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castles

castles. Many man-made structures are called ‘castles’; they are very diverse in character and date, ranging from the Iron Age fortification of Maiden castle (Dorset), to Dover castle, to Eastnor castle (Herefordshire) built as a stately home for the 1st Earl Somers in 1812. Of these only Dover is truly a castle, but the others tell us something about the way castles generally are regarded. Castles are fortifications, some of considerable size and complexity. But unlike Maiden castle, which housed and protected a whole people, they were built by a medieval lord for his own protection. Eastnor was built at a time when medievalism was fashionable, and castles were seen as the suitable residences of the aristocracy, symbols of their hereditary status and right to rule. True castles were also residences; the greatest were palaces of considerable size and luxuriousness. They were also status symbols and centres of government. The donjon or keep of a castle seems to have become a symbol of lordship, which may explain why Ralph, Lord Cromwell, built a tower keep as the centre of his castle at Tattershall in 1434, when towers as parts of the fortification had been superseded. Royal castles, especially those planted by William the Conqueror in the shire towns of England after the Conquest, became centres of royal government. They were county gaols, places where royal courts sat, and where documents, treasure, and weapons were securely held. Baronial castles were the headquarters of estates, where local government and business of the estate was transacted. Finally, all castles were privately owned. Whether the castle was built by the king to control or to protect the kingdom or by one of his barons to subdue his estate, it remained the property of the builder. Royal castles were not built for national defence, did not and still do not belong to the state. The king might require the owner of a castle to maintain it in readiness against an enemy of the kingdom, but the castle remained private property. If a castle was thought relevant to the defence of the realm it could be appropriated for the period of the emergency by the king, but was always returned to its owner. The castle of Norham on the Tweed was the centre of the bishop of Durham's estates in Norhamshire. It was built originally at the king's request and later taken several times into the king's hands during the protracted wars against the Scots.

Castles developed first in France, in Anjou, in the 10th cent. The first castles in England were built in Edward the Confessor's reign by his nephew Ralph and his Norman followers, and were strongly resented by the English, as foreign imports. Lordly residences in late Saxon England appear to have been enclosed with a palisade and a ditch, as excavations at Sulgrave (Northants) and Goltho (Lincs.) have shown, but the defences were slight. Castles were an introduction into England and a direct consequence of the Norman invasion of 1066.

Orderic Vitalis, a Norman historian writing in the 12th cent. about the Norman Conquest, said that the English fought bravely but lost to William because they lacked castles. William secured his first landing in England with a wooden castle, which he brought with him in ready-made sections from Normandy. On entering London, after the battle of Hastings, one of William's first acts was to order the creation of a castle to control the city: the Tower of London. His various campaigns to secure the country or to suppress rebellion are notable for castle-building at centres up and down the line of his march.

The castles built immediately after the Conquest, whether by the king or his followers, were generally rapidly constructed of earth and timber, using locally impressed Saxon labour. In form, they were either a fortified enclosure surrounded by a ditch (known as a ringwork) or a motte and bailey, that is an earth mound topped with a fortification and surrounded by a ditch connected to a further lower fortified enclosure. These castles vary considerably in size. This suggests that their owners had differing resources and also that their roles were different. Large castles like Windsor, Dover, or Richmond seem to have been conceived from the first as residences as well as fortresses. The White Tower built by William I to subdue London incorporated two large suites of rooms plus a grand chapel and extensive storage space within the defensive keep. Excavations of the motte at Abinger (Surrey) have shown that the top of the motte had a raised fighting platform or perhaps a look-out tower surrounded by a palisade. All the accommodation, if there was any, must have been in the bailey and suggests that the smaller castles were principally fortresses.

This distinction is important, for it helps to explain the development of castles after the Conquest. During the Conquest all Norman barons, great or small, seem to have built castles; however, the wooden fortresses of the first generation were not very durable and their owners were soon forced to decide whether they should be replaced in stone. Further, the castle's importance in warfare meant that its design was constantly being refined so that to maintain its military efficiency meant a constant outlay. Many smaller landowners seem to have ceased to be castle owners, preferring instead a fortified manor house, which provided security and domestic comfort within their means. Castles became the prerogative of the wealthy baronage and the crown. Thus the castles which are notable monuments today are those which were rebuilt and updated in the 12th cent. and later, with both defensive systems and residential arrangements brought to considerable sophistication. Amongst the most developed examples in Britain are the castles built for Edward I in north Wales, for example, Conwy, Caernarfon, and Harlech. These played a crucial role in the subjugation of the principality, and also provided palatial accommodation for the king and his officers.

