This image gallery showcases several digital reconstructions of medieval castles, keeps and fortifications built throughout the Middle Ages. These defensive structures were built to ward off invaders and act as centres of government. Castles were a monument to the power of medieval rulers, and though many have fallen into disrepair, we can catch a glimpse of what they would have looked like in their prime through digital restoration.
How to build a medieval castle: 9 top tips
The Norman Conquest triggered a boom in castle building, but the process of creating a fortress from scratch was far from simple. So what was the best way to build a medieval castle? John Goodall reveals his guide.
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Published: May 26, 2021 at 2:45 pm
Choose your site carefully
It is crucial that you build your castle at a prominent site in a position of strategic importance
Castles were commonly erected on naturally prominent sites, usually commanding a landscape or a communication link, such as a ford, bridge or pass.
It is rare to have a medieval account of the circumstances behind the choice of a castle site but they do exist. On 30 September 1223, the 15-year-old king Henry III arrived in Montgomery with an army. The king, having campaigned successfully against the Welsh prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, was intent on creating a new castle in the area to secure the border of his realm. Carpenters in England had been charged with preparing timber for the new fortifications a month previously, but the king’s advisers determined where the castle should be sited.
After surveying the area carefully they chose a spot on the very edge of a promontory above the valley of the river Severn. It was, in the words of the chronicler Roger of Wendover, a position “that seemed untakeable to everyone”. He also observed that the castle was “for the security of the region on account of the frequent attacks of the Welsh”.
Top tip: Identify the places where the topography dominates transport routes: these are natural sites for castles. Bear in mind that the castle’s design will be shaped by the building’s position. A castle on a high outcrop will, for example, have dry moats.
Agree on a workable design
A master mason who can draw plans is a must – while an engineer who knows all about weapons is useful too
Experienced soldiers may have had ideas of their own about the design of their castle, in terms of the form of the buildings and their arrangement. But it’s unlikely they would have had any specialist knowledge in design or building.
What was needed to realise a vision was a master mason – an experienced builder whose distinguishing skill was the ability to draw. With an understanding of practical geometry he used the simple tools of a measuring rod, set-square and compass to create architectural designs. Master masons would present a drawn proposal for the castle for approval and when building commenced would oversee its construction.
When Edward II began building a great residential tower at Knaresborough Castle in Yorkshire for his favourite, Piers Gaveston, in 1307, he not only approved the design, created by the London master mason Hugh of Titchmarsh – presumably expressed as a drawing – but also demanded from him regular reports on the progress of the work. From the mid-16th century, a new group of professionals, termed engineers, increasingly came to dominate the design and construction of fortifications. They had a technical understanding of the use and power of cannon, both in protecting and reducing castle defences.
Top tip: Plan arrow slits carefully for a wide field of fire. Shape according to the weapons you use: longbow men need large splays (the oblique angles in the side of an opening in a wall) crossbow men less so.
Source a large, and skilled, workforce
You’ll need thousands of men – not necessarily all there by choice
The labour required to build a great castle was vast. We have no documentary evidence for the numbers involved in the first great round of castle-building in England, after 1066, but the scale of many castles of this period makes it clear why some chronicles speak of the English population as being oppressed by the castle construction of their Norman conquerors.In the later Middle Ages, however, surviving building accounts offer detailed information.
During his first invasion of Wales, in 1277, Edward I began building a castle at Flint, north-east Wales. This was erected at speed, using the massive resources of the crown. Within a month of starting work, in August that year, 2,300 men were employed on site, including 1,270 diggers, 320 woodmen, 330 carpenters, 200 masons, 12 smiths and 10 charcoal burners. All these men were pressed into service from across the realm and accompanied into Wales with guards to prevent desertion.
In every period, foreign specialists were employed where necessary, often in senior roles. The millions of bricks needed to remodel Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire during the 1440s, for example, were supplied by a certain Baldwin the ‘Docheman’ or Dutchman, evidently an immigrant.
Top tip: Depending on the size of your workforce and the distance it has travelled, it may be necessary to provide accommodation on site.
Secure the building site
A work-in-progress in hostile territory is extremely vulnerable to attack from the enemy before it is ready
In order to build a castle in hostile territory it was essential to protect the site from attack. One way of doing this was to enclose the construction area within a timber fortification or low stone wall. Such medieval defences have sometimes been preserved in the completed building as an outer apron wall, as can be seen at Beaumaris, Anglesey, begun in 1295.
