Making a Motte and Bailey Castle

Happy New year everyone.

So how did you spend New Year’s Eve? Gathered with friends and family for a meal perhaps or booked in to a hotel to join the celebrations as midnight struck? (We did that one year but the DJ forgot to count down to midnight and didn’t mention it until 00.15am!) or were you like me stuck at home helping your daughter with her school homework?

Yes I know they don’t go back for another week but for some reason my daughter, Lottie, had been whittling about needing to build a Motte and Bailey castle for her history homework. Finding myself at a bit of a loose end I thereforedecided I’d make a start on it and before I knew where we were we’d completed the project in about 3 hrs. I then thought perhaps some of you might be facing similar projects and in need of a bit of inspiration so today’s blog is a step by step guide as to how we built ours.

What materials do you need?

First of all be assured that everything you need can be found around the house or easily substituted:

Oasis Block of the sort used by florists for flower arranging (alternatives can be papier mache formed over polystyrene block carved roughly to shape),

Thick card,

Corrugated Cardboard,

Green Scouring Pad,

White Woodwork Glue,

Acrylic/Poster paint

Green Scatter Material (optional)


Monopoly Houses

Black Felt tip pen


First of all using the thick card as the base cut it to your desired shape. Suggested maximum size would be about 30cm x 30cm otherwise it becomes cumbersome to carry and could warp when the paint and glue are added. Next, cut your oasis into a hill shape making sure it has a flat top on which your castle will sit. It’s easy to cut with a bread knife and provided one part of the hill has a reasonable slope to allow people to walk up and down to the castle the other sides can be fairly rough. These can later be painted to look like rock making the castle impenetrable on the other sides.

With white glue stick the oasis to the base making sure the slope is facing the area that will later contain the fenced off village. I found it easiest to place this at one end of our base to minimise the amount of work needed to construct scenery around it. We then painted white glue over the whole of the oasis to provide a harder shell to help prevent accidental damage to the soft material below (this was easily done by simply pouring white glue over the oasis and spreading it with our fingers).

Once this had dried we cut the oasis to shape around the end of our base just to tidy it up and painted the whole of the base and the oasis with dark green acrylic paint. Whilst this was still wet we covered the whole of the base and much of the oasis with green scatter material (the type of coloured sawdust used by railway modellers). If you don’t have this don’t worry as the green paint alone will work fine. Don’t cover in scatter areas that you want to paint as rock. It’s not the end of the world if you do but rock just looks better if it’s smooth rather than lumpy!

Whilst this is drying you can construct your castle. This is done by simply cutting corrugated cardboard to size; in our case 1.5″ x 2″. We then scored the 2″ length at 1/2″ intervals and folded the four sides formed by this into a rectangular column of four walls each 1.5″ high and 1/2″ wide. We initially tried glueing this together but eventually found it easier to sellotape it with a short piece folded over the ends which actually helps to strengthen the building as well. Then with a black pen we drew in a door and windows before glueing the finished article to the top of the oasis. Whilst this was drying we then painted the areas of rock on the oasis using pale umber acrylic paint but any brown or grey paint will be equally suitable.

The next stage was to build the fencing that would enclose the buildings at the bottom of the hill. Again corrugated cardboard came to the rescue here but in this case to give it a bit of extra strength we cut two lengths of equal size and glued them back to back holding them together with clothes pegs until they were dry. These were then curved slightly to make it easier to shape them before gluing them to the base. We made our fence in two parts (therefore four strips) leaving a gap for a gateway into the village. Once dried we then used blue acrylic paint to create a moat around the motte and bailey remembering to leave an area in front of the gate green to look like a bridge over it. Using the same colour paint that we used for the rocks we then brushed quite lightly over the grass in the gateway to make it look as if the grass has been worn away and inside the village to look like tracks to the various houses.

Next just to make it look a bit more interesting we tore up some green scouring pad and screwed it up before glueing in place to look like bushes.

Finally we painted the roofs of monopoly houses dark to look like thatch, glued them in place and Bob’s your uncle. One Motte and Bailey castle created out of scraps and odds and ends. Total time about 3hrs Total cost: All but nothing.

Motte and Bailey Castle

Motte and Bailey Castle


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