Shell keep

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An aerial photograph of a Windsor Castle, with three walled areas clearly visible, stretching left to right. Straight roads stretch away in the bottom right of the photograph, and a built-up urban area can be seen outside the castle on the left.
An aerial view of the Windsor castle: with its shell keep (called "The Round Tower") prominent on its motte inside the middle ward (middle baily).

A shell keep is a style of medieval fortification, best described as a stone structure circling the top of a motte.

In English castle morphology, shell keeps are perceived as the successors to motte-and-bailey castles, with the wooden fence around the top of the motte replaced by a stone wall. Castle engineers during the Norman period did not trust the motte to support the enormous weight of a stone keep. A common solution was to replace the palisade with a stone wall then build wooden buildings backing onto the inside of the wall. This construction was lighter than a keep and prevented the walls from being undermined, meaning they could be thinner and lighter.

Examples include the Round Tower at Windsor Castle and Clifford's Tower at York Castle,[1][2][3] and the majority were built in the 11th and 12th centuries.[4]



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