No less important was the need to secure communications with the outside world for the delivery of building materials and supplies. In 1277, for example, Edward I canalised the river Clwyd at vast expense from the sea to his new castle at Rhuddlan. Here, the apron wall built to protect the building site extended down to the quay on the banks of the river.
There might also have been concerns for security during major alterations to an existing castle. When Henry II remodelled Dover Castle, Kent in the 1180s, his building operation appears to have been carefully staggered so that the fortifications were continuously defensible throughout the construction process.
According to surviving royal accounts, work to the inner bailey wall was only begun when the great tower or keep was sufficiently complete to be garrisoned.
Top tip: Castle-building materials are big and bulky. If at all possible, try and move them by water, even if you have to build a dock or canal to do so.
Landscape the area
Building a castle might involve moving a massive amount of earth, at great cost
It is often forgotten that castle fortifications were as much works of landscaping as of architecture. The resources involved in moving earth without pieces of machinery was necessarily enormous. Even after long neglect, the scale of Norman earthworks in particular can be extraordinary. It has been estimated, for example, that the vast artificial mound, termed a motte, erected in around 1100 at Pleshey Castle, Essex, required 24,000 days of labour to raise.
Some aspects of landscaping were also highly skilled, notably the creation of moats filled with water. When Edward I remodelled the Tower of London in the 1270s, he employed a foreign specialist, Walter of Flanders, to create a huge new tidal moat around the site. The ditching work that Walter supervised cost more than £4,000 to complete, an enormous sum that was nearly a quarter of the cost of the entire project.
As the use of cannon improved in siege warfare, earth became yet more important as a means of absorbing the impact of cannonballs. Curiously, the ability to move vast quantities of earth allowed some fortification engineers to find work creating gardens.
Top tip: Save on labour, expense and time by digging the masonry of your castle walls from the ditches around the castle site.
Lay the foundations
Transfer the mason’s plan carefully to the ground
Using measured lengths of rope and pegs, it was possible to set out the foundations of a building in full scale on the ground. This was done by walking out the actions of a master mason’s drawing tools, his compass and set-square, to realise the plan. With foundation trenches dug, work began on the masonry structure. To save money, responsibility for construction was often deputed to a senior, rather than master, mason. The measurement of masonry usually used in the Middle Ages was the rod (16ft 6in, or 5m). At Warkworth, Northumberland, for example, the complex great tower is laid out on a grid of rods, probably for purposes of costing.
Medieval building processes are often well documented. In 1441–42, a tower at Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire was demolished and the plan for its successor laid out with ropes and pegs. The overseer, the Earl of Stafford, was for some reason dissatisfied. The king’s master mason, Robert of Westerley, was sent to Tutbury where he consulted with two senior masons to design a new tower on a different site. Westerley then left and over the next eight years a small group of workmen including four junior masons realised their new tower.
Senior masons could also be brought in to attest to the quality of work, as occurred at Cooling Castle, Kent, when the royal mason Henry Yevele surveyed work undertaken from 1381–84. He criticised departures from the original design and rounded down the bill.
Top tip: Don’t be cheated by your master mason. Make him design his building in such a way that it can be accurately costed.
Fortify your castle
Finish with sophisticated defences and high-spec carpentry
Until the 12th century, the fortifications of most castles were comprised of earth and timber. While stone buildings predominated thereafter, wood remained a very important material in medieval warfare and fortification.
Stone castles were commonly prepared for hostilities by the addition of fighting galleries along walls (termed ‘brattices’ or ‘alures’) as well as shutters that could be hung between battlements to afford the defenders protection. All these fittings were made of wood. So too were the heavy weapons that were used to defend castles, including catapults and heavy crossbows termed ‘springalds’. This artillery was generally designed by a highly paid professional carpenter, sometimes termed an engineer or ‘ingeniator’.
Such expertise didn’t come cheap, but it could be worth its weight in gold. This was certainly the case in 1266, when Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire resisted Henry III for nearly six months, its catapults and water defences frustrating every attack.
There is even the occasional record of campaign castles being made entirely from wood, which could be transported and re-erected where needed. One such was built to cover a French invasion of England in 1386 but was captured on a ship by the Calais garrison. The castle was described as comprising a dense wall of timber 20ft high and 3,000 paces long. At every interval of 12 paces there rose up a 30ft tower capable of holding 10 soldiers, and there was some form of unspecified protection for gunners.
Top tip: Oak timber hardens with age after felling and is most easily worked when it is green. Pollarded trees (those with the upper branches removed) supply long clean limbs that can be easily transported and worked into shape with least labour.
