By Alex Jones
STUNNING antique photochroms show some of England’s exquisitely kept castles at the turn of the 20th Century.
Crenellations and crannies, nooks and naves, portcullises and privies.
You don’t have to go far in any direction to find a castle in this green and pleasant land.
Glorious colour images, dating from the 1890s, show a stately Windsor Castle in full splendour, an impressively red-tinged Shrewsbury Castle looming over the old town centre, and a vine-wrapped Warwick Castle with proud peacocks strutting about its lawn.
As bank holiday looms, castles and fortified houses across England will be awash with visitors dreaming of jousting competitions, lavish feasts, bloody murder, and dragons as they walk around the historic heaps.
But why does England, and the rest of the UK, have so many castles?
Many fortified sites started off as Bronze or Iron Age forts, built as defensive positions against warring tribes or invaders. These were often built on high ground with commanding views over the surrounding countryside, and consisted of a series of ramparts and ditches.
Years later, many of these fortresses either fell to, or fought against, the Romans.
The arrival of the Normans in 1066 led to a new age of castle construction. Initially the sites chosen were in the towns and centres of population or where the geography was suitably advantageous.
The first Norman castles were motte-and-bailey castles, a wooden or stone keep set on an artificial mound called a motte, surrounded by an enclosed courtyard or bailey. This in turn was surrounded by a protective ditch.
These fortifications were relatively easy and fast to construct and very popular for 200 years. The remains of these castles can be found throughout the countryside, mostly consisting of just the motte, bailey and ditches. Some stone built motte-and-bailey castles have survived intact, including Windsor Castle which incidentally was built with two baileys.
Stone castles became de rigueur as the millennium went on, with an abundance of strongholds constructed along the border with Wales as the feared Welsh warriors stood their ground against English invasion.
The Tudors, fearing invasion from foreign bodies, also built a wave of stone fortifications towards the middle of the century.
The English Civil War (1642-1651) saw many castles brought back into active service but as technology advanced and cannons came to the fore, castles became increasingly obsolete.
For the last three centuries or so, many castles were built as a show of wealth or to protect significant families and land owners.
Photochrom was invented in the 1880s and was most popular in the 1890s, when these images were taken. They were often used as postcards.
This is a method of making colourised photographs from black and white negatives via the direct photographic transfer of a negative onto lithographic printing plates.
Although true colour photography had been developed by then it was not commercially practical yet.