In the Middle Ages the Welsh border had the greatest concentration of castles in Europe. Hundreds of castles were built from 1066 and throughout the 12th century.
In the 13th century many of these sites were upgraded to mighty fortress homes, whilst others were abandoned. Why did this happen?
Many castles were used in the civil war and some are even lived in today. Others lie almost forgotten in the beautiful rolling landscape of the Welsh borders. Some of the greatest have become tourist destinations. Collectively they are a fascinating part of the history of the border area that the Normans, as well as later English kings, struggled to pacify. There are at least 250 castles in Herefordshire and Shropshire.
The story starts with the Norman invasion of 1066. After William’s famous victory at Hastings, he set about building castles to tighten his control over his new wealthy kingdom. He built many ‘motte and baileys’ – these castles could built quickly. The motte was a mound with a tower on it that was the home of the local lord, and the ‘bailey’ was an attached enclosure, typically with accommodation, stores, a chapel and a well. Most importantly there was also space for horses, for these Normans were mounted warriors. To build quickly, the walls on the earthen banks were generally built in wood.
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