Parts of a castle
Castles were not just buildings, they were fortresses made to
protect people during military conflict. As a result, most castles
shared some basic parts that helped them serve their purpose.
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- The first thing that distinguished a castle was the moat or
ditch. Most were filled with deep water to prevent enemies
from coming in, but even those without water stopped intruders
because the deep, steep walls prevented the enemy from entering.
- The only way to cross a moat was on the drawbridge. These
wooden structures could be raised or lowered depending on whether
or not the people in the castles wanted you to come in. Ropes or
chains were attached to the end of the bridge and then rigged to a
pulley so that guards were able to quickly raise it.
- Upon crossing the drawbridge, you would reach the curtain,
or wall. This wall surrounding the castle was strong enough to
survive a battering ram, a common weapon, and could be anywhere
between 8 and 20 feet thick. (That's as wide as the height of a
- A gatehouse was built into the curtain. At first it was
just a simple door by which to go in and out of the castle, but
over time that changed. Because enemy armies often came to this
area, an iron grate was added that could be put down to block
entrance, in addition to heavy wooden doors. Small holes, called
murder holes, were added to the ceiling above the main entrance to
pour boiling liquid down on entering enemies.
- Towers were also a part of the curtain. They allowed
people to look about and keep watch outside the castles walls. In
addition, at times they kept prisoners. For example, the Tower of
London in England was well known for the important political
prisoner kept within its walls.
- The Keep of the castle was the highest point and the
center of defense. The strongest and most secure place in a
- Inside the castles walls were many things. There was a kitchen
where the cooks made meals. The great hall was where
everybody ate and the servants slept. Court jesters often sang,
juggled, and told stories here to amuse the lord and his family. Stables
were used to house livestock of all sorts and each castle had a chapel
that could be located in a tower or gatehouse. The chapel
sometimes served as a private church for the lord and his family
even when there was another church in a nearby town. Castles also
had one or more houses built in for people to stay. Often
there was a lord's house and then one or two others, depending on
how many people were living at that particular castle.