In central Oxford in Oxfordshire is a partly ruined Norman Medieval castle called… Oxford Castle! (There’s a surprise!) Originally the castle was a moated, wooden motte and bailey castle, built by the Norman baron, Robert D’Oyly the elder, from 1071 to 1073.
But why did he build it? Well, as with most castles, it was not just for a place to live, it was also a bit of a show of power. Robert had arrived in England with the well-known William the Conquer in the Norman conquest of 1066, and after Oxford had been stormed, Robert had been ordered by William to build a castle to dominate the town. It worked well for a while, until the late 12th or early 13th century, when it was replaced with stone, making it a whole lot more secure than before.
It had military use in the 12th and 13th centuries and then in the 14th century was used for county administration and as a prison.
Then, horror of horrors, the English Civil war broke out, and much of the castle was destroyed, roughly rebuilt, and the most secure buildings were again used in the 18th century for HM Prison Oxford.
But back to Robert D’Oyly! He actually built the Castle in a very clever position – to the west side of the town, so that he had the natural protection of a stream off the river Thames on the far side of the castle.
Originally, the motte and bailey castle was 60 feet high, and 40 feet wide, constructed from layers of gravel and strengthened with clay facing. As already said, this and the wooden keep was later replaced with stone.
Join me next time as we keep learning!