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Castle Terms

a thin, pointed stone set in the top of a gable or merlon; they may have prevented the use of grappling hooks or ladders by invaders and may have served as attachment points for hoardings

Fireplace: fires began to be moved from the center of the room toward one end by late 11th century; the smoke still exited the room only by air vents near the ceiling; eventually, by the end of the 12th century, fireplaces with chimneys were built into many rooms

Flanking: towers were placed so defenders could use covering fire along the wall face

Floors: a ground floor might be earth or stone, others were stone or wood


Flying Parapet: a little crenellated bridge connecting gatehouse towers

Footing: the lowest section of a wall or tower, including the foundation

Forebuilding: an extension of the keep through which one must pass to enter the main building; the forebuilding may even contain gates and drawbridges

Fortified Town: a town with outer walls, towers and gates

Fortified Tower: a tower with windows for shooting arrows or guns; often crenellated on top

Gaff: the pole or beam for lifting a drawbridge

Gallery: a roofed promenade or balcony; many castles had long, open hallways within the walls of keeps and in other castle walls, some of these faced into courtyards but those in keeps usually faced into the great hall or other rooms; the keep at Dover castle has a good example

Garderobe: (see also Wardrobe); a small room for storing clothing, jewelry, and money; many of these small rooms were also used as a privy or latrine, and the term now largely applies to this latter use; there was an advantage of hanging clothes in a privy because the ammonia produced as urine breaks down drives out lice and other vermin; garderobes for privies were often located in the walls of a Vice (stairway tower) or other stairways; such garderobes can be recognized by a small, roofed structure protruding from the outside of the tower; these little rooms are open below allowing excrement to fall from the garderobe to the base of the tower; from there, it was often gathered and used as fertilizer in the fields; in some cases, pigpens were built below a garderobe so that the partly digested human food in the excrement could be further digested by the swine, which were, in turn, eaten by the humans


Gargoyles: water spouts in the shape of animals, such as dragons, or grotesque humans; gargoyles were situated high on the sides of buildings, especially church buildings; water from the roof entered the back of the animal and usually exited the mouth or, sometimes, another body opening, hanging way out over the side of the building; some animal statues are also called gargoyles even though they don’t have water spouts;
more correctly they are grotesques

Garrison: the compliment of soldiers defending a castle


Gate: an entrance to a town, castle or inner bailey of a castle; gates were as small as postern gates, the size of a small door, or as massive as the great gatehouses of the late Edwardian castles (late 13th century), in which this massive structure replaced the castle keep; gates often had drawbridges, portcullises, and heavy, metal-studded wooden doors; many main castle gates were of two parts: a small drawbridge and door for pedestrian traffic, next to a large drawbridge, portcullis, and doors for wagons, horses and knights; most gates also consisted of outer and inner portcullises and doors with a hallway between – with murder holes in the ceiling and arrow slits in the walls; if invaders were able to break through the outer door they entered a murderous hallway of rocks and arrows

Gatehouse: a structure protecting a castle gate; the gatehouse may consist of one or, usually two, towers with guardrooms and other rooms inside and/or above the gate; these rooms often housed soldiers, the porter – keeper of the gate – and/or machinery for lifting the portcullis, drawbridges, etc.; in later, Edwardian castles (late 13th century), massive gatehouses, usually with four towers, replaced the keep as the most formidable part of the castle

Glass Windows: appeared in cathedrals in the early Norman period; it was not possible to manufacture glass in large sheets, so small sheets, often of various colors, were formed into mosaics with lead rods between the small glass sheets; by the 13th century glass windows began to appear in castle chapels of wealthy nobles; these early glass windows were so rare and expensive that they were often taken with the noble family as it moved from castle to castle

Gorge: the narrow connection between a tower, bastion or other outwork and the rest of the castle; an open gorge had no wall or walk within the castle wall; this gap in the wall walk had to be covered by a small bridge, often little more than a plank – watch your step!

Graft: an earthwork, especially a ditch; the word graft also meant to dig or work hard

Great Hall: in early castles, the great hall was the main room of a castle keep; this room often comprised the entire second floor of the keep – the floor reached from the ground by a wooden staircase – the first floor, the basement, only accessible from the second floor; the keep was the room where court was held, meals were taken, entertainment was given, and, later at night, where many people slept; in early great halls, there was a fire pit in the middle of the floor and smoke escaped through openings in the gables; by the late 11th century, fireplaces began to appear at one side or two sides of the great keep but smoke still vented through the gables; by the end of the 12th century, chimneys began to appear over the fireplaces – and people finally started to smell less liked smoked hams or campers who had sat around the campfire all night

Gun Loop

Grills: used in larger windows of halls in later castles

Grotesques: statues of grotesque animals or humans usually placed high on the walls or gables of buildings such as churches; these were similar to gargoyles but did not transmit water

Guardroom: a room, often in the tower of a gatehouse, where the guards of the gate and/or porter (gate-keeper) were housed and/or equipped

Gun loops, Gun-ports: in later castles the arrow slits were modified with round holes to accommodate the barrel of a musket to be thrust through and fired; larger gun-ports were built into castles to accommodate cannons

Half-timber: the main type of medieval house; timber frame with wattle-and-daub in the spaces

Hall: the main all-purpose room of a house; the functions were similar to those of the Great Hall depending on the size of the house and manor, or estate

Hall-keep: a keep with a Great Hall; in later years the Great Hall was often a separate building from the keep, in which case the former Great Hall of the keep may have been subdivided into smaller rooms

Hearth: a central hearth, with the fire in the center of the room, was the main form of heating in early castle halls; at night, when it was time to retire, a clay or ceramic cover, called a couvre-feu, was placed over the fire in the hearth to prevent the straw on the floor catching fire at night the word couvre-feu gave rise to the word curfew; when fireplaces were later built against the wall, the front edge of the fireplace was still called a hearth

Hedgehog: a barrier of pointed stakes often in the ditch around a castle

Herringbone: a zig-zag pattern of flat stones, tile or bricks used in the construction of some walls; in later periods (16th century), herringbone brick patterns were used in some construction to replace the wattle-and-daub in half-timber buildings

Hoarding, Hourds: a temporary wooden structure built over the battlements of a castle in anticipation of an attack or siege; it was attached to the castle by the Finials and War Footings (see these terms); hoardings had roofs and a walk along the outer side of the battlements; the walks had Murder Holes and the walls had Arrow Slits (see these terms)

House Keep: a strong, rectangular, fortified tower house built in North England and Scotland in the 14th and 15th centuries

House of Fence: fortified tower houses in Scotland


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