Key Stage 3 History: 5: Consolidating power – castles

Here is the 5th blog in our series on Key Stage 3 History topics. Blog 5 continues our examination of events after the Battle of Hastings and looks at the building of castles.

Consolidating Power – Castles

So, we’re effectively slaves. And to stop us arguing about it, William has started building castles. There is no way on earth we can fight him now. And he knows it.

They’re calling these castles motte and bailey castles. There’s one being built not five miles from my village. They’re cutting down the trees from the woods near us to build it, which is a right pain. We hunt in those woods for extra food but if we get caught we’re in deep trouble so we have to be really careful now. Or starve. Not that William would care if we did starve to death. He’d probably just hand our land over to someone else he owes a favour to…

Anyway, these castles are really quick to build as they’re only made of wood. The motte part is a huge mound of earth. A keep (which is the only bit that actually looks like a castle) goes on top of that. Anyone in the keep can see anyone coming for miles, they’re so high up. The bailey part is a village at the bottom of the motte, to keep everyone in the castle going. It has a wall around it, and usually a moat too. There’s a candlemaker, a winemaker, a shoemaker, a barber (he’s also the surgeon, so you’d better hope you don’t need an amputation!), a church… everything basically that a normal village would have. There’s a drawbridge to go across the moat so people can get out if they want, but it’s pretty well protected.

A few of the men in my village keep talking about how to attack these castles. They’d love to fight William but it’s very difficult. Although not impossible. Think about it. What are these castles made of? Wood. Which burns, right? So all anyone has to do is get close enough to set fire to the wall around the bailey and the whole castle is in danger. Also, wood rots so these castles won’t protect William forever. And he knows it. He’s already begun making a few castles from stone. I just don’t know what anyone can do. We just have to face it. The Normans have well and truly taken over. And now he has us all under his control, it’s surely only a matter of time before he goes further. But what will he do next?

Penny Brooks


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