Motte and Bailey Castle



Motte and Bailey castles were first built in Normandy. When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, he brought this castle design with him. These castles, which were quick to build, sprang up all over England during the first years after the Battle of Hastings. This model castle provides a unique opportunity to build a castle out of toothpicks. It takes less time to build this castle than it looks. The castle shown is quite large, but smaller versions may be built. The base and motte are constructed from plywood. The motte may also be constructed from layered cardboard, foamboard, or paper machete.

During the 11th century, motte (mound) and bailey castles spread across Western Europe, especially in Normandy. When William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England in 1066, he brought the concept of motte and bailey castles with him. At the time of the Norman Conquest, there were perhaps only half a dozen castles in all of England – most built of timber and earthwork by Norman knights in the service of Edward the Confessor.

By 1100, only 34 years after the invasion, there were more than 500 castles in England. Most of those were motte and bailey castles. The first Norman castles built in England were designed after the timber and earthwork castles on the Continent. These castles were motte and bailey castles, which were quick and cheap to build and required no skilled labor. The motte (a mound) was a flat-topped hill, usually man-made, but sometimes taking advantage of a natural hill. Mottes varied in size from one hundred to three hundred feet in diameter at the base and ten to one hundred feet high.

The bailey was an area of land, either on top of the motte (the upper or inner bailey) or at the base of the motte (the lower or outer bailey), surrounded by a log palisade. A watchtower, or keep, was usually placed inside the upper bailey. The plans provided here allow the model castle builder to construct either a large or small model of a motte and bailey castle. Toothpicks work very well to represent the palisades around the baileys.