Session: New Directions in European Castle Research – May 14, 2010
By Michael Fradley, University of Exeter (read by Dr. Oliver Creighton, University of Exeter)
This paper deals with castle archeology and use in post-Conquest England
Castles are often looked at solely as military structures, but this is only one way of looking at them and it is being called into question. Castles established between 1066 – 1100 after the Norman Conquest by the crown built as part of the process of conquest, and sometimes shifted location (Canterbury). There is a clear relationship between the urban castle and the river system as the castle was often located down the level side of a river.
Urban castles like the late Saxon burh, e.g. Wallingford (formerly knows as Berkshire) were imposed within the corners of urban defensive circuits. Urban castles perpetuated pre-Conquest sites and important defensive sites.
The urban castle and the church – in some cases, pre -Conquest churches were leveled to build castles. Some of these churches were incorporated as chapels in the new structure.
Distribution of the urban castle – castles were situated in principal shire towns. There is a higher density of castle sites in the counties of the south coast. They were concentrated along the south to stand against the French. More vulnerable sites (on the east and west coats) to Viking incursions were not as prominent as the castles along the southern coast. Thus the urban castle was also used as a political statement.
What was the primary role of the urban castle? It was used as the transfer of the administrative role post-Conquest and to incarcerate high level prisoners. Urban castles were not just an aggressive statement to subdue the populace,they were much more complex; they provided a view into the hinterland of pre and post-Conquest society.