The Fortification of the Castle
Walls and Gates
The castle walls were the primary barriers between the inhabitants of the
castle and marauding armies. They were designed to be impenetrable
because a breach in them could mean certain death to the people inside.
The castle walls were built in the same form as the town walls.
The walls and towers were covered with merlons like the town
There were a few differences, however. They
were of the same construction as the town walls,
but much larger. Their greater size was the most obvious difference.
There were also two castle walls, the inner curtain and
the outer curtain. The outer curtain was the first line of defense
against a direct castle attack. If the outer curtain was breached,
then the inner curtain still provided another barrier to the attacking
armies. The third difference was the construction of the towers. Another change was
objects that were built into the castle walls. They
gave relief to the people in the castle. Garderobes, or toilets, were
located in the castle walls. They were reached through passageways in the walls
themselves. They usually consisted of a round hole cut in a stone bench. From
the hole, a tunnel led down to the bottom of the wall to a space called a
cesspit. Waste collected here and had
to be periodically cleaned out. The last difference between the town walls and
the castle walls was that they castle walls were often canvassed with
shops, and signs. Around the town walls, there wasn't as much
activity, at least until the town grew around the walls.
The wall and towers of the castle's two curtains were generally
than those same objects in the town wall. The inner curtain was always the biggest,
standing higher than anything else in the area of the castle. The outer
curtain wall was usually about 25 feet high with it's towers being
approximately 35 feet high. The inner curtain's towers were almost twice
as wide as the other towers of the wall. They were also taller. The
towers of the inner curtain were actually two towers built on top of
each other. The first tower was about 45 feet high. The second, much
slimmer tower, was built on top of the wider tower. It was about 20 feet
high, making the whole structure about 65-70 feet high. The surrounding
walls of the inner curtain were about 40 feet high, making the inner
curtain the most massive defense network of the castle.
The men arming the castle walls controlled the walls from the
Many of them lived in the castle towers, usually the ones in the outer
curtain. The inner curtain towers were reserved for other purposes. The towers of the castle walls
were also built much higher than those of the town walls. This was done
so that men patrolling the towers and walls could see over the surrounding
town. There were major differences between the castle towers and the
town wall towers. A spiral staircase led up to other floors. This
staircase was enclosed. At each floor, a large wooden door barred
entrance unless it was open. Also, only one person could emerge from
the doorway at a time because it was built very narrowly.
The only other entrance to a tower was through a doorway in
the side of the tower. This doorway opened onto the wall-walk, or
battlement. There was also a large
wooden door located here. This
doorway was very narrow too.
It was thus
easier for defenders to attack the enemy trying to enter a room in the
tower. Because of this network of defenses, each tower could
in an attack.
unlike the towers of the town wall
which where in the shape of a semicircle, the towers of both castle walls
were completely closed off in a full circle. There was also a roof on the
towers of the castle which allowed people to live in them. Goods were
often stored in the towers, relatively safe from the elements.
There were two gatehouses in the castle walls. One was for the
curtain wall and the other was for the inner curtain wall. Like the town
gatehouses, they were the weakest points in their respective walls so they
were built with security in mind. There were only minor differences
between these gatehouses and the town wall gatehouses. The biggest
difference, as with the walls themselves, was their size. They were
taller and wider than the town gatehouses. Like the town gatehouses, each
gatehouse was essentially constructed of two towers with a space in
between. A room was built over the space. Also similar to the town gatehouses,
murder holes were created in the floor of
In the castle gatehouses, it
was covered with a roof.
Arrow loops were also in the
sides of the towers.
The other difference besides size was the number
of barriers constructed in the gatehouses. Each castle gatehouse had two
portcullises, as opposed to the town
gatehouses' one. Additionally, the
outer curtain gatehouse had a drawbridge that could be raised. This
prevented anyone from crossing the moat
surrounding the outer curtain. The
portcullises and the drawbridge were
raised by a system of winches and chains that was
housed in the room above the gatehouse.
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