In other cases, the conversion took a hundred years or more to complete. More ornate castles, depending on location, might take 3-6 years to erect. A simple stockaded fort could be built in a year or two.
During the 11th century, the first true castles came into being. These early castles were made of wood and only had wooden walls. They could be burned down or destroyed by an invading army. But around 1180, stone began to be used for castle walls instead. These new castles would last for hundreds of years.
Medieval castles tended to be large structures with many rooms. They usually stood within easy reach of major roads so that soldiers could keep an eye out for invaders. The largest castles were found in Europe where wars were common. In England, France, and Germany, many castles are still standing today.
People often think of knights in armor fighting in open fields with their swords and spears. But knights weren't always like this! They used strategy and intelligence when fighting each other. Siege engines such as guns and bombs were also used during war times.
The sieging of a castle was usually done by armies working together. Soldiers would build siege weapons such as catapults and battering rams to use against the castle's walls.
Welsh castles were often erected on steep crags and surrounded by a rock-cut trench. These defenses were called "coes" (or "coys") and made attack difficult. The word "castle" is actually a translation of the French term château, which means "fortress."
The first fortress in Wales was built by the Romans around 50 A.D., near Caerphilly. It was a simple fort with just enough room for 20 soldiers who used it as a staging point for attacks on other settlements in Wales. By the 9th century, several more Roman forts had been built, including one that has survived today as Castle Cornet near St. David's.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, defense became the responsibility of the local lord. He usually built his own house within the walls of the former Roman stronghold. Sometimes these new buildings were even incorporated into the original design of the castle. They could be anything from small outposts for watchmen to large halls where meetings of the village council were held.
As you can see, a castle was not a simple structure. They required much labor and money to build.
Stone castles were exceedingly costly and time-consuming to construct. If some motte-and-bailey castles could be built in less than a month, a medium-sized stone castle would have required at least five years, and a large-sized stone castle may have taken more than a decade.
They also required much labor. A commander who wanted to build a stone castle would have had to hire many workers: miners to dig deep shafts or tunnels under the earth's surface for rock; masons to cut and shape this rock into walls; carpenters to build wooden frames within which to place the stones; and painters to cover the inside of the fortifications with coats of paint to make them look nice. Some of these workers might have been slaves. In addition, the commander would have had to pay for the materials used in construction. A mixture of soil and sand called cobble court is all that remains of the only stone castle ever built in Europe. This remnant was discovered in 1877 near Cobham Palace in Surrey. The original palace had been destroyed several years before by fire.
People usually built stone castles because they were easier to defend than wooden ones. Wooden buildings can be burned down or bombed out of existence if left unprotected from enemy forces. Stone buildings cannot be burned down easily, but they can still be damaged or even completely destroyed by explosives.
It took approximately four months and two field trips to complete, but I'm really satisfied with the results. 'Corfe Castle, located on the Isle of Purbeck, was initially built in wood in the 10th century but was rebuilt in stone by William the Conqueror in the later part of the 11th century. The castle stands in about 80 acres of well-kept gardens and contains several towers and walls as well as a large central keep. It is one of England's most famous landmarks and has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1979.
The history of the castle dates back to 1068 when the original wooden structure was completed by William the Conqueror. In the late 12th century, William II added more stone to the building and in the early 13th century, he replaced the old timber roof with slate tiles. The next major change came in 1416 when Thomas Beaufort built a new wing for the castle to replace an older one that had been destroyed by fire. In 1674, the castle was given to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (now known as the RSPB) who have owned it ever since. They have done many improvements to the site over the years including replacing much of the slate roof with copper.
Corfe Castle is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April through October, and until 4:30 p.m. November through March.
The first stone castles were erected in the 11th century, shortly after the Norman Conquest (1066), and they were built, re-built, and enlarged during the next centuries. The final blow to the traditional castle came with the introduction of gunpowder weapons about 400 years ago.
Stone is easy to work with and very durable. It's also plentiful and cheap to buy. A castle builder could easily build his or her own fortress if they had the time and inclination. Most castles built before 1760 were made of stone.
After 1760, when money became more important than pride, most castles were built using brick or mortar. Brick is heavy and expensive to transport long distances, so it was better used in large projects such as universities and hospitals where its size can be worth its weight in gold. Museums and government buildings often have this type of architecture too. Modern versions of stone and brick castles tend to use glass, steel, and concrete instead. These modern materials are easy to move around and customize for each project. They can also be very beautiful.
There are still some small country castles built with real stone available today. Because there aren't that many left in the world, they can cost a lot of money. We'll talk more about these rare castles later in the book.