Castle Keep

Castle Keep

The keep, located within a courtyard and surrounded by a curtain wall, was the heart of a medieval castle. The hall keep was a low building while the tower keep or donjon could have three or more floors and be topped by turrets and battlements. With its extra thick walls and protected entrance, the keep was generally the safest place in a castle during the siege warfare of the 11th and 12th century CE. Inside the largest building a person in the Middle Ages likely ever saw in their lives was the Great Hall, castle chapel, and residential quarters. Expensive and slow to build, tower keeps were steadily replaced from the mid-13th century CE by larger round towers in the circuit wall which were designed to prevent the enemy from ever entering the castle courtyard or bailey. As a lasting testimony to their integral strength, many tower keeps still survive today across Europe, where very often the rest of the castle buildings have long since disappeared.

The term 'keep' may be applied to three different castle structures:

  • Shell Keep - where the wood palisade on the top of a motte and bailey castle was converted into stone.
  • Hall Keep - a residential building of one or two floors in the courtyard of a castle. The term may also apply to a tower keep which has a single cross wall on each floor creating two rooms of unequal size.
  • Tower Keep - aka Great Tower or Donjon, a large stone tower of several floors built within the circuit walls of a castle which acted as the primary place of residence and last place of refuge in the case of attack.

Shell Keep

An early form of keep, in effect a keep without a curtain (surrounding) wall, was seen when the first simpler castles, the motte and bailey castles, evolved into the more familiar and complex all-stone castles. The Normans were great builders of motte and bailey castles across northern France and England in the 11th century CE. A wooden tower was built on the motte - a natural or artificial hill - and, at the base, a bailey or courtyard was created by constructing an encircling wooden wall connected to the motte. The whole was then surrounded by a ditch. When the timber palisade on top of the motte was replaced by stone it acquired the new name of a shell keep.

The new stone wall of a shell keep, either circular or polygonal, could be 3-3.5 metres (10-12 ft) thick and 4.5-9 metres (15-30 ft) high. Inside were such buildings as a hall, barracks, chapel, accommodation, and storehouses. An excellent example of a surviving shell keep is at the c. 1150 CE Cardiff Castle, Wales. Another fine example is Restormel Castle, Cornwall, England (12th century CE), which had a projecting square tower and interior stone buildings added in the 13th century CE which, although ruined, can still be clearly seen today arranged around a central circular courtyard. As nobles sought greater residential comfort, most shell keeps were expanded or abandoned entirely for larger stone castles on another site where more substantial foundations were required than the motte could provide.

The obvious point of a strong defensive retreat does not always match the relatively peaceful times in which some castle keeps were built.

Hall Keep

Lower keeps, that is with only one or two floors, are sometimes called hall keeps. They follow many of the architectural principles of tower keeps with massive walls, small windows, they rest on a sloping plinth, and access is restricted by a moat or drawbridge and sometimes a forebuilding (see below). One of the largest hall keep ground plans is at Colchester Castle, Essex, England (c. 1074 CE) where the sides of the keep measure 46 x 33.5 metres (151 x 110 ft). Other fine examples of hall keeps may be seen at Norwich Castle (1095-1115 CE) and Castle Rising (c. 1138 CE), both in Norfolk, England. As can be seen from just these two examples, in no sense did hall keeps evolve into even larger tower keeps but, rather, the two types could be contemporary, and certain castle owners preferred such a design because of its lower expense or because defence was not their primary purpose.

Tower Keep

The free-standing tower keep or great tower was actually known as the donjon prior to the late 16th century CE. This name derives from the French word meaning a lord's area (only much later did it morph into 'dungeon' and acquire the meaning of a prison). The purpose of tower keeps is not entirely agreed upon by historians. The obvious point of a strong defensive retreat does not always match the relatively peaceful times in which some tower keeps were built. If the towers were merely a grandiose gesture to impress the wealth and power of the owner upon the local population, then they were an enormously expensive method. In addition, in the case of castles not used as the primary residence of a baron or monarch, they had limited practical use and would have been rarely visited by locals anyway. Still, the towers would have been seen from afar and would certainly have impressed both local residents and would-be attackers, and their high cost may have been precisely why they were commissioned.

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The first large towers in castles were generally an extension of an existing building. Seen notably in France in the 10th century CE, an example is the tower keep of Doué-la-Fontaine, built c. 950 CE, which was constructed above a ground floor hall building. Sometimes an existing fortified gate was used as a base to build a larger tower upon, as at Richmond Castle, Yorkshire, England (mid-12th century CE). Free-standing tower keeps, proper, began to appear in most castles from the late 11th century CE. One of the first in England was so impressive that it gave its name to the whole castle: the Tower of London, built c. 1078-1100 CE by William the Conqueror.

A keep could be square or rectangular and often had its own small towers or turrets on top; alternatively, some were polygonal, had one curved wall, or were fully round which gave defenders an unimpeded 360-degree view. There were exceptions, the tower at Trim in County Meath, Ireland (c. 1200 CE), for example, has almost a crucifix form, and Conisbrough Castle, Yorkshire, England (1180-1190 CE), has six semi-polygonal solid turrets around a circular interior. The latter so impressed the 19th-century CE writer Sir Walter Scott that he used it as the setting for his novel Ivanhoe.

