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Castle Terms

Inner Bailey:
also called the upper bailey; the enclosed fortified area on top of a motte; in later castles this was the inner part of a shell keep or the area around the keep in concentric castles

Jamb: the straight side of a door or window

Joist: heavy wood beam forming the ceiling of one room and the floor support of the room above

Linear Castle
Harlech Castle
Mason Marks
Motte & Bailey

Keeled: a tower or other castle structure with the foremost part pointed like the front of a boat

Keep: the strongest, towered structure in the castle and point of last defense; also called the donjon; the first floor, usually located above ground, was not typically accessible from the exterior; the second floor, often containing the Great Hall, was accessed by an exterior wooden staircase; it was made of wood so that if the keep became the defensive position of last resort, the staircase could be burned to prevent attackers access to the tower; the higher floors, the third and fourth, were living spaces and chapels, accessed by staircases within the walls or towers

Kitchen: the place where food was cooked and prepared for serving in the hall; because there was a danger of fire in the kitchen, it was often placed in a separate location in the inner bailey, but often connected to the hall by a covered walkway or penthouse

Latrine: (see Privy, Garderobe); a small room often located in the wall of a Vice (stairway tower) or other stairway; some latrines were small, roofed structures 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; in some castles, a shoot was cut through the wall to conduct refuse to the base of the wall or tower

Lavabo: a stone basin set in a wall for washing hands before and after meals

Lead: a common roofing material in castles; also used for plumbing pipes

License: to crenellate or build a castle

Linear Castle: a castle built in such a way that the main gate is at one end and the keep is at the opposite end, often backing up above a cliff, with several walls in between

List: an area immediately in front of a castle’s main defenses; kept smooth and free of cover

Look-out: a high tower of a castle providing a view of the area around a castle

Loop: a vertical narrow slit through the thickness of a castle wall or tower wall, usually splayed inside to allow light to enter a room or allow arrows to be fired from the inside

Lower Bailey: also called the outer bailey; the enclosed fortified area below a motte; in later castles this was the outer part of concentric castles


L-plan: a tower house with a wing at right angles to the main rectangular house, seen most often in Scotland

Machicolation: because hoardings were made of wood, they could be easily burned; in addition they were only temporary and took time to build so that they were not useful for surprise attacks; the solution was to build permanent stone “hoardings”; the solution was the construction of machicolations, which are stoneworks that push the castle battlements out over the edge of the castle wall; they were built into new castles beginning in the 14th century; the machicolations were supported by corbels with gaps in between that were used as murder holes, but watch your step because the murder holes were big enough that someone stepping into the gap could find himself quickly outside the castle at the bottom of the wall – among the enemies!; today, most of the murder holes in machicolated castles are covered with grates – to help keep children in their places

Manor-House: a manor was the economic basis of medieval life; manors were held by a lord and the work, usually farming, was conducted by tenants; often times the lord would build a house on the manor; to protect the manor-house from animals and people, a ditch or even a moat was built around the house; parts of the house were crenellated, and walls were even built around some parts of the property

Mantlet Wall: a low, outer wall forming an outer defense around part or all of the curtain wall; the walls were set low so that archers along the upper battlements of the curtain walls could shoot over the mantlet wall at attackers beyond; archers along the battlements of the mantlet wall could also fire at the same attackers; Harlech castle, Wales has the best example of a mantlet wall

Masonry: the rocks, tiles, bricks or other materials, along with the mortar, used to build walls of castles, churches or other buildings; also the discipline of constructing such walls

Mason’s Marks: when a mason carved a block of stone for a castle wall, he would carve a specific mark in the stone to indicate who carved it; other marks were also often included to indicate the orientation of the stone in the wall

Menagerie: (see also Zoo); exotic animals, especially if they had heraldic significance, such as lions, were kept in some castles as a status symbol; the Tower of London had a menagerie for over 600 years; did anybody keep alligators or, more likely, crocodiles in the moat?

Merlon: the high part of a castle battlement, between two crenels or embrasures; in many castles some of the merlons had arrow slits

Mews: small, but often elaborate buildings in a castle for housing hawks or falcons

Moat: a ditch filled with water was called a moat; the water deterred attackers from tunneling or bringing siege towers to the castle walls – there were probably no alligators or crocodiles (however see Menagerie and Zoo)

Motte: a mound built by piling up turf, dirt and stones from a surrounding ditch; the term was derived from the French word for lump or mound; mottes differed in size from only a few feet high to 100 feet high and from 100 to 300 feet in diameter; the sides were very steep, and with a ditch at the bottom and a palisade at the top, a motte could be very difficult to attack

Motte-and-Bailey: a castle with a wooden or stone keep built atop a round earthwork called a motte; the top of the motte was also surrounded by a wall enclosing the upper bailey; at the lower side of the motte was a lower earthwork but much larger in diameter; it was also surrounded by a palisade or wall to form the lower bailey; the upper bailey and keep were usually only approached by a drawbridge and stairway from the lower bailey; the lower bailey was also surrounded by a ditch and was entered across a drawbridge and gate; the motte-and-bailey style of castle was developed in Normandy before 1066 and were introduced into England by the Normans, especially after the battle of Hastings

Mound: an alternate name for the motte

Multangular tower: a tower having more than four corners

Mural: a term referring to a wall; the term as now often used refers to a wall painting
Murder Holes
Mural Chamber: a room, usually quite small, set within the width of a castle wall

Mural Passage: a hallway or passage within the wall of a castle

Mural Tower: a tower attached to the wall of a castle

Murder Holes: holes in the ceilings of Gatehouses, floors of Hoardings, under the battlements of Machicolations, or in other places, where rocks, hot oil or lead, boiling water, or other materials may dropped onto attackers, or through which arrows or other projectiles may be shot at the attackers


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