Friday, September 03, 2010

Inside Rooms of a Medieval Castle

Just like with today's houses, the size and number of rooms inside medieval castles varied according to the owner's wealth. The first castles were built of wood and didn't last long, but were eventually made of stone for longevity and to withstand attacks. Most castles were made of stone by the 12th century. I've included the main rooms that would most likely be present in most castles.The Ground Floor Rooms typically contained the kitchen and storerooms. The First Floor housed the Great Hall, and the Top Floors contained the private chambers of the lord and his family.


The Great Hall
This was typically the largest room in a castle, used by everyone as the dining area, meeting room, and living area. Removable trench tables were brought in for dining and removed for other events as needed. A raised platform called a dais was located toward the end of the hall for the high table where the highest ranking lords and ladies sat. 



The Lords and Ladies Chamber
In some of the earlier castles, a chamber might have been located at the extreme upper end of the Great Hall where the Lord and his family slept. It may have only been covered only by a curtain as the only separation afforded from the Great Hall. These chambers were often referred to as the Great Chamber.

Solar
Later castles were built with private chambers on the upper levels for the lord's family. These private chambers were used as a bedroom at night and a private family sitting room by day unless important guests were present. The Solar was later extended to include a wardrobe.

The Wardrobe
This room was used as a dressing room and storage or personal items and things of great importance such as jewelry, heirlooms, spices, etc.. Dress making and hair dressing also occurred here. This room may have also been used as a bathroom, not the kind of bathroom we have today. They would bathe in wooden barrels. 


The Privy Chamber
Located as far away from the living quarters as possible, these rooms would often have a double door to reduce the smell as this was the toilet room--without the modern convenience of a toilet! A shoot was provided to dump the discharge where it often lead into the moat.


The Throne Room
This was a later addition to castles with lords of higher rank as it was designed as a receiving room for the king or queen when they were in residence.


The Kitchen
Often located beneath the Great Hall on the ground floor or a basement area in or near the inner bailey, the kitchen included huge fireplaces and cooking ovens for baking. It usually contained a water supply and drainage system. Next to the kitchen might have been a Bottlery Room to store wines and other provisions. The Pantry was nearby as a storage room for perishable food.

The Storerooms
 Various rooms of varying sizes and shapes where located throughout the castle for storage of unused furniture and goods. Sometimes these larger store rooms under the main living area might have been referred to as the Undercroft room.


The Chapel
This was a place of prayer and sermons for everyone who lived in the castle. Often, it was built near the Great Hall. If the Chapel contained two levels, the higher ranks sat in the upper lofts and the servants were on the lower level. Some chapels might have had an Oratory, a smaller room from the Chapel that was intended as a private prayer room for the lord as his family.


The Dungeon
This was usually a basement or underground areas used to contain prisoners. Cells may have been present as well as torture chambers. 


The Gatehouse
This was the guarded area at the entrance to the castle. Depending on the size and layout design of the castle, this may include the towers, bridges and complex walls protecting the entrance.


The Bailey
This was usually the courtyard out in the open sky, but within the main castle walls. 


The Barracks or Mess Halls
Was a location that houses soldiers and knights. They had their living quarters as well as meeting rooms. Depending on the castle design, it may have been located as a wing extension of the castle or a separate quarters within the main walls of the castle. 

Sources:
"Castles" at http://www.castles.me.uk/
"Wikipedia" at http://www.wikipedia.com/

8 comments:

Very interesting. I've never been to a real castle - only seen pictures in books & on TV. Some time, I would love to visit a real castle - just to get a feel for the magnitude and what it would have been like to live in such a place. Thank you for the details you given - it's helped clear up a few questions I've always had.

Blessings,

Beverly
bgrider2@cox.net

You're welcome, Beverly. The closest I've been is The Biltmore House in Asheville, NC, but it was built in 1893--hardly medieval. It's as big, made of stone, and beatiful--especially at Christmas.

Hello Jennifer,
I wanted to thank you for becoming a follower and leaving such a lovely comment!
Family research is my obsession and many of my lines lead to Scotland and while I have enjoyed researching the castles my various ancestors have owned, I have also learned I have been somehow cheated out of my inheritance, out of so much history I own not a single one! ;)
My favorite story is how my distant grandfather became intoxicated and gambled away our lands in one evening. sigh!
Thank you again...I certainly enjoy reading your blogs!
Take Care,
Sherri Ann

Sherri, You're welcome. Thanks for following my blog, too! I love genealogy research, but I don't get as much time to do it now that I've gone back to work. Some of the ancestral stories I've discovered have inspired some of my fiction. I hope to one day visit Scotland.

Very interesting! I have received the book on castles that was the trivia quiz prize. Thank you so much.

You're welcome, Richard. Hope you enjoy it!

This was really interesting! (I think that the "dungeon" might actually be where I work though ;)

Very interesting. Here in the Netherlands there are many castles. I like it to visit them.Around 1250 my family lived in a castle. That kind of life, noble or otherwise is now not found after so many centuries - we are a simple family and the ancestors that I have known are ordinary factory workers.
Thank you for this interesting post.