Types, Designs and Styles

I am attempting, with this set of pages, to classify castles in a number of various ways. This is to enable the interested viewer/reader to make some informed choices about any of the listed sites that they may wish to visit.

This is not the simplest of tasks, and you may frequently disagree with my choices. Let me try to explain my reasoning.

Castles, or "sites on which military architecture has some bearing", could be classified with respect to "Historical Period", "Style" or "Particular Architectural Feature (Military)" (hereinafter referred to as "PAF(M)").

"Historical Period" could be:

  • "Pre-Roman", (mainly things like hill forts);
  • "Roman", (mainly forts of various shapes and sizes);
  • "Romano-British", (I haven't found any yet);
  • "Anglo-Saxon", (usually motte-and-bailey);
  • "Norman", (motte-and-bailey, rectangular keeps, etc.);
  • "Medieval", (includes those beauties built by Edward I);
  • "Tudor", (mainly artillery forts by Henry VIII);
  • "Elizabethan", (probably forts);
  • "Georgian", (more artillery forts);
  • "Victorian", (definitely forts);
  • "Modern", (huge masses of reinforced concrete);

Next, "Style" could be:

  • "Hill Fort",
  • "Roman Fort",
  • "Motte-and-bailey",
  • "Courtyard",
  • "Concentric",
  • "Artillery Fort", etc.

Finally, "PAF(M)" could be:

  • "Shell keep",
  • "Rectangular keep",
  • "Gatehouse", etc.

Some criteria are fairly simple, take "Historical Period" for example. Using this, we can easily make the two lists: "Pre-Roman" and "Roman". Yes, but "Pre-Roman" covers an awful lot of time, and "Roman" could range from temporary encampments during the first century's campaigns of conquest to the 3rd and 4th century "Forts of the Saxon Shore", designed to protect the country from other, (non-Roman), campaigns of conquest. So we may have to make "Style" a sub-category of "Historical Period".

While still considering "Historical Period", when it comes to castles of the more classical kind, which might come under the headings "Norman","Medieval", or "Tudor", things are not quite so easy. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, many castles were occupied for a considerable number of centuries. They may have originated as the fortresses of Norman feudal barons post-1066, but continued in occupation right up to the present day. Changes in ideas about military strategy, as well as the increasing desire for improvements in comfort, may have led to many occurrences of rebuilding. Rebuilding, or major repairs, may also have taken place as a result of the consequences of military conflict.

Secondly, the geographical constraints of the site on which the castle was constructed meant that it's defensive needs would be different from any other. Some sites provided benefits to the castle builder, others provided a host of problems, or opportunities for lateral thinking.

So, not only could a particular castle fit into several "Historical Periods", it may also show evidence of several "Styles" and have a couple of "PAF(M)'s" to boot. You see my problem? (Ok, Ok, I agree that it's self-inflicted.)

Thankfully, some castles were not altered a great deal after they were built. This may have been simply because they were abandoned after a relatively short period. Many of the motte-and-bailey castles erected immediately after the Norman Conquest of 1066 were never more than temporary. Likewise, a number of castles, which appeared during the 12th century dispute between Stephen and Matilda, were subsequently demolished. Other castles may have been the best that could be constructed at the time, and although maintained, may no longer have been "in the front line" so to speak, and thus there was less incentive to undertake major changes.

It is easier to fit these examples into a specific pigeonhole, be it "Historical Period", "Style" or "PAF(M)". With regard to the others, the only alternative is duplicity. Or, rather, multiplicity, or maybe multiple cross-referencing and indexing.

So, Dover Castle may appear under:

"Historical Period" of:

  • "Pre-Roman", (it may have been the site of an Iron Age hill fort);
  • "Roman", (well, there is the Pharos);
  • "Anglo-Saxon", (possible Saxon enclosure with the church of St Mary In Castro);
  • "Norman", (keep and inner bailey);
  • "Medieval", (more curtain walls and towers);
  • "Georgian",
  • "Victorian"
  • and "Modern", (various artillery-type bits);

"Style" of:

  • "Concentric", (possibly; look at the Aerial View and make up your own mind);

"Particular Architectural Feature (Military)" of:

  • "Norman Rectangular Keep", (naturally);
  • "Gatehouse", (Constable's Gate).

With complete disregard for the niceties of Historical Fact, or even Accuracy, I have attempted, in various places, to expound further on "Styles" and even particular "Particular Architectural Features". At least one of these discourses uses a place called "Castle Scrunge" for illustration. It should be pointed out that "Castle Scrunge" is but a figment of my fevered imagination and any resemblance to any other castle, either living or dead, is purely coincidental etc., etc., and should not be taken, etc., etc.