This section provides information about various parts of a castle with a short description of the purpose and function of various parts of castles including the Moat, Dungeon, Portcullis, Barbican, Gatehouse, Crenellations and Drawbridge.
Parts of Castles in the Middle Ages
Castle Moats were used for defensive purposes. To prevent undermining of a castle. Moats were either filled with water or wooden stakes to create a difficult barrier for men and horses
Castle Dungeons were intended for holding prisoners and in extreme cases for torturing them
Castle Murder Holes
Castle Murder Holes were used for defensive purposes. Murder Holes were holes in the ceilings of castle gateways, barbicans or passageways through which heavy missiles or dangerous substances could be thrown on enemy soldiers. The Missiles dropped from 'Murder Holes' included heavy stones, hot sand, molten lead, boiling water and boiling tar or pitch.
A Castle Drawbridge was used for defensive purposes. The drawbridge consisted of a wooden platform with one hinged side fixed to the castle wall and the other side raised by rope or chains. The purpose of a drawbridge was to allow, hinder or prevent easy entry into a Medieval castle
The Castle Portcullis was used for defensive purposes. The Portcullis was a heavy grilled door that was suspended from the Barbican or gatehouse ceiling. The portcullis was meant to be lowered quickly in times of attack. Ropes could be rapidly slashed or a quick release catch was enabled. The portcullis would come crashing down blocking the entrance to the castle, the spikes impaling the enemy
Castle Crenellations were used for defence and attack purposes. A crenellation was a rampart built around the top of a castle with regular gaps for firing arrows. The Crenellations provided a fighting platform and good vantage point from which soldiers launched arrows and also provided defenders with a solid defence to hide behind. Also called a battlement
The Castle Gatehouse were used for defence and attack purposes. A Castle Gatehouse was a fortified structure built over the gateway to a castle. The Gatehouse, or main entrance, would be heavily barred. The Castle Gatehouse might be defended by the barbican
Castle Machicolations were used for defensive purposes. Machicolations were projecting parapets or platforms situated at the top of a castle wall, some spanned the whole of the battlements whilst other Machicolations protruded from the walls like balconies. The purpose of the full Machicolations was to provide clear access across the top of the battlements enabling the soldiers to quickly follow the attack point of the enemy. The balcony style Machicolations had holes in the floor for dropping various missiles on the enemy which were called Murder Holes or Meutrieres
Castle Battlements were used were used for defence and attack purposes. A Battlement was a rampart built around the top of a castle with regular gaps for firing arrows. The parts of the Battlement were called the Crenels which was the 2-3 feet wide gap and the Merlons which was the solid portion between two crenels. Alos called crenellations
Castle Loopholes were used for defence and attack purposes. Castle Loopholes were narrow vertical windows from which castle defenders launched arrows from a sheltered position. Castle Loopholes were accessed from wide inside areas narrowing to long, narrow apertures. Castle Loopholes were different designs and sizes which accommodated the shape of different weapons such as the bow which was fired vertically or the crossbow which was fired horizontally
The Castle Barbican was used for defence and attack purposes. The Barbican was an exterior castle defence situated at the entrance of the castle which confined the enemy in a narrow passage . The Barbican was an exterior walled passage with multiple gates leading to the main entrance ( the Gatehouse) - the Barbican passage contained Murder Holes in the ceiling and arrow slits on either side of the barbican passage. Also called a Death Trap
The Castle Curtain Wall were used for defensive purposes. Curtain was an outer wall which surrounded the bailey ( Motte and Bailey castles ) or Medieval castle buildings. The curtain was was built for defence and varied in size from 6 - 20 feet thick, up to 45 feet high and up to 1,500 feet long
A Castle Bastion were used for defence and attack purposes. A Castle Bastion was a small tower, which was situated at the corners, the middle or at the end of the curtain wall. The purpose of a Castle Bastion was to cover 'dead ground' or the 'blind spots' in the castle curtain wall.
A Castle Keep were used for defensive purposes for castle inhabitants. A Castle Keep was the tower which was built as the most protected part of the castle. The first keeps were square shaped and later keeps were designed in circular shapes to reduce the risk of attacks to vulnerable corners