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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


Concentric Castles.

After completing these activities you should be able to:

Describe a Concentric Castle.
Explain why concentric castles were developed.
Explain what the major defensive strengths of a concentric castle are.

Click on the hyperlinked questions to go to a specialist activity page.

A concentric castle is a much larger construction than Motte and bailey or Stone keep castles. Concentric Castles, such as Beaumaris and Caerphilly Castles, make best use of angles in a castles design, providing the defender with more opportunity to hurt any attacking force. Essentially a concentric castle is a series of defensive structures. The typical design, as outlined in the image below, has two curtain walls, the outer one lower than the inner one. Each of the walls has a variety of rounded towers from which a defender has a number of vantage points over his assailant. In addition to the number of curtain walls and towers the castle was, usually, surrounded by water, making attack even more perilous.

Source A. Diagram of Beaumaris Castle.

Explanation of the diagram: to the outside is a large water obstacle. The first of the walls is a low curtain wall with a number of defensive towers; the inner wall was raised higher so that defenders would fire over the top of the outer wall. Once inside the outer curtain wall any intruder would be visible to archers or crossbowmen within up to 8 of the towers and along the walls. To successfully capture the castle they would also have to either scale both sets of walls, under fire from each of the towers, or breach the heavily fortified gatehouses.


(1) Why would attacking a Concentric Castle be harder than attacking a Motte and bailey or Stone keep Castle?
(2) Explain why the outer curtain walls were lower than the inner curtain walls.

Source B. Modern day image of an outer Curtain Wall at Caerphilly Castle.

Image taken SchoolsHistory Picture Gallery

To the right of this image is another water defence and a higher inner curtain wall. The attacker would also have to penetrate a number of heavily guarded gatehouses, most of which had drawbridge entrances.

Major advantages of a Concentric Castle:

Round towers couldn't be mined as easily.
Larger Castles can house a greater number of defendants.
Once inside the outer wall an attacker was still visible to defenders in a large number of towers.
The symmetrical design ensures that entry to the inner most parts of the Castle is closely monitored.
Low curtain walls mean that defenders on the inner and outer walls can see attackers.
A small number of men could defend a large part of the castle.


(3) Use the information in your textbook and previous notes to try and establish ways in which a concentric castle could have been attacked successfully. For each method of besieging a Castle try and find a solution to the problem in the design of Beaumaris Castle.
(4) Using the information on this sheet and in the resource packs made available to you, describe the defensive features of a concentric castle.
(5) Why was a Castle such as Beaumaris Castle such a formidable military structure?





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