had very steep sides and a Tower was built on the top of it. A much shallower mound was also built which served as the foundations of the bailey.
  • The Motte and Bailey castle ditch - The process of excavating the earth to build the mounds created a highly convenient defensive ditch at the base of the motte which surrounding the whole of the bailey. a ditch which was often filled with water - the earliest form of the castle moat
  • The Bailey was a defended yard, surrounded by the ditch, which contained barracks, stables, livestock and other buildings for storing food, weapons and equipment.
  • The entrance to the Bailey was through a large wooden gate. Some of these gates had Guardhouses which were built either side of the gate  
  • The Motte varied in size from 50 to 120 feet in height and 50 to 300 feet in diameter
  • The Tower - The Tower or Castle Keep - The motte was crowned with a wooden Tower which served as a look-out, an elevated fighting point and provided accommodation for the lord or knight. These wooden towers were later replaced with stone and were called 'Keeps'. The Tower, or keep, usually consisted of two or three storeys. The Ground Floor typically housed a kitchen and storeroom. The First Floor sometimes housed the Great Hall and the Top floor of the tower, or keep, housed the lord's apartments
  • The Rampart and Palisades - The base of Motte and Bailey Castle tower, or keep, was surrounded by a rampart and palisades - A fence of pales forming a defence barrier or fortification ( a pale was a fence, or timber wall, made with a stake or pointed stick which enclosed the area)
  • A fortified gate was built as part of the tower fence
  • The Crenellations - On the top of the Palisades were 'Crenellations' form which the soldiers fired arrows
  • Some Motte and Bailey castles had a parapet - a low wall along the top of the rampart
  • A bridge between the Bailey and the tower on top of the Motte - A wooden bridge afforded access to the Tower gate during time of peace. In time of a siege the bridge was completely removed

When the timber Motte and Bailey Castles were completed many were covered in white plaster - which made them look as if they were made of stone.

Middle Ages Castles
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