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Types of Castle & The History of Castles

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Castles have evolved in line with weapons technology, but the principals of attack and defence have remained unchanged. Many modern military techniques are just modernised traditional techniques.

We can often identify the age of a castle just by looking at it . A Norman keep or a concentric ground plan, or architectural features are invaluable clues. Most castles were continually being updated - arrow loops being converted into gun ports for example. To further complicate matters some features such as battlements were replicated in later times even when they were no longer needed, but with a bit of practice, you can almost always immediately spot a modern replica.

Here you can read about the development of castles throughout the ages, from Ancient times to the modern day. Ancient Castles cover the he basics of attack and defence and we give as examples Early European Fortifications, a characteristic kind of hill-top defence called an Oppidum and Roman Forts.

Before the year 1000 a form of castle known as a Motte & Bailey had become widespread in Europe. A wooden tower (or "keep") was built on a hill (a "Motte") and surrounded by an outer area (a "Bailey") defended by a wooden fence. a number of examples are given and illustrated by photographs.

The Normans developed the Motte and Bailey, by building pretty much the same design but in stone. Norman Castles are therefore the first significant European castles with stone keeps, and a number of them have survived into modern times.

Defensive castle architecture was revolutionised by contact between Christian crusaders and the peoples on the Levant, notably the Byzantines and the Moslems of the Holy Lands. Crusaders learned much from the Byzantines and the Moslems - giving us a number of Crusader Castles. Lessons learned percolated back into Europe, and soon vastly improved castles, notably Concentric Castles, started appearing.

We also look at some distinctive types of castle, specifically the magnificent mountain-top Cathar Castles of the Languedoc, and to emphasise the common features of castles around the word a full page on Japanese Castles.

Next we present a selection of photographs of spectacular Castles Around the world including European Castles, Asian Castles and Japanese Castles (again).

Historically, castles were often built as part of the defences of a walled city - or a town would build up around a castle, so e look at Town Fortifications - including combined castle-town fortifications known as Castra, towns that grew up outside city walls known as Fauxburgs, defended villages known as Circulades, and planned towns, with a distinctive grid pattern of streets known as Bastides.

We go on to look at Fortified Houses - defensible Manor Houses and other defensible houses, notably Tower Houses, defensible towers in the Scottish Borders known as Peel Towers, defensible Scottish houses called Bastle Houses and Irish Fortified Houses.

In the seventeen century castle design was heavily affected by the rising power of fire arms. The shape of new castles changed significantly with the invention of star Star Forts and the innovations of de Vauban

We look at post-gunpowder castles including those of the acknowledged military master architect, de Vauban, and how Castle Design was affected.

Gunpowder rendered traditional residential castles useless, and many were abandoned or turned into prisons. The nobility decamped into what we now call Stately Homes - great Country Houses or in France Châteaux (as opposed to châteaux-forts).

We also look at palaces around the world.

After a while, people started developing romantic ideas about medieval castles, and instead of building purely functional country houses, they built country houses that looked like castles, or at least incorporated features from castles. Among these Romantic & Decorative Castles are the famous Loire Valley Châteaux, the spectacular Castles of Ludwig II, Neo-Gothic Castles, Scottish Baronial Castles, assorted Follies and almost all of the "Castles" in the USA.

Before leaving types of Castle, we take a look at Manors: British Manor Houses and French Manoirs, along with their urban cousins Mansions and Maisons de Maîtres and at grand town Town Houses including Big Houses in capitals, cities & towns and noting some Famous Townhouses. In France the equivalent grand town houses were known as Hotels Particuliers of which we present some spectacular Photographs.

First a word about Medieval castles. The term Medieval Castle is something of a "catch-all" as no two castles are identical. Styles varied from period to period and region to region, and builders would often incorporate features at will, drawing on their knowledge of existing castles.

Historians have found great difficulty in defining the word castle at all, but nevertheless try to categorise Medieval Castles, depending on factors such as whether there is a free-standing keep or a keep built into the curtain walls, or no keep at all.

For present purposes a castle is defined as a Medieval Castle if it is a large structure, built for defence before the use of gunpowder became common.

Château d'Ussé, Loire Valley, France


Turin Tower, County Mayo, Ireland


Chatsworth House, England


Harlaxton Manor is an 1837 manor house in Harlaxton, Lincolnshire,England.


Canarvon Castle, Wales



More on Types of Castle and History of Castles


Click on any of the following links to learn more about specific types of castle



Dover Castle, Kent, England


Matsumoto Castle, ("Crow Castle"), Matsumoto,, Nagano Prefecture near Tokyo.


Château de Sceaux, Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine,France


Alcazar Castle, Segovia,Spain




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