I have found our study of castles to be the most interesting topic that I have learned so far in this course. The term “castle,” applies to much more than just the traditional idea of a large stone-walled fortress. For instance, in Britain things such as hillforts and post-medieval houses can be considered castles. This brings up the point that most owners of castles were not the wealthiest of wealthy, but rather upper-middle class that had been charged with the responsibility of holding power in towns and villages. Some women actually held ownership of castles, which was very uncustomary of medieval Britain. It is also interesting to think that castles were not all used for military purposes like I had previously thought. In fact, many castles were used for administrative purposes or simply as places that the people in towns could hold meetings at. In addition, many castles were built near or as a part of churches, cathedrals, and colleges. Some of these were even built for the sole purpose of entertainment with their elaborate landscapes and gardens. Of course there are many castles that are impressively large in stature and resemble those that we are familiar with in films. Generally, the larger the castles were then the wealthier the owners were. A great number of these large castles now stand alone now, but they were once surrounded by large villages. I think it is pretty cool to think that the castles that we have left today serve as a legacy for the people that built them. Many civilizations, from the Romans to the Normans, ruled or traveled through Medieval Britain and left their mark in the form of castles over the ages.
Many of these large castles were built with the intended purpose of strategic defense. I especially have liked learning about the evolution of these types of castles that coincides with the evolution of warfare. The first castles were built from mostly wood and this changed quickly once fire started to be used in attacks, leading people to use stone in their construction of castles. Defensive castles were not only built on tall hills. They were built in various strategic positions, such as into a hillside or mountainside, on the edge of a bluff, or even on the coast. When building castles, people also considered whether or not there were plenty of resources available. People commonly think of castles of having large moats filled with water surrounding the castle, although, in reality most of these moats did not actually have water in them. Nonetheless, if a castle had a moat, then it likely had a drawbridge. Moats were developed as an additional defense against siege attacks from things like siege towers. If the enemies were able to get passed the moat and reach the castle walls, then often they would be forced to charge to the castle gates. The best defensive castles had elaborate castle entrances that had multiple gates separated by portcullis’. It was between these gates that enemies would be trapped by arrow slits on either side of them and sometimes murder holes above them were used for added defense. Another adaptive change in castle architecture is the addition of gun ports soon after the discovery of gunpowder. All in all, owners of castles had to constantly adapt to changes in warfare by improving their defenses in order to remain owners of their castles.