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'Bodiam Castle shows today more than any document, the way in which castle buildings in England had developed by the 14th century. Explain whether this statement is accurate using both the physical evidence and the documentary sources'

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Introduction

'Bodiam Castle shows today more than any document, the way in which castle buildings in England had developed by the 14th century. Explain whether this statement is accurate using both the physical evidence and the documentary sources': Bodiam Castle is situated beside the River Rother in East Sussex. Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a Sussex knight, founded it in the late 14th century. It was originally designed as a coastal defence, as invasion from France was a threat at this time. A manor house was actually fortified on the same site as Bodiam castle, symbolising a transition from a traditional medieval castle to a comfortable manor home, which was strengthened in the event of attack in this case. The site on which Bodiam Castle was built has several geographical advantages, as can be seen by exploring the castle and its surroundings. Firstly, it has very clear, long-distance views for miles around once a person is situated at the top of one of its towers, which is obviously a defensive advantage. As there is a river so close by, Bodiam Castle was provided with a constant supply of freshwater, and its own moat, which surrounds it. The moat would have been useful in hampering enemy invasion, and making the castle walls impossible to scale. On viewing what is today the River Rother, however, there is evidence that is has changed somewhat over many hundreds of years. As the banks are today are large and very steep, this suggests that the river may once have been a lot wider, even up to twenty metres across. The pillbox very close to the castle shows that the site was good for defence even up to the time of the Second World War. The castle itself was built strategically near to the coast. It is not apparent why just by visiting, but when Bodiam castle was built, there was a serious threat of invasion from neighbouring France. ...read more.

Middle

However, from this source alone, we can only assume the purpose of the features listed. It does not mention what they were used for, or why the Normans introduced castles in the first place (did they specifically need defence?) It also does not tell us if or how castles developed from the Motte and Bailey. The Second source is a scene of the Bayeux Tapestry, and includes writing and an illustration. It gives information about why William the Conqueror thought it was important to build castles with fortifications for defence. It shows that castles were a primary way of defending the Normans from their 'Anglo-Saxon enemies', as it is put here. The illustration shows clearly that William the Conqueror's time was indeed troublesome, and war, or battles were inevitable. It is valuable as firstly, it has two types of information, and also it tells us a lot about why castles were useful. It also suggests why castles were built in England (i.e. because of the Norman Conquest). The source does not mention whether more castles were built after William the Conqueror's time, or whether any castles existed for reasons other than defence. The Third source comes from The Tower of London Information Pack. It informs us about castle built in the 12th century. The descriptions it gives tell us what materials were used to build castles of this time, and some fortifications they had. Although short, the source is valuable as it mentions some of the difference between castles of the same type, i.e. some had a shell keep instead of a 'great tower'. However, it lacks information about who built such castles, and why 'more and more' were built of stone. It does not mention the functions of the features listed. The Fourth source is a map of castles built in part of the British Isles between 1066 and 1071. It shows that there were many castles built in this period of time (as can be seen from the key) ...read more.

Conclusion

The sources are not primary evidence; they could give the experience of a view from one of Bodiam Castle's towers or the exploration of the castle. From written sources, historians could not observe the site on which Bodiam Castle was built, or speculate on the remains of its defensive features. The document sources are restrictive in that they can only give a certain amount of information. A visit to Bodiam Castle can show us the size of it, how strong it is, how well equipped for its purposes it was, and this can give real sense of how castles had developed to get to this stage in the late 1300s. In conclusion to my analysis of castle development, I can evaluate that each type of source, both physical (Bodiam Castle) and written (documentary sources) are equally valuable. Both have elements that the other cannot provide, and put together they are very useful to a historian studying the development of castles, as they show primary evidence and explanations of how Bodiam Castle, among others came to be built and fortified. From all the evidence, we are provided with a detailed, thorough chronology of castle development until the 14th century, and we even know why castles were not used as much after this time. Neither type of evidence on its own is sufficient to provide a historian with a complete history castle development. For example, Bodiam Castle alone can only show a castle from a particular time period; it cannot show what came before (e.g. Motte and Bailey castles), which the written sources can. Obviously, more document sources could give information in more detail, but what we do have is detailed, concise and useful. Bodiam castle alone is enough physical evidence of a castle that has developed over many years since castles were first built; it has employed all the features that changed for the better, such as rounded towers, and is a good example of a well-defended structure from the 14th century. Together with the written information, a historian is presented with the full picture of castle development in England. ...read more.

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