King of the Castle
Devizes "castle" was a rude affair - no more than an earthen mound with a couple of ditches ringed round it.
This was a "motte and bailey" - a vital component of the Frenchmen's success in subduing the English. They sprouted up all over the occupied territory.
As William of Normandy parcelled out England to his henchmen, they set about securing their positions against the sullen Saxons. At strategic points in their territory, the new Lords established garrisons and castles.
Usually using forced local labour, a mound of earth was raised, dug out of a circular ditch. If there was an existing hillock, it would be incorporated into the "motte". Some mottes rose as high as eighty feet, but most were no more than 30 feet high. The motte was then crowned with a wooden tower.
Around the motte was a broader enclosure - a few acres in extent. It was usually measured to ensure that all parts of it was within bow-shot of the motte's tower. This "bailey" was defined by a further ditch - its inner edge raised into a rampart, topped with a wooden pallisade.
It doesn't sound like much of a military installation, but the motte and bailey was as decisive in the eleventh century as the tank has been in the twentieth.
It worked like this:-