Must be a Reason why I’m King of my Castle?: Medieval Castles

Must be the reason why I’m king of my castle
Must be the reason why I’m free in my trapped soul
Must be the reason why I’m king of my castle
Must be a reason why I’m making examples of you

I have the feeling every person conscious of dance music in 1998 knows these lyrics!! But more on them later!!

Ever wondered why castles were developed? YES!? Great, because we are going to take a look at how and why castles in Ireland came to being!

When William the Conqueror invaded England he began a programme of castle building in the country. The Normans were particularly good at building defensive structures. Why castles? Well, the Normans were probably not the most popular people on the island at this time, so they needed to protect themselves! After William had successfully conquered England, larger stone castles were built. When the Normans came to Ireland, similar programmes were put in place!

Castles were built:

  • To defend the land
  • To provide a place to live
  • To provide shelter for people living around it

There are really 2 types of castles that existMotte and Bailey Castles and Stone Castles

Motte and Bailey Castles

These were the first castles that were built in Ireland. The motte was a mound of earth on top of which a timber fence or timber tower (keep) were built. Below this was a flat area known as the bailey. The bailey was a courtyard enclosed by an earthen bank, a timber fence and a moat (sometimes wet or dry trench). The moat was crossed by a drawbridge. The bailey contained these following buildings:

  • Lodgings for soldiers
  • Stables for horses
  • Workshops and Kitchens
  • The hall where meals were eaten and where Lords conducted their business.

motte bailey castle

Stone Castles

Stone castles soon replaced Motte and Bailey castles. These were much stronger, but cost more time and money to build so only King’s and powerful Lords could afford them!

There are many features to a Stone Castle so I will break them down as simple as I can.

As you may know the whole point of a castle is to defend the area so let’s start with defensive features.

  1. Moat: A moat and tall stone walls surrounded the castles. The moat was filled with water which was often diverted from a nearby stream or river. The walls were called curtain walls.
  2. Battlements: Inside the wall there was a walkway called Battlements. This is where guards could walk when on duty. They would have been able to shoot arrows and spears from this.
  3. Towers: They were built at intervals along the walls so soldiers could shoot arrows through the slits or loopholes at the enemy.
  4. Drawbridge: This was used to allow allies in and keep enemies out. It allowed safe passage across the moat.
  5. Portcullis: This was an iron gate that was raised and lowered before entering the castle. If the enemy managed to get over the moat, they would need to get through this!
  6. Gatehouse: This housed the machinery that controlled the portcullis and the drawbridge

Now lets look at the Bailey

  1. Huts for servants and soldiers
  2. Stables
  3. A forge for the blacksmith
  4. Workshops for carpenters and masons
  5. Well: This was used to store water

Now for the Keep

The keep was the most important building of the castle!

  1. The door was often raised above ground level.
  2. There were usually steep spiral steps to the top which turned to the right. This hindered attackers from seeing ahead. Also, it was thought that most soldiers were right handed! Therefore, if stairs turned to the right, they would be unable to swing their weapon.
  3. The Great Hall: This was a long room used by the Lord/Lady for feasts and entertainment. Tapestries (hand woven cloths decorated with pictures) were often hung in this room
king john castle
King John’s Castle – Limerick City

So there you go. Everything you could possibly need to know about the features of a castle.

borat king

But just in case your thirst for knowledge is not satisfied, I think these are good sites you should check out. Also, if you are unsure of what any of the features look like, just give them a Google!

For more information on the Middle Ages or any other topic, keep it here!

As promised..Wamdue Project – King of my Castle


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