Deal with water and sewage
Don’t forget the mod cons. You’ll appreciate them if the castle is ever besieged
It was essential that castles were provided with an effective water supply. This could take the form of one or more wells dug to serve particular buildings such as the kitchen or stable. It can be hard to appreciate the sheer scale of medieval well shafts without descending them. That at Beeston Castle, Cheshire has a shaft 100m deep, which is lined in cut stone for the first 60m.
There is also occasional evidence for the sophisticated use of water in domestic apartments. The great tower at Dover Castle possesses a system of lead pipes delivering water throughout the interior. It was fed from a well using a winch system and possibly from rainwater too.
The effective disposal of human waste was another problem confronting castle designers. Latrines were grouped together within buildings so that the shafts descending from them could empty out of a common outlet. They were also set down short corridors to contain smells and were often furnished with fixed wooden seats and detachable lids.
Castle latrines are often today popularly termed ‘garderobes’. In fact, the vocabulary for describing latrines in the Middle Ages was both colourful and broad. It included the words gong or gang (from the Anglo-Saxon meaning ‘the place to go’), privy and jake (a French form of ‘john’ or ‘johnny’).
Top tip: Ask your master mason to plan comfortable and private en-suite facilities off the principal bed chamber, following the example of Henry II at Dover Castle.
Decorate as required
A castle doesn’t just have to be well defended – its high-status residents demand a certain swankiness too
Castles needed to be defensible in times of war but they also served as luxurious homes: the medieval nobility expected their accommodation to be both comfortable and well appointed. Throughout the Middle Ages these individuals travelled continuously with their attendant households, taking possessions and furniture with them from residence to residence. Important domestic interiors, however, commonly possessed permanent decorative fixtures such as stained-glass.
The decorative tastes of Henry III are recorded in particular and beguiling detail. In 1235–36, for example, he directed that his hall in Winchester Castle, Hampshire be painted with a map of the world and a ‘wheel of fortune’. This decoration has since been lost but the majestic interior does preserve the reputed round table of King Arthur – probably created between 1250 and 1280.
The wider setting of castles was also important for grand living. Parks were laid out for the jealously guarded aristocratic privilege of hunting, and there was a demand for gardens, too. The surviving building accounts for Kirby Muxloe Castle, Leicestershire reveal that its patron, Lord Hastings, began laying out the gardens at the very start of the building operations in 1480.
In the Middle Ages there was also a taste for rooms with fine views. One 13th-century group of rooms in castles that include Leeds in Kent, Corfe in Dorset and Chepstow, Monmouthshire, were named ‘gloriette’ after their splendour.
Top tip: Make sure the castle interior is splendid enough to attract visitors and friends. Entertainment can win battles without the danger of fighting.
John Goodall is an award-winning author, and architectural editor of the weekly magazine Country Life
Digitally Reconstructed Medieval Castles
Europe is known for its magnificent castles and fortresses, but only a few survive in their original form. Since reconstructing them would be financially impossible and culturally abhorrent, a London-based creative agency named NeoMam Studios have decided to digitally restore them to their prime. Using old paintings, blueprints, and textual documents that describe the strongholds, the design team from NeoMam Studios have resuscitated over a dozen castles across Europe.
The Poenari Castle in Romania was constructed around the beginning of the 13th century. It was the home of the infamous Vlad the Impaler, son of Vlad Dracul, whose reputation for cruelty and his patronymic inspired the name of the vampire Count Dracula, in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula.
The 14th-century Olsztyn Castle in Poland was built by King Casimir III the Great, to protect western Lesser Poland from Czechs, to whom Silesia belonged at that time. In 1655, the castle was captured by the Swedes, and since then, has fell into a ruin.
The Spiš Castle is located in eastern Slovakia. Built in 12th century, it was destroyed in a fire in 1780. Rumor is that the owners purposely burned it down to reduce taxes as at the time additional taxes applied to roofed buildings. Or, that it was struck by lightning.
Château Gaillard is a 12th century castle overlooking the River Seine in Normandy, France. It was demolished in 1598 on the orders of King Henri IV as he believed that the fort could pose a serious threat to the region should the enemy capture it.
Dunnottar Castle is located upon a rocky headland on the northeastern coast of Scotland. The surviving buildings are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive strength.
Menlo Castle is a 16th century, ivy-covered castle situated on the bank of the River Corrib in Co. Galway, Ireland. It was built in 1569 and was home to the Blake family.
The 13th century Samobor Castle is located atop Tepec hill in Samobor, Croatia, overlooking what was once an important crossroads trade routes in the northwestern corner of the Sava valley. It remained occupied until the end of the 18th century.
