Timber Castles

BookTimber Castles

Timber Castles

Exeter Studies in Medieval Europe


January 4th, 2004



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Runner-up for the book award in the 1994 British Archaeological Awards, Timber Castles is the standard work on the subject and hugely influential in its field. Its reissue makes available again this much sought after text with a new preface by Robert Higham. Some of the greatest medieval castles survive only as earthworks and in pictures and written accounts . . . because they were made of timber. Robert Higham and Philip Barker, who excavated in detail the timber castle at Hen Domen in Wales, have brought together evidence of all kinds to produce the first comprehensive survey of this neglected and little-known type of fortification.

This unusual, pioneering, badly needed book explores a topic many people have often wondered about but never tackled... Barker and Higham’s lucid, exceptionally well illustrated text resurrects a lost, but significant, part of medieval life. Architects, historians, archaeologists and students will draw upon their conclusions for decades. This is a truly important work, really an astonishing achievement, and it should be widely purchased.

This important new book also includes an excellent résumé of evidence relating to timber castle building from both documentary and pictorial sources.
Archaeological Journal, vol. 150

Scholarly and comprehensive.
History Today, vol. 44

The first comprehensive survey of this neglected and little-known type of fortification… it will certainly become the recognised authority on the subject of timbered castles.
British Digest Illustrated, Winter 1993

This seminal book is an important milestone in castle studies which brings to its proper prominence the timber construction in these feudal fortresses…a book that every serious student of castles should have.
Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies

Written with verve and skill.
The Antiquaries Journal, vol. 72

In this major work, destined to become a ‘classic’, and the foundation on which all future research in Britain and to no small extent Europe will be based, we get as close as is currently possible to understanding the form and function of timber castles.
Shropshire History and Archaeology, vol. 68

This is an excellent book; it should be on the bookshelves of all those interested in castles, and will be invaluable to those students studying medieval archaeology.
Minerva, vol. 4, March/April

This is an epoch-making study, as important in changing our preconceived ideas as Armitage’s work of 80 years earlier. It does two things. In the first place, it relates timber-built castles to the historical tradition of building in wood…Secondly, this book emphasizes the fact that fortifications in wood not only continued to complement those of stone, but also that, in some places outside the British Isles, such as North America, long outlasted them. ... The authors present a very full statement of the archaeological evidence. ... This book is strong and persuasive in its analysis of the archaeological evidence, which it draws from all of western as well as from parts of central and southern Europe. ... This is a wide-ranging book, with implications far broader than its title would suggest. ... The book is a remarkable achievement, not only for the breadth of its coverage but also for the insights which it offers into matters other than the actual use of timber in early castles. It is to be recommended as much to the social historians as to archaeologists.
Antiquity, vol. 67

If you haven’t got this book already, it has to be a must for anyone with any interest in its immensely intriguing subject.
Postern, no16, Spring 2006

Eagerly awaited…It is no exaggeration to say that this is a seminal work which will long remain an essential point of reference.
Fortress, vol. 16


Author Information

Robert Higham recently retired as Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Exeter. His research interests cover two broad topics relating to the medieval period: the general theme of defence, in both its military and social aspects, and the medieval archaeology of South West England. He has directed a number of excavations and published several books. He has particular interests in the interplay between archaeological and historical data in the medieval period. Specific areas of research include urban defence, the archaeology, social and settlement history of castles and castle-building society, and the settlement history of Greater Exmoor. The late Philip Barker was formerly Reader in British Archaeology, University of Birmingham. He has directed a number of excavations and published several books.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
List illustrations7
Preface, 201211
Preface, 200412
List of abbreviations16
1 Timber casties: their study and background18
2 Origins of timber castles in the British Isles37
3 Origins of timber castles in Europe79
4 The documentary contribution115
5 The pictorial evidence148
6 Stone and timber172
7 The earthworks of timber casties195
8 The structures of timber castles: the excavated evidence and its interpretation245
9 Hen Domen, Montgomery: a case-study327
10 Epilogue349
11 Gazetteer of excavations in Great Britain and Ireland354
A Timber castle vocabulary362
B Castel363
Further reading384