Official post #2
For the last few months, we have been learning about various aspects of medieval history. A part that I found interesting was looking at Castles, how they were built and how they were used. My dream job would be to work in a castle, surrounded by history, so you can see how this appealed to me.
When most people think of a castle, they picture a large stone structure, with towers and surrounded by a moat. While some castles have these features, they are not typical to all castles. Castles can be used to describe different kinds of sites. These may vary from prehistoric hill forts to post medieval houses of the gentry. To archaeologists and historians, castles were a phenomenon of the medieval age in England and Wales from the 11th century to the 15th century. Castles evolved from enclosed residences to wood, and later stone, structures and then to the castles that we are more familiar with. Of these, there were two ends of the spectrum- Royal fortresses such as the Tower of London or Dover, and defensible estates. Both show the goal of the rich to display their strength and status through private fortification. In that way, castles can be seen as part of an early ‘arms race’.
It’s all too easy to think of castles as being a form of military architecture, but they were residences as well. Windsor castle has been in use as a residence for a span of 900 years. The mundane day to day life inside a castle is often over looked. Inside the walls of the castle keep, people were living their lives. There would have been a kitchen, supplied by a garden and well, where large meals were made. These meals would have been served in the great hall, or possibly delivered to a room if it was for fewer people. In the great hall, people would eat, talk, dance, and play games. Fires were not necessary to heat the hall, as the heat from dozens of bodies would do the trick. A number of people, members of the court would have lived in rooms inside the castle. Servants would have slept in quarters, or even where they worked, such as the stable or the kitchen. The person who oversaw all this would have likely been the lady of the house. She would have been in charge of organizing the household and keeping things running smoothly. She might even have been the owner of the castle, if her husband or father had died and left her to inherit it.
Other aspects of castles to look at would be where they were built and how. There is no pattern in the placement of castles across Europe. They were built all over, with a tendency to be placed in a spot that was defensible. As for the building, every castle is different. Different layouts, different materials, and different uses make every castle unique. Edward I is an excellent example of both these points, as he built a number of castles in wales, which all had common strategic goals. However, these castles vary greatly in plan and do not follow a pattern.
After reading so much about these places, looking at dozens of pictures and watching videos, I am extremely excited to be able to see these castles in person.