How Many Years Did it Take to Build a Castle?

Today a Castle could be built in a matter of weeks with the new technology, but how long did it take our ancestors to build a stronghold?

Bamburgh Castle Northumberland

Building a castle in the Middle Ages took anywhere from two to ten years. The location, strategic importance, logistics, the budget allocated, and many other small aspects directly impacted the construction process’s length.

Back then, castle building was a time-consuming endeavour, yet worth every minute when it sheltered the locals during the invasion.

How long did it take to build a Wooden Motte-and-Bailey Castle?

Some of the wooden Motte-and-Bailey castles that Normans built took several months, however, others have been constructed in days like the Dover castle which took eight days to produce.

Display Board of Huntingdon Hill Motte and Bailey Castle
Photo © Duncan Grey (cc-by-sa/2.0)

William the Conqueror was one of the first kings that built them on a large scale in England.

After seeing their potential in Anjou, France, he used them in his invasion campaign in England.

The speed was everything then, but as soon as William finished the wooden structure, he did not wait long until he added a stone and clay to the motte and the curtain walls.

 According to the records, Normans managed to build over 700 castles; the exact figure is still unknown.

How long did it take to build a stone-keep Castle?

The Stone Keep of Bamburgh Castle
Picture by Neil Howard on flickr.com

When you look at or visit a stone-keep Castle, you may ponder in your mind that it’s taken a lot of time to build, which couldn’t be more true. 

In medieval times these castles cost a lot of money to construct and would take around five years to complete, but depending on how complex the castle design was, it wasn’t unusual for the castle to take longer than ten years to build.

Typically a stone-keep castle uses soil, stone, clay, and oak trees to build the castle. For this reason, a stone-keep castle required lots of skilled labourers to make it. Because of this, there needed to be lots of quarries available nearby. 

If there weren’t quarries nearby, more horses and wagons would be required to dispose of excess materials to the nearest quarry. 

Such skilled labourers a stone-keep castle would require would-be cutters, carpenters, layers, quarrymen, smiths, and more. 

We’re not just talking about a handful of workers either; you could expect to have around 3000 or more for one castle!

As you can imagine, the time it took to build a stone-keep castle, the workmen required, and the design was quite expensive. 

Stone-keep castles were not for everyone’s budget, and by the late 1100s, they became so costly, then the only people who would build or purchase them would be kings or noblemen.

In addition to them being expensive to craft, these castles were incredibly difficult to maintain. Most stone-keep Castles were large and were cold. 

Plus, many parts of the castle would leak and have rotting timber. Because of this, it was costly to upkeep and run.

Construction of a Medieval Castle

Have you ever visited a castle and wondered about the process involved in constructing it? Well, let us tell you that it is no doubt a bit different back then than it would be today. 

Before ancestors built any castles in medieval times, they had to choose the right location. 

Castle Building in process and price for building it
Image by Patrick Bastien from Pixabay

When it came to constructing a Medieval Castle, a suitable location needed to be selected before construction works began.

Most Medieval Castles were strategically built on top of an area with an incredible landscape or a communication link, like a ford, bridge, or pass. 

Following this, the person intending to build the castle would meet with a master mason. The master mason would draw the castle’s design before the construction process would occur. 

After this, the master mason would gather the workforce and construct the site. What happened here was a medieval castle would have a low stone wall or timber fortification to secure the area to build. 

Back then, this was an essential part of the construction to prevent the castle from being attacked.

The next step, landscaping-this implemented moving tons of soil for obtaining a perfect area where workers will lay the foundation.

Remember back then; there was no machinery to do this! Construction workers would then lay the foundations using ropes and pegs then dig trenches to prepare for the structure.

Workers would then fortify a castle, typically using oak or timber, but it would have a stone at the odd time.

 The fortification was an essential part of the castle construction process to later serve as a protective element of the inhabitants of the castle.

 The reason why a lot of castle makers used oak or timber is that it hardened with age, serving as an extra line of defence.

Another part of building a medieval castle was incorporating water and maintaining the sewage. To make sure the court had a suitable water supply, it would have wells in the kitchen or stables.

In addition to this, they also built latrines (bathrooms) to dispose of human waste. 

Finally, decoration would be involved, which would consist of painting and having lavish furniture to suit those living in them. In addition to this, gardens would be built and maintained by workers.

Types of Medieval Castle 

If you were alive in medieval times, you would typically come across three castles types. They are Motte-and-bailey, stone keep, and concentric castles.

 We understand you might just be looking at these names and not have the slightest clue about them. Therefore, to help you, we’re going to break down each type of medieval castle’s characteristics.

Motte-and-bailey Castle

Wooden motte and bailey castle
Picture by Hchc2009 on Wikipedia commons

This type of castle has wood and stone on top of a raised ground known as a motte. It would have a courtyard or a bailey with a ditch and palisade alongside this. 

It’s believed that these castles started in Europe and were a cheap type of castle to construct due to their raw materials. Because of this, it didn’t require many skilled workers to build a Motte and Bailey castle.

Stone-Keep-Castle

Stone Keep Rochester Castle
Picture by Nick flickr.com

 If you try to visualize a typical medieval castle, it will most likely be a stone-keep-castle that appears in your mind. It’s the most popular because these castles replaced motte-and-bailey castles later on in the medieval period as they had a stronger form of defence. A Stone-Keep Castle has additional fortifications like moats, walls, earthworks.

Concentric Castle

Example of Concentric castle
Picture by Barbara van Cleve on commons.wikimedia.org

Typically, a concentric castle will have two walls, a high inner wall, and one outside. These types of castles have one castled nestled inside of the other one. They’re constructed without a central keep and have a strong tower in the inner part.

How long would it take to Build a Castle today? 

If you’re thinking about building a castle today, then no need to worry it will not take as long as it used to, thanks to state of the art technology available to us. 

On average, it should take around two years to build a castle for small to medium-sized ones. If you plan to build a large one, you should estimate a minimum of five years.

However, do note many additional factors can influence the time it takes to build, such as the weather, the workers, planning permission, materials available, transport, land ownership, and much more. 

 Final Thoughts

Castles are everywhere; in particular, if you visit a castle, it’ll either be a motte-and-bailey, concentric, or a stone-keep. A stone-keep castle required many labourers to build in medieval times and became so expensive that only kings could afford them. 

Nowadays, castle construction isn’t as popular as it was back then. On average, it can take anything from 2-5 years to build a castle. That is without any variables influencing the construction process.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope the article was valuable to you.

You might consider checking our blog section for more exciting facts about these magnificent stone buildings and our castle finder if you plan to visit one.

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Mihail Ghelbur

I have been a castle lover since I remember myself, couldn't go past a castle without finding all I could about it. Now my goal is to visit every single one of them and share it with you! https://castletourist.com/about-mihail-ghelbur/

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