When a child draws a picture of a castle, it tends to be a single building. But castles comprise several buildings, and usually two rings of walls. The value of concentric defences was known long before castles existed, in tribal hill forts. The word ‘concentric’ is a little misleading, as the walls were not circular, merely surrounding the site of the castle.
|Belvoir Castle, Jerusalem|
The concentric design had many advantages. While we have already discussed the curtain wall, but the higher inner wall allowed defenders to give devastating fire both to the outer wall and if the attackers gained access to the outer ward. It also provided a means of retreat should the outer defences be breached.
The design worked. Belvoir withstood a siege by Saladin’s army for 18 months. A similar castle, Krak des Chevaliers in Syria, was so well fortified that Saladin turned away from a siege.
|Beaumaris Castle plan|
Built for Edward I between 1295 and 1300, and then 1306 to 1330, the total cost was £15,000.
[adapted from The Medieval Castle Haynes Manual by Charles Phillips]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, and book two Alien Secrets, are out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz