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Norman Keep
 
 
 

Norman Keep or The White Tower of the Tower of London is one of the most famous and easily recognized buildings in all the world. About 43 A.D. Romans founded the trading settlement of Londinium about 875 yards west of the present castle, where the River Walbrook enters the Thames. By the end of the first century A.D. the settlement had grown into a small city and had expanded eastward along the north bank of the Thames. The marshy area where the castle now stands was drained and a wharf area was constructed. Buildings were also constructed in the area, some of stone and others of timber and plaster. A wall to enclose the landward side of the city was begun in the second century A. D. The section of wall along the river was built in the second half of the third century. The southeastern corner of the city wall, over the old marshy area, had numerous oak piles driven into the soft ground to support the wall.

Norman Keep
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William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey, London on Christmas Day 1066. William and his forces had marched to London after building up fortifications at Dover in November. London was not defended probably because most of its army had been with Harold at Hastings. None-the-less the citizens of London did not readily accept the new king and riots broke out around the city in protest of the coronation. To consolidate their position and to protect themselves from the "fierce population" of London, the Normans built three strongholds in the city. One of those was in the southeast corner of the old Roman city wall, much deteriorated by that time. A ditch, earthen ridge and wooden stockade were thrown up on the landward side to cut off that corner from the rest of the city. The Normans repaired the corner section of the old Roman wall. Unlike most Norman castles, no motte was built up in the center of the rather small bailey enclosed by the repaired old wall and the new stockade wall.

Construction on the White Tower began about 1077, under the direction of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. In 1097 the wooden palisade forming the north and west defenses was replaced by a stone wall, completing and expanding the size of the stone inner bailey. The Tower itself was not completed until the reign of William’s grandson, Henry I (1100-1135). Henry II, one of the greatest castle builders of all time, probably added a smaller forebuilding to the south face of the Tower (this forebuilding was demolished in 1674). The Tower is approximately 120 feet square. This is about the same size as the Keep at Dover Castle, which measures 130 feet x 110 feet.

The White Tower has some unusual features which make it quite different from a typical Norman Keep. First, only three of the four corner towers are square. The northeast tower is round. Second, the southeast corner of the Tower is modified by the presence of a fairly large chapel, whose curved east end protrudes some twenty-three feet beyond the side of the building. Third, the battlements atop the towers have for years been covered by conical roofs.

At some time, probably during the time of Henry II, an inner wall attached the southwest corner of the Tower to the south wall of the bailey, which ran along the Thames. That wall probably created a second, more secure inner bailey because an estuary of the Thames cut through the river wall just west of this secondary, inner wall.

The White Tower of the Tower of London is one of the most famous and easily recognized buildings in all the world. About 43 A.D. Romans founded the trading settlement of Londinium about 875 yards west of the present castle, where the River Walbrook enters the Thames. By the end of the first century A.D. the settlement had grown into a small city and had expanded eastward along the north bank of the Thames. The marshy area where the castle now stands was drained and a wharf area was constructed. Buildings were also constructed in the area, some of stone and others of timber and plaster. A wall to enclose the landward side of the city was begun in the second century A. D. The section of wall along the river was built in the second half of the third century. The southeastern corner of the city wall, over the old marshy area, had numerous oak piles driven into the soft ground to support the wall. William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey, London on Christmas Day 1066. William and his forces had marched to London after building up fortifications at Dover in November. London was not defended probably because most of its army had been with Harold at Hastings. None-the-less the citizens of London did not readily accept the new king and riots broke out around the city in protest of the coronation. To consolidate their position and to protect themselves from the "fierce population" of London, the Normans built three strongholds in the city. One of those was in the southeast corner of the old Roman city wall, much deteriorated by that time. A ditch, earthen ridge and wooden stockade were thrown up on the landward side to cut off that corner from the rest of the city. The Normans repaired the corner section of the old Roman wall. Unlike most Norman castles, no motte was built up in the center of the rather small bailey enclosed by the repaired old wall and the new stockade wall.

Construction on the White Tower began about 1077, under the direction of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. In 1097 the wooden palisade forming the north and west defenses was replaced by a stone wall, completing and expanding the size of the stone inner bailey. The Tower itself was not completed until the reign of William’s grandson, Henry I (1100-1135). Henry II, one of the greatest castle builders of all time, probably added a smaller forebuilding to the south face of the Tower (this forebuilding was demolished in 1674). The Tower is approximately 120 feet square. This is about the same size as the Keep at Dover Castle, which measures 130 feet x 110 feet.

The White Tower has some unusual features which make it quite different from a typical Norman Keep. First, only three of the four corner towers are square. The northeast tower is round. Second, the southeast corner of the Tower is modified by the presence of a fairly large chapel, whose curved east end protrudes some twenty-three feet beyond the side of the building. Third, the battlements atop the towers have for years been covered by conical roofs.

At some time, probably during the time of Henry II, an inner wall attached the southwest corner of the Tower to the south wall of the bailey, which ran along the Thames. That wall probably created a second, more secure inner bailey because an estuary of the Thames cut through the river wall just west of this secondary, inner wall.

Dover castle is one of the most picturesque castles in the world. This is, in part because it is located above one of the most famous sites in the world, the “White Cliffs of Dover.” The castle site was first occupied during the Iron Age (some time after 1000 B.C.). The early earthworks still define the basic contours upon which the castle sits. The Romans built a lighthouse on the site in the latter part of the first century B.C. The site was also built up as a fortified Anglo-Saxon borough (township) between the fifth and eleventh centuries A.D.

In November 1066, immediately after their great victory at Hastings, the Normans marched on Dover. This borough was one of their prime objectives during the early days of the conquest. Here they could establish an advance base to secure Duke William of Normandy’s succession to the English throne. The inhabitants surrendered without a fight, probably because their principle military leaders had been killed at Hastings with the flower of Anglo-Saxon England. William spent the next eight days building up the fortifications at Dover before moving on toward London. The result of his work there, probably a motte and bailey castle, was the first true castle at Dover. The Roman lighthouse and adjacent Saxon church were probably the center of this first castle. This castle was clearly one of the earliest castles built in England by the Normans, their first being the castle at their landing site in Pevensey.

The fortifications paid off quickly, clearly demonstrating the value of castles. Two of Duke William’s most trusted followers, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, William’s half-brother, and Hugh de Monfort, were placed in charge of the castle. In 1067, while these two leaders, along with many of their knights, were off fighting in other parts of England, Dover Castle was attacked by Anglo-Saxon forces from Kent. The small garrison that remained in the castle easily repelled the attack and inflicted great losses on the attackers.

Noman Keep & Block Set
Norman Keep & Block Set Combination

Little is known about the castle over the next one hundred years. Then in 1154 Henry II became King of England. He was to be one of the greatest castle builders in history. Between 1179 and 1188, he spent nearly £6000 to build a new castle at Dover. This was a huge expense for the time, an amount that exceeded that of any other English castle of the time. A great rectangular keep, the epitome of the Norman Keeps, was built about five hundred feet inland from the center of the old castle. It was a magnificent, majestic, and immensely strong building, and it is still, today, breathtaking in its beauty. The walls, towers, and gateways of the inner bailey were built at the same time. Barbicans, or outer works, on the north and south, as well as some of the north outer wall were also built at the time of Henry II. The architect who designed the great castle was Master Maurice the Mason.

 
     
     
 
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