Mottes....

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IDEEDEE
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Mottes....

Post by IDEEDEE »

Motte & bailey castles.... (13th century....)

Have been looking for contemporary images of 13th C British mottes. Reason: have been asked to come up with sustainable evidence to justify opinion re. contemporary appearance of chalk-block & earth motte (11th-13th century) - specifically where there is no achaeological evidence for timber/stone revetting to the slopes.. My gut feeling is that a chalk-built motte, in this case exposed at a near-coastal site with a high driving-rain factor, would not be left bare, but revetted in some way. In the absence of any evidence for anything else, my suggestion is that it would have been turfed (protection of structure/surface, ease of maintainance etc. etc.) as per later/present practice on chalk/earth fortifications. Others plump for a bare chalk face.... Any thoughts good people?

guthrie
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Re: Mottes....

Post by guthrie »

No book on castles that I recall reading has, to the best of my memory, any 13th century illustrations of a motte.
I have no idea what they would have done, chalk is a strange southern substance not seen so often in Scotland. Turf sounds easiest, if you know that it was used in other places or ways at the time. A bare chalk face however would look white and brilliant, and how bad would the weathering really be? Bad enough to cause problems over a decade or two? (It isn't like they were building castles for posterity - I'm sure some of the original builders would be astounded that what they built is still standing)

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Mottes....

Post by Brother Ranulf »

My understanding is that a large proportion of earth-and-timber castles were re-built in stone during the 12th century, often obliterating the original mound. Canterbury is almost unique in having its 1130-ish stone castle built a short distance away from the original motte, which was left to form the basis of a later landscape feature. It never had any facing other than turf, but by the 13th century it had fallen into decay and seems to have served no useful purpose until it was landscaped in 1790. The mound was probably considerably wider and taller than it is today.

The mound is still known today as the Dane John, a corruption of Anglo-Norman donjon:
DaneJohnMound.jpg
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IDEEDEE
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Re: Mottes....

Post by IDEEDEE »

@ Guthrie: Yeah. My searches have so far drawn a blank too... The site concerned is pretty exposed, and was in use for quite a while, with timber buildings being replaced with stone etc.. The bare chalk face would look pretty spectacular it is true, but I've not come across any unfaced man-made chalk "structures" myself (though willing to be corrected/better informed :D ) and as chalk is a pretty soft rock, vulnerable liable to freeze-thaw damage/erosion/shrub attack, it would seem to me to be likely that it wasfaced in some way (however, see below). : (

@Brother Ranulf: Thanks. In this specific case (Lewes "Two Mottes" Castle), while the original timber fortifications were indeed replaced in stone, the motte(s) here seem to have only been "capped" with curtain wall stone (flint) keeps in "our" period (with towers added later) rather than absorbed/obliterated and the mottes still left as unfaced (in terms of stone/timber facing)mounds. I've trawled through some excavation accounts, but found no evidence of revetting to the mounds. However, lack of evidence doesn't necessarily prove there wasn't some kind of facing (stone robbing etc.). Both mottes are pretty tall and steep still (both turfed since time immemorial), but Oh, for some granite... (almost all chalk, clays & sandstones down here) :D

guthrie
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Re: Mottes....

Post by guthrie »

Ok, a different angle - how long would it take bare chalk to be colonised by plants? Maybe over a decade it would naturally happen and they would leave it as it was?

Chris T
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Re: Mottes....

Post by Chris T »

Not long: probably the first few shoots would start to appear within a year or so, but would really only be germinating seeds, which would rapidly die off..but, in so doing, would provide debris which would be the small scale start of soil. The situation on sea cliffs is different, as they tend to constantly eroding, and the salt content reduces the viability of most plants.

EwanDoc
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Re: Mottes....

Post by EwanDoc »

The Osprey book 'English Castles 1200-1300' has some good reconstuctions of later motte and baileys, it might be worth a look.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/English-Castles ... 199&sr=8-1
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Malvoisin
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Re: Mottes....

Post by Malvoisin »

guthrie wrote:Ok, a different angle - how long would it take bare chalk to be colonised by plants? Maybe over a decade it would naturally happen and they would leave it as it was?
Here's a write up of an experiment conducted in the '60's that tried to discover just that:- http://www.ubss.org.uk/resources/procee ... 37-244.pdf
(I must confess I haven't read all of it :roll: )

Silbury hill is made of chalk, 31m high, over 4000yrs old and still stands to almost it's original height and shape. However it was built over a period of maybe 50-150yrs and was reveted in places with chalk rubble walls some with heavy sarsen boulders incorporated to reinforce them. It also had a spiral path leading to the top and was almost certianly periodically scoured.

Also "shell" keeps, round curtian walls around the top of mottes were more stable than Square keeps. There are many examples, Restormel, Pickering, Totnes etc.
Lincoln has two mottes, one with a shell keep and the other which must have been deemed strong enough to take a fortification that started as a rectangular Norman tower and which was extended during the 14th century.

The Bayeux tapestry has contemporary images of Rennes, Dol, Dinan and Bayeux mottes. :wink:
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Re: Mottes....

Post by guthrie »

I've been to Duffus a couple of times, I know what happens when a motte isn't strong enough...

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