Page images
PDF
EPUB

With the exception of Gilling, which has been dealt with by Mr. Bilson, and Snape, described by the late Dr. T. Horsfall (Notes on the Manor of Well and Snape, pp. 87-101), these late North Riding castles have been practically ignored by the antiquary. Mr. Clark leaves them severely alone, and the writer must himself confess that these structures, imposing and stately as some of them are, do not appeal to him in the way that the more defensible castles do. He proposes, however, to describe them in some detail, illustrating the descriptions by photographs, plans, and sections.

THE NORMAN CASTLES OF THE

NORTH RIDING.

In placing this, the first of the series of articles, before the readers of the Journal, the writer desires to tender his grateful thanks to Mrs. Armitage for her valuable advice upon several of the earthworks, and to his friend, Mr. William Brown, F.S.A., who, with unfailing kindness, has assisted him in every possible

[blocks in formation]

The study of the earthworks which are all that now mark the sites of the majority of our Norman castles is still in its infancy, and has long been the most neglected portion of mediæval military architecture. Earlier antiquaries, with naive impartiality, apparently regarded one earthwork, no matter of what form or extent, to be pretty much the same as any other, and different historians, according to individual fancy or caprice, have labelled the same earthwork as a British strength, a Roman camp, a

Saxon burh, or Danish geweorc. With very few exceptions the earthworks which mark the sites of our Norman castles are still designated as anything but what they really are.

Into an examination of the various types of earthworks it would appear to be unnecessary to enter in an article dealing exclusively with mediæval military architecture. The particular type with which we are concerned is one we are constantly meeting with in our archæological expeditions, not only in England and France, but in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Broadly speaking, this particular type consists of a hillock, mound, or

'Yorks. Arch. Journal, xix, 105-192.

2 The writer desires to thank Colonel Parker, C.B.,F.S.A., Professor Haverfield, F.S.A., Mr. William Farrer, D.Litt.; Rev.

C. V. Collier, F.S.A.; Mr. H. B. McCall,
F.S.A.; Mr. W. T. Lancaster, F.S.A.; and
Mr. Edward Wooler, F.S.A., for assistance
in various ways.

motte,1 occasionally natural, usually artificial, generally varying from 15 to 60 feet in height, and from 40 to 150 feet in diameter at the summit. On one side of this motte there usually lies a fortified enclosure, courtyard, or bailey. The motte which, when perfect, has a banquette, rampart, or breastwork of earth running round its upper edge, almost invariably forms part of the general line of outer defence. It is usually defended by its own ditch, separating it from the bailey, which ditch, at two points, joins the main ditch running round both the bailey and the exterior sides of the usually three-quarters detached motte. There is the same marked divergence in the area of the baileys as in the area of the summit of the mottes. They vary from, say, half an acre in extent, as at Middleham, to 81 acres, as at Skipsea; but generally speaking, we may say that the average earthwork has a bailey of about I acres. These baileys vary in shape as well as in size; the great majority of them are semi-lunar or oval. There are, however, examples of triangular, oblong, and even of almost square baileys. Generally speaking, perhaps, we may liken the typical earthwork of this class to the figure 8 with the lower part enlarged and elongated to represent the bailey. This general plan is not, of course, an absolutely rigid one; the shape of the earthwork was, to a large extent, governed by the contours of the site selected. Several promontory earthworks which can be proved to represent Norman castles, of which Mountferrant (East Riding), the well-known fortress of the Fossards, is an example, have more than one bailey, set end to end, a somewhat in

1 The writer is, of course, aware that one or two leading authorities object to the use of the word " motte," and prefer the word "mound." This, however, must be a matter of individual preference, and it seems to him more appropriate, considering the purely French origin of this type of castle, to use the French word for a thing which was essentially foreign to the English. Moreover, it is surely a distinct advantage to have a specific name for a specific thing.