One of the most imposing surviving rectangular tower keeps is that of Dover Castle, Kent, England (11-12th century CE). It measures some 25.3 metres (83 ft) in height while each side is around 29.5 metres (97 ft) in length. The massive walls, supported by a central pilaster buttress in each centre, measure up to 6.4 metres (21 ft) in thickness. In contrast, one of the earliest and biggest round tower keeps was built by Sir William Marshal at Pembroke Castle in Wales (1199-1219 CE). It measures 16 metres (52 ft) in diameter, stands 24 metres (80 ft) tall and once had a domed roof.

The stone used for the tower was usually local, but the most desired was limestone from Caen in Normandy. Reaching up to a height of 40 metres in some cases (although around 20 metres is more common) the tremendous weight required excellent foundations. Ideally, a solid rock foundation was used because this prevented any undermining by an attacking force. Alternatives were digging trenches which were then filled with rubble and had oak piles driven into them. The thick walls were usually composed of rubble and mortar cores faced with ashlar blocks. The base of the walls typically had a battered plinth which sloped outwards, thus making it more difficult to undermine and dismantle the stonework by enemy sappers, as happened during the siege of Rochester Castle by King John in 1215 CE when it was held by rebel English barons. Some towers had wooden hoardings around their tops to act as covered firing platforms, as at Rochester Castle, England (1127-1136 CE).

The forebuilding of a keep was sometimes separated from it by a drawbridge, portcullis, & ditch.

As with any building, the weak spot of a castle keep was the entrance, and so this was often accessed by a staircase going directly to the first floor (i.e. above the ground floor). This staircase could be removed if necessary in early castles, and later it was permanent but protected by its own passageway and towers added on to the side of the keep (a forebuilding). The forebuilding was sometimes separated from the keep by a drawbridge, portcullis, and ditch. A huge barred door was the last but still formidable obstacle to attackers who managed to get that far. Even if soldiers got inside the keep, they had to fight their way up the narrow spiral staircases to each succeeding floor, sometimes having to cross an entire floor to reach the next level's staircase.

Roofs were usually of wood and steeply angled. The outer roof surface was protected by shingles, tiles, slates, thatch, or lead sheeting. Wood or lead-lined drainage channels, drainpipes, and projecting stone spouts ensured rainwater did not accumulate or damage the stonework of the building.

Typically, the basement of the keep was used for the storage of foodstuffs, arms, and equipment. There was usually a deep well to provide drinking water, which could be supplemented by rainfall captured and directed into a cistern. On the ground floor were the kitchens and sometimes stables. The first floor typically contained a Great Hall for banquets and audiences. This was a room designed to impress and so often had a beautiful wooden beam ceiling or impressive stone vaults, large windows (opening onto the safe interior side of the castle), and a grand fireplace. On this floor, too, and perhaps the floor above as well, were private chambers and usually a chapel. The top floor, sometimes called the solar or 'sun room' because it was safe enough to have bigger windows, was for an uncertain purpose. Heating was provided by fireplaces and portable braziers while windows would have had wooden shutters to keep in the heat when required as glass was rare. Toilets (privies or garderobes) were usually located within mural passages inside the thick walls of the tower, often in the corners.


While tower keeps continued to be built into the last decades of the 12th century CE, this was now uncommon unless in places of great unrest such as in Ireland and the Welsh borders. As castle designers now preferred bulky round towers set within the curtain wall itself, a tower keep became redundant as it was hoped the enemy never breached the outer wall. An early example of such a castle without a tower keep is Framlingham in Suffolk, England, built c. 1180 CE. Like certain other architectural features of early castles, though, some owners liked the imposing effect of a large keep even when late medieval warfare had moved away from the sieges which typified earlier conflicts.

Another factor in the decline of tower keeps was the arrival of bigger and more accurate cannons from the 14th century CE. Many castles were adapted for their own batteries of cannons such as making arrow-slit windows wider for the barrels to go through. More significantly for the tower keep, a cannon could not be fired effectively when angled downwards, and so many castle walls and towers were reduced in height. Finally, castle owners were now looking for greater comfort rather than defensive strength, and so the high towers with limited floor space gave way to lower, more expansive buildings which could accommodate more spacious private accommodation.

Castle history

The oldest feature is the motte, an artificial mound, over 100 feet high from the dry moat, and constructed in 1068: followed by the gatehouse in 1070. Under his will, King Henry I (1068-1135) settled the Castle and lands in dower on his second wife, Adeliza of Louvain. Three years after his death she married William d'Albini II, who built the stone shell keep on the motte. King Henry II (1133-89), who built much of the oldest part of the stone Castle, in 1155 confirmed William d'Albini II as Earl of Arundel, with the Honour and Castle of Arundel.

Apart from the occasional reversion to the Crown, Arundel Castle has descended directly from 1138 to the present day, carried by female heiresses from the d'Albinis to the Fitzalans in the 13th century and then from the Fitzalans to the Howards in the 16th century and it has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years. From the 15th to the 17th centuries the Howards were at the forefront of English history, from the Wars of the Roses, through the Tudor period to the Civil War.

