vertical slit cut into a wall through which arrows could be
fired from inside, shielding the archer. Later, some
arrow-loops were modified to suit small cannon, usually by
being widened at the bottom. This resulted in a key-hole
shape. See also slit.
defensive castle courtyard or Ward
or outworks defending a gateway
exterior surface at the base of all walls and towers. Built to
protect the base of the wall against attack and increase its
wall, consisting of Merlons
alternating with Embrasures,
built along the outer edge of the wall walk to protect the
defenders against attack. See also Crenellate.
defensive wall or earthwork, especially to protect gunners or
artillery. These structures were often improvised both by
besieging or attacking forces, and by defenders.
granting liberty to a serf by his lord. The term also applies
to the freedom granted to the inhabitants of a town or
borough. The issue of a Charter of Franchise freed the town
from servitude to feudal lords.
projecting block of stone built into a wall during
construction, for supporting a weight such as a parapet.
wall, usually incorporating defensive towers.
mud or clay mixture applied over wattle
to strengthen and seal it. See also wattle
name for the keep or main tower. Prisoners were often kept in
the lowest part - hence Dungeon.
timber platform built to span a moat between a gate house and
surrounding land that could be raised using ropes or chains,
to block the entrance, when required. Hemyock Castle is
believed to have had a counter-weighted drawbridge, pivoted at
the inner end.
jail, usually found in one of the towers. Often built as a pit
entered only via a grill in its roof. Often foul, damp and
opening in a wall for a window. Also the low segment of the
alternate high and low segments of a Battlement.
Provided protection to people within the wall.
by which a vassal swore loyalty to his lord, usually on a
Relic of Saints or on The Bible.
of governing whereby semi-autonomous landed nobility had
certain well defined responsibilities to the King, in return
for the use of grants of land (fiefs) exploited with the
labour of a semi-free peasantry (serfs).
land held by a vassal of a lord in return for stipulated
services, chiefly military. Can also apply to an official
position. Often called a Holding.
building against a Keep containing
the stair to the doorway, and sometimes a chapel.
latrine or toilet either built into the thickness of the wall
or projected out from it. It is said that garments were stored
in the Garderobe in the belief that the smell and draughts
would deter clothes-moths.
complex of towers, bridges, and barriers built to protect each
entrance through a castle or town wall.
building in the inner
ward that housed the main meeting and dining area for the
common form of medieval construction in which walls were made
of a wood frame structure filled with Wattle
and Daub. Buildings within the castle would often be of
room in a medieval house, used for meeting and dining. Often,
servants would sleep in the hall. It often extended up to the
roof. Before chimneys were introduced, there would be an open
fire, often in the middle of the floor. The smoke would vent
through gaps in the roof. Later, high status buildings were
fitted with Louvres -
pottery vents in the roof designed to extract the smoke.
Pieces of a Louvre have been found at Hemyock Castle. The old
medieval ceiling, roof beams, and walls of the great
hall at Hemyock Castle are blackened by soot from open
fires. See also Solar.
of mail (armour).
wooden balconies suspended from the tops of walls and towers,
allowing defenders to climb through the crenellations to drop
missiles and fire arrows accurately on any attackers at the
base of the wall.
by which a vassal pledged his fealty to his liege and
acknowledged all other feudal obligations, in return for a
grant of land.
wall surrounding the Inner
Ward of a castle.
open area in the centre of a castle.
tower; final defensive refuge
retainer of a feudal lord who owed military service for his fief,
usually the service of one fully equipped, mounted warrior.
They were the medieval equivalent of modern day battle tanks.
Traditionally, knights aspired to the ideals of prowess,
loyalty, generosity and courtesy.
coating applied to walls, to protect the mortar from weather.
The outer walls were rendered and lime-washed, forming a
smooth white surface, making them harder to climb - and more
imposing to outsiders!
between the corbels of a parapet or in the floor, used for
attacking besiegers. See also Murder
holding, typically 1200-1800 acres,
with its own court and probably its own hall, but not
necessarily having a manor house. The manor as a unit of land
was generally held by a knight (knight's fee) or managed by a bailiff
for some other holder. In later years, the power of the manor declined progressively in favour of the vill.
high segment of alternating high and low segments of a battlement,
sometimes pierced with slits.
deep trench dug around a castle to impede attack from the
surrounding land. It could be either left dry or filled with
water. Water filled moats made it more difficult for attackers
to dig tunnels.
à la chaux
mixture of sand, water, and lime used to bind stones together
permanently. The lime mortar retained its flexibility and so
resisted the shocks of battering.
or natural mound on which a keep
or donjon was built
in walls or ceiling of gate house, used for attacking the
post of winding or spiral staircase. Concealed dungeon having
a trap door in its ceiling as its only opening, where
prisoners were often left to starve to death, sometimes in
dungeon having a trap door in its ceiling as its only opening,
where prisoners were often left to starve to death, sometimes
in total darkness.
enclosing the outer ward
area around the outside of and adjacent to the inner curtain.
wooden fence usually built to enclose a site until a permanent
stone wall could be constructed. Often built on a raised earth
bank to give further protection. Sometimes these were built as
an extra defence or as a temporary protection while a more
permanent structure was being built.
heavy timber and iron grille suspended in special grooves in a
gate house, in front of a gate, that could be dropped to block
side or less important gate into a castle. Often used for
raids on besieging forces, or for escape.
religious house administered by a prior or prioress. If the
prior was subject to a resident abbot, the house was called an
abbey or monastery. The title prioress was held in certain religious
houses for women. See also monastery.
hole intentionally left in the surface of a wall for insertion
of a horizontal pole. Such holes held scaffolding used during
construction, floor joists, or supported hourdings.
earth or stone wall surrounding castle.
random mixture of rocks and mortar, often used to fill the
space between inner and outer faces of walls. See also mortar.
of a wall, above or below ground, by attackers. One siege
technique was to dig a tunnel under the castle walls and
support the tunnel roof with timbers. Setting fire to the
timbers would collapse the tunnel - and the wall.
wooden framework built next to a wall to support both workers
peasant who worked his lord's demesne and paid him certain
dues in return for the use of land, the possession (not
ownership) of which was heritable. These dues, usually called corvee,
were usually in the form of labour on the lord's land.
Generally this averaged three days a week. Serfs were
generally classified as: 'Cottagers', 'small-holders', or 'villeins'
although the later originally meant free peasants who were
burdened with additional rents and services.
Narrow opening in a wall for discharge of arrows and
admittance of light. See also arrow-loop.
staircase often built into the walls of castles. Usually
designed so that attackers climbing a clockwise staircase
would find it hard to fight with their right hand, whilst
descending defenders would have their right (sword) arm free.
small tower rising above and resting on one of the main
towers, usually used as a look out point.
crypt, or basement under a building.
man who held land (fief) from a lord to whom he paid homage
and swore fealty. He owed various services and obligations,
primarily military. But he was also required to advise his
lord and pay him the traditional feudal aids required on the
knighting of the lord's eldest son, the marriage of the lord's
eldest daughter and the ransoming of the lord should he be
area along the tops of the walls from which soldiers defend
both castle and town.
defensive courtyard or bailey.
Also a child under the protection of a guardian. See wardship.
Wattle and Daub
mat (wattle) of woven sticks and twigs used in walls and
fences. When plastered with mud (daub), forming wattle
and daub, often used in the walls of dwellings. Recent
repairs to a modest 17th century farm labourer's house near
here uncovered the (slightly) more modern technique of lath