Medieval Technology, Building Construction

The earliest castles were made by England's first knights, the Normans, in motte and bailey style.

This simple method used earth and wood to build the castle quickly in a few weeks.

Generally, mottes were crowned with a wooden tower which was basically a look-out and an elevated fighting point. Often times, the tower provided accommodation for the lord of the castle. Later, some of these wooden towers were replaced by stone keeps.

During the 12th century many castles were improved and strengthened using stone instead of wood.

Compared to the motte and bailey castles, stone castles were larger taller and more reliable for defence. Moreover, the timber and wood used in the earlier castles were found unsafe in a fire.

With a strong foundation, stone keep castles could be built high. This gave them the great advantage of visibility allowing the defenders to see if an enemy was coming when they were still a distance away ? thus allowing the castle to get its defences ready. Rochester Castle has views across the Medway estuary, so any attack by river would have been easy to spot.

Castles were great defences against the enemy. However, when gunpowder was invented the castles stopped being an effective form of defence. The use of gunpowder made both castles and city walls much more vulnerable because a cannon could knock down the stone walls.

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