Among the famous members of the Howard family are the 2nd Duke of Norfolk (1443-1524), the victor of Flodden, Lord Howard of Effingham, who with Sir Francis Drake repelled the Armada in 1588, the Earl of Surrey, the Tudor poet and courtier, and the 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554), uncle of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both of whom became wives of King Henry VIII (1491-1547).

These were politically dangerous times: the 'Poet' Earl was executed in 1547 his father, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk only escaped the death penalty because King Henry VIII died the night before the execution was due and the 4th Duke (1536-72) was beheaded for plotting to marry Mary Queen of Scots. There have been two cardinals and a saint in the Howard family St Philip Howard, 13th Earl of Arundel (1557-95) died in the Tower of London for his faith. By contrast, his son, the 'Collector' 14th Earl (1585-1646), as his nickname suggests, was responsible for many of the treasures which can be seen today.

The results of all this history are concentrated at the Castle, which houses a fascinating collection of fine furniture dating from the 16th century, tapestries, clocks, and portraits by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Mytens, Lawrence, Reynolds, Canaletto and others. Personal possessions of Mary, Queen of Scots and a selection of historical, religious and heraldic items from the Duke of Norfolk's collection are also on display.

The historic Newcastle Castle: 10 facts you may - or may not - have known

Newcastle’s most historic buildings, the Castle Keep and its 13th century gatehouse the Black Gate, were once part of a much larger fortress.

Given its tumultuous history, it is miraculous that so much of Newcastle’s castle has survived intact.

Open to the public on a daily basis, the two have been reunited as Newcastle Castle and offer a fascinating insight into the city’s beginnings.

Here are 10 things you never knew - or maybe you did know - about Newcastle’s Keep and Black Gate.

  1. The site has been used for defensive purposes since Roman times. The name of the original fort, Pons Aelius, referred to the Roman name for bridge (pons) and the Emperor Hadrian whose family name was Aelius. Today, the buildings are marked by a replica altar outside the Keep.
  2. The ‘New Castle’ (which gave the town its name) was founded in 1080 by the eldest son of William the Conqueror, Robert Curthose, and built using earth and timber. Between 1168 and 1178 the castle as we know it today was rebuilt in stone.
  3. Iron sculptures of medieval archers guard the Castle Keep, as did English armies in the wars against Scotland. On Boxing Day, 1292 John Balliol, King of Scots, visited and reportedly paid homage to King Edward I, the ‘Hammer of the Scots’, in the great hall of the fortress.
  4. The Black Gate reopened in March following a Heritage Lottery funded regeneration. Its name comes from 17th century leaseholder Patrick Black, who was one of the first to let the building out as tenements.
  5. The castle was the last line of defence when the town was besieged during the English Civil War, eventually falling to Scottish forces allied with Parliament in October 1644. Graffiti from during this stand-off can still be found inside the Keep.
  6. In 1733, a showman attempted to make a donkey ‘fly’ from the roof of the Keep. Miraculously, it survived - however an onlooker, who was crushed by the animal’s descent, was not so lucky!
  7. From the 16th century to around 1812, the cellar of the Keep was used as a prison for the county of Northumberland. Traces of the prisoners’ chains are still attached to the walls.

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Newcastle Castle is open daily 10am-5pm. It will close for Christmas at 5pm on Thursday 24th December and reopen on Saturday 2nd January at 10am.

Tickets cost £6.50 for adults, £5.50 for concessions and £3.90 for children. Family tickets cost £15.90.

Newcastle Castle, The Black Gate, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1RQ.

Office tel: 0191 230 6300 Email: [email protected]

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Newcastle Castle Garth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Castle Keep in Newcastle is part of the medieval fortification built by Robert Curthose, the son of William the Conqueror, as a defence against Malcolm III of Scotland. Stories of phantom hands, scratches, voices, and poltergeist activity have been reported here…

Brief History

Castle Keep, which is made of stone, was built by Henry II between 1172 and 1177. The Black Gate was added by Henry the VIII between 1247 and 1250. The Castle is located on a steep-sided promontory which overlooks the River Tyne. It is a defensible site which has been occupied for almost 2000 years. It is believed that there is also prehistoric activity in the place due to the stone axe and Flint flakes found during an archaeological excavation there.

There was once a Roman fort which stood in the site and it was called Pons Aelius. It guarded the river crossing below. It is believed that the place where the Swing Bridge now stands was once the site of the Roman Bridge. In the 8 th century, the fort was used as a Christian cemetery.

The Black Gate was added to the Castle between 1247 and 1250. It has two towers with a passage running between them. There were vaulted guardrooms on each side of the passage, a drawbridge at the front and another one at the rear. A portcullis which could be raised up and down also sealed the entrance passage.

The Black Gate was leased to a courier named Alexander Stephenson. He subsequently made a few changes to the gatehouse and rebuilt the upper floors. After not repaying his debts, the Barbican became the property of Patrick Black, the debtee to Stephenson, and this is when the Black Gate got its name.

