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How many Castles did William the Conqueror build?

William the Conqueror as seen in the Bayeux Tapestry.
William the Conqueror as seen in the Bayeux Tapestry. William loved building castles! Images courtesy Myrabella.

So, come on then, tell me, how many castles did William the Conqueror build?

Erm, well, none. He was a King… he wouldn’t build any castles himself. He’d be too busy hunting wild boar, collecting taxes, and killing people to have time to build a castle.


Boo! You know what I mean.

Not really.


Fine. Be like that… How many castles did William order to be built?

It’s hard to know exactly, but historians reckon anywhere from between 500 to 1000 castles.


Whoa! That’s a whole lot of castle building. Weren’t there some old castles he could have had instead of building new ones?

Funnily enough, no. In the year 1066, When William the Conqueror and his Normans defeated Harold Godwinson and the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Hastings, there were no castles at all in England (okay, well maybe one, built by Edward the Confessor’s French mates, but does one teeny weeny castle count?) Neither the Anglo-Saxons nor the Vikings were castle fans. Sure, they built wooden forts and stuck them on top of hills but the idea of a huge castle with curtain walls, a keep, and a gatehouse with bonus portcullis, would have been totally alien to the people of England before the Norman invasion.

Why did the Normans build all these castles?

Quite simply, power. In the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings, the English were none too pleased with their new Norman rulers. The English were revolting. And, I don’t mean in a ‘picking their bogeys and eating them’ kind of way. I mean in a ‘raising a small army and trying to kill some Normans’ kind of way. So William had no choice than to build loads of castles all over England; both to house his armies and also to show off his strength and might to all who could glimpse his castle’s formidable battlements.

Did it work?

Yep, the English were jolly good at killing people but they had no answer to these mighty stone fortifications. Castles were the Norman's ultimate weapon, they were like a laser gun or something, but with more stables. Within a few years, William the Conqueror had crushed every rebellion and began to carve up England to give bits of land to all his Lords. And do you know what each new lord needed? That’s right, another bloomin’ big castle. Before you could say "Cor, look at all those massive machicolations*", England was coated in castles and Norman rule was complete.

*Machicolations are special bits of the floor in castle battlements that hot sand or burning oil can be poured through onto would-be attackers.

What are the most famous Castles that William the Conqueror had constructed?

I’m glad you asked, check out the top five in all their glory below!

Windsor Castle at Sunset
Windsor Castle was first built by the Normans. Mind you, a lot of other Kings and Queens have added stuff since. Image courtesy DAVID ILIFF.

The White Tower.
The White Tower, the oldest building in the Tower of London, was the result of William. Image courtesy of Elisa Rolle.

Birds-eye view of Pevensey Castle.
Pevensey Castle. The first castle the Normans built in England, shortly before defeating Anglo-Saxons. Image courtesy Lieven Smits.

Aerial view of Dover Castle.
Dover Castle. Built after William's victory lap, coming straight off his win at the Battle of Hastings. Image courtesy Chensiyuan.

Clifford's Tower in York.
William built to castles in York; Baile Hill and Clifford's Tower. But for our money, the latter remains the most impressive. Image Courtesy Chris Downer.


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