Most of the castles in Europe
were built between the 9th and 12th centuries. They were not just built
as homes for nobles but also for military defense. That is part of the
reason that castles are so large. Early castles were built of wood but
people soon realized that stone was better because it was not flammable.
It could take at least ten years of work before a castle was able to be
lived in. The first step to building a castle is choosing the site. The
nobles tried to pick sites such as hills, cliffs, and outcrops that were
already hard to attack. Next they had to bring in workers and materials.
Usually they found materials nearby but sometimes they had to be imported.
The next step is to build housing and facilities for the workers. Many
workers are needed to build a castle: carpenters, blacksmiths, masons,
and other laborers. Then they mark off where the outside walls will go
and start building. They need a wall to protect the town as well as an
outer wall for the castle. The outer wall contains towers, a drawbridge,
and a gatehouse. The towers have holes for defenders to throw things out
of and slits to shoot arrows through. The gatehouse has an area where attackers
can be caught and pelted. After the outer wall is done, they start to build
the inner wall. The inner wall is set-up in the same manner as the outer
wall but it is taller. The towers of the inner wall contain rooms where
people will live. The basement rooms of the towers are for storing food
in case of a siege, an extended attack where the castle would be surrounded.
The windows are recessed and are the only sources of light. There are primitive
bathroom facilities which consist of a stone seat with a hole that goes
down to a cesspit which has to be cleaned out regularly. After the inner
wall is finished, the rest of the living and working quarters must be built.
These structures are built from wooden beams and wattle and daub which
is woven reeds mixed with mud or clay. These will be the living quarters
for the workers and the noble family. There will also be a kitchen, dining
hall, and other shops. Finally, when it is completed, the castle is a tiny
city complete with blacksmiths and other laborers to do maintenance and
Castle by David Macaulay
Inside Story: A Medieval Castle by Fiona Macdonald
and illustrations by Mark Bergin