Castle Architecture

Stone, mortar, wood-these were the simple components used to construct some of the most heavily fortified structures ever created.

Early castles relied on the surrounding landscape to provide much of the protection. Early castles were made of wood and built on hills of "mottes". Surrounded by a high, wooden palisade, motte and bailey castles were used widely until the Norman invasion of 1066. These fortifications proved too easy to burn, and stone was then used more frequently.

Castles were rarely the most comfortable place to live, with only the lord and his family given adequate heat and other amenities. Medieval castles were built for safety, not comfort. Windows were little more than slits in the wall. Cold, stone floors and walls rarely kept in heat, and water had to be brought by the bucketful throughout the castle. Walls were built high to protect from advancing armies, and to provide needed lookout positions.

The simple stone and mortar architecture made repairs fairly easy to make. It was not uncommon for stones to be used over and over with each successive castle built on the same location. Cannons and gunpowder made the castle ineffective and these large structures evolved in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance to become manor homes and palaces.