Caerlaverock Castle is a moated triangular castle first built in the 13th century, located on the southern coast of Scotland. Caerlaverock was a stronghold of the Maxwell family from the 13th century until the 17th century when the castle was abandoned.
Kidwelly Castle is a Norman castle overlooking the River Gwendraeth and the town of Kidwelly, in Wales. The castle was used as a location for the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, appearing in the very first scene after the titles.
Goodrich Castle is a Norman medieval castle located north of the village of Goodrich in Herefordshire, England, controlling a key location between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye. The design of this circular castle with concentric structure combining luxurious living quarters with extensive defenses influenced many other constructions across England throughout the medieval period.
Bothwell Castle sits on a high, steep bank, above a bend in the River Clyde, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The castle played a key role in Scotland's Wars of Independence.
Dunstanburgh Castle is located on the coast of Northumberland in northern England, between the villages of Craster and Embleton. The castle was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster in the 14th century.
Dunluce Castle is situated in Northern Ireland, and served as the seat of the Earl of Antrim until the impoverishment of the MacDonnells in 1690, following the Battle of the Boyne. Since that time, the castle has deteriorated and parts were scavenged to serve as materials for nearby buildings.
Kuressaare – Castle Arensburg
Saaremaa Island was conquered by the Crusaders in 1227, but in the following years numerous pagan uprisings broke out. It was not until five years after the uprising of 1260, that the Teutonic Order began the construction of the first fortifications in place of the later castle. It received its final architectural form only in the years 1330-1360. The castle was not the seat of a teutonic convent, but the property of the bishop. The end of its medieval history followed the fall and secularization of the Ösel–Wiek bishopric in the second half of the 16th century. The Livonian War, which caused enormous damage to the continental part of Estonia, did not fortunately affect fortress, which along with the island was sold to Denmark. In 1645, the Danes were replaced by the Swedes, and after 1710 the castle belonged to the Russians. Throughout this period, up to the beginning of the 19th century, Arensburg as the capital of the island and region, kept its military significance, and its fortifications were modernized. Fortunately, these extensions did not involve dismantling older, medieval fortifications. The first conservation work was carried out in 1904-1912, and a large-scale renovation took place in 1968-1985.
Arch i tecture
The oldest castle layout consisted of a single perimeter of the walls, reinforced with a single main tower. At the end of the fourteenth century, the stronghold was already a fully developed conventual castle, consisting of a regular, square inner ward to which wings adjoined from four sides. In the north-west corner there was the Sturwalt Tower, and in the north-east corner the slender and higher tower called Long Herman. The location of the latter was interestingly solved, because as the last point of defense it was separated by a free space in which the sewage from the latrines placed next to the guest chambers probably flowed. In the lowest storey Long Herman housed a prison dungeon. Inside the Sturwalt Tower had six floors, the two lower floors were covered with vaults and were connected by staircases, which started at a certain height above the floor, which made it easier to cut off the enemy’s access in case of danger. The upper floors had residential functions and were heated with fireplaces.
Like other Teutonic castles, the most important rooms were on the first floor, and the communication between them was provided by a stone cloister, built due to low temperatures. Its interior was covered with a cross vault with ribs embedded directly into the walls (a feature characteristic of the 15th century). The entire west wing was occupied by a bishop’s chambers with latrine, most of the southern wing was occupied by a large representative refectory with two aisles, and in the east range was a dormitory and a smaller refectory. In the corner of the southern range, there was a square chapel with a ribbed vault based on a central pillar with an octagonal cross-section. The castle did not have a chapter house, the meetings were most likely held in the southern refectory at a round table that was placed there. Before entering it, an element known from monasteries was used, namely a stone lavatory built into the wall, in which hands were washed before meals. An unusual architectural solution was the bishop’s alcove in the west wing, surrounded by an extremely thick wall without windows, a likely place of final shelter. Moreover, the entrances to the bishop’s chambers in the west wing could be blocked with bolts attached to the door.
The utility rooms were on the ground floor, and the third, upper floor had defensive functions. In the east wing, right under the smaller refectory and guest room, there were kitchens and a small brewery, there was also a small room with a well necessary for the daily functioning of the castle’s inhabitants. On the ground floor of the southern wing, apart from storage rooms, there were two chambers with hypocaustum furnaces. They provided heating for the episcopal chambers on the first floor, with the use of hot air transmitted through channels in the thickness of the walls and finding an outlets in the openings in the floors, closed with flaps if necessary.
