ENGLAND: Shrewsbury Castle, originally a NOrman build, it's now located directly over the town's train station. Mediadrumimages/PublicDomain

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.

ENGLAND: Lulworth Castle is an early 17th-century mock castle built to entertain aristocracy. Mediadrumimages/PublicDomain

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.

ENGLAND: Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. The Queen frequently resides here. Mediadrumimages/PublicDomain

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?

ENGLAND: Nottingham Castle, 1,00 years of history towering over the city. currently closed for a huge £26million restoration project. Mediadrumimages/PublicDomain

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.

ENGLAND: Arundel Castle in West Sussex which dates back nearly 1,000 years. Mediadrumimages/PublicDomain

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.

ENGLAND: Warwick Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068, this castle is now one of the most popular strongholds in the country. Mediadrumimages/PublicDomain

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.

ENGLAND: Newark Castle and Gardens are lovely, formal gardens bordered by the remaining walls of Newark Castle which was partly destroyed in 1646 at the end of the English Civil War. The Castle has stood proudly on the banks of the River Trent for nearly 900 years. Mediadrumimages/PublicDomain

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.