After the Norman victory of 1066 CE in Britain, the warriors of the indigenous British kept-up a fierce resistance to the Norman presence for decades. The Normans spread-out across the land, and built very strong fortified houses and castles. These structures allowed the Norman occupiers to live in relative safety against the continuous threat of British attack. This castle building skill marked a significant evolution in the building of militarised structures in Britain, and there was very little the indigenous British warriors could do against the high and smooth stone walls, deep water-filled moats, and steep inclines.
Although only the foundations exist dating to 13th century renovations, (the home was eventually abandoned in the early 15th century), they reveal expert stone-masonry, architectural design, and building craftsmanship, as well as over-all expertise in positioning of the stricture and the good use of natural terrain, (the local river, for instance, was diverted to form the water in the encircling moat). The area of Penhallam was awarded to the de Cardinham family from France, and Penhallam Manor apparently served as one of their stately homes – such was the family’s importance in the new Norman social order in Britain. English Heritage maintain the site – which is free to enter for the general public. The ruins lie in a forest clearing that is about a 15 minute walk from the small car park (which is designed for 5 cars). It is a beautiful place to visit.
Castles of this type (motte and baily) were effective because they symbolised an evolutionary development in human military planning. Lightly armed warriors from agricultural societies could penetrate these structures on foot, and often suffered very high casualties attempting to do so. Furthermore, tribal groupings living on farm lands, had no equivalent fortified structures to hide behind.