Today the Castle Keep is a Grade I listed building and is open to the public 361 days a year. It has become a heritage visitor attraction which is owned by the City Council of Newcastle. It is currently leased and managed by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Castle Keep Ghosts

There have been numerous ghostly stories told about Castle Keep which range from the sounds of ghostly footsteps on narrow corridors which appear to be empty once investigated to unexplained mists which several visitors have captured on their cameras. Hundreds of photographs have been published both online and in books which have sightings of dark shadows, orbs and mists. Visitors have felt cold spots appear and disappear without any reason and people have been touched by invisible hands.

The Queens Chamber is one of the centres of haunting. Many people have reported hearing chanting in the chamber which could be heard echoing around the walls of the Keep. This chanting sound is said to be made by chanting monks. A lady has been seen many times in the chamber, especially in the chapel. Visitors have reported being attacked, scratched and shoved within the walls of Castle Keep.

The Keep’s most famous ghost is called the “Poppy Girl”. Legend has it that she is the ghost of a flower girl who was sent to prison because she owed some people money. While she was in prison, she was raped and beaten to death by the male prisoners. She is often seen on the stairs of the Keep. It is said that when she is nearby, a whiff of flowers is present in the air.

Schloss Bürresheim – a Medieval Castle in the Woodlands

The castle of Bürresheim is located at northwest of Mayen on a rock spur in the Nettetal. It belongs to the local church Sankt Johann. Together with Burg Eltz and the castle Lissingen, it is one of the few castles in the Eifel that were never conquered or devastated and were able to survive unscathed the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the social upheavals of the French Revolution.

The castle consists of buildings constructed between the twelfth and the seventeenth century. Almost all of it is original, including the twelfth century keep, which is the oldest part. The castle was never taken or raised or slighted (unlike almost all other Rhine castles). It featured in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which it was called Brunwald Castle.

Built in the 12th century, Bürresheim was first mentioned in 1157 with its former owners, the noble Eberhard and Mettfried “de Burgenesem”.

Schloss Bürresheim um 1860, Sammlung Alexander Duncker

Shortly before 1189, Eberhard’s son Philipp sold his share to the archbishop of Cologne, Philip I von Heinsberg, in Cologne, only to receive it back from him as a fief. The archdiocese of Trier recognized the importance of the arrangement and acquired the other half of the former castle under Archbishop Henry II of Finstingen. The governors of Leutesdorf took over the fief of Cologne in 1359 from their last representative of Bürresheim, while the Trier part came to the Lords of Schöneck. Bürresheim became the Ganerbenburg in the 14th century. The von Schönecks did not remain long owners, because as early as 1473 Kuno von Schöneck and his son sold their part of the castle and rule Bürresheim to Gerlach von Breidbach, whose son Johann 1477 could also acquire part of the Leutesdorf fief. The rest of the castle part of the governors arrived at the beginning of the 16th century to Emmerich von Lahnstein.

Photo of Bürresheim inner yard by RomkeHoekstra

In 1796 the family tree died with the death of the last male heir, Franz Ludwig Anselm Freiherr von Breitbach-Bürresheim, the chief officer of Koblenz and Ehrenbreitstein, who died escaping from the French troops. Castle Bürresheim was inherited by a grandson of the sister of the last Breidbach on Bürresheim, the Count Klemens Wenzeslaus of Renesse, whose descendants continued to live in Castle Bürresheim. After the last resident had died in 1921 in a car accident at the age of 32 and only 11 days after her wedding, the castle was inherited by the family of Count Westerholt. Due to unfortunate circumstances, 17 years later he was forced to sell castle Bürresheim complete with the equipment to the Provincial Association of the Prussian Rhine Province. The castle remained in its possession until it came into the care of the “State Palace Administration of Rhineland-Palatinate ” in 1948, which it handed over in 1998 to her successor organization ” castles, palaces, antiquities Rhineland-Palatinate”.

Stone Keep Castles

This type of stone keep castl soon replaced the Motte and Bailey castles as it offered a better form of defense. A stone keep was the central feature, with thick walls and few windows. Entrance to the keep was by stone steps leading to the first floor. The kitchens were situated on the ground floor while living quarters were on the upper floors. The first keeps were rectangular in shape but later ones were often circular. The Stone Keep would be surrounded by a thick stone wall containing turrets for lookouts.

The Bailey was now the area outside the keep but within the outer walls and shelter for animals or craft workshops might be built against the walls. The entire castle might be surrounded by a ditch or moat and entrance to the castle was by drawbridge.

Foremost for the castle’s defense was its keep, a fortified tower built within the castles, used as a refuge of last resort if the castle fell to an enemy. The first keeps were made of wood, and they emerged in Normandy and Anjou during the tenth century. The Normans brought the design with them to England in their 1066 conquest and spread it across the island in a few years the Domesday Book, a thorough accounting of all England’s inventory, mentions hundreds of castles constructed in the wake of the conquest.

In the tenth and eleventh centuries the Anglo-Normans and French began to build stone keeps in square and circular design. Keeps made of stone were considerably stronger against enemy missiles and other offensive weapons, but they took a decade or more to build and could be prohibitively expensive.

