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Farnham Castle Schools Support Programme

Teacher Lesson Outlines



Learn about the story of one of the oldest castles in Britain. Get answers to why, over 900 years ago, the Castle was built on this site? And how and why were the Bishops of Winchester involved in its building?

Learning Objectives:

  • To develop reasoning skills to determine why the castle was built on this particular site, and in Farnham.

  • To understand why it needed to change over time from a wooden fortress to a stone Castle.

  • To discover how the Castle could be defended and also attacked. What weapons did they have to do it?  What was a siege and what would the attackers have to do to take the castle that way? What did it need to defend it?

Possible lesson themes:

  • Understand the nature of the design of a motte and bailey castle and to discuss why it formed the basic Norman structure for castle design  

  • Role play, using speaking and listening skills, attacking and defending a castle.

  • Understand why the castle design and construction needed to change from wood to stone in light of the weapons being used in the early 13th century onwards (trebuchets, cannon, 

  • Identify all the places in the Keep that defenders would have used to deter attackers

  • Discussing what life would be like for the defenders and how the design of the castle could help



Farnham Castle Schools Support Programme



Explore why so many of the Kings and Queens of England, from King John onwards, liked to spend time at Farnham Castle and why a stay in Farnham also suited the Bishops of Winchester.

Learning Objectives:

  • To understand Farnham’s location relative to London and Winchester.

  • To look at the environment surrounding Farnham and understand how that contributed to the castle’s popularity for bishops and monarchs 


In this session children will:

  • Use maps and diagrams to plot Farnham’s geographical position

  • Study the forest of Alice Holt to establish the animals that live there now and may have lived there in medieval times

  • Discuss how did the bishops and monarchs may have hunted using peasants to flush out the game, horses, falcons, greyhounds, dog packs? Investigate the weapons they may have used, crossbows, long bows, spears and, later, muskets 

  • Make and drawings and paintings of hunts using the style of painting and drawing they see in contemporary medieval documents



Farnham Castle Schools Support Programme



This session will concentrate on Bishop Peter des Roches, who was Bishop of Winchester from 1205 to 1238, and his contribution to the development of Farnham Castle and how the land the Church owned was administered.

Learning Objectives:

  • To understand why so much money was spent on Farnham Castle during Peter des Roches’ time as bishop.

  • To determine the relationship between Bishop Peter des Roches and King John (1199-1216) and how that influenced Farnham’s development and how it was mirrored by other bishops and their monarchs from that time onwards.

  • To learn about the relationship between the bishop, the townspeople of Farnham and particularly those that worked the bishop’s lands

In this session children will:

  • Understand why the structure of the castle needed to change in size and to the use of stone rather than timber.

  • Use the characters of Matilda and Alwyn in the pack to introduce them to the children and parents of the times 

  • Be able to write and talk about the different types of people (workers and soldiers) who would be inside the Keep and those in the village of Farnham working on the bishop’s lands

  • Understand the link between the Church, the monarchy and ordinary townspeople in medieval England   




Farnham Castle Schools Support Programme



The Normans built more than 600 castles in Britain after their invasion. Farnham may have started off as purely a timber Anglo-Saxon fortress but the Normans needed something much more substantial. The strengths of a motte and bailey structure will be considered to establish why it formed a pattern for so many British castles. Students will be encouraged to investigate how prominent events of the time are reflected in the development of Farnham’s Castle from a simple fortress, to its role as a place where Bishops of Winchester chose to stay and entertain Kings and Queens. We will compare the daily lives of those who managed the Castle and surrounding Bishop’s lands and those who worked at the Castle itself to support the garrison of soldiers stationed there. 

This session is for teachers focusing on specific themes through the period and how they tied in with changes in the castle’s design. We will look at the lives of a range of people in medieval society and the role of castles at that time.

Learning Objectives:

  • To understand more about the location of the Castle up on the hill, near the river, close to Alice Holt, Woolmer Forest (classified as Royal Forest of ‘Wolvemore’ and ‘Alsieshold’ in 1066) and New Forest, its position between London and Winchester, close to ancient trackways to the southern coast and Channel, and the Harrow Way, running from Dover and Canterbury past Farnham to Seaton in Devon

  • An opportunity for teachers to introduce children to Chaucer’s pilgrims, if they wish, who are likely to have used the Harrow Way for part of the way from London to Canterbury

  • Encourage discussion of what aspects of its location would make it particularly attractive for visits by bishops and monarchs

  • To establish the initial nature and development of motte and bailey castles

  • Encourage children to discuss the trades of people that worked inside the Castle, other than soldiers. Who would they be? What would their work entail?

  • Develop children’s knowledge and skills in describing the work of trades such as cooks, carpenters, blacksmiths, brewers, bakers, farriers, armourers etc.

  • Discover the roles of those who managed the Castle on behalf of the Bishops of Winchester and who worked on the land around it: Steward, Bailiff, Reeve, Peasant, Villein

  • Consider introducing children to Chaucer’s Canterbury tales and his description of the Reeve 


In this session children will:

  • Use maps and charts to show Farnham’s location re the Harrow Way, the Channel coast and ancient forests

  • Use their visit to the Keep and/or pictures of the Keep to draw and write about all the people who worked for the bishop, at all levels. 

  • Role play, using speaking and listening skills, to argue the cases for the importance of each type of person based in the Keep

  • Dress up and use props for some role play activities, selecting pupils to demonstrate trades to the rest of the group.

  • Draw the tools each workman would typically use

  • Role play the hierarchy of those who managed the castle and land for the bishop. What type of instructions might have been passed from one to another, and what would they have to do as part of their job

Harrow Way

Farnham Castle Keep c1300

Castle personnel

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