Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Exploring The Angel's Assassin: Norman Keeps

Hedingham Castle
Image courtesy of
The Angel's Assassin takes placed in 1088, a generation after the Norman Invasion of England. At this point in time Norman keeps were only just coming into being. London and Colchester were the first to have keeps constructed straight after the invasion and by 1100 about 10 to 15 Norman keeps were in existence - they took approximately 10 years to build. They can be recognised by their square design and are deliberately an intimidating sight. Though the square keeps fell out of fashion, many castles retained them and simply built around or added to them.

courtesy of
The layout inside varied, though not by huge degrees. They usually consisted of three  or four stories and had an outer staircase. The fictional keep of Alderweald was four stories high, with the kitchens and dungeons being in the basement, the Great Hall being on the first floor along with the garderobes (toilets) and the small chapel. The next storey was simply a minstrels gallery running along the top of the hall. The hall ceiling would have been very high indeed. In the centre of the hall would have been a huge open fire pit and members of the household would sleep on pallets on the floor at night.

The upper storey was the solar, or the bedroom. It would span most of the top of the building and would be used for sleeping and pleasure. There would be a least one spiral staircase leading up through all stories in one of the square towers. Defenders would be able to access the roof to throw down rocks and fire arrows.

Below is an image of the Great Hall in Hedingham Castle, built in 1140 in Essex. It is the best preserved Norman Keep in England.

I hope you enjoyed my little insight into Norman keeps. Though not the grandest, or most complex of castles, these keeps always fill me with the most awe. And that was precisely what they were intended to do - intimidate the indigenous population. If you get the chance, Hedingham and Rochester are well worth a visit for a glimpse into the life of  a Norman lord.


  1. I LOVE castles. I think this is so cool. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Being Welsh i love my castles, so its always nice to see a different 1. This is definitely 1 that id like to explore

    1. Welsh castles are beautiful. I will definitely be writing a post on some of those soon!