Stone keeps took on different design patterns over the centuries. In the twelfth century quatrefoil-shaped keeps were introduced, while England built polygonal towers. Keeps fell out of fashion by the sixteenth century as firearms and cannons made stone defensive fortifications obsolete.

Castle Keep - History

Castles were built during the Middle Ages as fortified homes for kings and nobility.

Why did they build Castles?

During the Middle Ages much of Europe was divided up between lords and princes. They would rule the local land and all the people who lived there. In order to defend themselves, they built their homes as large castles in the center of the land they ruled. They could defend from attacks as well as prepare to launch attacks of their own from their castles.

Originally castles were made of wood and timber. Later they were replaced with stone to make them stronger. Castles were often built at the top of hills or where they could use some natural features of the land to help with their defense. After the Middle Ages castles weren't built as much, especially as larger artillery and cannon were designed that could easily knock down their walls.

Warwick Castle by Walwegs
  • Moat - A moat was a defensive ditch dug around the castle. It could be filled with water and there was typically a drawbridge across it to get to the castle gate.
  • Keep - The keep was a large tower and the last place of defense in a castle.
  • Curtain Wall - The wall around the castle which had a walkway on it from which defenders could fire arrows down onto attackers.
  • Arrow Slits - These were slits cut into the walls that allowed archers to shoot arrows at attackers, but remain safe from return fire.
  • Gatehouse - The gatehouse was built at the gate to help reinforce the castle defenses at its weakest point.
  • Battlements - Battlements were at the tops of castle walls. Generally they were cut out from walls allowing defenders to attack while still being protected by the wall.
  • Windsor Castle - William the Conqueror built this castle after he became ruler of England. Today it is still the primary residence of English royalty.
  • Tower of London - Was built in 1066. The large White Tower was started in 1078 by William the Conqueror. Over time the tower has served as a prison, treasury, armory, and royal palace.
  • Leeds Castle - Built in 1119, this castle later became the residence of King Edward I.
  • Chateau Gaillard - Castle built in France by Richard the Lionheart.
  • Cite de Carcassonne - Famous castle in France started by the Romans.
  • Spis Castle - Located in Eastern Slovakia, this is one of the largest Medieval castles in Europe.
  • Hohensalzburg Castle - Sitting on top of a hill in Austria, it was originally built in 1077, but was greatly expanded in the late 15th century.
  • Malbork Castle - Built in Poland in 1274 by the Teutonic Knights, this is the largest castle in the world by surface area.


Castle Street, Farnham, Surrey, GU9 0AG

Standing on the crest of a hill overlooking the town of Farnham are the impressive motte and 'shell keep' of a castle founded in 1138 by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen. In medieval times the diocese of Winchester was the richest in England, and Farnham was a favourite residence of the bishops. The castle was rebuilt in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, but a viewing platform reveals the buried remains of an earlier tower.

Managed by Farnham Castle, a wedding and events venue. Other parts of the wider site are privately owned.

Before You Go

Parking: There is parking for blue badge holders at the castle, subject to availability. Other visitors are welcome to park at neighbouring Farnham Park. There are also some car parks In Farnham Town Centre within half a mile.

Opening Times: The keep is currently closed to visitors but its normal opening pattern is - Open daily from February to Christmas Eve - from 9am to 5pm, or dusk if earlier, on weekdays, and from 10am to 4pm at weekends and on bank holidays. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing. Closed between 25 December and 31 January. See details.

Access: The keep is accessed by steep flights of uneven steps but wheelchair access is possible to an exhibition about the castle.

Facilities: There are toilets at the castle, including some with wheelchair access. There are no other facilites but Farnham town centre is a 1/2-mile walk downhill from the castle, and has a range of shops, and places to eat and drink.

Exhibition: There is an free exhibition of the 900 years of Farnham Castle history located close to the keep entrance.

Guided tours: The keep is currently closed to visitors so there are no guided tours but when open the following are available - Tours of the Bishop's Palace are available for an additional fee on Wednesday afternoons from 2pm to 4pm, with the last tour starting at 3.30pm. Please phone Farnham Castle on 01252 721194 to reserve a space.

Occasionally it may not be possible to operate tours of the Bishop&rsquos Palace so, to avoid disappointment, please phone in advance.

Dogs: Assistance dogs only.

The Moorish Castle

Throughout the entire history of Gibraltar, it seems that the Rock has been particularly significant to various people at varying times and that they were willing to go to great lengths to secure it throughout the ages that it has stood. Visitors or occupants to Gibraltar have been, over time, Neanderthals, Moors, Spanish and British, and each people who occupied the grounds of this small dominion went to great trouble to secure and protect it.

The Moorish Castle Complex is made up of some diverse buildings, multiple numbers of gates, more than just a few fortified walls and its most striking attributes, those of the Tower of Homage and The Gate House. The Tower of Homage is a very impressive, nearly an awe inspiring site even today. How much more so would it have been, when it was new, in the height of its power and magnificence.

Although it is often said that the Moorish Castle at Gibraltar was begun in the 8th century, there is no real way of knowing exactly when it was begun or when it was completed, since the records of those things are long since passed out of time. What is known is that in about 1068, according to records, the Governor of Algeciras, which was the city on the western side of the bay, an Arab, ordered that they build a fort on Jebel Tarik, (what is now known as Gibraltar) in order that they might guard the area and watch the events playing out on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar.

