A usual question when someone arrives in front of a castle, what’s inside?
Most frequently, an interior of a Medieval Castle contains a complex of rooms like;
- The Great Hall
- Bed Chambers
- Bathrooms & Lavatories
- Storerooms, Undercrofts & Cellars
- Ice Houses
- The Well
Some of the words might sound quite odd as they are no longer used, but you will have a clear picture of what it was like inside a castle after reading the article.
Inside a Medieval Castles
Of course, these rooms weren’t a standard across the board as all the castles could slightly vary from one to another.
Some were strictly military-oriented that hosted the garrisons or a small army, with nearly no room for a king to stay overnight.
By contrast, King’s Castles were spacious and fulfilled with all the necessary welfare at the time for a comfortable reign and defence.
Luckily, today we have access to many castles that are well maintained and opened to anyone willing to explore them throughout.
So, let’s analyse every room of a Medieval Castle;
The Great Hall, the castle’s main room
The Great Hall is usually the castle’s main hall, the largest and tallest room within the court where kings and nobles perform essential daily activities during their reign.
The picture above represents the Warwick castle’s great hall
Located mostly in the safest part of the castle (in the keep), it has a rectangular shape with a raised podium at the back and the king’s throne.
It functioned as a social and administrative hub in a castle throughout the medieval period, where kings would meet distinguished guests and host ceremonies.
Back then, you would find the great hall, the most lavishly decorated place in the castle, the symbol of influence and wealth.
The Anglo-Saxons and Normans firstly introduced the great halls at scale in the early Middle Ages.
Generally, the great halls would have a massive door as the main entrance and a couple of smaller exits to the private chambers and kitchens.
Gatehouses, the guard of the castle’s gate.
The gatehouse is an additional fortified structure built on top of the castle’s main entrance gate or surrounded by curtain walls.
Upgrading it continuously to a larger and more complex structure, the engineers thrived to achieve an ultimate defence of the castle’s main gate.
As the castle gates were the enemy’s primary target during the siege, the gatehouses will typically be the heaviest armoured part of the castle.
Bed Chambers, the Lord’s bedrooms in a castle.
Bed Chambers were Lord’s and Lady’s private bedrooms, the most furnished and comfortable bedrooms in a castle with easy access to the main hall and kitchens.
Many castles managed to restore such rooms to carbon-copy of the original ones back then.
The current owners of Chateau Tennessus in France, the rooms which seem untouched since the 17th century, went ahead and turned the castle into a fully working hotel with a bed and breakfast.
Solars, the King’s rest room.
Also called solar was a room in the castle smaller than the great hall where the Kings will rest in privacy after the daily activities. In many Norman and Frech castles, it was considered the key inner family room.
These rooms were frequently built in the English and French castles on the upper storey with access to the court’s main staircase and corridors.
Bathrooms, Lavatories and Garderobes in a Medieval Castle.
The bathrooms were known as garderobes back in the Middle Ages and were relatively small.
The Lords would have their private Garderobes in some castles, which contained the bath and the latrine (toilets).
The bath was a transportable wooden tub that sometimes was used outside in the summer.
What is a latrine in a castle?
The latrine was the first example of a toilet within the castles in a tiny room with a hole in the floor pointing outside, usually in a moat.
The later examples of latrines even had decorated walls, floors and ceilings.
Kitchens in a Medieval Castle
In the early stone castles, the kitchens, the castle’s busiest place, were kept close to the dining rooms and main halls.
Having a dining room and kitchen in the same space made efficient use of the fireplace’s heat, not just during the winter.
Gradually the engineers moved the kitchens to isolated wings or even out in the separate buildings in the Bailey.
Pantries, Medieval Castle’s bread storage.
Deriving from the French word “pan”, which means bread, the pantry was the room where the kitchen staff would store bread.
What is larder the castle?
The larder was a cool, dry place before refrigerators took their place, often close to the castle’s kitchen, keeping the food fresh before serving.
Larders had shelves inside for easy food storage and were kept clean, in some cases tiled or painted.
Butteries, the castle’s alcohol storage.
No, it wasn’t the room for storing butter, but beer.
Because of hygiene, drinking water back then wasn’t the safest thing to do. So the people consumed beer instead.
Don’t worry; it wasn’t as strong as nowadays. A man could still ride a horse in the straight line easily, even after a couple of pints.
In the butteries to those who weren’t entitled to drink wine would be served beer.
Chapels & Oratories inside Medieval castle.
The chapels and oratories were relatively small rooms at the beginning of castle-building designed for praying, used by all household members.
Christianity wasn’t a choice but mandatory unless you were a powerful nobleman like Frederick II, who expressed disbelief in medieval times.
You could find it quite close to the great hall and usually was the same high.
Also called closets, boudoir, study or office, the cabinets were the equivalent of today’s private offices.
The nobles saw it more reasonable to heat a smaller room than a big hall for one man to study, read, write or have private meetings.
Storerooms, Undercrofts & Cellars
The people in the castle used this room to store the non-perishable food items and all other necessities.
Many of the early undercrofts were vaulted and groined in other types of simple storerooms that often were rented out of the shops.
Place of Arms
It is a large room in a castle where the soldiers would usually assemble before or after the battle.
Ice Houses in a castle
The ice house was a small room, usually in the basement or underground, where the people stored perishable food, cold drinks and dessert in the ice collected in the winter.
In the picture below, you can see an example of an Ice House at Sherborne Castle.
Surprisingly this was the mediaeval version of a freezer in the form of a large, stone darkroom.
These rooms could be found in the basement under the walls or even in the open field.
Efficiently insulated, it could keep the ice stored in the winter up until the summer.
In England, the people introduced the first ice houses in 1660, which travellers brought from counties like Italy.
Dovecotes in a medieval castle
Dovecote in the castle was a freestanding building of rectangular or circular shape within a court that will host doves and pigeons.
And it wasn’t just a delicacies food source but also a symbol of status and power which the nobles only were entitled to have.
Dovecotes were very popular in Western Europe, especially in England in France.
However, there are examples of dovecotes dating back to do Roman Empire in Egypt.
What is the Castle Well?
A castle well was a water well built within a castle to supply the court with potable water.
Obviously, one of the most vital elements when it comes to the siege, as the water wells outside the castle’s walls will get poisoned by the enemy.
For many cases digging well was the most time-consuming and costly feature of the court that could last for years.
Like many other castle enthusiasts, you probably asking yourself how all these rooms were lit back then? Before electricity appeared?
Well, we believe the answer is here in this article, give it ago in your spare time.
Likely, you won’t find all the rooms and features mentioned above is just one castle, and you might need to check quite a few.
However, if castles visits are on your schedule often, you definitely have a chance to admire the well-preserved interiors.
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