Living under constant threat of invasion from the Danes, the Anglo-Saxons built an earthen rampart to protect their hilltop settlement overlooking the River Avon in 914. A century and a half later, the first Norman castle was erected at Warwick. The early wooden fort, typical of William the Conqueror's motte and bailey strongholds, was eventually replaced by a stone shell keep and curtain walls enclosing more sophisicated domestic accommodation in the mid 13th century.
During the second half of the 14th century a general reconstruction of Warwick Castle took place, and it is mainly work from this period that has survived to the present day. An imposing gatehouse and barbican were incorporated, enormous towers soaring from each angle of the north-east front curtain, and a range of magnificent domestic buildings were created along the east curtain above the steep cliff to the river. Most of these rooms were completely transformed in Jacobean times when Fulke Greville, a poet and statesman, made Warwick Castle into a luxurious palace. Several subsequent remodellings and restorations have resulted in a display of quality and splendour that could match any stately home. Successive Earls of Warwick lived here until 1978, but then it was sold to a leisure group, and since that time many permanent exhibitions have been arranged throughout Warwick Castle.
Gradually changing from the impregnable medieval fortress to the sumptuous home of the Grevilles, Warwick Castle can boast a truly gruesome past. It has witnessed murder and violence, suffered attack, experienced wars, and been involved in royal and political treachery. In less turbulent times, it has played host to Royalty, seen scenes of elaborate entertaining, and has been the setting for society gatherings. When the grounds were landscaped, and the gardens established in the 18th century, the remains of the octagonal shell keep became a feature on 'the mound', and the rooms of the splendid castle-cum-palace were filled with fine furniture and art.
After one thousand years of making history, the immense strength and proportions of Warwick Castle make it a formidable sight even for today's visitor in peacetime. For the fit, the steep ramparts and huge 14th century towers are fully explorable. Caesar's Tower is an incredible wall-tower, five storeys high, with a double parapet, rising to some 150ft (45.5m) from the base of its plinth. In the lowest chamber was the vaulted dungeon, a grim and daunting place for prisoners facing any length of confinement. Guy's Tower also has five vaulted levels internally, but the apartments contained within were designed more with comfort in mind. It is an unusual twelve-sided construction, with a machicolated crown, and appears to rise higher than Caesar's Tower because it starts at courtyard level.
Warwick Castle really is the ultimate experience for 'living' our history, with every section of the castle highlighting a different period to experience. A wonderful place, and a great day out.