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The Late Medieval Castle | John Goodall

The Late Medieval Castle

It is conventional to think of the tradition of English castle building as passing into decline during the 14th century. In fact, the castle continued to be a defining symbol of English noble identity well into the 17th century.

Crucial to understanding the late medieval tradition of castle building is the rebuilding of Windsor by Edward III over the 1350s and 1360s. The new castle was amongst the first works in a new style of architecture developed by royal masons termed the Perpendicular. It was to shape English architecture for the next three centuries.

The Perpendicular aesthetic favoured regular planning, consistent detailing, boxy proportions and parapets busy with ornament. Changing fashions made it desirable to transform towers and turrets into delicate structures of glass and battlements into fantastical ornament. Nevertheless, the intention of nearly all patrons of fine architecture was to create residences for themselves in which the castle and its forms were both implicit and immediately recognisable.

The Civil Wars of the 1640s inflicted one of the most radical transformations on the architectural landscape in English history. Numerous castles and houses were damaged or deliberately destroyed. The history of the castle in England did not end at the Civil Wars; indeed it is not over today. Nevertheless, the modern history of the castle is in many important respects totally different from that of its medieval predecessor.