Motte and Bailey Castle Layout

 

Motte and Bailey Castle Layout

  • What was the layout of the Motte section of the Castle?
  • What was the layout of the Motte and Tower section of the Castle?
  • What was the layout of the Bailey section of the Castle?

The Layout of the Motte and Bailey Castle
The Norman Motte and Bailey castle layout was a highly practical design which was a perfect base for controlling the native English population.

 
 
 
Motte and Bailey Castles
Castles Index 
Recent archaeological excavations indicate that not every Motte and Bailey Castle layout was exactly the same, however they were all built on very similar lines. The first Motte and Bailey Castle was built at Mont Glonme on the River Loire in France in 990. The location and sites of the Motte and Bailey Castle followed a pattern covering some, or all, of the following requirements and their layout was often modified according to their location:
  • They were built on the highest ground in the area
  • They often adjoined Rivers
  • They often overlooked Towns
  • They made use of existing sites of Roman or Saxon forts and Burhs
  • They overlooked harbours

The Motte and Bailey Castle Layout consisted of four main elements:

  • The Castle foundations or mounds
  • The Bailey
  • The Motte
  • The Tower

Motte and Bailey Castle Layout

Norman History & Strategy of building the Motte and Bailey Castle
William the Conqueror employed a strategy of quickly building a network of wooden Motte and Bailey Castles. The timber-built Motte and Bailey Castle could not be viewed as a permanent castle as the wood built on earth rotted quickly and they could easily be destroyed by fire. But they were of great temporary value! As many as 1000 Motte and Bailey castles were built in England by the Normans.

The Layout of the Motte and Bailey Castle - The Foundations, the Mounds

  • Motte and Bailey Castles were built on top of hilltops, high ground or strategically defensive locations
  • Two mounds of earth were built:
    • A high and extremely steep mound was built called the Motte - it had very steep sides and a Tower was built on the top of it
    • A much shallower mound was also built on top of which was the Bailey. The Bailey was a defended yard which contained barracks, stables, livestock and other buildings for storing food, weapons and equipment
    • The process of excavating the earth to build the massive mound, which was the motte, and the shallower mound created a highly convenient defensive ditch at the base of the motte and surrounding the whole of the bailey!

The Layout of the Motte and Bailey Castle - The Motte

  • The Motte varied in size from:
    • 50 to 120 feet in height
    • 50 to 300 feet in diameter
    • The Tower on top of the mount, or motte, was usually three storeys high
    • The size of the Motte was influenced by whether it was necessary to impress the population both militarily and politically
  • The Motte of the Castle were constructed using earth
  • The process of excavating the earth to build the motte created a defensive ditch at the base of the motte
  • The Motte was crowned with a wooden tower which served as a look-out, an elevated fighting point and provided accommodation for the Noble. These wooden towers were later replaced with stone and were called 'Keeps'

The Layout of the Motte and Bailey Castle - The Layout of the Tower
The Tower, complete with defences, was built at the top of the Motte. The layout and design is as follows:

  • The Tower usually consisted of two or three storeys:
    • The Ground Floor housed a kitchen and storeroom
    • The First Floor housed the Great Hall (optional)
    • The Top floor housed the Lord's apartments
  • The Motte and Bailey Castle tower 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)
  • On the top of the Palisades were 'Crenellations' form which the soldiers fired arrows.
  • The Crenellations  composed of:
    • 'Crenels' ( An open space or notch between two Merlons in a battlement or crenelated wall
    • 'Merlons' (A solid portion between two Crenels in a battlement)
  • Some castles had a parapet - a low wall along the top of the rampart
  • A wooden bridge afforded access to the top of the Motte and the Tower during time of peace
  • In time of siege the bridge was completely removed
  • The Towers, or Keeps, were built as the most protected part of the castle. Attackers would need to:
    • Penetrate the first line of defences provided by the Bailey
    • Cross the ditch which surrounded the motte ( the bridge used during times of peace would be removed during a siege situation)
    • Climb or crawl up the steep mound to the pinnacle of the Motte
    • Negotiate the fortified tower gate
    • And finally attack and capture the Tower or Keep
    • All the time they would be bombarded with arrows and other missiles!

The Layout of the Motte and Bailey Castle - The Layout of the Bailey

  • The Bailey was a defended yard which contained:
    • Barracks
    • Stables
    • Livestock
    • Other buildings for storage
  • The perimeter of the Bailey was surrounded by a ditch which was often filled with water
  • Filling such a ditch with water was sometimes impractical and in this situation the ditch was filled with spikes and other obstacles!
  • 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
  • When the Motte and Bailey Castles were completed many were covered in white plaster - which made them look as if they were made of stone

The Motte and Bailey Castle Layout
The Norman Motte and Bailey castle layout was a highly practical design which was a perfect base for controlling the native English population. The scenes illustrated on the Bayeux tapestry, celebrating the Norman victory at the Battle of Hastings, and the eye witness accounts of the chroniclers has provided us with a vast amount of information about the Motte and Bailey castle layout.

Motte and Bailey Castle Layout

Norman Pre-Built Timber Castles
Motte and Bailey Castles
Motte and Bailey Castles - Attack & Defence
Famous Motte and Bailey Castles
Life in a Motte and Bailey Castle
Norman Medieval Stone Castles
Norman Castles
Castle Keep
Romanesque Architecture
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