My French Life™ – Ma Vie Française®

My French Life™ – Ma Vie Française®

Welcome to Half 2 of the Medieval Fortress collection the place we’ll study in regards to the Motte and Bailey fort design. For those who’re new to the collection, welcome! A hyperlink to Half 1 is accessible additional down on this article if you want to learn it.

As a toddler, I used to be fascinated with castles. I beloved studying tales and seeing films that includes them. This fascination remains to be with me as we speak. In truth, I’m planning a European fort tour within the not-too-distant future, so that you’re certain to be listening to extra from me.

To organize for my journey, I began researching castles. What I discovered in regards to the designs, structure, and building was fascinating, and I hope you discover it fascinating too.   

To begin this mini-series be a part of me in Eleventh-century Normandy, France, the birthplace of French castles; let’s go exploring collectively! I  promise this won’t be ‘dry’ historical past… And right here you may observe every new article within the collection as its printed.

Medieval Castles: Virtually all the things you needed to know – Half 1
Motte and Bailey Castles – Half 2 (this one)
Shell Preserve Castles – Half 3
Stone Preserve Castles – Half 4
Concentric – Half 5

Medieval Castles: Various kinds of Structure

The earliest fort design was known as ‘Motte and Bailey’, a literal translation of the 2 Previous French phrases: “Motte, which means clod of earth, and Bailey (or ballium), which means palisaded enclosure.”

These castles resembled a determine eight with a preserve[i] constructed on high of a hill (the motte), and the bailey, an elongated, enclosure constructed beneath the hill.

What’s a Motte?

Mottes have been (often) man-made hills, made incessantly by pressured labor, that might vary in peak from 10 to 100 ft (3 to 30 meters), and from 98 to 295 ft (30 to 90 meters) in diameter, with flat tops to accommodate a ‘preserve‘ and a protecting wall round it.

Typically the protecting wall was giant sufficient to help a wall stroll. If there was a wall stroll, the hole between the 2 was stuffed with grime and rocks to help the burden of further troopers to protect the preserve.

What’s a Bailey?

The bailey was an enclosed courtyard on the backside of the motte. Most baileys have been kidney-shaped to suit towards the round motte, however in lots of circumstances, the typography of the land decided their form.

Whereas the ‘preserve’ housed the lord, his household, and a few nobles, the ‘bailey’ functioned because the city for the decrease lessons. Right here you’ll discover shops, army barracks, stables, and workshops. Touring between the bailey and the motte was often over a bridge or by steps reduce straight into the motte.

Fortress Building: Motte and Bailey

When on the lookout for a spot to reside, what’s one factor – if not the principle factor – you think about? Location! Would it not shock you to study that location is without doubt one of the major issues Medieval builders thought-about too?

At any time when doable, Motte and Baileys have been constructed on pure hills, lessening the quantity of soil wanted to construct them. Sadly, there weren’t sufficient hills so most of them have been totally constructed. The castles have been additionally constructed by rivers and lakes. Not just for apparent causes but in addition as a part of the fort’s protection. The water might be diverted into man-made ditches surrounding the bailey, making a mote[ii]. 

The preserve was both constructed on high of the brand new motte or concurrently the motte. If the latter, the preserve was totally or partially buried within the motte. The partially buried space was used as a cellar.

Location wasn’t the one factor builders thought-about. Constructing supplies have been additionally an enormous resolution. Early retains have been constructed of wooden as a result of it was considerable, robust, and light-weight (which was a priority for constructing on the unfastened soil of a brand new motte). The draw back was its vulnerability to fireplace. To defend towards hearth, retains have been coated with animal skins.

Fortress Historical past: Motte & Bailey

The Emergence and Decline of the Design

There’s some debate as to when the primary Motte and Bailey fort was constructed. Some imagine it was in-built 1010 by Faulk Nerra, the Rely of Anjou whereas others imagine there may be archeological proof way back to 979.

The design originated in northern France and was unique to the realm till William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, invaded England in 1066 within the Battle of Hastings, at which era many Motte and Baileys, together with Hastings Fortress, have been constructed by his troops.

Bayeux Tapestry

Bayeux Tapestry

Apparently, the Bayeux Tapestry depicts the Battle of Hastings, in addition to the constructing of Hastings Fortress, (which may be discovered on panel 45). It’s value searching for this out whenever you’re subsequent in France or you may evaluation panel by panel proper right here on-line.

As stone turned a extra in style constructing materials, the Motte and Bailey design turned phased out. By the twelfth century, it was gone.

The Professionals and Cons of the Motte and Bailey Design


The design was in style as a result of timber was cheap, building didn’t require any expert labor, and so they have been fast to construct, usually inside a couple of weeks to a couple months. This was particularly vital in newly conquered territories by which the subjected individuals could assault.


As you may think about, man-made hills and wood buildings don’t fare effectively over time. Publicity to climate induced ‘mottes’ to erode and ‘retains’ to break down. To not point out, their susceptibility to fireplace.

Motte and Bailey: a associated piece of trivia to strive utilizing

A light-weight-hearted focal point.

Do you know that the motte-and-bailey fallacy (named after the motte-and-bailey fort) is a type of argument? It’s an casual fallacy the place an arguer conflates two positions that share similarities, one modest and simple to defend (the “motte”) and one way more controversial and tougher to defend (the “bailey”).in response to Wikipedia

Motte and Bailey Castles in France, England, Belgium, and Scotland

Chateau de Gisors

Two Motte and Bailey castles nonetheless stand in France as we speak, particularly Chateau de la Motte and Chateau de Gisors; nonetheless, Chateau de la Motte is now a non-public residence and has develop into well-known because the setting for the Channel 4 program ‘Escape to the Chateau‘.

Chateau de la Motte

And, you’ll discover different examples elsewhere in Europe:

Have you ever ever visited any of those castles? Please share your ideas and experiences within the feedback beneath.

Picture creditsBayeux TapestryChateau de la Motte: through their websiteChateau de Gisors: through Wikipedia Gallery – Chateau de la Motte-Husson through Wikipedia


[i] The strongest, most safe a part of a medieval fort.

[ii] A deep and extensive trench across the rampart of a fortified place (equivalent to a fort) that’s often stuffed with water.

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