What is a Castle? Who lived there? How was it protected?
When you think of castles you probably think of fairy tales like Repuntzel and other characters who lived in castles. But read on to find out about the happenings of life in castles during the Middle Ages.
Hundreds of years ago, in Medieval Times, nobles lived in large, well protected castles. It was a fortress, surrounded by high stone walls.
Inside the large enclosure is where people lived called the bailey. This is an open area in which people could work and trade. Beside this was a mound of earth with a tower on top. This was called the motte. If attacked the people would go to the motte.
Soldiers who were on duty stayed in the guardroom or walked along the parapet. Prisoners were kept in dungeons. In the great Hall everyone who lived in the castle would gather for feasts and important occasions. Sometimes a minstrel would sing songs to entertain people. A jester would act silly or perform for the guests.
Castles were built with thick walls just in case of being attacked by enemies. Most of the time people lived in peace, and lived normal lives.
Castles were surrounded by water to make it difficult if an attack took place. Many castles had deep moats dug around them. A heavily defended gatehouse equipped with a drawbridge was another way of having protection. If you were attacking a castle, you'd first have to get across the drawbridge. Of course it was closed, but even if it wasn't, you could fall through a hidden trap door built into it or be struck down by arrows.
The moat was often stocked with fish, eels, ducks, swans and herons. People who didn't obey the rules or tried to invade the castle sometimes had weights tied to their feet and were dunked in the water on the end of a rope. This could be pretty awful if the castle had toilets that emptied into the moat! Yuck!!
Then there was the portcullis - a huge wooden grid with iron spikes that could be dropped down on attackers. The portcullis opened into a small courtyard. If the attackers got that far, they would be bombarded by arrows from soldiers while stones and boiling oil dropped down on them through murder holes above their heads.
The lord and lady of the castle lived in large comfortable rooms. Soldiers lived in the castle, and so did servants. Everyone had a job to do.
Lords and knights who lived inside of the castle needed to practice fighting, just in case a war broke out. They spend long hours practicing with weapons such as swords, lances and axes.
Markets were often held at castles. Farmers and craftsmen from the nearby countryside came to sell their goods. It was also a way that people could meet and have some fun.