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English Castles

The Norman invasion of 1066 did more to bring castles to England than any other event. When the Duke of Normandy defeated English forces he was crowned William I, the King of England. One of the weapons William used was the castle. He brought portable wooden fortifications with him from France when he invaded. These provided simple protection until stone fortifications could be erected.

Early English castles exploited the landscape, using hills as the center of the stronghold whenever possible. Called "motte and bailey" castles, their wooden palisade fences rarely provided adequate protection, and other defensive measures were soon added to castles.

One of the first castles William built was the White Tower, a fortification so large that it inspired fear in the inhabitants. This tower would evolve to become the Tower of London, one of the most famous castles in history. Land for most English castles was granted by the king in return for sworn allegiance to the throne. The castle was the centerpiece of medieval English society, and peasants looked to these fortifications for protection in time of war. Stone castles were erected to provide stability and to symbolize the lord's power in his kingdom.

Many English castles were damaged or destroyed completely during the Civil Wars of the 1600s. Cromwellian forces, using gunpowder and artillery, destroyed centuries of medieval architecture in their attempt to erase royal influences from the landscape