Motte and bailey + square keep castles

What are castles?

Castles were built in the middle ages mainly to keep control over the surrounding areas, keep soldiers in or to defend the surrounding area. Some of them were a private place for a lord to live in. They were all fortified strongly.

Originally, most castles were made out of timber and earth but had their defences replaced with stone which was cheap to find and sturdy.

Castles usually represented nobility, strength and power. Many castles were just a fortified settlement for the lords are earls.

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What are Motte and Bailey castles?

Motte and bailey castles are a keep placed on top of a mound. There are usually at least one bailey. There are also usually gatehouses, curtain walls and a moat.


  • They were quick to build and could be made in about a week

  • They were good to show that they had strength and control

  • They were cheap to build

  • They were easy to build

  • The drawbridge could be closed to provide additional protection


  • They were made of wood that could easily burn

  • They were made of wood that could rot

  • The keep was the last line of defense

  • They could be easily destroyed by fire-arrows

  • A battering ram could be used against the palisade

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What are Square Keep castles?

Square keep castles are the natural extension to a motte and bailey castle.

They had battlements that helped see from all around and could fire arrows with full sight of what’s below.

They are sometimes known as stone keep castles.


  • They don't rot within a few decades and will last for centuries later
  • They don't burn
  • They are very strong the castles are made from heavy stone
  • They have very high walls meaning that any attackers that come can't fire arrows over it
  • The defenders are able to shoot arrows back over the walls
  • The walls are a few meters thick making it really hard to knock down

  • They have arrow slits in the walls which are useful for the defenders to shoot arrows out of at the attackers

  • The drawbridge are usually thick so the attacker's battering ram can't get through


  • Although the walls are high enough for arrows not being able to shoot over. The attackers can still fire rocks by a trebuchet or a catapult
  • The towers are a one way path up to the top so if a few attackers are coming up the tower, the defenders don't have anywhere to go
  • These type of castles are very expensive to build
  • Square Keep castles are also very heavy making them hard to build
  • Once getting through the drawbridge there was an open area where all the attacking soldiers could kill the defenders
  • People can undermine and knock the corners of the castle down
  • They took a long time to build
  • More specialized skills were needed to build them
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What is a curtain wall?

Curtain walls were large, defensive walls enclosing a bailey. They had to be high enough to make putting ladders on the walls with difficulty and thick enough to withstand bombardment from siege engines which, from the 15th century onwards, included gunpowder artillery.

What is a moat?

A moat was a defensive ditch with steep sides, and could be either dry or filled with water. Its purpose was to stop devices such as siege towers from reaching the curtain wall and to prevent the walls from being undermined.

What is a keep?

A keep was a great tower and was usually the most strongly defended point of a castle. It was also usually a place of refuge if the outer defenses got destroyed.

What is a gatehouse?

The entrance was often the weakest part in a circuit of defenses. To overcome this, the gatehouse was developed, allowing those inside the castle to control the people going in and out. In castles that were made with earth and timber, the gateway was usually the first thing to be rebuilt in stone.

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