[blocks in formation]

Souvent elle occupait environ hectare,
quelquefois 1 hectare de terrain et même
davantage. Si j'en juge par le grand
nombre d'emplacements de châteaux
que j'ai observés, beaucoup étaient
entourés d'un rempart en terre sans
maçonnerie qui devait être surmonté
de palissades en bois, et dont l'approche
était défendue par un fossé plus ou
moins profond
A l'une des
extrémitiés de la cour, quelquefois au
centre (this arrangement may be more
common in France than in England;
in this country the motte is usually
placed upon the main enceinte) s'élevait
une éminence arrondie, souvent artifi-
cielle, quelquefois naturelle, sur laquelle
était assise la citadelle ou le donjon.
Lorsque cette butte était artificielle,
elle offrait habituellement l'image assez
régulière d'un cône tronqué. C'est
ce que l'on appelait une motte, etc.'
He gives (p. 393) a picture of a typical
motte and bailey castle, with its palisades
and timber keep

convenient arrangement, but one which added greatly to the defensive properties of the stronghold. There are a number of earthworks which have never possessed a bailey, consisting of motte only, of which the North Riding possesses, in Castle Leavington, the finest example known to the writer.

The late Mr. G. T. Clark differentiated these earthworks from others, but propounded the theory that they mark the site of English castles of pre-Conquest date. To Dr. Round must be given the honour of first demolishing (Quarterly Review, 1894) the then universally held opinion that Mr. Clark's theory was correct, and of establishing the highly important fact that these earthworks mark the site of early Norman castles. Mr. W. H. St. John Hope, who would appear to have arrived independently at the same conclusion at a later date (“ English fortresses and castles of the tenth and eleventh centuries," Arch. Journal, lx, 72-90), says

“Of the three classes of fortresses distinguished in the A.S. Chronicle, namely: (i) the Geworcs or fastnesses thrown up by the Danish invaders or ‘Heathenmen' during the second half of the ninth century; (ii) Burhs, or burgs, builded or wrought by the English in the first half of the tenth as offensive and defensive works against the invaders; and (iii) a new form of fortress introduced by the Normans (tempus Edward Confessor) called castels, only the last comprised the moated mounds in question.” Mrs. Armitage, in her very painstaking and valuable work, “Early Norman Castles of the British Isles,” has proved that these motte and bailey castles are invariably found where the early Norman lord fixed the caput of his fief. Mr. Orpen, in his “ Ireland under the Normans," proves that the motte and bailey castles of that country owe their origin to Norman invaders, and Mr. George Neilson, in his "Mottes of Norman Scotland ” (Scottish Review, vol. xxxii, 1898), proves that the Scottish examples of these earthworks are confined to those parts of that country influenced by the Anglo-Norman settlement under David I, Malcolm IV, and William the Lion. During the last four or five years an examination by the present writer of over 250 such earthworks -in England (157), Ireland (27), Wales (32), France (35), and Scotiana (Tad and the expenditure of a considerable amount of time on a study of the original authorities of the Late

1 There can be no posse doubt in the scientific study of English mediæthat Dr. Round's discovery is he most val military architecture. important event which has ccurred

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

or

Saxon and Early Norman periods, leads him to agree with the above-mentioned authorities. After personally examining all the earthworks of this type in the county of York, and after devoting a considerable amount of time to ascertaining, as far as it is possible to do so, the history of each individual example, the writer is in a position to prove that all those earthworks the history of which can be ascertained either from contemporary records or, as is more frequently the case, from historical inferences, were erected by the Norman conquerors, the great majority of them between 1071 and 1145.

