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Castles Homepage

Overview of Castle development

Iron Age and Roman Fortifications

Motte and Bailey Castles

The Stone Keep Castle

The Normans in Yorkshire

Concentric Castles

Castle Links

Castle Activities

Caerphilly Castle Images

Skipton Castle images


Stone Keep Castles

Stone Keep Castles.

After completing these activities you should be able to:

Describe a Stone keep Castle.
Give reasons for the construction of this type of Castle.
Describe the strengths and weaknesses of this type of castle.

The Stone Keep Castle is one of the most commonly recognised forms of Castle. A famous example of a Stone keep is the White Tower in London (Tower of London). The Stone keep had a number of advantages over the mote and bailey Castle. It was larger and made of stone. Therefore it would be more intimidating to an attacker. The Stone keep was also much taller than a Motte and Bailey Castle and so the defenders could enjoy a view for miles around, ensuring that surprise attacks were not an option for a would be attacker. However there still remained a number of weaknesses within the design of these castles. Stone keeps are square and an attacker could, if they were fortunate enough to get close enough, mine underneath a corner and wait for the weight of the castle to bring the walls caving in. Likewise the defenders would need to have a large supply of food: there was nothing to stop a besieging force simply surrounding the Castle and waiting for them to starve! The Stone Keep was best used in towns that had other defensives. London for example had a large network of defensive structures and the walls close to the tower ensured that it was a formidable defensive structure. Other, more isolated Stone Keeps were much more likely to succumb to an attack.

Medieval Image of a Stone Keep Castle. (Taken from

The weaknesses of Stone keep Castles were clearly apparent to the builders of Castles. This can be illustrated through looking at diagrams showing the development of the tower of London.

The Tower circa 1100
The Tower circa 1200
The Tower circa 1270
The Tower circa 1300

These images are taken from the excellent Castles of the World website.

The Tower circa 1547



(1) Describe the major advantages of Stone keep Castles over Motte and bailey Castles.
(2) Explain what the main weaknesses of a Stone keep Castle were.
(3) Explain why the builders of the Tower London made so many alterations to its design in such a short period of time.
(4) Make a timeline of the period 1066-1200 showing the major developments in Castle construction. Add detail to the timeline to explain why the changes took place. Examples of Castles of each design may prove useful later on.





In this unit:



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Best suited to Key Stage 3 studies of Castles. This resource is an excellent introduction to Castles and can be used to provide students with a good idea of what functions a Castle had.


This resource is an excellent companion to 'See inside Castles'. It provides students with a good understanding of what Castles were used for and should help them to realise that they played a bigger role in society than just being besieged!



An excellent read. This provides a great deal of interesting information about medieval fortresses. Covering the rise and decline of castles, this book has some fantastic photographs in it that students will find extremely useful.  


This book explores the life and thought of the Middle Ages with particular emphasis on the influence of the castle, a military society with all its faults and virtues. highly recommends these sites: - new site aiming to provide an accessible narrative for GCSE History pupils. - fantastic range of interactive games, revision materials and links. - outstanding use of ICT to engage pupils. - a brilliant range of learning activities from Ian Dawson - simply the best for Modern World GCSE students - make your lessons 'real' with artefacts and living history provided by experts - same author as this site, just put together in a slightly different way! - all new resources for teachers and pupils of the SHP Medicine course - A new site providing resources for teachers and pupils of the Crime and Punishment unit Militaria - a range of interesting pieces of militaria is available via tihs site
The Turkey Inn, Goose Eye, Oakworth - great historical public house with loads of great beer and a lovely atmospher