The main building of the castle was surrounded by a hydrated moat, along which a small outer wall ran from the inside, giving the area of zwinger. Around the moat there was an outer bailey, also surrounded by a moat and fortifications. Originally it was a wooden – earth fortifications, which was replaced at the turn of the 14th and 15th century by a stone wall of 687 meters long and 7 meters high . The last medieval extensions took place in the mid-fifteenth century, when the external wall was raised and equipped with towers.
Arensburg is the best preserved medieval castle of the entire east coast of the Baltic Sea. Despite the damages and modern reconstructions of the north-western tower and vaults of the cloisters, the basic shape and most of the castle rooms, along with the gothic vaults and numerous architectural details, have survived. In the castle there is the Saaremaa museum, and the spacious area in front of the monument is the place of various outdoor events.
See Europe’s Ruined Medieval Castles Come Back to Life
Abandoned Menlo Castle
The past is often a refuge from the present. Whether it’s where you were two weeks ago or 10 years ago, there’s a certain security that comes from the certainty of then.
Perhaps that’s why a team of designers recently looked at the now-ruined castles of Middle Ages Europe, lifting the fortifications up from their dilapidated states and digitally reimagining the structures as they were in their heyday.
Though a semblance of their former glory remains, today, whether through combative slights or mere neglect, once-fortified sites from Ireland to Romania have degraded. The ruins sit on hilltops and abut cliffs—whatever best gave them dominion over the surrounding lands. They were the homes of rulers and landed elites, replete with turrets, towers, parapets, and—of course—very burly walls.
Now you can envision how these once-great fortresses may have looked in their heyday, before the ravages of time took hold. Seven European castles were virtually rebuilt, restoring them from their keeps to their baileys. Architects pored over old paintings, blueprints, and other research documents that describe the strongholds, then offered their opinions to the NeoMam Studios design team, which digitally revived the structures from the ground up.
From a northern French fortification built by Richard I of England to a castle once occupied by Vlad the Impaler, these buildings are reconstructed in a way that inspires you to think about how they once stood—seemingly permanent sentinels over their kingdoms, resolute even in the face of time itself.
Croatia’s Samobor Castle was traded among Central European elites for centuries, before it was sold to the city of Samobor for about $200 in 1902. The moat, entryway, and walls are all that remains. Today a decayed, ivy-covered ruin, Menlo Castle was a stately home in 16th-century Ireland. Little remains of Scotland’s Dunnottar Castle, built on a promontory overlooking the North Sea. It was once occupied by the Picts, then the Vikings, and finally the Scots, and even sheltered Scotland’s crown jewels during the English Civil War. Built at the end of the 12th century by Richard I of England, Château Gaillard was destroyed 400 years later by Henry IV of France. In its glory days, even “château” was an understatement. A fire in 1780 tore through Slovakia’s Spiš Castle, leaving it a semblance of its former self. But during the Renaissance, it was one of the largest castles in Central Europe. Today, a distinctive 115-foot-tall tower remains standing over the ruins of Poland’s Olsztyn Castle. Once the property of King Władysłow II Jagiełło of Poland, the castle fell apart following 17th-century wars with the Swedes. Poenari Fortress has been a ruin for hundreds of years. Before that, it was home to Vlad the Impaler.
America's Top 10 Medieval Castle Locations
Historically, castles were built by European kings and the nobility in medieval times to keep intruders at bay with their turrets and watchtowers, draw bridges, and thick walls. Another reason for construction was to remind the common folk who was in charge! If you think you have to go to Europe to see castles, think again, America has a remarkable selection of castles that welcome visitors. Although America’s castles don’t date to the middle ages and, are not nearly as old as those found in Europe, they are amazing to visit as a testament to the American interpretation of medieval and gothic architecture.
American castles, often built in the mid.19th and early 20th centuries by titans of industry were inspired by their European counterparts. Many castles are elegantly appointed with period furnishings, beautiful art collections, breathtaking views, and magnificent gardens. Tours of Distinction put together a top ten list of the most fabulous medieval castle experiences in America that will bring you back in time to the middle ages or make you feel as though you are in a Gilded Age fairytale.
