Castles in the United Kingdom

Castles in the United Kingdom

A number of castles in the United Kingdom are important to the history of the British Isles, especially before and during the middle ages. As in continental Europe British castles proved of primary consequence in British political struggles, revolts and warfare.


Norman England

The castles that existed in England at the time of the Norman Conquest seem to have offered little resistance to William of Normandy. Immediately after the Conquest, William, wishing to guard against invasions from without as well as to awe his newly-acquired subjects, began to erect castles all over the kingdom, and to repair and improve the old ones. Moreover, William had parceled out the lands of the English among his followers, who built strongholds and castles on their estates. [Colby, Charles William (1899). "Selections from the Sources of English History", p. 52. New York: Longmans, Green and Co.] These "adulterine" (i.e. unauthorized) castles multiplied so rapidly during the troubled reign of King Stephen that they were said by Robert of Torigny to have amounted to 1115. [Coulson, Charles. "The Castles of the Anarchy" in King, Edmund (ed.) (1994), "The Anarchy of King Stephen's Reign", p. 69. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198203640.]

In earlier times, when the interest of the king and his barons was identical, the king had only retained in his hands the castles in the chief towns of the shires, which were entrusted to his sheriffs or constables. But the great feudal revolts under the Conqueror and his sons showed that to have such fortresses in private hands was a formidable obstacle to the rule of the king. The people hated the castles from the first for the oppressions connected with their erection and maintenance.

It was, therefore, the settled policy of the crown to strengthen the royal castles and increase their number, while jealously keeping in check those of the barons. But in the struggle between Stephen and the Empress Matilda for the crown, which became largely a war of sieges, the royal power was relaxed and there was an outburst of castle-building, without permission, by the barons. The barons in many cases acted as petty kings. [Bartlett, Robert (2000). "England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225", pp. 285-86. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199251010.]

England under the Plantagenets

These excesses paved the way for the pacification at the close of Stephen's reign, when it was provided that all unauthorized castles constructed during its course should be destroyed. Henry II, in spite of his power, was warned by the great revolt against him that he must still rely on castles, and the massive keeps of Newcastle upon Tyne and Dover date from this period.

Under his sons the importance of the chief castles was recognized as so great that the struggle for their control was in the forefront of every contest. When Richard I made vast grants at his accession to his brother John, he was careful to reserve the possession of certain castles, and when John rose against the king's minister, William Longchamp, in 1191, the custody of castles was the chief point of dispute throughout their negotiations. Lincoln was besieged on the king's behalf, as were Tickhill, Windsor and Marlborough, while the siege of Nottingham had to be completed by Richard himself on his arrival.

To John, in turn, as king, the fall of Château Gaillard meant the loss of Rouen and of Normandy with it, and when he endeavoured to repudiate the newly-granted Magna Carta, his first step was to prepare the royal castles against attack and make them his centres of resistance. The barons, who had begun their revolt by besieging the castle of Northampton, now assailed that of Oxford as well and seized that of Rochester. The king recovered Rochester after a severe struggle [Kaufmann, J. E. and Kaufmann, H. W. (2004). "The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages", p. 195. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306813580.] and captured Tonbridge, but thenceforth there was a war of sieges between John with his mercenaries and Louis with his Frenchmen and the barons, which was especially notable for the great defence of Dover Castle by Hubert de Burgh against Louis.

On the final triumph of the royal cause, after John's death, at the Battle of Lincoln, the general pacification was accompanied by a fresh issue of the Great Charter in the autumn of 1217, in which the precedent of Stephen's reign was followed and a special clause inserted that all "adulterine" castles, namely those which had been constructed or rebuilt since the breaking out of war between John and the barons, should be immediately destroyed. And special stress was laid on this in the writs addressed to the sheriffs.

In 1223 Hubert de Burgh, as regent, demanded the surrender to the crown of all royal castles not in official custody. Although he succeeded in this, Falkes de Breauté, John's mercenary, burst into revolt the next year, and it cost a great national effort and a siege of nearly two months to reduce Bedford Castle, which he had held.

