Page images

either on or near Roman or other ancient roads, or on navigable rivers.' It was essential to the Norman settlers that they should be near some road which would help them to visit their other estates, which William had been so careful to scatter, and would also enable them to revisit from time to time their estates in Normandy." The rivers of England were much fuller of water in mediæval times than they are now, and were much more extensively used for traffic; they were real waterways. When we find a motte perched on a river which is not navigable, the purpose probably was to defend some ford, or to exact tolls from passengers. Thus the Ferry Hill (corrupted into Fairy Hill) at Whitwood stands at the spot where the direct road from Pontefract to Leeds would cross the Calder. It was probably not usual for the motte to be dependent on a stream or a spring for its supply of water, and this is another point in which the medieval castle differs markedly from the prehistoric camp; wells have been found in a number of mottes which have been excavated, and it is probable that this was the general plan, though we have not sufficient statistics on this subject as yet.3

Occasionally, but very rarely, we find two mottes in the same castle. The only instances in England known to the writer are at Lewes and Lincoln. It is not

1 M. de Salies has traced in detail the connection between Fulk Nerra's castles and the Roman roads of Anjou and Touraine.

2 See some excellent remarks on this subject in Mr W. St John Hope's paper on "English Fortresses" in Arch. Journ., lx., 72-90.

3 Only a very small number of mottes have as yet been excavated. Wells were found at Almondbury, Berkeley, Berkhampstead, Carisbrook, Conisborough, Kenilworth, Northallerton, Norwich, Pontefract, Oxford, Tunbridge, Worcester, and York. At Caus, there is a well in the ditch between the motte and the bailey. Frequently there is a second well in the bailey.

4 The writer at one time thought that the ruins at the east end of the castle of Pontefract concealed a second motte, but wishes now to recant this opinion. Eng. Hist. Review, xix., 419.




unfrequent to find a motte very near a stone castle. this case it is either the abandoned site of the original wooden castle, or it is a siege castle raised to blockade the other one. We constantly hear of these siege castles being built in the Middle Ages; their purpose was not for actual attack, but to watch the besieged fort and prevent supplies from being carried in.1 Hillocks were also thrown up for the purpose of placing balistæ and other siege engines upon them; but these would be much smaller than mottes, and would be placed much nearer the walls than blockade castles.

The mottes of France are in all probability much more decidedly military than those of England. France was a land of private war, after the dissolution of the empire of Charlemagne; and no doubt one of the reasons for the rapid spread of the motte-castle, after its invention, was due to the facilities which it offered for this terrible game. In England the reasons for the erection of mottes seem to have been manorial rather than military; that is, the Norman landholder desired a safe residence for himself amidst a hostile peasantry, rather than a strong military position which could hold out against skilful and well-armed foes.

Attached to the castle, both in England and abroad, we frequently find an additional enclosure, much larger than the comparatively small area of the bailey proper. This was the burgus or borough, which inevitably sprang up round every castle which had a lengthened existence. Our older antiquaries, finding that the word burgenses was commonly used in Domesday in connection

1 Thus Henry I. erected a siege castle to watch Bridgenorth (probably Pampudding Hill), and then went off to besiege another castle. Mr Orpen kindly informs me that the camp from which Philip Augustus besieged Château Gaillard contains a motte. Outside Pickering, Corfe, and Exeter there are earthworks which have probably been siege castles.

with a site where a castle existed, formed the mistaken idea that a burgus necessarily implied a castle. But a burgus was the same thing as a burk, that is, a borough or fortified town. It may have existed long before the castle, or it may have been created after the castle was built. The latter case was very common, for the noble who built a castle would find it to his advantage to build a burgus near it. In exchange for the protection offered by the borough wall or bank, he could demand gablum or rent from the burghers; he could compel them to grind their corn at his mill, and bake their bread at his oven; he could exact tolls on all commodities entering the borough; and if there was a market he would receive a certain percentage on all sales. The borough was therefore an important source of revenue to the baron. Domesday Book mentions the new borough at Rhuddlan, evidently built as soon as the castle had been planted on the deserted banks of the Clwydd. In some cases a "new borough" is, clearly a new suburb, doubtless having its own fortifications, built specially for the protection of the Norman settlers in England, as at Norwich and Nottingham.'