Boldt Castle - New York
Boldt Castle is nestled in the unspoiled beauty of St. Lawrence River’s 1000 Islands and is inspired by castles on the Rhine. In 1900, millionaire hotel magnate George C. Bolt, proprietor of the world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York decided to commission a full-size castle in Alexandria Bay on Heart Island that would rival any castle in the Rhineland. He hired 300 workers to construct this edifice. The castle rose to six stories and has 120 rooms in addition to tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, children’s playhouse, a basement bowling alley, and an indoor swimming pool. Bolt Castle also has medieval flourishes like a drawbridge and dovecote. The “Alster Tower”, named after fortifications on the Alster River in Germany, was conceived as a play area. This was Bolt’s dream castle and not a single expense was spared or detail overlooked. Before the castle was completed, tragedy struck in 1904 with the death of his wife, Louise. All construction came to an abrupt halt and Bolt Castle was abandoned and never completed. In 1977 it was acquired by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and slowly brought back to life.
Singer Castle. It was rumored Michael Jackson was once in talks to purchase!
Singer Castle - New York
Once called “The Towers” Singer Castle was constructed on Dark Island between 1902-1904 by Frederick Gilbert Bourne, President of the Singer Manufacturing Company. Mr. Bourne wanted to surprise his wife, Emma, and their children with an island hunting retreat. The architect of the castle, Ernest Flagg designed the castle after Sir Walter Scott’s novel Woodstock Castle. Bourne purchased Dark Island in 1902 and hired Italian masons to construct his castle out of local granite. The castle has four floors, 28 rooms, a four-story tower, and an elegant boathouse. The design of Singer Castle also includes tunnels, dungeons, turrets, secret passages, and many other fanciful architectural details. The decor of Singer Castle has the feel of a medieval hunting lodge that is replete with moose, deer, elk, and caribou heads. Tours of the castle include the great hall, library, dining and breakfast rooms, the drawing-room, 4th-floor dormitory, wicker bedroom, loggia, and terrace.
Hammond Castle on the shores of Gloucester, MA.
Hammond Castle - Massachusetts
Hammond Castle is a medieval-styled castle that overlooks the harbor of Gloucester, Massachusetts. It was constructed from 1926-1929 by John Hayes Hammond, Jr., an eccentric American inventor that was a protege of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. The exterior of the castle is built of Cape Ann granite that was mined from nearby hills. Much of the interior is composed of actual pieces of European castles, churches, and buildings that Hammond purchased on his travels. Hammond built this castle to house pieces he collected including a treasure trove of Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance artifacts. Drawbridges, towers, a great hall entered through the doors of a church, library, laboratory, and inner and outer courtyard add to the medieval ambiance of this castle. Hammond Castle has many whimsical special effects including a swimming pool that looked two feet deep, a rain-making system with special pipes to simulate rain, and twinkling stars over the garden. Current with the trends of the time, Hammond was fascinated with the occult and entertained many well-known psychics. He even conducted experiments in an attempt to determine if ESP used electromagnetic frequencies as a carrier wave.
The original furnishings are still present in Lyndhurst Castle.
Lyndhurst Castle - New York
Lyndhurst designed by Ferdinand Mangold was built in the Gothic Revival style. It is nestled on 67 park-like acres overlooking the Hudson River. One of the most prominent architects of the time, Alexander Jackson-Davis was commissioned in 1838 by New York City Mayor, William Paulding to build the estate as his retreat from the city. The house featured fanciful turrets, an asymmetrical outline, and other unusual elements that reflected the new Romanticism trend in which Gothic architecture played an important part. In 1864, businessman George Merritt bought the estate and renamed it Lyndhurst after the Linden trees that were planted on the estate. Merritt hired Davis to double the size of the castle adding a four-story tower, a new porte-cochere, dining room, two bedrooms, and servant quarters. In 1880, railroad tycoon Jay Gould bought the estate and used it as a place of retreat from the pressures of his business life. In 1938 the house was acquired by Anna, Dutchess of Talleyrand-Perigord who bequeathed the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Today visitors touring the house will find many priceless original furnishings including more than 50 pieces designed by the architect, along with stained glass, some by Tiffany, vaulted ceilings, and marble floors. The rooms of the house reflect the lives of the major families that lived here that give visitors a glimpse of what life was like in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The grounds are an excellent example of 19th-century landscape design with sweeping lawns that are accented with shrubs and specimen trees.
From Luxembourg to Illinois. Europe in America at Bettendorf.
Bettendorf Castle - Illinois
Once upon a time, there was a little boy from Luxembourg who played along the Rhine River and explored the historic castle in his hometown, Vianden. In 1931, this little boy, Theodore Bettendorf, immigrated to the United States and began to build his castle in Fox River Grove. Bettendorf’s Castle was inspired by Castle Vianden in Luxembourg, one of the largest fortified castles west of the Rhine River built between the 10th and 14th centuries. Bettendorf worked on his castle for the next 36 years. Sitting high on a bluff this Gothic-style castle is covered with local stone and has crenelated battlements with walkways, a guard tower, and a gatehouse with a functioning drawbridge. A water-filled moat, wishing well, dungeon, courtyard, and overlook on the bluff’s edge are other highlights. Outdoor tours are offered of this remarkable castle, which is a work of love for his homeland by one man.
