Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is one of England’s largest, containing thirteen acres within its walls. It has enjoyed favor as a royal residence from Norman times to the present and is the only royal castle to have made the transition to palace. Most monarchs have contributed in some way to its splendor and every century except the eighteenth has left its mark on the fabric. The result is a magnificent but extremely mutilated stronghold. The castle owes its position to William the Conqueror. He chose the elevated site on a chalk cliff above the Thames in 1067 and his earthworks have since dictated the layout of the castle. Although raised on the grand scale, Windsor is a typical motte and bailey fortress, …

Wallingford Castle

The historic town of Wallingford lies within an earth rampart first thrown up in the reign of Alfred the Great or Edward the Elder, as a precaution against Danish attack. Wallingford was once believed to be a Roman town because the rampart encloses a rectangular area and the streets follow a grid pattern. The rampart can still be followed on the three landward sides but there is no evidence of any man-made defenses facing the river. In the Norman period the rampart was heightened, but the town then fell into economic decline so the timber stockades that lined the summit were never replaced in stone. The northeast quarter of the town enclosure became the site of Wallingford Castle. William the …

Tower of London

The Tower of London and Dover Castle were the strongest castles of medieval England. There are those who would put Dover first and London second, but this is a matter of preference. Both castle retain their majesty in spite of extensive later mutilation. It must be admitted that Dover makes the most of its glorious position; whereas the Tower derives no advantages from its site. Squatting on the north bank of the Thames, and now overshadowed by the glass skyscrapers of the City, the grandeur of the complex is not immediately apparent. Nevertheless, its sheer size-eighteen acres-cannot fail to impress and the majestic keep and concentric curtains are visible from all directions. The prime role of the Tower was to …

Palace of Westminster

The Houses of Parliament occupy the site of a royal palace which flourished from the time of Edward the Confessor until Henry VIII moved to Whitehall and St. James’s. Although the Tower of London could accommodate the royal entourage, most kings found Westminster more congenial than the volatile city of London. There was convenient transport between the two by barge along the Thames. Parliament’s relationship with the palace is an old one, since the House of Lords regularly met in the private royal apartments from the fourteenth century and the House of Commons used the collegiate chapel. Several royal palaces were unfortified even in Norman times and Westminster was one of them. The precinct wall that surrounded the palace never …