Norman Castles in England Lesson for Kids: Facts & Information

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

While you may have noticed that architectural house styles have changed over time, did you know that even in the Middle Ages, castle styles evolved to offer better protection? In this lesson, find out how Norman castles started small, but grew into the castles you think of today.

The Norman Invaders

We all know the famous story of The Three Little Pigs. The hungry wolf had an easy time blowing down the two little pigs' homes that were made of straw and sticks, but the little pig who built his house of stone was safe and sound.

Well, it was no easier to protect against invaders who were firing arrows, digging tunnels and cutting off food supplies during the Middle Ages in England. When the Normans, a tribe of Vikings who had settled in the northern part of France, invaded England in 1066, one of the first things they did was build castles. Unfortunately, just like two of the little pigs, the first type of castles they built weren't very strong.

Let's find out more about Norman castles in England.

From Sticks to Stones

The Norman's leader, William the Conqueror, ordered numerous motte and bailey castles to be built. These castles were cheap and could be built quickly because they were made with wood and clods of earth. The motte and bailey castles helped the Normans rule over England. The castles offered safety and shelter and were a place to keep horses and supplies.

Painting of William the Conqueror

But it quickly became evident that motte and bailey castles could be burned to the ground with just a few flaming arrows. A stronger castle was needed!

Once William the Conqueror had reign over England, stone castles were built. Many of the old motte and bailey castles were remodeled and the wooden walls and towers were rebuilt with stone. The Normans also started building stone keeps. A keep is a tower where people lived and is often located in the center of a castle.

Rochester Castle is a square keep castle.

Square Keep Castles

Eventually, castles known as square keep castles were built. Square keep castles were built with stone in the shape of a square with square turrets, which are small towers, at each corner. An outer wall made of stone surrounded the castle. At the center of the keep were large halls. There were even secret passages and spiraling staircases within the walls of the castle! They were built much taller than motte and bailey castles which gave soldiers a great vantage point to see incoming intruders. Stone castles were built to last a very long time.

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