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Where Did They Live?
Laxton Castle – Nottinghamshire
A good example of a typical Norman establishment of Robert’s time, perhaps Rouen was a bit like this. The beginning would have been a circular ditch with the spoil helping to build up the mound (motte) for a wooden palisade enclosure. This would then be developed as time went by, with wooden buildings inside the enclosure and an additional walled enclosure, the inner bailey, outside. Eventually wooden walls would be replaced by stone and the outer bailey would make an appearance. This would then be a complete garrison, offering levels of protection for the lord, his family, his closest retainers, (mesnie) and his most senior soldiers and their families. It would be self-sufficient with artisans, farriers, blacksmiths, armourers etc, maintaining what is essentially a war-machine in waiting, or more benignly, the local seat of governance.Laxton Castle – Illustration by Ray Straw – reproduced by kind permission Nottinghamshire CC : Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Records.
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Take a look at Laxton now. ignore the ‘pimple,’ on top of the motte, that is a modern sight-seeing platform. In its heyday the motte would have been the most impressive in Nottinghamshire, twenty two metres high and thirty seven metres across it would have provided the very best of accommodation. As the homebase for the, ‘Keepers of the King’s Forest,’ in this case Sherwood – the lord, his family, and his mesnie, would have been very comfortable indeed.
The spectators on the pimple below will have found it easy to view Laxton church, (centre) however, the twin towers of Lincoln cathedral, on the horizon, (below right) would have needed sharp eyes, or a pair of binoculars, as it is all of sixteen miles away.
Cardiff Castle – An exemplar of opportunism
Moving on, we come to Cardiff, here we find a Norman keep, built within a Roman enclosure.
1) The keep (donjon) is on top of an enormous mound partially formed, no doubt, by the equally enormous amount of spoil extracted from the ditch, how many wheelbarrow loads was that?
2) Inside the shell, it would have been fitted out with timber frames to form the accommodation, stairs, and fighting platforms, (battlements) necessary for the ‘place of last resort.’
3) The Roman north gate, the wall is hollow, providing a safe gallery along which the garrison could make its way without risk from missiles.
4) The steps and well-head, the inner bailey is to the right of the wall, with the outer bailey to the left.