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Medieval Concentric Castles

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Description and Information on Medieval Concentric Castles
The following details provide a description and information on concentric castles:

  • What are concentric castles? Medieval Medieval Concentric Castles can be described as "a Castle within a Castle". Concentric castles were lots of buildings, walls, towers and gatehouses in one massive castle complex which were built within in successive lines of defence

  • Who introduced concentric castles to England and Wales? King Edward I (12391307)

  • Who designed the Concentric castles? Who was the architect? King Edward I employed the services of the best architect and builder of the period was called Master James of St George

  • The design of concentric castles was dominated by a strong defence system

  • Concentric castles always included access to fresh water within the castle

  • The movement from the basic Norman castles to concentric castles allowed for greater luxury to be introduced into castle life 

  • A Stronger central Keep or Main Tower was built in a round or polygonal shape. Shaped stone was introduced and cut with precision enhancing the design and style of concentric castles

  • Solid walls and pillars were introduced to hold greater weights. At least one lower, outer wall surrounded the Inner High Wall. Several Outer Walls and Outer Baileys were often added to concentric castles. Walls were built at different heights and levels

  • Several Gatehouses were added to concentric castles in Medieval Times

  • Height, pointed arches and wider window openings were a feature of concentric castles

  • Towers were often surmounted with very slender towers

  • A High wall, complete with towers surrounded the Keep and the Inner Bailey in concentric castles

  • Moats surrounded the whole complex of the Medieval Concentric Castles

  • Additional forms of defence were introduced to the concentric castles of the Middle Ages. These castle features included the following:

    • Drawbridge

    • Barbican

    • Portcullis

    • Gatehouse

    • Moat

    • Crenellations

    • Murder Holes

    • Death traps

    • Various styles of Arrow slits to accommodate the different Medieval weapons

Medieval Medieval Concentric Castles
The design of Medieval concentric castles were influenced by the following:

  • The Crusades - Thousands of people travelled to Holy Land and joined in the Medieval crusades of the Middle Ages. They were exposed to the great fortresses of the Holy Land, different architecture and advanced siege warfare tactics and siege engines

  • Architecture - Concentric castles various elements of the new Gothic, or Perpendicular architecture

    • The Norman hollow walls were replaced with solid walls and pillars - allowing them to hold far greater weights - New Building skills and improved architecture produced much bigger castles

    • Concentric castles emphasized height and used the innovative pointed arch. The pointed arch could support greater weight, allowing walls to be thinner with wider window openings

    • Flying buttresses were introduced to concentric castles which distributed the weight of roofs and walls right down to the ground

    • The Towers of concentric castles were often surmounted with very slender towers

    • Sculptures of Stone Gargoyles were introduced as waterspouts protecting the foundations of concentric castles from rain

  • Increased Technology and skills

    • Round or Polygonal shaped Keeps or Towers were introduced eliminating the weak corners of the square keeps

    • Improved tools such as the chisel, as opposed to axes, which led to more decorative designs and tracery skills in the building of concentric castles

    • Fireplaces and chimneys were introduced during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages

    • Stone slates, tiling and plastered straw was introduced reducing the risk of fire

  • As time went on during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages the style of Gothic Architecture described as Perpendicular, used during the period of 1400 - 1500, was characterised by Fan vaulting and Hammerbeam roofs

Important Facts and Information on Medieval Concentric Castles
The important facts and Information about Medieval Concentric Castles are as follows:

  • Concentric castles were extremely expensive to build. Caernarvon Castle, a great concentric castle in Wales, cost King Edward I 27,000 to build. This massive Concentric castle today would cost around 40,000,000

  • Concentric castles were heavily defended. Defence features were added to concentric castles design including the Drawbridge, Barbican, Portcullis, Gatehouse, Moat, Crenellations and Murder Holes

  • Concentric castles had round or polygonal shaped keeps or towers

  • Concentric castle walls were built at different heights and levels

  • Concentric castles always included access to fresh water within the castle

  • The interiors of concentric castles became lighter and airier

Building Medieval Concentric Castles - Who built the great Medieval Concentric Castles?
The number of men working on a concentric castle building site could number over 2000. Transport to the concentric castles building sites were by boat, as all of the concentric castles built by King Edward I had direct access to rivers and the sea. King Edward I had legal powers to enlist the workers under Fyrd service. This meant he could expand his workforce without having to hire labour. Sheriffs from all of the shires were requested to administer the supply of specific numbers of workmen. Failure to perform this feudal obligation was subject to royal jurisdiction, complete with a fine. Fyrd service was directly related to the amount of land held. The more land the more workers had to be supplied. The men were paid a variety of wages - a master mason might receive 7d per day whereas labourers might receive just 3d per week. These workers included the skills of Engineers, Architects, Stone masons, Stone cutters, Water carriers, Hodmen, Mortar Makers and Layers, Quarrymen, Diggers, Wagoners, Boatmen, Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Plumbers, Roofers, Tilers, Wainscoters, Artists, Painters, Thatchers, Plasterers and Glass Blowers. Workers toiled from dawn to dusk, six days per week.

Medieval Concentric Castles in Wales
King Edward I ( Longshanks ) adopted a great strategy of building a ring of concentric castles around the North coast of Wales. King Edward I decided on his strategy of building elaborate fortresses called concentric castles in Wales in order to crush and intimidate the Welsh population. His concentric castle building strategy in Wales started in 1278, following the first Welsh rebellion. In 1278 King Edward I commissioned the building of four major concentric castles in Wales - Flint, Rhuddlan, Builth and Aberystwyth. More concentric castles were built in Wales following the second rebellion of 1282 and the building of Caernarfon, Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris concentric castles were also commissioned in Wales. Not only did King Edward I build concentric castles in Wales he also integrated new townships at the same time. These fortified townships were based on the Burghs, or Burhs, of King Alfred the Great and the Bastides of Gascony. King Edward I was able to keep his tight reign over Wales due to his massive power bases provided by his concentric Castles and his purpose-built Fortified Townships in Wales.

Medieval Concentric Castles in England
The Tower of London assumed its form as the most famous 'Concentric Castle' in England after the addition of  successive lines of fortification, after hundreds of years and several different reigns. There are 21 different towers which form a major part of the Tower of London castle complex. Other famous concenntric castles in England include Windsor Castle, Kenilworth Castle, Dover Castle and Carisbrooke Castle.

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