Many late-Medieval castles were surrounded by moats, requiring you to first cross a perilous drawbridge. The inside of the castle's gatehouse as seen from the battlements. It occupies one full side of the castle, as you can see. There might not be a guardroom directly inside the gatehouse, but there often is another room nearby that served the same purpose.
The word "gatehouse" comes from the Old English gatweyhouse, meaning "guardhouse where guards are stationed." In time, these became simply called "guardsrooms."
In medieval times, the main job of the gatekeeper was to make sure no one tried to escape the castle. If someone did get out through the gates, the gatekeeper would call for help from within the castle walls.
The gatekeeper also kept an eye out for invaders. If he saw anyone approaching the castle, he would sound his horn and open the gates.
After the castle had been settled, some noblemen would build little houses near the gate. These were usually only made out of wood and sometimes had roofs too. They were used by visitors who wanted to ask the gatekeeper questions or give him money.
In larger cities with many castles, there would be a governor who managed all the security.
Large wooden doors within the gatehouse would have hindered any would-be attacker's path. In late Medieval castles, there was frequently additional line of defense in front of these doorways. This could be as simple as a fence or hedge, but it often included an array of sharp spikes set into the ground - quite a deterrent!
In more modern castles, the gatehouse is generally much smaller in size. But it still serves the same purpose of providing an extra layer of security for the main entrance to the castle.
Here is a picture of St. James Palace in London, which was built in the 15th century:
It should be noted that although this building is called a "palace," it was not always used as a residence for royalty. The first two kings of England were executed here so it has memories of blood and death even before it belonged to the Royal Family.
However, since then it has been home to several members of the Royal Family including King Charles II after he was exiled by his brother King James II. The current king, Queen Elizabeth II, lives here with her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and their three children.
The moat or ditch, which was incredibly deep, was the first feature that told you it was a castle. Inmates were unable to cross due of the deep water. The only entrance into a castle was through the drawbridge. You approach the curtain or wall after crossing the drawbridge. This barrier could be made of wood, stone, or metal and provided protection for people inside the castle.
There are several different types of castles including: motte-and-bailey, stone, and wooden. A motte-and-bailey castle has an elevated mound or motte surrounded by a low wall. The word "motte" comes from the French meaning hill or mountain. The builder of a motte-and-bailey castle would add more mounds as they needed more defense or territory. A stone castle features large blocks of rock with holes drilled in them for shooting arrows or other weapons. Wooden castles used timber instead. But all three types of castles had similar defenses: an outside wall with towers where you could shoot your weapons, and an underground room where you could hide if enemies attacked.
People began building castles around 1020 AD in England. They also built them in France, Germany, and Italy. But most buildings around this time were small villages or monasteries so there aren't many castles left today from this early period.
The castle gatehouse was one of the most fortifying features of any medieval castle. It was a fortified structure positioned to guard the entrance to a fortress. The gatehouses frequently had several traps and impediments to deter any invader. Large metal portcullises and iconic murder holes were among the traps. An attacker would have to lift or pull these devices to enter the fortress.
In addition to its defensive role, the gatehouse served as the residence of a captain, often responsible for guarding the main gate of the castle. He would also be able to advise his lord on conditions outside the gate.
Finally, the gatehouse could function as a storeroom for supplies. It usually wasn't heated or cooled during winter or summer, so it was necessary to keep it stocked with food and water for use by its resident officer.
Castle gates were usually made out of wood but some larger castles used stone or iron for their main entrance. The word "gate" comes from the Old English gat, which means "opening in a fence or wall."
During the early years of medieval Europe, all castles were built as refuges or safe houses for the powerful people who lived within them. As armies became more sophisticated, however, the need for better defenses arose. Castles became more about style than strength after this point, with large areas of land surrounded by high walls designed more to impress than to protect.
Castles with Curtain Walls The bailey is the space encircled by a curtain wall, with or without towers, in medieval castles. The enceinte, or primary defensive line encompassing the site, is formed by the outermost walls, which include integrated bastions and wall towers. Additional defense may be provided by other structures such as crenellations, ditches, and fosse banks.
Curtain walls are also found around early modern and contemporary castles, although they are not as common as in the medieval period. They were primarily used as an economical substitute for towers and were often less defensible than a complete circuit of walls with towers. They were also easier to destroy than full-scale fortifications. For example, in 1643 the British destroyed most of the walls and towers of Quebec City in order to obtain stone for other projects.
Today these walls usually serve only aesthetic purposes or as a framework for new construction. However, there are several preserved examples of curtain walls in North America: Fort William Henry (now a national historic park in New York) was built between 1731 and 1755 on the orders of Governor Robert Johnson to protect the mouth of the Mohawk River. It consisted of a ring of stone walls with brick gates and guardhouses inside the circle. The design was based on that of the earlier French fort at Niagara Falls.