English Castles 1200-1300, Christopher Gravett

English Castles 1200-1300, Christopher Gravett

This entry in Osprey's Fortress Series looks at the English castle in what is normally considered to have been its military heyday, and that did see the construction of the most impressive concentric fortresses to be built in England and Wales.

The book is nicely organised. After a brief overview of the history of the period, Gravett looks at the design and construction of the castle, focusing here on the overall design rather than individual details. Most of this chapter is strong, although there is a moment in the section on the construction of the castle where one feels that the names of individual craftsmen have been included simply because they have survived in the records. This is followed by a chapter on the individual elements of fortification, from the moat inwards, then by a more detailed look at the Tower of London.

The Castle at Peace looks at the domestic buildings that were at the heart of every castle, all of which spent more time at peace than at war. As a result every castle needed its hall, kitchens, store rooms, most had workshops of some sort and many had chapels. The Castle at War begins with garrisons and military equipment, before focusing on the various wars that included sieges during this period.

The book is very well illustrated, with some excellent reconstructions of castles and parts of castles as they might have appeared at the time – the cutaway drawings show the domestic buildings at Chepstow and Goodrich being particularly good examples. The text is also supported by a large number of colour photographs of the castles under discussion.

Given the size of the subject this has to be seen as an introduction, of most use to readers with a general interest in either the middle ages or fortifications, but with little prior knowledge of English castles in this period. One word of warning – the Welsh castles of Edward I aren't covered in this volume, as they are already the topic of an earlier volume in the Fortress series.

Design and Development
The Principles of Defence
Tour of a Castle: The Tower of London in the 13th Century
The Castle at Peace
The Castle at War
Visiting the Castles Today

Author: Christopher Gravett
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2009

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