It is believed by many that this may well have been the roots of the castle, the present day Tower of Homage since there does appear to have been a castle on this site, and from that, it is believed that the original walled town grew. The frightened townspeople would certainly have withdrawn into that walled city when times grew less secure.

With certainty it is known that the Castle was rebuilt to what it now is during the 14th century, and stands on the soil of the actual site where the first Moors fortifications were built on the soils of Europe. In time it became the main fortress on the Rock of Jebel, and holds the distinction of being the tallest tower and the largest keep in the entirety of the Iberian Peninsula.

The walls of this important fortress closed in a large area, sweeping down from the upper aspect of the Rock of Gibraltar, down nearly to the sea, with what must have been the most interesting and well seen parts of the castle being some of those which still remain there today, notably, The Tower of Homage, the battlements and the enormous Gate House, along with the cupola roof.

The occupation of the Moors was the longest in the recorded history of Gibraltar, and lasted from about 700 through 1309, and then when retaken in 1350, their occupation of Gibraltar lasted a further hundred odd years, until 1462. The total time of the Moors on Gibraltar was about 700 years, give or take a few, and their contributions to the culture, the atmosphere and the economy of Gibraltar are certainly well documented.

The importance that Gibraltar held for them is attested to by the fact that their occupation of it began in 711 and lasted till the final recapturing of it by the Spanish, with the Moors fighting to hold the rock every step of the way. Led by Tarik ibn Ziyad and Musa ibn Nasayr, the attempts to conquer Spain by the Moors began at Gibraltar and the Rock was viewed as what might be called a stepping stone toward bigger and better things.

What can only be considered an amazing feat, took no more than twenty years, and twenty years at a time when no vast weaponry or great mechanics were available to the Moors.

The Castle that the Moors built here holds the highest tower of any other castle built during the Islamic era on the Iberian Peninsula, and the castles Qasbah (walled-fortification) and Keep, the largest that is known in the area. This castle too, played its out part in the history of the Arabian conquests in the Iberian Peninsula.

The Moorish Castle itself had its own very important role in the conquest that took place on the Iberian Peninsula, a conquest that led to dominion of the Arabs in a portion of Europe for more than seven centuries, so the castle is not merely significant as a part of Gibraltar’s history, but that of all of Europe.

The Moorish castle begins at the highest point within the tower of Homage, which lies at the eastern most point. Surrounding the Tower of Homage is the Inner Keep, and the Outer Keep. Lying West of the Keeps is the Qasbah, which houses the famed Gate House.

Down the Rock rests the Old Town, and from there to La Barcina, the Original dockyard, where stood the Sea Gates, at the sites of the present casemates Gate. Entire lengths of these amazing fortifications, gates and walls remain standing offering silent examples of the wondrous architectures of the Islamic period of Gibraltar.

The Gibraltar Heritage Trust, at this point is faced with the challenge to protect and shield these remnants, these silent story tellers, so that they may endure for future generations to see and study, and restoring them to former glories with the same materials that were used in the original buildings.

When you travel to Gibraltar, make it a point to visit this piece of enduring history of Gibraltar. Visit the Moorish Castle and marvel at what could be done, using only strength of hands and sheer determination.

Nature Reserve Ticket Prices:

Access to the Gibraltar Upper Rock Nature Reserve and ALL the attractions available: Adults £13.00 / Children £8.00 (ages 5 – 11)

Please note that the Gibraltar Nature Reserve and Upper Rock are NOT accessible to visitors using private vehicles.

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Norwich Castle was founded by William the Conqueror some time between 1066 and 1075. It originally took the form of a motte and bailey. [3] Early in 1067, William the Conqueror embarked on a campaign to subjugate East Anglia, and according to military historian R. Allen Brown it was probably around this time that the castle was founded. [4] It was first recorded in 1075, when Ralph de Gael, Earl of Norfolk, rebelled against William the Conqueror and Norwich was held by his men. A siege was undertaken, but ended when the garrison secured promises that they would not be harmed. [5]

Norwich is one of 48 castles mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086. Building a castle in a pre-existing settlement necessitated the destruction of existing properties. At Norwich, estimates vary that between 17 and 113 houses occupied the site of the castle. [6] Excavations in the late 1970s discovered that the castle bailey was built over a Saxon cemetery. [7] The historian Robert Liddiard remarks that "to glance at the urban landscape of Norwich, Durham or Lincoln is to be forcibly reminded of the impact of the Norman invasion". [8] Until the construction of Orford Castle in the mid-12th century under Henry II, Norwich was the only major royal castle in East Anglia. [9]

The stone keep, which still stands today, was probably built between 1095 and 1110. [3] In about the year 1100, the motte was made higher and the surrounding ditch deepened. [10] During the Revolt of 1173–1174, in which Henry II's sons rebelled against him and started a civil war, Norwich Castle was put in a state of readiness. Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk was one of the more powerful earls who joined the revolt against Henry. [11] With 318 Flemish soldiers that landed in England in May 1174, and 500 of his own men, Bigod advanced on Norwich Castle. They captured it and took fourteen prisoners who were held for ransom. When peace was restored later that year, Norwich was returned to royal control. [12]