Such castles were extremely expensive to build, and castles constructed in the later Middle Ages, such as Bodiam, were consequently smaller, although they retained considerable sophistication. Despite the introduction of gunpowder in that period, castles retained their importance. Late examples, such as Raglan (Monmouthshire), were designed to include cannon as part of their defences. Castles were again important in the English Civil War, when large numbers were refortified and held for the king. Several, including Corfe, suffered major sieges. In recognition of the part that castles had played in the war, the majority of surviving buildings were deliberately slighted by the victorious parliamentarians.

Lynda Rollason

Bibliography

Brown, R. A. , English Castles (2nd edn. 1976);
McNeill, T. , Castles (1992);
Pounds, N. J. G. , The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: A Social and Political History (Cambridge, 1990);
Thompson, M. W. , The Decline of the Castle (Cambridge, 1987).

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"castles." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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castle

castle, type of fortified dwelling characteristic of the Middle Ages. Fortification of towns had been in practice since antiquity, but in the 9th cent. feudal lords began to develop the private fortress-residence known as the castle. It served the twofold function of residence and fortress because of the conditions of medieval life, in which war was endemic. The site of the castle was preferably on a defensible height. England and France, in general, did not afford such inaccessible locations as did the Rhine valley in Germany.

The Early Castle

The castle of W Europe was a Norman creation, an outgrowth of the 10th- and 11th-century mound castle, which consisted of a great artificial mound of earth, the motte, surrounded by a dry ditch, or fosse, and surmounted by a wooden blockhouse and its encircling palisade. Until well into the 12th cent., the only English development was the occasional substitution of a massive masonry keep inside the palisade—a form typified in the Tower of London. As siegecraft (see siege) was evolved, provisions were made for an aggressive defense.

A castle that became the model for many English and Norman castles was the formidable castle built at Arques in Normandy by Henry I of England. A square donjon, or keep, was set against the strong outer walls of masonry; the entrance was protected by a double gate, two flanking round towers, and advanced earthworks. The place enclosed by the outer circuit of walls was usually divided into two courts, or baileys, by a palisade. Subterranean passages made detection of underground forays easy.

The Fully Developed Castle

In the Middle East the Crusaders developed great castles with double circuits of curving outer walls and towers or turrets to overlook all sections of the wall. The form of these castles had an influence throughout the Continent and the British Isles. Thus early in the 13th cent. the medieval castle, a mixture of Norman, English, and Byzantine elements, reached its full flower, as typified in the Château Gaillard on the Seine in France and in Alnwick and the Conisborough in England.

In general, the castle was planned for security; the living quarters were rude, poorly lighted, and without provisions for comfort. Typically, the keep contained the living quarters of the lord and his family, the rooms of state, and the prison cells. Two independent systems of walls, each a fortress in itself, extended around the keep; the sections of the walls were flanked by towers, usually round, and the principal entrance was protected by strong gate towers, the massive gateway, with its portcullis and drawbridge, and the barbican, or advanced outwork. The defenders operated from galleries at the tops of walls and from the flat roofs of towers, whose battlements were provided with recesses with flaring sides, called embrasures, and openings, or machicolations, for shooting and dropping missiles on the attackers. The fully developed castle was thus marked by successive series of defenses; the fall of the outer works did not necessarily mean the loss of the entire castle.

With the use of gunpowder and consequent perfection of artillery, the castle lost its military importance. The manor house replaced the castle as the residence of the wealthy landowner, but the architectural influence of the castle has persisted even to the present day, when crenelations and towers are still found in country houses and some urban structures.

See château.

Bibliography

See S. Toy, History of Fortification from 3000 BC to AD 1700 (1955); W. D. Simpson, Castles in Britain (1966); A. Weissmüller, Castles from the Heart of Spain (1967); W. Anderson, Castles of Europe from Charlemagne to the Renaissance (1971); P. Warner, The Medieval Castle (1972).