The “mottes” “mounds," the citadels of the great majority of these earth-and-timber fortresses, are alone sufficient to differentiate them from other fortified enclosures, and to put them in a class by themselves. The greater proportion of them are also considerably less in area than are their predecessors, and everything, more especially the self-evident fact that the motte was capable of being defended not only against outside enemies, but also against its own courtyard, points to this particular class of earthwork having been erected by a foreign invader to defend himself, his family, and immediate retainers. These small private castles or individual fortresses are exactly what we should expect would be thrown up by the Norman settlers when they established the feudal tenure of land in a conquered but still hostile country. Such fortresses could be both rapidly and economically erected. It is recorded, for instance, that the erection by the Conqueror, of the castle known as Baile Hill, at York, occupied only eight days, and the cost of the great timber keep at York, erected 3 Richard I, was only £28 138. 9d., as compared with £1,927 8s. 7d. expended by Henry III on its stone successor, the existing Clifford's Tower. A fortress or private castle was an absolute necessity to a Norman tenant-in-capite or great feudatory; without such a protection neither his life nor his newly-acquired property would have been worth a week's purchase. It was required not only to protect him from attack by the dispossessed natives, but from the aggression of adventurers similar to himself. These castles were essentially the fortresses of individuals and not fortresses erected, as were their predecessors, to shelter In operatione castri, £28 135. 9d." another on the motte at York.

We Pipe Roll, 3 Richard I.

may multiply these figures by 20 to 2 Mrs. Armitage's Early Norman get at their equivalent in modern money. Castles of the British Isles, p. 246, which Thus we see that a timber keep cost gives a very instructive history of the about £560, as compared with about various towers which succeeded one £39,550 expended on a stone keep.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

all the folk, "eallum thæm folc to gebeorge."1 The defences constructed by the English and Danes were undoubtedly intended to shelter the whole country-side with their flocks and herds; they were essentially—their size and arrangements prove this clearly enough—communal as opposed to individual fortresses or “castels." No contemporary Saxon chronicler ever mentions a castle erected by an Englishman, for the simple reason that the English never built castles as we understand the meaning of the word. Had they done so the conquest of England by the Normans would possibly never have taken place. Ordericus, a contemporary writer, explicitly states that “the fortresses, which the Gauls call Castella, had been very few in the provinces of England, and on this account the English, although warlike and daring, had nevertheless shown themselves too feeble to withstand their enemies."'3 The individual fortress or castle was a Norman importation ; “it was feudalism that built these castles which once covered our soil, and whose remains are now scattered upon it. They are the declaration of its triumph.”4

Motte and bailey castles had been in existence in France for some considerable time previous to their introduction into England, but it hardly comes within the scope of this article to enter into the question of their origin. The writer has been long under the impression, and has yet to be convinced of his error, that their originator was Fulk Nerra, the famous Count of Anjou, and certainly the first authentic mention of a motte and bailey castle, undoubtedly the earliest form of individual fortress, occurs in the Chronicles of St. Florent, which state that, in 1010, Fulk and his son Geoffrey, “in occidentali parte montis castellum determinaverunt

aggerem quoque in prospectu monasterii cum turre lignea erexerunt.”5 But

4

1 Birch's Cartularium Saxonicon, ii, 222.

2 Eddisbury, in Cheshire—which owes its origin to Ethelfeda-may be cited as a typical Anglo-Saxon burh or fortified communal enclosure. It measures some 1,250 feet in length by about 500 feet in width, and is approximately oval in shape, defended by a ditch and a high outer bank. Shoebury, Essex, is a good example of a Danish geweorc,

and although about half the enclosure has been washed away by the sea, it measures

1,600 feet in length by about 700 feet in width.

3 Ord. Vit., Hist. Eccl., iv, 4.

4 Guizot, Histoire de la Civilization en France, iii, 311.

5 Chron. St. Florentii, in Lobineau's Bretagne, ii, 87. Amongst the castles said to have been erected by Fulk were Baugé, Chateaufort, Chéramont, Montboyau, Montrichard, and Montbazon. The earthworks marking the site of the last-mentioned castle, erected c. 991– 994, still exist—from personal observation-but this is the only one of Fulk's castles the writer has had the opportunity of visiting. M. de Salies, writing in 1874 (Histoire de Foulques Nerra, p. 170), states that Fulk's castle of Montboyau was then in existence. The writer has been unable to ascertain whether this is still the case.

some

« PreviousContinue »