The Normans introduced the Jews to Norwich and they lived close to the castle. A cult was founded in Norwich in the wake of the murder of a young boy, William of Norwich, for which the Jews of the city were blamed. [13] In Lent 1190, violence against Jews erupted in East Anglia and on 6 February (Shrove Tuesday) it spread to Norwich. Some fled to the safety of the castle, but those who did not were killed in their hundreds. [14] The Pipe Rolls, records of royal expenditure, note that repairs were carried out at the castle in 1156–1158 and 1204–1205. [15]

The castle was used as a prison for felons and debtors from 1220, with additional buildings constructed on the top of the motte next to the keep. The prison reformer John Howard visited it six times between 1774 and 1782. [16] These buildings were demolished and rebuilt between 1789 and 1793 by Sir John Soane, and more alterations were made in 1820. The use of the castle as a gaol ended in 1887, when it was bought by the city of Norwich to be used as a museum. The conversion was undertaken by Edward Boardman and the museum opened in 1895. [10]

Refacing of the keep Edit

The forebuilding attached to the keep was pulled down in 1825. [17] Although the keep remains, its outer shell has been repaired repeatedly, most recently in 1835–9 by Anthony Salvin, with James Watson as mason using Bath stone. None of the inner or outer bailey buildings survive, and the original Norman bridge over the inner ditch was replaced in about the year 1825. [10] During the renovation, the keep was completely refaced based faithfully on the original ornamentation. [18]

The etcher and watercolourist Edward Thomas Daniell was one of the vociferous opponents of the proposed refacing. One of the letters he wrote about the subject appeared in the Norwich Mercury in August 1830, and referred to the "scandalous re-facing of the ancient keep". [19] Although living in London during this period, his letters to his friends the artist Henry Ninham and his friend the botanist Dawson Turner reveal the extent of his opposition. In a letter to Turner, Daniell wrote, "I have had a very beautiful drawing made of it, and I mean to etch it the size of the drawing. I can only say that if my etching be half as much like the castle, or half as good as the drawing, it will be more like, than anything yet done, of that very beautiful relic." [20] To Ninham he wrote, "Show me by a plan, how high they have got pulling down, and enable me to judge whether even now in the eleventh hour, any good can be done and I in return will just inform you, how I stand with regard to my plate. It stands precisely as it did when I left Norwich." [21] His etching of the old keep, however, was never completed, and the refacing went ahead and was successfully completed. [20]

The castle remains a museum and art gallery today and still contains many of its first exhibits, as well as many more recent ones. Two galleries feature the museum's fine art collection, including costume, textiles, jewellery, glass, ceramics and silverware, and a large display of ceramic teapots. Other gallery themes include Anglo-Saxons (including the Harford Farm Brooch). [22]

The fine art galleries include works from the 17th to 20th centuries, and include English watercolour paintings, Dutch landscapes and modern British paintings. The castle also houses a good collection of the work of the Flemish artist Peter Tillemans. [23]

Norwich Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade I listed building. [3] Visitors can tour the castle keep and learn about the castle through interactive displays. Separate tours are also available of the dungeon and the battlements. Although not permanently on display, one of the largest collections it holds is the butterfly collection of Margaret Fountaine. An unusual artefact is the needlework done by Lorina Bulwer at the turn of the twentieth century whilst she was confined in a workhouse. The work has featured on the BBC. [24]

G. T. Clark, a 19th-century antiquary and engineer, described Norwich's great tower as "the most highly ornamented keep in England". [25] It was faced with Caen stone over a flint core. The keep is some 95 ft (29 m) by 90 ft (27 m) and 70 ft (21 m) high, and is of the hall-keep type, entered at first floor level through an external structure called the Bigod Tower. The exterior is decorated with blank arcading. Castle Rising, also in Norfolk, is the only other comparable keep in this respect. [10] Internally, the keep has been gutted so that nothing remains of its medieval layout. The uncertainty surrounding the keep's arrangement has led to scholarly debate. What is agreed on is that it had a complex domestic arrangement, with a kitchen, chapel, a two-storey high hall, and 16 latrines. [26]

The Paston Treasure is a painting commissioned around 1663 either by Sir William Paston (1610-1663), or by his son Robert (1631-1683). The identity of the artist is unknown, however it is likely that it was a Dutch artist working in a studio at the principal residence of the Pastons at Oxnead. [27] The artwork can be placed within the mid-seventeenth century Dutch still life tradition, with elements that conform to the genre of vanitas. Still life paintings usually feature one or two objects which are artists' stock items, included only for their symbolism. On the other hand, the majority of the objects represented in The Paston Treasure were all real, as they correspond to an existing item in the inventories of the Pastons'. Therefore, it was not exclusively commissioned as a memento mori, but also as a record for the family's wealth and own collection and perhaps commemorative of the death of family member, William Paston. [28]

The painting debuted in America with an exhibition held at the Yale Center For British Art. Now it is currently in display at the Castle, in The Paston Treasure Riches & Rarities of the Known World exhibition curated by Francesca Vanke, which reunites for the first time in 350 years the painting with some of the objects depicted. [29]