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castle

cas·tle / ˈkasəl/ • n. a large building or group of buildings fortified against attack with thick walls, battlements, towers, and in many cases a moat. ∎  a magnificent and imposing mansion, esp. one that is the home or former home of a member of the nobility. [in names] Castle Howard. ∎  inf. Chess old-fashioned term for rook2 . • v. [intr.] [often as n.] (castling) Chess make a special move (no more than once in a game by each player) in which the king is transferred from its original square two squares along the back rank toward the corner square of a rook, which is then transferred to the square passed over by the king. ∎  [tr.] move (the king) in this way. DERIVATIVES: cas·tled / ˈkasəld/ adj. ( archaic ).

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castle

castle a large building or group of buildings fortified against attack with thick walls, battlements, towers, and in many cases a moat. The word is recorded from late Old English and comes from Anglo-Norman French and Old Northern French castel, from Latin castellum, diminutive of castrum ‘fort’.
The Castle was a name for the former Irish viceregal government and administration, of which Dublin Castle was the seat.
castles in Spain visionary unattainable schemes; the expression is recorded from late Middle English, and it is possible that Spain, as the nearest Moorish country to Christendom, was taken as the type of a region in which the prospective castle-builder had no standing. An alternative expression, castles in the air, is recorded from the late 16th century.

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castle

castle Fortified house or fortress, usually the medieval residences of European kings or nobles. Castles evolved from a need for strategic fortresses that could accommodate several households and provide shelter in times of war. Built of wood or masonry, castles were located on a raised site and sometimes surrounded by a water-filled moat. Walls were thick and high enough to withstand attack, with parapets to enable defenders to manoeuvre between the turrets.

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Castle

Castle

any structure or pile of objects more or less in the shape of a castle.

Examples: castle of cards (modern); of fine manchet [the finest kind of wheaten bread], 1791; of march-pane [marzipan], 1627.

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castle

castle XI. — AN., ONF. castel, var. of chastel (mod. château) :- L. castellum, dim. of castrum entrenchment, fortified place, fort.

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Castle

Castle. See Cassels.

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castle

castle.
1. Large, strong, fortified structure or complex of buildings used for defence against an attacker. In the Middle Ages the most important part of a castle was the donjon or keep (Bergfried in German), essentially a strong tower with living quarters. The keep, in France and England, might also include the hall for gatherings, in which case it was called a hall-keep. The Tower of London has a hall-keep of great magnificence (1077–97) that also includes an apsidal-ended Romanesque chapel. The most usual Continental arrangement was for the hall-range to be separate and not within the keep: perhaps the most impressive C14 hall-ranges are those at Malbork (Marienburg) in Poland, built by the Teutonic Order. The keep was set within the inner bailey or ward, itself protected by walls, either in a corner or the centre of the space. Outside the inner bailey was the outer bailey, often containing stables and other offices, so it was a distinct space surrounded by walls. The outer ring of walls had battlemented tops and walks, with towers at intervals—the walls between towers were called curtain-walls. Gates leading from the outside to the baileys or from bailey to bailey were protected by towers and portcullises. An entrance to a castle could also have the extra defence of a barbican. Around the walls, themselves often raised on sloping embankments or ramparts (valla) were usually fossae or ditches, sometimes filled with water (moat), and over the moat was a drawbridge that could be raised. Smaller, less important castles might have the central keep (of modest proportions) set on a motte surrounded by a bailey contained within palisaded earthworks and surrounded by a ditch.

2. Country-house, named after a feudal castle, or a large country mansion looking vaguely like a castle. See also castle style.

Bibliography

Boase (1967)

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castle

castlehassle, Kassel, passel, tassel, vassal •axel, axle •cancel, hansel, Hänsel, Mansell •transaxle •castle, metatarsal, parcel, tarsal •chancel • sandcastle • Newcastle •Bessel, nestle, pestle, redressal, trestle, vessel, wrestle •Edsel • Texel •intercensal, pencil, stencil •pretzel • staysail • mainsail • Wiesel •abyssal, bristle, epistle, gristle, missal, scissel, thistle, whistle •pixel • plimsoll •tinsel, windsail •schnitzel, spritsail •Birtwistle •paradisal, sisal, trysail •apostle, colossal, dossal, fossil, glossal, jostle, throstle •consul, proconsul, tonsil •dorsal, morsel •council, counsel, groundsel •Mosul • fo'c's'le, forecastle •bustle, hustle, muscle, mussel, Russell, rustle, tussle •gunsel • corpuscle •disbursal, dispersal, Purcell, rehearsal, reversal, succursal, tercel, transversal, traversal, universal •Herzl

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