1st form trip to Berkhamsted Castle

Last term the History department took a group of 1st form pupils to Berkhamsted Castle as part of their work on the Norman Conquest. The castle is of a motte and bailey design, meaning that there was once a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised piece of earth (the motte), accompanied by an enclosed courtyard (the bailey). The site is particularly notable due to the fact that it is one of very few castles that had not one, but two moats that ran around the entire castle. The artist's impression below shows how the site may have looked when it was first constructed in the 11th century.Artist's impression of how the castle may have looked

Despite the threat of rain the 15 pupils explored all aspects of the historic site, answering questions on its structure and defences. Visitors are able to walk along the inner mound that surrounds the castle and this gave the students a great insight into how difficult it must have been for invaders trying to navigate these defences. After they had successfully avoided being blown off the grassy mound, the class were examining the size and strength of the bailey walls - yet another defensive structure of the castle.

View of the castle's motte


It was then a steep climb up to the top of the castle's motte, which would have housed the lord of the castle. From here you can really appreciate the well-considered design of the site and the students had many different opinions on which would be the best direction to attack from. They also had a number of interesting questions concerning life on the site, with "Would they have had swimming costumes?" being the biggest head-scratcher of the day.