Castle Facts for Children and Teachers
Castles are full of history and home to lots of exciting stories, but why were castles built in England and who built them? Read on to learn lots of castle facts.
Who built the first castles in England?
The Normans built the first castles in England after winning the Battle of Hastings. The Normans were Vikings who were originally from Denmark, Norway and Iceland. In the 10th century, the French King, Charles the Simple, gave some land in the North of France to a Viking chief named Rollo. He did this because he hoped it would stop the Vikings from invading France. This bit of land became known as Northmannia, which was shortened to Normandy.
What happened in the Battle of Hastings?
The Battle of Hastings was a battle between the Norman-French army, led by William, the Duke of Normandy and an English army led by Harold Godwinson, the Anglo-Saxon King. The Normans invaded England and met the English army near Hastings on 14th October 1066. Harold was killed and the Normans won this battle.
What is the Bayeux Tapestry?
The Bayeux Tapestry is a sewn record of the Battle of Hastings. It shows the events leading up to the battle, the battle itself and who was involved. This tapestry is 70 metres long, 50 centimetres tall and is over 900 years old. It was sewn with wool yarn using a technique called embroidery.
Teachers: If you want to learn more about the Bayeux Tapestry, check out our castles cross-curricular art lessons.
Why were the first castles in England built?
The Normans needed to build castles to protect their soldiers. Lots of people living in England were not happy about having a new king, so there were lots of rebellions. As well as making new laws, one of the changes the Normans introduced was a new language. They mixed Anglo-Saxon English with Norman French, this new language became the English we speak today.
Building of a Motte and bailey castle illustrated on the Bayeux Tapestry.
What are motte and bailey castles?
Motte and bailey castles are an enclosure (bailey) that is built on a mound (motte). A keep was built on the top of a mound with steep sides so people couldn’t run up them. At the bottom of the motte there was a wooden enclosure with buildings inside. The buildings included stables, kitchens and homes. The buildings and fences were built using wood.
Why were motte and bailey castles built?
Motte and bailey castles were quick and cheap to build, and easy to defend. It took a few weeks to build one of these castles. They were the first proper castles built in England.
Archaeologists have studied the number of mottes in England and think the Normans built around 500 motte and bailey castles. This would mean they built one every two weeks in the two years after 1066.
What are stone keep castles?
Stone keep castles were castles built from stone. Once the English stopped rebelling against the Normans quite as much, the Normans were able to improve their castles. Lots of motte and bailey castles had their wooden structures replaced with stone to make them stronger. These castles are also called square keep castles.
Why were stone keep castles built?
Stone keep castles were easy to defend. They were a sign of power and strength. Stone keep castles were bigger than motte and bailey castles so they could protect more people.
What are concentric castles?
Concentric castles were bigger than stone keep castles. They were circular castles that were surrounded by two or more circular stone walls. Concentric castles were mainly built in England and Wales by Edward I.
What are some famous UK castles?
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.
The White Tower is the tower in the Tower of London. It was built to scare Londoners. What it is used for has changed lots over the years.
The White Tower at the Tower of London is an example of a stone keep.
Rochester Castle was built protect England's south-east coast from invasion.
Conway Castle was built by Edward I, during his conquest of Wales. It formed part of a ring of castles in Wales.
Conway castle in North Wales is an example of a concentric castle.
Harlech Castle was built by Edward I. It is a World Heritage site as described by UNESCO as one of "the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe".