10 Facts About Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is one the biggest and most well-known castles in Scotland.

Here are ten Stirling Castle facts.

  • Stirling Castle is built upon Castle Hill, a massive naturally forming crag with steep cliffs on three sides.

  • The first records of Stirling Castle come from the 12th century. King Alexander I died there in 1124, and his successor, King David I, used the castle as a royal administration centre and residence. Stirling continued to be used in this way until the end of the reign of Alexander III (1286).
  • When Edward I invaded Scotland from England, he found Stirling Castle to be abandoned. The English occupied the castle until it was taken by the Scots in the events that followed the Battle of Stirling Bridge on the River Forth. The ownership of Stirling Castle switched several times between the English and Scots during the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Stirling Castle by John Slezer

  • In 1314 The Battle of Bannockburn took place very close to the walls of Stirling Castle. In this conflict, the Scots led by Robert the Bruce, defeated Edward II’s army and eventually captured the castle.
  • James IV, James  V and James VI made Stirling Castle a key royal centre, and most of the castle buildings seen today can be traced back to the the Renaissance period.
  • James VI grew up within the walls of Stirling Castle and his first child, Henry was born there in 1594. Following the Union of Crowns in 1603, when James VI of Scotland was crowned as King of England (James I), the royal household relocated to London. Stirling Castle was used mainly as a military centre.
  • The War Office owned the castle from 1800 until 1964. It was used as a barracks. The Great Hall became an accommodation block and the Royal Palace became the Officer’s Mess.
  • Today Stirling Castle is still the headquarters of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders infantry regiment, but no troops are actually based in the castle anymore.
  • Massive efforts are being made to restore the buildings of Stirling Castle, and the castle is open to the public. It is visited by more than 300,000 people every year.
  • Stirling Castle was used to represent the outside of Colditz Castle in the Colditz TV series.

Stirlling Castle

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Rochester Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Rochester Castle.

  • Rochester Castle is located in Rochester, Kent (in South East England). It was built on the east bank of the River Medway and it is near to Watling Street (a Roman road).

  • The first castle at Rochester was constructed by the Normans following their victory in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This early castle was made of wood and was controlled by Bishop Odo (William the Conqueror’s half-brother).
  • In the late 12th century, Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, built a new stone castle on the Rochester site. Some evidence of this original stonework can be seen today.
  • In 1127 King Henry I gave the Rochester Castle to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop William de Corbeil built the large stone keep that is still standing today.
  • Rochester Castle has seen its fair share of military action. Baronial forces captured the castle during the First Barons’ War and defended it for over seven weeks from the forces of King John. In 1216 Prince Louis of France managed to capture the castle from King John, but it was soon returned. In 1264, Simon de Monfort led a successful attack against Rochester during the Second Baron’s War. In 1381, during the Peasant’s Revolt, the castle was attacked and captured. It sustained substantial damage during this last assault and it stopped being used as a military fortress.
  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, some parts of Rochester Castle were in a state of ruin and others were still being used. Some of the stone of the outer wall was sold as building material, yet some of the towers were still being lived in.
  • Turner completed a painting of the ruined castle, and Rochester Castle also appears in The Pickwick Papers and The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens.
  • Medway Council now look after the property and it is now open to the public as a tourist attraction.

Rochester Castle

Here is a link to the English Heritage Rochester Castle page.

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10 Facts About Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle (also known as Conway Castle) was built by Edward I in the thirteenth century. It was designed to watch over the walled town of Conwy and formed part of Edward I’s plan to establish a new English colony on a significant Welsh site.

Here are ten Conwy Castle facts.

  • Conwy Castle was built between 1283 and 1287. Construction of the Conwy town walls were constructed when the castle was nearing completion. The castle and town were designed to function as one, the perimeter walls bonding the town to the castle.
  • Conwy Castle (and Harlech Castle and many others) were designed by Edward I’s master-builder, James  of St. George.
  • Edward Woodstock (The Black Prince), the eldest son of King Edward III, took charge of the castle in 1343. When he died, however, Conwy Castle started to fall into disrepair.
  • Richard II used the castle as a stronghold when evading his rival Henry Bolingbroke (later to become Henry IV).
  • During the reign of Henry VIII, some much needed repair work was carried out on Conwy Castle. During the Tudor period, the castle was put to a number of different uses, one of which being a prison.
  • During the English Civil War, the castle was ‘slighted’ intentionally damaged by order of Parliament so that it could play no military role in the conflict.
  • Conwy Castle was a ruin by the end of the 18th century. The ruined castle started to become a tourist attraction, and it was the suject of a painting by J. M. W. Turner.

Conway Castle by Turner

  • In the 20th century, Conwy Castle began to be restored. It now attracts over 150,000 visitors a year.
  • Conwy Castle sits upon a huge ridge of grey sandstone and limestone. Much of the stone from which it is built has been taken from the rock upon which it sits.
  • It has eight towers and a high curtain wall forming a rectangle shape.

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Bodiam Castle: Facts and Information

Bodiam Castle is located near the village of Robertsbridge in East Sussex. It was constructed in the 14th century to defend the area against a possible invasion by France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Here are some other facts about Bodiam Castle.

  • Bodiam Castle was built by Edward Dalyngrigge, one of Henry III’s knights, in 1385.
  • It is made from sandstone and doesn’t have a keep. Instead, the rooms and chambers are built against the curtain walls.
  • Bodiam Castle has towers at its corners and entrances and a large moat. As well as providing an additional layer of defence, Bodiam’s moat also made the castle look larger and more formidable than it actually was.

Bodiam Castle

  • It is a quadrangular (square shaped) castle.
  • During the reign of Richard III, a siege against Bodiam was planned. Records do not show whether or not the attack went ahead.
  • Much of Bodiam’s interior was destroyed by parliamentarians during the English Civil War. They were attempting to reduce the risk of fortified buildings being used against them. Thankfully, the castles exterior was left alone.
  • During the 17th and 18th centuries, Bodiam Castle became a ruin. Drawings from this era show the castle in a state of disrepair and covered in ivy.

Bodiam Castle - ruined and overgrown

  • Bodiam Castle is now a tourist attraction run by the National Trust and it is visited by more than 150,000 people every year.
  • The castle has appeared in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, an episode of the TV show Doctor Who,  and a music video by Enya.

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10 Interesting Facts About Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is located in the county of Berkshire, England. It is one of the royal residences and it is the largest inhabited castle in the world.

Here are ten facts about Windsor Castle:

  • The oldest parts of Windsor Castle were built by the Normans following the victory of William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hasting in 1066. The original castle was made of wood and built in the motte-and-bailey style. The location of the castle meant that it could watch over the River Thames and Windsor Forest (a royal hunting ground).

  • Henry I was the first monarch to use Windsor Castle as a home and it is during his reign that the wooden keep and walls were replaced with stone.
  • In the 12th century, Henry II upgraded the Windsor Castle walls and added a new stone keep.
  • Edward III was born in Windsor Castle in 1312 and he spent a vast amount of money adding to it and improving it during his reign.

Windsor Castle

  • Windsor Castle is the headquarters of the Order of the Garter (a fellowship of knights founded by Henry III in 1348).
  • The Tudor monarchs used Windsor Castle. Henry VIII regularly stayed at the castle and he was buried in the Windsor Castle’s Lady Chapel.
  • Elizabeth I spent a great deal of time at Windsor Castle. She liked the fact that it was a safe place that would be able to withstand a siege.

Windsor Castle Plan

  • Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Windsor Castle their main place of residence. Following Albert’s death, Queen Victoria was sometimes referred to as the ‘Widow of Windsor’.
  • During World War 2, the windows of Windsor Castle were blacked out, many of the most valuable works of art were moved away, and the royal bedrooms were strengthened in case the castle was bombed during The Blitz. The royal family slept in Windsor Castle during WW2, but this was a secret. The public believed that they were spending the nights in Buckingham Palace.
  • In 1992 a massive fire took place in Windsor Castle. Over 100 rooms were damaged by either fire or the water used to extinguish the fire. The cost of Windsor Castle’s restoration was nearly £40 million.

Learn more about castles by visiting our Castle resources page.

Warwick Castle Facts

Here are some facts about Warwick Castle, located near the River Avon, in the county of Warwickshire.

  • The motte-and-bailey castle was upgraded to stone during the reign of Henry II. A curtain wall was built with buildings up against it.
  • In the 14th century, a gatehouse was added and several towers were constructed.
  • In 1469, during the time of the Wars of the Roses, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, imprisoned King Edward IV in Warwick Castle.
  • Richard III ordered for two gun towers to be added to Warwick Castle in the 1480s. These were called Bear Tower and Clarence Tower.
  • During the 16th century, Warwick Castle started to fall into disrepair. In fact, when Queen Elizabeth I visited, a separate building had to built for her to stay in.
  • In 1604, Warwick Castle was given to Sir Fulke Greville in 1604 by James I. The Greville family, who owned the property until 1978, set about converting it to magnificent country house.

Warwick Castle Plan

  • In 1642, during the First English Civil War, Royalist forces laid siege to Warwick Castle. The siege didn’t amount to much as the attackers didn’t have large enough guns to damage the castle walls.
  • In 1978, the Greville family sold Warwick Castle and it was opened as a tourist attraction.
  • One of the world’s largest working trebuchets (massive siege catapults) has been built in the grounds of Warwick Castle. This wooden machine can hurl a 150kg boulder over 300 metres. The rock can travel at speeds of more than 250 km per hour.
  • Warwick Castle has had more than 35 different owners since it was built by Henry II.

Warwick Castle

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Edinburgh Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.

  • Edinburgh Castle is built upon the massive Castle Rock, part of an ancient extinct volcano.
  • The top of Castle Rock is more than 120 metres above sea-level and it stands 80 metres taller than the land surrounding it to the north, south and west. It can only be easily reached from the east.

  • The evidence, both archaeological and written, for the early history of Edinburgh Castle is patchy. Little can be said with certainty about this period in the history of Castle Rock and the buildings which sat upon it.
  • It is believed that people in the late Bronze Age lived on top of Castle Rock. Nobody knows for certian when the first castle was built on the site. Some think that a hill fort was constructed on Castle Rock during the Iron Ages. Apparently, a band of warriors feasted in the castle for a year before fighting to the death in a battle against the Angles.
  • There is some evidence to suggest that Queen Margaret (the wife of King Malcolm III) was staying at Edinburgh Castle (or Maiden’s Castle as it was referred to then) when she heard of her husband’s death.

Edinburgh Castle

  • Edinburgh Castle was an important royal site in Scotland during the reign of Malcolm III and his descendants. King Edgar, Malcolm III’s son, died in the castle.
  • King David I spent much of his time at Edinburgh Castle, making it the main centre of royal power in Scotland. The exact nature of the castle is not known. It is thought that the main building material would have been wood, but stone buildings from this period (the 12th century) have been found – for example, St Margaret’s Chapel.
  • During the 12th century ownership of Edninburgh Castle switched from Scotland to England and then back to Scotland again.
  • The castle changed hands several time between Scotland and England during the Wars of Scottish Independence (13th and 14th centuries).
  • In the 14th century, King David II and Robert II, David’s successor, set about rebuilding parts of Edinburgh Castle. They added David’s Tower.
  • In the 15th century, the castle was used as an arsenal (a place where ammunition and weapons are stored and made).

Edinburgh Castle - 17th Century

  • The castle was used as a prison in the 18th century and early 19th century. Prisoners from the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, and the Napoleonic Wars were locked away in the dungeons over the years.
  • It was also used as a prison during World War I.
  • The castle in Edinburgh is now one of Scotland’s biggest tourist attractions.

Here is a link to the Primary Facts Castles Reources page.

Facts About Castles

What is a Castle?

The meaning of the word castle has been used to describe a number of different types of buildings over the years. However, strictly speaking, it should only really be applied to a fortified home of a lord or nobleman. (Fortified means strengthened or designed for defence).

A castle is not the same as a palace as palaces aren’t fortified, and it’s not the same as a fortress because fortresses aren’t always homes.

The first castles were constructed in the 9th century. Many early castles were made from wood. Eventually, wood was replaced by stone, and castles continued to be made using this material until the 16th century.

Castle design changed and evolved over the centuries. As weapon technology and siege techniques developed, so castle designs adapted to counter the new threats. Castles became increasingly complex with elaborate defences in place to withstand whatever the attackers threw at them. Castles built in the late Middle Ages look very different to the motte-and-bailey castles constructed by The Normans.

Although castles varied greatly, they also had lot of features in common. Click here to learn more about some of these key castle features.

Why were castles built?

Castles were built for a two reasons. Firstly, they were constructed to defend those living within their walls, and, to a lesser extent, those living in the surrounding areas. Secondly, they were a symbol of power, strength and wealth. When the Normans invaded England in 1066, they built a series of motte and bailey castles. This wasn’t just a defensive measure – it was a way of exerting their dominance over the population.

What are some of the different types of castles?

As mentioned above, castle design changed over the years. Several different phases of castle design can be identified, ranging from simple motte and bailey castles to complicated concentric castles. Follow this link to learn more about some of different types of castles.

Here is a link to some more of our resources about castles.

Motte and Bailey Castle Facts

Here are some of the key facts about motte-and-bailey castles.

What is a motte and bailey castle?

A motte and bailey castle is, as the name suggests, made up of two parts: the motte and the bailey.

The motte is a raised mound or earthwork with a stone or wooden keep (a fortified tower) on top. The bailey is a courtyard enclosed and protected by a ditch and a palisade (a wall made from lare wooden stakes).

Diagram of a motte-and-bailey castle. (Credit)
Diagram of a motte-and-bailey castle. (Credit)

Check out this video about motte and bailey castles. It contains lots of good images and information, although I’m not sure the music suits the subject matter!

  • Motte and bailey castles were first used in England by the Normans. They used these castles to make their settlement of England more secure following William the Conqueror’s victory in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
  • New motte and bailey castles stopped being built by the late 1200s.
  • Motte and bailey castles were used all over Europe. They could be found in: England, Wales, Normandy, Anjou, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark.
  • The term ‘motte and bailey’ would not have been used when the castles were being built. It is a more modern phrase.
  • Mottes could be either man-made or natural. Sometimes an existing mound would be added to. Mottes were flat on top and they varied quite a bit in terms of height and diameter. In some places, the motte could be 30 metres high, but this wasn’t normal. Most mottes were between 5 and 10 metres in height.
  • There was usually a keep and wall on top of the motte. Wood was often used to construct the keep, but they were also constructed from stone. Just as with the motte, the size of the keep varied from castle to castle.
  • Wooden keeps were often covered with animal hides to make them less easy for attackers to set on fire.
  • Baileys were often shaped like kidneys. Sometimes the shape of the bailey was dictated by the surrounding terrain. They were protected by a palisade fence and ditch.
  • The bailey contained many different types of building, including: kitchens, chapels, barracks, stables, workshops, forges, stores, halls.
  • The motte and bailey were linked by a bridge or by steps on the side of the motte.
Model of a motte-and-bailey castle. (Credit)
Model of a motte-and-bailey castle. (Credit)
  • The ditches of the motte and bailey would often combine. If you were looking at this from above, it would look like the number 8. Often water was diverted into the ditch, creating a moat.
  • The basic motte and bailey design was adapted and altered quite often. Some castles had more than one motte, some had several defensive ditches, some had square mottes, and some had two baileys.
  • Castles also evolved over time and they often underwent frequent stages of development and modernisation. Many of today’s castles started out as motte and bailey designs, but don’t look like this today as they have grown and changed over time. Almost no motte and bailey castles are still used today – Windsor Castle is the exception, but many still stand.
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle – a motte with several baileys
  • It did not take a great deal of skill to construct the simplest, wooden motte and bailey castles. If a big enough labour force was available, they could be completed in a matter of weeks.
  • About four fifths of the castles constructed by the Normans in England used the motte and bailey design.

Click here to see some diagrams of motte and bailey castles and also some links to other related resource and activities.

Here is a page all about making a model of a motte and bailey castle.

Check out the Primary Facts castle resources page.