Creating Norman Castles

Until we studied the Viking invasion of England last year (and the subsequent Norman invasion), I did not realize how much castle design evolved during the middle ages.  They started out as very simple stone houses on a hill, often overlooking the village that the lord protected, and eventually turned into the ornate castles with moats and drawbridges that we associate with medieval times and see in most movies.

As we had just finished studying Alfred the Great and we were about to go into the Norman Conquest, I felt that we should attempt to build a simple castle design from that time period.  In this way, we would be able to compare and contrast the designs with what would come later.

To complete these castle designs, you will need:

  • a large piece of cardboard to be the base
  • newspapers
  • masking tape
  • paper mache paste (optional)
  • small pieces of cardboard to form into buildings
  • toilet paper rolls
  • construction paper (in yellows, browns and greens)
  • paint (in greens, browns, grays, etc.)

To begin, you’re going to take your large cardboard base and draw two large interlocking circles on it.  Choose one of them to be your castle hill.  Wad together newspaper into a hill and tape it to your board.  If you’re wanting to make a “nice” model, this is a great time to apply additional layers of newspaper and paper mache paste to shape it into a hill.  I was doing this with two boys.  They just wanted to paint hill and be done with it.  We also painted the other circle green to be our little village’s grass.

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It may take a couple of coats of paint to get everything covered nicely.

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While your mountain is drying, all you need to do is to make your buildings.  Use the small boxes and toilet paper rolls to make your castle.  You can also use cut up paper tubes, and tiny boxes to make the little houses in your village.  We cut and hot glued brown and yellow construction paper to the tops of our houses for roofs.

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As a final touch for the village part, we hot glued a long strip of cardboard around the little village.

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Finally, we attached everything together and our project was done.  Now we had a simple early castle model to compare with the later and more elaborate castles we were studying and reading about.

norman castles

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