The Happisburgh hand axe is made of flint, and measures 12.2 cm x 7.8 cm. [30] The discovery of this Lower Palaeolithic hand axe in 2000 along the Norfolk coast at Happisburgh transformed our understanding of early human occupation in Britain. [31] Dated and shown to be from 550,000 to 700,000 years old, it is now the oldest human-made object in North Europe, doubling the known duration of human occupation in Britain. [30] Analysis of pollen in the silt allowed the archaeologists to build a picture of temperate woodland with the existence of pine, alder, oak, elm and hornbeam trees in evidence at the time the handaxe was made. [31]

The Cavalry Parade Helmet and Visor was found in the River Wensum at Worthing in 1947 and 1950 respectively. The items, of Roman origin, date to the first half of the third century CE. [32] They are an important testimony of the presence of Roman army personnel in central Norfolk during the later period of the Roman occupation. [32] The helmet is made from a single sheet of gilded bronze, highly decorated as to represent a feathered eagle's head on the crest, foliate-tailed beasts on either side and a plain triangular front panel with feather borders on either side at the top, with the lower ends terminating in birds' heads. [33] The visor mask complements the helmet by carrying similar repoussé decoration, depicting Mars on one side and Victory on the other. [32] These two objects are not a fitting pair, although they can be considered together as each would have originally had been coupled with a similar complementary object. [32]

The unique Anglo-Saxon ceramic figurine now known as Spong Man was found in 1979 in Spong Hill. [34] The figure is shown sat on a chair decorated with incised panelling and is leaning forwards with head in hands wearing a round flat hat. It is likely to have once sat on the lid of a pagan funerary urn and is a unique object in North Western Europe. [34] Although it is labelled as a man, its gender is unclear, as there are no distinctive anatomic details. [34] Exactly why this figurine was created is still a mystery. It is the earliest Anglo-Saxon three-dimensional figure ever found. It may be a representation of a deity whose identity is now lost, but it is still a great artifact that reminds us how little we know about religion in this early migration period across northern Europe. [35]

Also known as neck-rings, torcs were a characteristic kind of jewel used in the Iron Age across Europe. [36] They would have been worn by prominent people within society as a symbol of status and power. [37] The rare tubular gold torc known as the Gold Tubular Torc came from the Snettisham Treasure. It was found in 1948 at Snettisham, alongside a large number of other torcs, carefully disposed in the ground, confirming that burial rituals had great significance within the people of Late Iron Age Norfolk. [37]

Also known as The Seven Sorrows of Mary, the Ashwellthorpe Triptych has significant connections with South Norfolk and its long trading tradition with Holland. [38] This Flemish altarpiece was commissioned by the Norfolk family of the Knyvettes of Ashwellthorpe. [38] Christopher Knyvettes was sent by King Henry VIII to the Netherlands in 1512, when he commissioned this painting to Master of the Legend of the Magdalen. [39] Both Christopher and his wife Catherina are represented kneeling to Mary, mother of Jesus in the foreground of the composition, showing their religious devotion and wealth. [38]

Dragons in England are famous through the legend of Saint George, however, they have always been particular important in Norwich since the medieval period. [40] The Norwich Snapdragon was made to reflect the civil power and wealth of the city within Norfolk and was used during a procession which combined the celebration of the city's saint and the installation of the new major of the town. [41] The Snapdragon at the Norwich Castle, known as Snap, is the last complete example of the civic snapdragon. Like all others, it was built to contain one person, its body is made of basketwork, painted with gold and red scales over a green body and red underside, while the person's legs were hidden within a canvas 'skirt'. [41]

Norwich River: Afternoon by the Norwich School of Painters artist John Crome. The Norwich Society of Artists was founded in 1803 by Crome and Robert Ladbrooke and brought together professional painters and drawing masters such as John Sell Cotman, James Stark, George Vincent as well as other talented amateur artists, [42] who were often inspired by the East Anglian landscape, and were influenced by Dutch landscape painters. [42] This oil on canvas is considered one of the finest works made by Crome. It depicts the River Wensum, near New Mills, at St Martin's Oak, close to where the artist lived, in Norwich. [42]

The Norfolk Regiment First World War Casualty Book is a unique graphic record of the Norfolk Regiment's participation in the First World War. It records details of more than 15,000 soldiers from the regular and service battalions in 1914 to their return home in 1919. [43] Each entry of the book contains the soldier's name, service number, battalion and details of their health. It also records those who perished in action. [44]

Part of a quartet of rare examples of English medieval art, the stained-glass roundel depicting December is an example of the Norwich School of stained-glass. [45] It shows clear Flemish influences, and it is possible that it has been made by one of the Norwich Strangers, immigrants of the sixteenth century from the Low Countries. [45] It is thought to have been made for the Major Thomas Pykerell's house. [45] originally there would have been twelve roundels depicting the Labours of The Months, a popular pageant in Norwich during that period. [45] This roundel in particular depicts the King of Christmas. [45] Of the original twelve only four now survive, depicting December, September, probably March and either April or November. [45]

Watch the video: - Castle Keep Part 1