Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle

 

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle
The Normans were the victors of the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The indigenous population had been conquered and the strategy of building the vast network of Motte and Bailey castles ensured that the Normans maintained control. Life for the Normans was good. Their successful invasion of England meant wealth for the Norman invaders. Lands were divided between Norman Lords and they built the Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle.

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle - the Inhabitants
Life in the Norman Motte and Bailey Castles depended on the rank of the people who inhabited the castle.

 
 
 
Motte and Bailey Castles
Castles Index 
The Lord of the Castle and possibly his family would live in the most protected part of the castle - the Tower or the Keep.  Servants would be expected to provide food for the Nobles and soldiers. The Soldiers were well paid and lived within the Bailey of the castle. Other occupations within the Motte and Bailey castle were the Blacksmiths - to keep a supply of arrowheads, the Stable hands to help with the horses and the kitchen staff. Like the Feudal system itself, life in a Motte and Bailey castle was a pyramid shape with the Lord at the top of the pyramid - literally living the high life! And the quality of life decreasing according to the position of the inhabitant! 

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle

  • Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle -  Bailey
  • Motte and Bailey Castle -inhabitants
  • Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle - Soldiers
  • Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle - the Lord
  • Life in a Motte & Bailey Castle - The normal daily events which occurred in the Castle

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle - the Occupants of the Bailey
Life in the Norman Motte and Bailey Castle Bailey - the occupants of the Bailey were the soldiers and the servants - blacksmiths, cooks, storekeepers, stable hands etc.

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle - the Soldiers
The objective of the Motte and Bailey castle occupants was to control the surrounding area. The Motte and Bailey Castle was not used as a refuge or a retreat where men cowered behind walls - it was there to dominate the indigenous population. The Norman soldiers therefore spent a lot of their time patrolling the surrounding area. Foot soldiers could cover up to 30 miles in one day and horse soldiers could cover much wider areas. The soldiers were the victors - they had conquered the Anglo-Saxons - they would have been hated and feared. No doubt they would have made life difficult for the Anglo-Saxons in their area and 'confiscated' and items which would have made their life easier. The life of the soldier would have centred around the Bailey - patrolling and practising and improving their weapon skills. Their leisure time would have been spent resting, some gambling and praying! The Normans were a Christian army and the Norman Invasion of England had been sanctioned by the Pope and was seen as a Crusade.

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle - the workers in the Bailey
The workers in the Bailey were expected to ensure the life of the Lord and his soldiers was as comfortable and orderly as possible. The Blacksmiths were expected to make the weapons and ensure that enough arrow heads were produced. Their 'Smithy' environment was hot and noisy and their life governed by the demands of the Lord of the castle. The horses were extremely important to the Lord and Knights - the horses had to be fed, groomed and their stables kept clean - life around the stables was also noisy and smelly! The kitchen staff and servants would be expected to feed the Lord and the soldiers. The Bailey would house small animals - and the animals would need to be slaughtered during the autumn as it was not economic or practical to feed animals during the winter. The meat was preserved in salt. Bread was a mainstay of everyone's diet. Corn,  grain, cabbage, ale or cider was obtained from the local area. The foodstuff all needed to be stored - enough was required to not only feed men on a day-to-day basis but also the withstand a siege situation. Life in the Bailey was:

  • Busy - workers and armed men following their duties
  • Noisy - People shouting orders, making weapons etc and the noises made by livestock
  • Dirty - Bailey was built on a mound of earth
  • Boring - Patrolling was boring and so were most of the tasks

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle - the Tower
Life in the Norman Motte and Bailey Castle was not just designed as a fortress it was also a residence for the Lord and possibly his family - they all lived in the most secure part of the castle - the Tower. The Towers were positioned on top of extremely steep and high Mottes and was reached via a wooden bridge from the Bailey. The tower generally had two or three storeys:

  • The Ground Floor housed a kitchen and storeroom
  • The First Floor housed the Great Hall (optional - would only be built if the location was of significant political or military importance and semi-permanent occupation of the castle was envisioned)
  • The Top floor housed the Lord's apartments

If the Tower had a Great Hall then there would be some forms of entertainment - the richer the Lord the better and more varied the entertainment. Meals would be also be taken in the great Hall and religious observances such as Mass would be taken here. Life in the Tower would also be noisy, dirty, busy and smoky - there was little privacy for any of the inhabitants.

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle - the Lord and his Family
Life in the Norman Motte and Bailey Castle was better for the Lord and his family than for anyone else. The Norman Lords and Knights who owned the castles tended to move around continuously. The majority of Motte and Bailey castles were seldom occupied for long periods. Everyday life in the Motte and Bailey castle would follow a similar routine:

  • Life in the castle started at cock crow
  • Mass would be heard at a portable altar in the Great Hall
  • Breakfast
  • Lord would attend to business matters in relation to his land
  • Mid morning meal
  • Lord would go hunting or inspect the estate
  • Ladies would undertake embroidery etc
  • Evening supper in the Hall - with occasional entertainment

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle - the Feudal System
Life in the Norman Motte and Bailey was governed by the pyramid-shaped Feudal System. This was based on the belief that the land belonged to God - but that the Kings, who ruled by Divine Right, managed the land and used it as they wished. The Kings needed the good will and support of the Nobles and Knights so they granted them lands in return for their military services. The Nobles and Knights would in turn grant some of their lands to Freemen. Life lived under the Feudal System demanded that everyone owed allegiance to the King and their immediate superior. Everyone was expected to pay for the land by providing the following services:

  • Work days - completing any chores required
  • Providing trained soldiers to fight for the King
  • Providing equipment - clothes and weapons - for the soldiers

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle
Life in the Norman Motte and Bailey varied according to the rank of the inhabitants. Understanding the lives of the people who lived there and the actual layout of the Motte and Bailey Castle helps to stimulate the imagination and what life actually must have been like! 

 

Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle 

Norman Pre-Built Timber Castles
Motte and Bailey Castles
Motte and Bailey Castle Layout

Motte and Bailey Castles - Attack & Defence
Famous Motte and Bailey Castles
Norman Medieval Stone Castles
Norman Castles
Castle Keep
Romanesque Architecture
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