An Italian vineyard in the middle of the Napa Valley. Castello di Amorosa is a sight unto itself.
Castello di Amorosa - California
Castello di Amorosa is a castle and a winery giving lovers of architecture, history, and wine a double treat. Located in Napa Valley, this 13th century authentically styled Tuscan castle winery was the vision of vineyard owner Dario Sattui. Construction began in 1994 and took 15 years to complete using the same methods and building materials that would have been used 700 years ago. More than 8,000 tons of hand-chiseled stones and one million antique bricks imported from Europe were used in the construction process. This 107 room castle is considered an architectural gem with all the elements of an authentic medieval castle replete with a moat, drawbridge, towers, ramparts, courtyards, loggias, stables, a chapel, armory, and even a torture chamber! Inside, visitors find antique furnishings imported from Europe and some of the most beautiful vaulted wine cellars in the world.
A fortress castle in Connecticut? The Gillette Castle as all the characteristics of a great Sherlock Holmes story.
Gillette Castle - Connecticut
Built high on one of the hills known as the Sevens Sisters and overlooking the Connecticut River Gillette Castle resembles a medieval fortress. This quirky stone castle built of local chalk and grey fieldstone was designed and constructed between 1914 and 1919, by William Gillette, an actor made famous by playing Sherlock Holmes. Gillette not only portrayed Holmes more than 1,300 times he helped to develop the character as we know it today. This 24 room castle has 47 different steampunk like doorknobs, puzzle locks, secret doors, and a secret room. Gillette had hidden mirrors installed that allowed him to spy on his guests that included Albert Einstein and Calvin Coolidge. Another quirk was the small gauge railroad, now installed at
Lake Compounce in Bristol that ran around the estate. This is one castle that Sherlock Holmes would have found intriguing!
Mercer and his storybook castle - Fonthill.
Fonthill Castle - Pennsylvania
Fonthill Castle was built between the years of 1908 and 1912 by Henry Chapman Mercer, an expert in prehistoric archeology, an artisan and maker of unusual tile, and writer of Gothic tales. Mercer built this whimsical castle without any plans and the entire structure is reinforced with concrete, a new innovation in its’ day. This storybook stone castle was modeled after a 13th century Gothic Rhine castle although the end result mixes several architectural styles. Fonthill has many Gothic doorways, 22 stairways in unexpected places, several hallways that are dead ends, and forty-four different rooms, with one room having ten entrances! The interior walls and floors are lavishly decorated in Mercer’s colorful mosaic handcrafted tiles. Fonthill has 18 fireplaces and over 200 windows, each is a different size and shape and studded with Mercer’s colorful mosaic tiles. Mercer built this house to display his hand made Moravian tile and prints. A special highlight is that most of the furniture and decorative furnishings, as well as many personal effects, remain where they were placed by Mercer. A visit to this castle offers a glimpse into the creative genius of Henry Mercer.
/>The Smithsonian Castle began as a donation. Who would have thought?
Smithsonian Castle - Washington D.C.
The Smithsonian was established from a donation of $500,000 from French-born, British raised James Smithsonian, a man that never stepped foot in Washington DC! His will stipulated that if he were to die without heirs, that the money should go to the United States to found an establishment under his name, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The Smithsonian Institute was officially created by Congress in 1846, ad architect James Renwick, Jr. was commissioned to build what we now call the Castle. This edifice is considered to be an excellent example of the medieval revival style of architecture known as Romanesque. It features nine towers, some have conical roofs, arched doorways and windows, square towers, and an asymmetrical facade made of red sandstone from Seneca Creek, Maryland. Over the years several reconstructions have taken place. Today amid Victorian arches and exquisite woodwork the Castle houses the Smithsonian Information Center. Here visitors find interactive 3-D maps pinpointing the 16 properties of the Smithsonian, and the National Zoo making planning easy before setting out to explore.
The Cloisters. A castle owned by art.
