Histories

Medieval Castles

England’s castles are theatres of history. During the medieval period they set the stage for political dramas, wartime stand-offs and family feuds. Once symbols of power and prestige, they now stand as monuments to hundreds of years of history. Discover the stories held within the walls of England’s greatest fortifications and learn about the rise and fall of the medieval castle.

A mini guide to medieval castles

Medieval castles were designed to be both defensive structures and the residences of noblemen. From the very first earthwork enclosures built by the Normans after the invasion of 1066, castles were as much about status as they were about war. 

Watch this short animation to discover how castles developed throughout the Middle Ages and why some valued style over substance.

Stories and people

  • How did castles come to England?

    Learn about the very first motte and bailey castles built during the Norman invasion, and how they developed in the Middle Ages.

  • Learn about the Barons’ War of the 1260s and how it led to the longest siege in English medieval history.

  • Discover how the legend of King Arthur inspired Richard of Cornwall to swap three manors for a rocky outcrop.

  • Learn about the life of John Hawley, the privateer who founded Dartmouth’s first castle.

  • The jewish massacre at Clifford's tower

    An account of the tragic events of 1190 and the rise of anti-Semitism in medieval England.

  • Eleanor de Montfort and Dover Castle

    Read about the woman at the centre of a Civil War and her role in the Dover Castle siege of 1265.

Find a castle to visit

English Heritage has over a hundred castles and forts which are open to the public. Use our interactive map to find a property and plan your visit.

Find a castle

Discover more with membership

With English Heritage membership, you can enjoy a full year of free entry to over 400 historic sites, including our stunning medieval castles.

12 months unlimited access from only £3.75 per month.

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