Thurleigh Castle

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Thurleigh Castle
Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, England
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Thurleigh Castle
Coordinates 52°12′50″N0°27′42″W / 52.2138°N 0.4617°W / 52.2138; -0.4617 Coordinates: 52°12′50″N0°27′42″W / 52.2138°N 0.4617°W / 52.2138; -0.4617
Grid reference grid reference TL052584
Type Motte-and-bailey
Site information
Condition Earthworks

Thurleigh Castle, also known as Bury Hills, was a medieval castle in the civil parish of Thurleigh, in the county of Bedfordshire, England.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Castle Fortified residential structure of medieval Europe

A castle is a type of fortified structure built during the Middle Ages by predominantly the nobility or royalty and by military orders. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble. This is distinct from a palace, which is not fortified; from a fortress, which was not always a residence for royalty or nobility; and from a fortified settlement, which was a public defence – though there are many similarities among these types of construction. Usage of the term has varied over time and has been applied to structures as diverse as hill forts and country houses. Over the approximately 900 years that castles were built, they took on a great many forms with many different features, although some, such as curtain walls and arrowslits, were commonplace.

Thurleigh village in the United Kingdom

Thurleigh is a village and civil parish in north Bedfordshire, England.



The site is a Scheduled Monument, protected by law and described as Bury Hill Camp: a motte-and-bailey castle with three fishponds. The motte is notable in that it has a top platform on two levels, and the bailey is also of unusual form and is exceptionally large. [1]

Motte-and-bailey castle fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork

A motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade. Relatively easy to build with unskilled, often forced, labour, but still militarily formidable, these castles were built across northern Europe from the 10th century onwards, spreading from Normandy and Anjou in France, into the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century. The Normans introduced the design into England and Wales following their invasion in 1066. Motte-and-bailey castles were adopted in Scotland, Ireland, the Low Countries and Denmark in the 12th and 13th centuries. By the end of the 13th century, the design was largely superseded by alternative forms of fortification, but the earthworks remain a prominent feature in many countries.

The motte is an earthen mound, oval in plan, measuring 60m long by up to 40m wide at its base and between 40m long by 20m wide at the top. The higher level is at the north-eastern end and is thought to have held the stronghold. To the south of the motte is the bailey which is irregular in shape and measures 200m by 270m. [1]

Excavations in the 1970s found few remains of the Norman castle, but finds indicated that the site had been occupied in the Iron-Age, Roman and Saxon periods. It has been postulated that the motte and bailey was the easternmost of a line of defensive sites on the upper reaches of the Ouse which extends to Odell. The building of the castle has been ascribed to King Stephen (1135–54). Much of the site has been developed and the scheduled protection applies mainly to the ground underneath. [1] Only earthworks survive today.

Anglo-Normans Medieval ethnic group in England

The Anglo-Normans were the medieval ruling class in England, composed mainly of a combination of ethnic Anglo-Saxons, Normans and French, following the Norman conquest. A small number of Normans had earlier befriended future Anglo-Saxon King of England, Edward the Confessor, during his exile in his mother's homeland of Normandy. When he returned to England some of them went with him, and so there were Normans already settled in England prior to the conquest. Following the death of Edward, the powerful Anglo-Saxon noble, Harold Godwinson, acceded to the English throne until his defeat by William, Duke of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings.

Roman Britain part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire

Roman Britain was the area of the island of Great Britain that was governed by the Roman Empire, from 43 to 410 AD. It comprised almost the whole of England and Wales and, for a short period, southern Scotland.

Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain The process which changed the language and culture of most of what became England from Romano-British to Germanic

The Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain describes the process which changed the language and culture of most of what became England from Romano-British to Germanic. The Germanic-speakers in Britain, themselves of diverse origins, eventually developed a common cultural identity as Anglo-Saxons. This process occurred from the mid-fifth to early seventh centuries, following the end of Roman rule in Britain around the year 410. The settlement was followed by the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the south and east of Britain, later followed by the rest of modern England.

See also

Castles in Great Britain and Ireland Wikimedia list article

Castles have played an important military, economic and social role in Great Britain and Ireland since their introduction following the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Although a small number of castles had been built in England in the 1050s, the Normans began to build motte and bailey and ringworks castles in large numbers to control their newly occupied territories in England and the Welsh Marches. During the 12th century the Normans began to build more castles in stone – with characteristic square keeps – that played both military and political roles. Royal castles were used to control key towns and the economically important forests, while baronial castles were used by the Norman lords to control their widespread estates. David I invited Anglo-Norman lords into Scotland in the early 12th century to help him colonise and control areas of his kingdom such as Galloway; the new lords brought castle technologies with them and wooden castles began to be established over the south of the kingdom. Following the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 1170s, under Henry II, castles were established there too.

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