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Building and Construction in the Era of William I (1066 - 1087)

The reign of William I, more famously known as William the Conqueror, marked the beginning of the Norman period in England. The Norman Conquest brought significant changes in architecture, building materials, and social structures. This article delves into the transformation that occurred during this era.

Types of Dwellings

The Normans introduced the motte-and-bailey castle, a type of dwelling reserved for the nobility and the military elite. These castles were often constructed with wooden palisades, but some began to be built with stone. For the common people, houses were still largely simple wooden structures or wattle-and-daub constructions.

Average Dwelling and Daily Life

The average peasant dwelling consisted of a single-room house, which often housed both the family and their livestock, separated only by a partition. The central hearth was used for cooking and warmth. Life was largely agrarian, with daily activities revolving around farming, animal husbandry, and other chores.

Significant Building Achievements

One of the major architectural feats of William I's reign was the construction of the Tower of London. Initially built as a demonstration of Norman power, it served as a royal palace and fortress, and set a precedent for the stone castles that would dominate the English landscape in the centuries to follow.

Population and Its Influence on Society

The estimated population of England during William I's reign was around 1.5 to 2 million people. This rural, agrarian population primarily lived in small villages, which informed the construction of small, functional dwellings and large communal structures like barns and mills.

Social Changes and Influence on Building Materials

The Norman Conquest ushered in a new societal structure, with the introduction of the feudal system. The elite began to use stone for their buildings, marking a significant shift from the Anglo-Saxon tradition of wooden structures. This transition to stone not only symbolised the power and permanence of the new rulers, but also had a lasting impact on English architecture.