Hastings Castle was initially a timber tower on a man-made mound, or motte, encircled by an outer courtyard, or bailey. A timber fence surrounded the bailey. Following the conquest, the Norman motte and bailey castle would become a regular sight throughout England. The original tower was probably built by William I in about 1067. It had been damaged by fire in 1187 but was restored the next year by order of Henry II.
Inside the tower were two rooms: one at each end. These were accessed by a ladder up to the battlements where there would have been guards stationed. To the rear of the tower was a kitchen garden. This is how most castles worked - they didn't have any real need for large halls since their main function was to provide security not host lavish parties.
By the late 12th century, William II had rebuilt the castle as a stone structure with three levels of walls and an open central space. The new curtain wall was approximately 30 feet high and made of local red sandstone. The entrance was through an arched doorway in the first level of the wall, which led into the guard room. Next came the great hall, followed by the chapel and then the living quarters. There were also other ancillary buildings such as kitchens, laundries, and stables located within the confines of the curtain wall.
A motte and bailey fortress would have been built here. Following the Battle of Hastings, these sorts of castles were swiftly built all throughout England to establish Norman dominance. They were large complexes with a central fortified tower called a donjon, which was used as a military stronghold and also had private rooms for the lord of the castle.
Mottes are areas of land that are cleared away to create a platform for throwing weapons. Bailey is a word used for defensive structures around a settlement or castle. Together they form a village or town defense system. These defenses would have included ditches and walls made out of earth and stone. There would also be watchtowers located on high points within the village/town where guards could monitor what was going on in different directions.
After the battle, William ordered that all the Saxon prisoners be freed but some people took advantage of this opportunity to escape. So, he had all the remaining Saxon villages burned to the ground except for one where the sheriff hid many people who were then given safe conduct passes to leave the country.
The main purpose of a castle was protection, so after the battle most castles were not destroyed but rather modified into more secure buildings with better-protected entrances.
Motte and bailey castles had a massive, circular mound, generally up to 5m high, atop which a timber tower or keep stood. The mound was ringed by a ditch, and it would have been connected to a bailey, or walled courtyard. Inside the castle walls the ground would have been flat or gently sloping.
These were large-scale projects, often involving many hundreds of people. They could only be built from earth taken from around their sites, so they are important evidence for ancient landscapes. The first recorded use of the word "motte" was in 1139, but the term was already known from medieval drawings and descriptions. Bailey is an older term that still is used today in places like England and Wales to describe a ward in a town or city government system. These areas usually contain several hundred acres and are made up of small pieces of land called allotments that can't be sold separately. They're allocated to citizens on a random basis by local officials called bailiffs. Motte and bailey castles were also called burgesses' burghs after the people who lived in them - wealthy merchants or landowners who served as representatives at regional assemblies called burgesseships.
The word "motte" comes from the French word "mont" which means hill. So a motte is just a small hill with a wooden tower on it!
Castles of Motte and Bailey The Normans erected the first medieval castles, the Motte and Bailiey castles, from the ground up. They were divided into two halves, as their name suggests: the Motte and the Bailey. The Motte was a huge earthen mound on which a wooden keep or lookout was erected. This was where soldiers could signal enemies approaching with flares or lights. At night these mounds were brightly illuminated. The Bailey was an open area around the castle where tents and other temporary buildings were set up to shelter troops and horses. These were removed when not needed anymore and often became churches or public buildings after the victory had been won.
The word "castle" comes from the French word caslle, which in turn comes from the Latin term for fortress, castellum. So, basically, castles are large fortified houses built by wealthy individuals or small kingdoms who wanted to protect themselves from invasion. They were usually built on elevated grounds near rivers or other water sources, which made them easier to defend.
People started building castles in the 10th century, after the fall of the Roman Empire, when France and England fought over who would be king of the Britons. The Norman invaders used any available stone to build their new castles, which gave them a distinctive appearance: vertical walls with rounded towers at the corners and along the edges. Inside the towers there were chambers where soldiers could fire arrows down onto attackers far below.