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How did William the Conqueror secure his control over Saxon England?

York Castle, known as Clifford's Tower. The first timber castle and the motte (mound) were built here by order of William the Conqueror in 1069.

York Castle, also known as Clifford's Tower. The first wooden castle was built in 1069 on the orders of William the Conqueror.
York Castle, also known as Clifford's Tower. The first wooden castle was built in 1069 on the orders of William the Conqueror. © Mr Martin Roberts. Source Historic England Archive

Teaching idea

Ask students to look at the photograph of York Castle. Although these remains date mostly from the 13th century (1200s), the first castle was built on this site in 1068 by William the Conqueror following his invasion and capture of England. Tell students that castles were introduced to England, along with the Feudal System, by the French after the Norman conquest of 1066. Then ask them to think about the different ways in which a castle could help William to keep control. They may like to split their list into two columns, the 'physical' impact of castles and the 'psychological' impact of castles. Once they have created a list ask them to go to the Images by Theme collection of Castles and select a different castle that could represent each point on their list, explaining why.

Learning aims and outcomes

  • Investigate the different ways in which William the Conqueror secured the conquest
  • Explain how William the Conqueror overcame initial Saxon resistance
  • Describe and explain how William used different methods to consolidate Norman control of England
  • Use correctly subject specific words

Prior knowledge

  • Information required for the task can be found in the accompanying Teachers Notes on Castles and the Norman Invasion

Extended learning and useful links

  • Students could be given the information provided in the Teachers Notes and asked to discuss whether castles alone were responsible for William's success in securing his position or if there were other factors
  • Images by Theme: Castles
  • Information about the history of Clifford's Tower

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