Describe and explain the development of castles in the period c. 1200 – c.1600 Essay

Due to the technological breakthroughs between the c. 1200 and c. 1600 there was a great deal of change in the way that castles were constructed. Their defences also had to be to a larger extent better because of the commencement of artillery warfare. Mont Orgueil castle is an example of this as additions were made in an attempt to hold off improving technology such as the threat of canon. Methods of Construction The initial sorts of castles were built using wood, simply because it was not very expensive and it is quick and easy to build with.

This was most definitely not the best of ideas as it was susceptible to boring, battering and burning and so stone became a lot more popular. A few castles collaborated both stone and wood but most were built completely of stone apart from interior floors and roofs. Castles were usually built on top of a hill or motte ranging from about 15 to 30 feet high. This would be enclosed by a wall at the edges of the top and a wet or dry ditch at the bottom. It was better to use natural hills rather than artificial ones they tended not to be able to support the massive weight of the stone walls and buildings.

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The wall was either a timber palisade, a stone shell wall or an outer curtain wall, and the whole tower, wall and motte was a shell keep in the motte and bailey style. All three castles in the pictures above followed a concentric style design. The oldest castle is Fougeres but it was also the strongest, it was built in a valley which was a strategic route between Brittany and Normandy. It is relatively obvious that Fougeres is the oldest castle because of its overall square shape design, which was later found to be ineffective as the edges were weak and susceptible to easy attack.

Fort La Latte is on a similar location to Mont Orgueil, they were hard to undermine because they were constructed on bedrock and were difficult to starve out because of support from the sea. Gorey was also built on a promontory. All of the castles we closely studied were built on a solid base of rock to combat against tunnelling and mining. The Angevin Empire had collapsed. Philip Augustus of France reclaimed much of the land back from the English. As Jersey found itself only fourteen miles away from the enemy Mont Orgueil was built in Jersey and Castle Cornet built in Guernsey as an attempt to defend the channel islands.

King John hoped to counter attack and take back his land but his plans were foiled. The castles found themselves caught up in rivalry between England and France during the four hundred years. Mont Orgueil castle shown in the top left picture is a concentric castle it has two wards with a main keep each at a different level. The reason Mont Orgueil was built at around c12th is because at about 1204 Henry the 2nd dies and he had control over the whole of Brittany. The empire collapsed so the English King John took over ownership.

The concentric design originated from the crusades an example of a good castle is Krak des Chevaliers in Seria, this design would benefit a castle defensively because it would strengthen the walls, and so would be hard for enemies to besiege you. For the attacking point of view a concentric castle is very useful as each of the wards are on top of each other giving the garrisons an easy way to defend the castle by for example dropping hot oil or excrement through murder holes and also by using machicolations.

Concentric castles became popular. They were castles with a keep in the middle of a few rings of curtains and the wall would tilt into the castle. Concentric castles were popular throughout Europe especially with Edward the 1st. The Harliston tower was built about 1470 to dominate the main gate. This was the first part of the castle to be built specifically for canon fire. Built by Richard Harliston. This happened during the war of roses between the house of York and Lancaster.

The Cornish Bastion of the castle seen in all three investigated castles, its intention to support canon but it was simply to heavy, it looked down upon the lower ward (where people would flee to if there was a threat) and so provided crossfire at invaders although it has its strengths it also has its weaknesses for example its not a very stable area for artillery and there is a flaw in the building structure. The Cornish Bastion was also the only example of Machicolations. The Grand Battery is made from earth and is filled in 60 – 70 feet with a wall surrounding it.

It is basically an artillery platform, which was developed in approximately the 15th century used to try and prevent canon from the opposing hill hitting the keep but unfortunately did not work which, is why Somerset Tower was built. Somerset Tower was an elevated platform enabling bowman to fire from and to drop things from which, has very thick walls suitable for canon fire and is extremely tall with a huge embankment (it was effectively just a wall). It was not successful because it was not high enough and artillery range was increasing through the impact of the canon ball.

The Keep was originally extraordinarily small. The governor and others that lived there after some time decided to move the location of the accommodation so as to be more comfortable and not so cramped up in a tower. The “Roche Goyon”(Fort La Latte) gets its name from one of the oldest Breton Families. Legend says that a former castle would have been built by a Goyon under Alain Barbe Torte in 937. The castle that is now there was started in 1364 before the canon was transported to Brittany.

The castle carried on being constructed in the second half of the fourteenth. The fort was then captured for the profit of Charles V and was subsequently returned at the treaty of Guerande in 1381. The Goyon’s became quite famous throughout the fifteenth century and emerged into the States of Brittany. After they had died the castle was run by a commanding officer who was also a guest in it. When Brittany became French the castle was once again unsuccessfully attacked this time by the English in 1490.

To get revenge on the Marshal of Matignon, the Duke of Mercouer ordered Saint-Laurent to attack it. The castle at this time was now called Fort La Latte and this time was completely shattered and set on fire. The only thing that survived was the keep. The castle was then rebuilt by Garengeau at around 1690-1715. The Fort changed hands at the beginning of the eighteenth century and went to the Ministry of War. It has now been restored and opened to visitors. Defense and Offense When someone wanted to attack an enemy castle you could go about it in many ways.

If it was made of wood the task was fairly easy. You could either batter it down or burn it to the ground. But if the lord of the manor used stone to construct it, the walls of the curtains and the towers were in most cases unbreakable to many tactics of attack up until of course the arrival of artillery warfare. The way an enemy would go about attacking a stone castle was by mining this was useless if the castle was built on an island or on a foundation of rock, it was however useful for using the castles weight of stone against them.

A tunnel was usually built under the wall, and all the foundation stones would be taken out. Wooden beams were put in place so the castle would not collapse straight away, when the attacker was ready they would light the beams and shortly after the wall would collapse or a corner turret which left a large gash where the enemy could go down. This is shown when King John of England surrounded Rochester Castle around 1215 and Hubert de Burgh did the same to Bedford in 1224. Both 11th and 12th centuries were the typical period of the keep.

Almost all castles started off as motte and bailey sorts, later to replace wooden palisade walls shell walls were added, in place of this at the time they also used to have stone watchtowers. The shape of castles changed dramatically after1150. They were now round shaped instead of the original square and rectangular design. A curved tower could defend the castle to a greater extent from attack because there are no sharp weak corners from which an attacker can use to their advantage. In 1373 Bretrand de Gaxon attacked all three castles and narrowly missed taking over Mont Orgueil.

The thirteenth century brought for a more attacking approach. Things like lofty towers, hoardings, parapets, arrow slits, machicolations etc were introduced to fight off enemies. Hoardings were holes or doors in the floor through which you could drop offensive materials e. g. missiles, molten lead, excrement, on to the attackers below. Machicolations were stone equivalents to hoardings. At about the 15th century castles had to be refortified in a concentric manner to combat against the modernization of artillery warfare.

An increase in comfort and a reduction in defence came about at around the 14th and 15th centuries, castles became more like homes. By 1450 the gatehouse had become immensely more popular than concentric castles. Through this the need for castles had completely diminished simply because the security the castle once held had been overcome by technological breakthroughs in artillery. By 1600 Mont Orgueil had become redundant despite additions to hold off improving canon. The Governor moved to Elizabeth Castle and people moved to manor houses such as Longueville Manor.

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