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Medieval Castles

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Emily Wolfenden

on 27 November 2013

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Transcript of Medieval Castles

Medieval Castles
General Purpose
General Layout
Served as protection from outside forces
Provided a place of residence for lords and their families
King was unable to be everywhere to rule, therefore he gave land to lords to rule and provide protection for the country's citizens
They were like a microcosm of the rest of the country
Helped people be at ease and feel safe during Feudal times
All castles were built in the same basic layout during Feudal times
All castles, in general, had a Great Hall, courtyard, kitchen, moat, dam, bakehouse, brewery, keep, gatehouse, barbican, chapel, priests' house, stable, and dungeon.
Bakehouse and Brewery
Bread was an important dietary stiple so they had their own bakehouses where fresh bread was baked
Breweries were not used because the castles were in need of alcohol but because brewing beer sanitized water and made it safe to drink
There was a dedicated "Ale Wife" who was in charge of the brewery
The Keep
Traditionally the strongest and most fortified tower
Place where nobles lived in early Medieval times
Would have been called the "don-jon" (French word for "strong-hold") during Medieval times
Area of focus on much of the day-to-day residential life
Inner courtyard
used for more formal events
Outer Courtyard
where livestock would graze
Almost always busy and frantic
Size was proportionate to grandeur and importance of castle
Most elaborate kitchens were ready to cook all game and fish brought in from hunting
Took a long time to come up with the design for gatehouses
The gatehouse was a fortified entrance, with numerous different doors and portcullises, tricks and obstacles, all used to guard the castle
Wasn't uncommon to see two gatehouses-one on the outer side and an inner gatehouse in case the first was breached
Eventually, drawbridges replaced gatehouses
A thin passage way designed to be a deadly obstacle course to keep enemies from even reaching the gatehouse
Castle defendants could put traps in these barbicans, like slits for arrows and holes for boiling oil
This was the only way to get to the gatehouse of the castle, making it incredibly difficult and dangerous for enemies to reach the castle
Chapel and Priests' House
Religion dominated Medieval society
A presence of a chapel gave a sense of prestige and significance within the local area
The presence of a chapel would have been of practical use if the castle was ransacked because it was an ultimate act of barbarity to harm a priest
Horses were essential for transport, communication, and for use in battle and for a lord to be considered powerful, they needed war horses
Stables would have often included hay-lofts and space for the grooms to live
Most castles didn't actually have dungeons
In Medieval times, keeping someone as a prisoner was thought of as a strange punishment
Great Hall
Social focus of any Medieval castle layout
Filled with staff and servants for feasts and celebrations
Guests of honor would have been seated on a dais, or stage, at the front of the hall
The further you were seated from them, the less important you were
Moats and Dams
Very few castles had the advantage of a fresh flowing moat from a river loop
They were instead formed by damming up surrounding rivers and streams into these stagnant moats
Although moats were great for defense against the dark arts...*crickets*...Just kidding
They were used for defense against enemies, stagnant moats were also used for dumping sewage
Layout of old castle in York, England
Stained glass window of a castle chapel
Gatehouse of Harlech Castle in Wales
Stagnant moat of Beaumaris Castle in Wales
Ruins of the Great Hall of Kenilworth Castle, UK
Towers of Caernarfon in Wales
Full transcript