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8-08-2015, 15:08


When William the Conqueror and his Norman warriors swept though England after defeating Harold and his Anglo-Saxon army at Hastings, October 14, 1066, no castles impeded their progress, according to the Anglo-Norman monk Ordericus Vitalis. The Normans came not to plunder but to conquer England. William as king parceled out the Anglo- Saxon lands to his major supporters, instituting in England a political and economic system known today as feudalism. William’s progress through the Anglo-Saxon kingdom was swift and dramatic. He landed at Pevensey, where he used the surviving walls of an ancient Roman fortress to shelter his troops. Then he seized Hastings and built a castle—a hastily erected earthwork topped with timber palisades— to protect his men and ships. William might have brought prefabricated timber buildings with him from Normandy, because the Normans were known to have used such forts; however, no clear evidence exists for such buildings during the first years of the conquest. After defeating the Anglo- Saxons at Hastings, William immediately moved on to Dover. Dover Castle, then as now, commanded the waterway between England and the continent of Europe. In Dover, William would have found the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, a Roman camp and lighthouse, and an Anglo-Saxon church. William ordered the site to be reinforced with ditches and palisades. Turning inland, William arrived at Canterbury, where he rested his troops, who were by then tired and sick. Then he marched on London. In London he built his castle, an earthwork beside the southeast corner of the Roman city wall. This fortification would become the Tower of London. William had left his wife Matilda in charge of Normandy (Document 44), so he made a quick trip home to make sure all was well, but he returned to England at once to put down a rebellion by the still-powerful Anglo-Saxon earls in the west and north. Suddenly the Danes invaded and burned the castle at York. William drove them out and not only rebuilt York’s castle but also added a second. Within six years, between 1066 and 1072, William took control of the country from the English Channel to the border with Scotland and from the fens of East Anglia to the Welsh mountains.