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Castle Terms

Umbrella Vault:
the domed roof of a of a vice (stair tower), called the Caphouse, was often supported by stone ribs extending up and out from the central newel, like the ribs of an umbrella

Motte Bailey Castle
Harlech Castle
Tower of London
Wing Wall

Underground Passages: (see Tunnels); additional underground passages may lead from one building in a bailey to another

Upper Bailey: also called the inner 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

Vice: a tower occupied entirely by a spiral stairway; stair tower

Wainscotting: wood, usually oak, covering the inner walls of a room, especially the hall

Wall: a wall is any vertical surface in the castle; a wall may be made of wood (as in a palisade) or, ultimately, stone and may be a few inches to several feet thick (up to 15-18 feet at the base and usually tapering toward the battlements); wall footings were placed on bedrock where possible; where bedrock could not be reached (as on a motte) large wooden pilings were driven into the ground to stabilize the foundation; stone walls were usually made of dressed stones (with smooth surfaces) on the inner and outer surfaces with a core of rubble made of stone and cement


Wall Gallery: hallway inside a wall with embrasures (windows or slits) for viewing or firing arrows, etc.; a good example can be seen at Caernarvon

Wall Tower: a tower attached to, extending from or embedded in a castle wall

Ward: (see also Courtyard, Bailey) an enclosed, protected, guarded area

Wardrobe: (see also Garderobe); a small room for storing clothing, jewelry, money and other treasure; the king’s wardrobe was so vast as to require a cabinet position called the clerk of the wardrobe

Water Gate: a gate leading from a castle down the edge of a river, lake or ocean, specifically designed to allow the protected access to the water; water gates also provided access to ships to bring in supplies or reinforcements, or to allow escape from the castle; a great example is at the Tower of London

Well: a critical need for a castle to withstand a siege was a source of water within the castle; in some castles, the water gate satisfied such need; however, most castles were not built on the edge of a body of water, so it was critical to dig a well within the castle to provide a supply of water; in many castles the wells are very deep, and often located within the keep, the most secure part of the castle

Windlass: a devise for raising a drawbridge or heavy objects, such as loads of stone for building a castle; it consists of a cylinder around which a rope or chain winds or unwinds as the cylinder is turned by a crank or wheel

Window: (see also Glass Windows); an embrasure or opening in a wall or tower for letting in air and light; windows of early castles had no glass and were closed only by grills and shutters; as a result there was a trade-off between wanting the window to be large to let in light but not big enough for attacks and for cold, winter air to enter the castle; as a result, the windows of early castles were quite small and those nearer the ground were just slits; in later castles, the windows were covered with glass and, in many castles, small windows were enlarged to let in more light

Wing Wall: a wall running up the side of a motte connecting the walls of the upper and lower baileys

Yett: a door or gate made of crossed iron bars; these differed from a portcullis in that they were hung on heavy hinges rather than being raised and lowered in slots; a yet may have been incorporated into a wooden door or hung separately

Zoo: also called a menagerie; 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?

Z-plan: a floor plan for some Scottish tower-houses; the plan consists of a central rectangular tower with two round towers set at opposing corners of the rectangle; this design gave each round tower flanking fire along two sides of the rectangular tower house


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