orwich Castle dates back to 1067 when William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a fortification in the town to guard against attack from the Danes. The original castle would have been a motte and bailey type and many Saxon houses had to be destroyed to make room for it. William Fitz Osbern was put in charge of the castle at this time and a town quickly build up around it. When Fitz Osbern died the castle passed into the hands of his son-in-law, Ralph, (of/the) Wader. Ralph of Wader (Guader) was the one Englishman who had fought at William's side against England. In 1074 Ralph along with Roger, the younger son of William Fitz Osbern, rose up in revolt against William the Conqueror. Roger, now Earl of Hereford after the death of his father, had given his sister Emma in marriage to Ralph. William the Conqueror said the marriage was forbidden possibly to prevent the strong link between the two powerful men. At the marriage feast (or bride-ale) held in Exning in Cambridgeshire the plot was formented to remove William from the throne. Earl Waltheof was also involved and together they planned that one of them should become king. Later Waltheof realised his mistake and went to William in Normandy to confess. Back in England the other Earls were in revolt gaining support from Bretons and Danes but the English people supported the Conqueror and the revolt failed. At Norwich Castle Emma and the Bretons held out against the Royal Army and were finally given forty days to leave the country. The square keep was built on top of the motte in around 1120 and measures some 96 by 92 feet broad and 76 feet high. Although the keep retains its outer shell, the castle was repeatedly repaired and is not original. Entrance to the keep is by a fore-building. Again the entrance has been altered but once had gates and a drawbridge. In 1216 the castle was captured by the French Dauphin, Louis who occupied it for a year.


Norwich Castle Key Facts
CountyNorfolk (6 castles)
DirectionsAt the heart of Norwich
CategoriesMotte & Bailey / Stone / Norman Square Keep
RemainsNot complete but much survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times


YearMonthEvent
1067   A castle at Norwich is begun
 A motte and bailey castle is built at Norwich.[1]

Episode: Norman Conquest  
1120 - 1130 Norwich castle keep
 The keep of the castle at Norwich was possibly constructed between 1120 and 1130.[1] 

Motte and Bailey Castles

Virtual reconstruction

The Norman Conquerors built their castles in locations where they could keep control of the local populations of Saxons or at important locations such as river crossings or on key roads. Many motte and bailey castles were built on the border with Wales to try and keep the Welsh at bay. The advantage of this type of castle was that it was quick to construct. Making a fortification from wood was much easier than making one of stone.

Norman Square Keeps

White Tower, London

More about Norman square keeps

One of the most important types of building in the time of William the Conqueror and William Rufus were the Norman keeps. Although many were rebuilt in the following century there are many good examples still remaining. The White Tower in London (pictured left), Dover and Rochester in the south east, Newcastle, Appleby, Carlisle, Brough, Richmond in the north are all examples of this type of castle. Other examples include Portchester, Guilford, Goodrich, Norwich, Castle Rising, Hedingham and Colchester. The castles are all built from a roughly uniform plan. A massive square tower with a square turret at each of the corners that project slightly. Each of the main faces of the castle has a flat buttress running up the centre of the wall for extra strength. The only parts that have decoration are usually the main doorway at the entrance and the chapel. At the centre of the keep are large halls. Some keeps have a dividing wall down the middle. Access to different levels and sections of the castle are by passages and spiral staircases built into the thick walls.

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