Towards the close of Henry III's reign, in the Second Barons' War, castles again asserted their importance. The Provisions of Oxford included a list of the chief royal castles and of their appointed castellans with the oath that they were to take; but the alien favourites refused to make way for them till they were forcibly ejected. When war broke out it was Rochester Castle that successfully held Simon de Montfort at bay in 1264. In Pevensey Castle, the fugitives from the rout of Lewes were able to defy Henry's power. Finally, after his fall at Evesham, the remnant of his followers made their last stand in Kenilworth Castle, holding out nearly five months against all the forces of the crown, till their provisions failed them at the close of 1266.

Although, when the country was again torn by civil strife, the castles' military importance was of small account, the crown's historic jealousy of private fortification was still seen in the need to obtain the king's licence to crenellate (i.e. embattle) the country mansion. [Low, Sidney J. and Pulling, F. S. (1884). "The Dictionary of English History", p. 233. Lodon, Paris, New York & Melbourne: Cassell & Company, Limited.]

Castles in Scotland

The first castles were built in Scotland in the 11th and 12th centuries, with the introduction of Norman influence. These motte and bailey castles were replaced with the first stone-built castles around 1200. By the late 14th century, the large curtain-walled castles had begun to give way to more modest tower houses, vertical dwellings with less formidable defences. This type of vertical house continued to be popular with Scotland's landowning class through to the late 17th century, when classical architecture made its first appearance in the country. Meanwhile the advance of artillery pressed military engineers to devise stronger fortifications for important royal strongholds.

In the late 18th century, medieval architecture was revived, and castle-style houses were built once more. These "castles" had no defensive capability, but drew on military and tower-house architecture for their decorative detail. This trend culminated in the Scottish Baronial style of the 19th century.

There have been well over two thousand castles in Scotland, although many are known only through historical records. They are found in all parts of the country, although tower houses and peel towers are concentrated along the border with England, while the best examples of larger Renaissance-era tower houses are clustered in the north-east.


Wales is said to be "the castle capital of the world". [ [ Where's Johnny Jet? Having a Wales of a Time in Cardiff ] ] It has about 400 castles, of which over 100 are still standing, either as ruins or as restored buildings. The rest have returned to nature, and today consist of ditches, mounds and earthworks, often in commanding positions.

Lists of Castles

For listings of castles in the United Kingdom see:

* Castles in England
* Castles in Northern Ireland
* Castles in Scotland
* Castles in Wales


External links

* [ Castles of Britain]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Culture of the United Kingdom — The Proms is an eight week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts, on the last night with some traditional patriotic music of the United Kingdom.[1][2] …   Wikipedia

  • Architecture of the United Kingdom — The architecture of the United Kingdom has a long and diverse history from beyond Stonehenge to the designs of Norman Foster and the present day. Below are listed some architects and examples of their work typical of the era in which they were… …   Wikipedia

  • Conservation in the United Kingdom — This page gives an overview of the complex structure of environmental and cultural conservation in the United Kingdom. With the advent of devolved government for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and of evolving regional government for England …   Wikipedia

  • History of the formation of the United Kingdom — The complex evolution of the states of the British Isles. Those states evolved from the conquests and mergers of earlier states. The history of the formation of the United Kingdom has involved personal and political union across Great Britain and …   Wikipedia

  • Royal Households of the United Kingdom — The Royal Households of the United Kingdom are the organised offices and support systems for the British Royal Family, along with their immediate (royal) families. Alongside The Royal Household, which supports the Sovereign, each member of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Long-distance footpaths in the United Kingdom — The following long distance footpaths can be found in the United Kingdom:England and Wales: National TrailsNational Trails are distinguished by being maintained by the National Trails organization [] . As of|April… …   Wikipedia

  • List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom — The List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom is a list of sites designated by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom.The UNESCO list contains seventeen designated properties in England (one joint with Germany),… …   Wikipedia

  • List of disasters of the United Kingdom and preceding states — is a list of major disasters (excluding acts of war but including acts of terrorism) which relate to the United Kingdom since 1707, the states that preceded it (including territory that later became the Republic of Ireland), or involved UK… …   Wikipedia

  • Oldest buildings in the United Kingdom — This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it. Skara Brae 3180 BC–2500 BC a Neolithic village in Scotland with a high degree of sophistication including furnishings and drainage …   Wikipedia

  • United Kingdom — a kingdom in NW Europe, consisting of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: formerly comprising Great Britain and Ireland 1801 1922. 58,610,182; 94,242 sq. mi. (244,100 sq. km). Cap.: London. Abbr.: U.K. Official name, United Kingdom of Great… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”