That even in the 12th century a motte was considered an essential feature of a castle is shown by Neckham's treatise "De Utensilibus," where he gives directions as to how a castle should be built; the motte should be placed on a site well defended by nature; it should have a stockade of squared logs round the top; the keep on the motte should be furnished with turrets and battlements, and crates of stones for missiles should be

Henry II. built a castle and very fine borough (burgum pergrande) at Beauvoir in Maine. Robert of Torigny, R.S., p. 243. Minute regulations concerning the founding of the borough of Overton are given in Close Rolls, Edward I. (1288-1296), p. 285.

2 See Round, Studies in Domesday, pp. 125, 126.



always provided, as well as a perpetual spring of water, and secret passages and posterns, by which help might reach the besieged.1

What the outward appearance of these motte-castles was we learn from the Bayeux Tapestry, which gives us several instructive pictures of motte-castles existing in the 11th century at Dol, Rennes, Dinan, and Bayeux.2 There is considerable variety in these pictures, and something no doubt must be ascribed to fancy; but all show the main features of a stockade round the top of the motte, enclosing a wooden tower, a ditch round the foot of the motte, with a bank on the counterscarp, and a stepped wooden bridge, up which horses were evidently trained to climb, leading across the moat to the stockade of the motte. In no case is the bailey distinctly depicted, but we may assume that it has been already taken, and that the horsemen are riding over it to the gate-house which (in the picture of Dinan) stands at the foot of the bridge. The towers appear to be square, but in the case of Rennes and Bayeux, are surmounted by a cupola roof. Decoration does not appear to be have been neglected, and the general appearance of the buildings, far from being of a makeshift character, must have been very picturesque.

The picture of the building of the motte at Hastings shows only a stockade on top of the motte; this may be because the artist intended to represent the work as incomplete. What is remarkable about this picture is that the motte appears to be formed in layers of different materials. We might ascribe this to the fancy

1 Neckham, "De Utensilibus," in Wright's Volume of Vocabularies, pp. 103, 104. Unfortunately this work of Neckham's was not written to explain the construction of motte castles, but to furnish his pupils with the Latin names of familiar things; a good deal of it is very obscure now. 2 See frontispiece.

of the embroiderer, were it not that layers of this kind have occasionally been found in mottes which have been excavated or destroyed. Thus the motte at Carisbrook, which was opened in 1903, was found to be composed of alternate layers of large and small chalk rubble. In some cases, layers of stones have been found; in others (as at York and Burton) a motte formed of loose material has been cased in a sort of pie-crust of heavy clay. In the Castle Hill at Hallaton in Leicestershire layers of peat and hazel branches, as well as of clay and stone boulders, were found. But our information on this subject is too scanty to justify any generalisations as to the general construction of mottes.

The pictures shown in the Bayeux Tapestry agree very well with the description given by a 12th-century writer of the castle of Merchem, near Dixmüde, in the life of John, Bishop of Terouenne, who died in 1130. "Bishop John used to stay frequently at Merchem when he was going round his diocese. Near the churchyard was an exceedingly high fortification, which might be called a castle or municipium, built according to the fashion of that country by the lord of the manor many years before. For it is the custom of the nobles of that region, who spend their time for the most part in private war, in order to defend themselves from their enemies to make a hill of earth, as high as they can, and encircle it with a ditch as broad and deep as possible. They surround the upper edge of this hill with a very strong wall of hewn logs, placing towers on the circuit, according to their means. Inside this wall they plant their house, or keep (arcem), which overlooks the whole thing. The entrance to this fortress is only by a bridge, which rises from the counterscarp of the ditch, supported on double or even triple columns, till it reaches the upper

« PreviousContinue »