Medieval Keeps and Castles - Life in Medieval DaysIn medieval times, attack was relatively commonplace. If you were a nobleman or lord defending an area, you needed to have your base of operations be secure. Castles and Keeps were a normal part of the chain of defenses.
A castle was the name given to an entire structure set, including the outer walls, inner buildings, drawbridges, portcullisses, moats and so on. A castle would keep the nobleman, his family, his troops and his important tradesmen safe.
A keep was the central building within the castle. Normally this would be a tall square or circular tower. Circles were better defensively - battering rams and cannonballs would slide off the round walls, and they were harder to take down by tunneling under a corner (since they had no corners).
Keeps would often have thin arrow-slit windows so that people inside could shoot out without being in danger of retailatory fire. Medieval people definitely did know about glass - Romans used glass extensively - but only special windows would have this breakable material in it. Most would be open so arrows could be shot out of them, and shuttered with heavy wood shutters on the outside, covered with tapestries on the inside. As a result, castles were very cold and damp, only heated by large fireplaces. There is a reason people wore many layers of heavy clothes :)
Most staff ate and slept in the great hall - they would not have individual bedrooms. The noble family would have its own room, and often there was a "solar" (from sole = alone) as a private retreat for the noble women to have a quiet place to sew and talk away from prying eyes.
The outer walls would often have towers at each corner for guards to hang out in. They would often have walkways along the top so that guards could walk a circuit around them, watching for trouble. This outer wall was also known as a "curtain wall".
A drawbridge would go over a moat, making it harder for invaders just to ride up to the gate and try to break it down. The gate was the one "weak spot" of a wall and would be guarded quite carefully. There could also be a portcullis - a metal, heavy gate which fell down in front of the wooden door - to use in time of danger.
Inside the main outer walls would be the important buildings - the weapons maker, the stables and so on. In larger castle networks there would even be a series of walls. One wall would protect the most important inner buildings and keep. Another wall would then encompass the villagers, keeping them safe from attack as well. The area within the wall was known as the "bailey".
Castles were used back as early as 1067 with Chepstow Castle.
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