The Cloisters - New York
Owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, designed in the style of the Romanesque and Gothic periods is a journey back through the centuries. Overlooking the Hudson River, this property was designed to evoke a sense of medieval European monastic life. It is one of the best places in the United States to view medieval art. This stunning complex contains medieval gardens, a series of chapels, and themed galleries including Romanesque, Unicorn, Spanish, and Gothic rooms. Large collections of medieval art are shown in authentic architectural settings of French monasteries and abbeys. The entire complex is centered around four cloisters, the Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert, Bonnefont-en-Comminges, and Trie that were purchased and dismantled in Europe and put back together in New York in 1938. Several not to be missed masterpieces include the Gothic Chapel with 13th and 14th tomb effigies, the Langon Chapel with a variety of medieval art from various countries, and the Unicorn Tapestry collection thought to have been created between 1495 and 1505 for French nobility.
One of the prettiest buildings you’ll ever see, Japan’s Himeji Castle is often referred to as the “White Heron Castle” for its resemblance to a flying bird. It has 6 stories, 83 rooms and a serene inner moat, and has the auspicious claim of being Japan’s premier and most popular castle. It’s currently undergoing extensive renovation, due to finish in spring 2015.
Thirteen stories, white walls measuring over 3 metres wide, more than 1000 rooms and countless shrines and statues combine to produce the massive, unconquerable Potala Palace in eastern Tibet. The Dalai Lama lived here until the 1959 Tibetan uprising, and it’s now a well-visited museum.
Windsor Castle - A Thousand Years of a Royal Palace
In May 2016, The Royal Collection Trust commissioned me to produce a series of high-detail visual reconstructions of Windsor Castle for their new publication "Windsor Castle - A Thousand Years of a Royal Palace". My reconstructions help to bring the first few hundred years of the castle's history to life from the time it was founded during the reign of William the Conqueror, to the Tudor period and the reign of Henry VIII. These illustrations are guided and inspired by the meticulous historical research of Dr. Steven Brindle who is the principal author and editor of this magnificent book.
The book, launched on 24th April 2018, features three exterior and four interior full-colour reconstructions. Taking almost nine months to accomplish, these are among the most detailed illustrations I have ever produced and were a tremendous joy to work on. The book can be purchased from most major book stores and via the Royal Collection Shop.
Menlo Castle in western Ireland was built in the 16th century as an estate for the Blake family of English nobles. Though it wasn’t a military fortress, Menlo was equipped with a cannon for defense—just in case. Tragically, a fire destroyed the historic home in 1910, claiming the life of Eleanor, daughter of Sir Valentine Blake.
Today, the castle’s ruins, located off a trail near the National University of Ireland in Galway, are covered in ivy that makes them easy to miss at first glance. Interested parties can view the estate’s front gates in 3-D via Sketchfab.
Reconstructions of Medieval Castles & Fortifications - History
Joseph Mallord William Turner was one of Britain's greatest artists. Throughout his life (1775 to 1851) he had a particular interest in painting and drawing the most dramatic of the castles of England and Wales . see examples of his castle drawings and paintings
Stay in a Castle or Fort
There are many castles, forts and towers that have been restored and converted into hotels or holiday accommodation. For a selection . use this link
Paul Davis has provided aerial photos of a number of sites - 200 in total. These give amazing views of the castles and any earthworks which include Dover Castle, Christchurch Castle and Clare Castle. For a full list of all the aerial photographs on the site use this link. Click on the images to enlarge them and again to close them.
There is information on 875 English and Welsh castles, fortified manor houses, Bishop's Palaces and Pele towers constructed over the last twenty centuries. These range from the most impressive and powerful of structures like Dover Castle to worn earthworks that are all that are now left of sites such as Elmley Castle. There is also information on 300 of the mainly 18th and 19th century coastal forts and gun batteries that can still be seen, mainly around the south coasts of England and Wales.
The first stone fortifications were constructed by the Romans in the 1st Century, and they were so well built as at Portchester that many are still standing. The next wave of castle building started in all the major towns and cities after the Norman invasion and between 1066 and 1200 well over two and a half thousand castles were erected. Most were simple earth and timber structures and have now either vanished or exist only as a motte, a grassy mound, or earthworks . see more fortification & armament history
Over 1000 of the sites have been photographed so far with the help of others with a similar interest in castles - thank you all. If you have any photos of any castles, forts or even just earthworks that are not yet photographed then please do email me.
Google search bar has been added (March 2020).
The castles and fortifications of the Channel Islands and Isle of Man have been added (September 2019).
The Welsh maps of Powys, Dyfed, Glamorgan and Gwent have been redrawn and enlarged (March 2019).
The maps of English counties have been updated and enlarged and now show English Heritage properties (February 2019).
The majority of the photographs have been enlarged to 960 x 720 pixels. Click on an image to see the full sized picture (December 2018).