Castles with Marc Morris - A Dover Study Day
What is a castle? In this Study Day, Dr Marc Morris, one of Britain’s leading medieval historians, explains everything you need to know in a fascinating day at Dover Castle.
About Dr Marc Morris
Dr Marc Morris is a historian who specialises in the Middle Ages. He studied and taught at the universities of London and Oxford and is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England. His other books include King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta, The Norman Conquest, and A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain.
In 2003 Marc presented the highly acclaimed TV series Castle for Channel 4 and wrote its accompanying book. He has also featured in many other history programmes on radio and television and contributes regularly to history magazines and podcasts.
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Study Day -
What is a castle? How do castles differ from earlier and later forms of fortification? Castles originate in northern France around the turn of the first millennium AD. The introduction of castles to England was during the Norman Conquest, and the castle-building campaigns of William the Conqueror. Almost all these early castles are built from earth and timber, but a tiny handful — Tower of London, Chepstow, Colchester, Richmond — are built in stone.
11am Break for tea and coffee
11.20am–12pm Tour of Dover Castle’s Great Tower
Built by Henry II from 1180 as a monumental statement of royal power, and lavishly refitted by English Heritage in 2008, Dover’s great tower is one of the most majestic medieval buildings in Britain. Now chiefly remembered for his role in the death of Archbishop Thomas Becket, Henry II was the greatest ruler in Europe, and the grandeur of this building reflects that status. The great tower boasts an exquisitely well-preserved chapel for the king’s own use, and the deepest castle well-shaft in Britain.
12pm–12.45pm free time to further explore the Great Tower.
1.30pm–2.30pm Tour of Dover’s exterior.
A walking tour of the architectural highlights of the site. Beginning at the Roman lighthouse (first century AD, one of the oldest standing buildings in Britain), moving on to the Anglo-Saxon church (c. 1000 AD) and passing through Constable’s Gate (1220s). This leads to a discussion of the siege of Dover at the end of the reign of King John in 1216.
2.30pm–3pm Break for tea and coffee
3pm–4pm Castles of the Later Middle Ages
The period between Dover’s construction in the 1180s and the siege of 1216 was a major turning point in the history of castle design. Partly because they were seen as vulnerable to new weapons of attack, great towers fell out of favour in the thirteenth century. Curtain-wall castles, like the ones built by Edward I in Wales, became the new norm. In the later Middle Ages, new castles were less viable as fortifications, but continued to be built because of their symbolic role. As we discover, however, symbolism was present in castle design from the very first, as a final examination of Dover will show.