Castle questions



Castle questions
Castle questions
Here are some commonly-asked questions about castle life
What is a
motte and
Who built
the castles?
It has a special
design: the
keep is built on
a man-made
mound called a
The bailey is
the area
beneath the
motte where
people live and
work. It is
surrounded by
a wooden fence
or stone wall.
A nobleman such
as a king, prince,
lord, or knight
orders a new
castle. The man in
charge is the
architect, and
beneath him are
the master mason
and his team of
roughmasons, and
smiths. The hard
physical work is
done by serfs, who
‘belong’ to the
nobleman and
work his land in
return for food,
housing, and
Does Lewes Castle have a
drawbridge and a moat?
There is a pit drawbridge at
the barbican, or gatehouse. It
crosses a dry moat which runs
round three sides of the
castle. The fourth side is
inaccessible because of the
hilly terrain. The moat was
dug out of the soil by the
serfs. The moat is dry
because earth in the ditch is
chalky and does not hold
There is a portcullis in the
barbican but I don’t think the
older gate behind it ever had
Why are
windows so
narrow or
shaped like
They are called arrow
loop windows and are
for shooting arrows
through when people
attack the castle. They
are different shapes
because of the different
bows we use.
Which is better square or round
Square towers are easier to build, but their
corners can be damaged and they are easier
for attackers to undermine.
Round towers are stronger and their walls
are harder to climb. You can stand on the
top and see for 360 degrees.
At Lewes we have square and round towers.
Why have
staircases? Do
they always go
the same way?
Yes. This is because most
people learn to hold their
swords in their right
hands. If you are a knight
rushing down the stairs to
defend your castle, the
inside of the stairs is on
your left, and your right
hand is free to use your
sword. If you are going up
the stairs, attacking, your
sword arm is squashed
against the middle of the
staircase and it is harder
to use you sword.
Spiral staircase are also
good because they don’t
take up much space in the
Who lives in the castle?
The nobleman and his family. Also living
here are servants, blacksmiths,
armourers, farriers, and others who look
after the noble family and the castle.
Lewes castle was built by William de
Warenne who came from Normandy and
was a friend of William the Conqueror.
He lived here with his wife Gundrada.
Their descendants lived here until the
end of the 14th century.
Where do they live?
In the bailey there is a
large hall, a forge,
stables, storerooms,
kitchens, and barns. The
hall is the main domestic
space in peace time.
The keep is designed to
be a safe place during
enemy attacks. It has its
own kitchen and well so
people can live there for
some time without
having to go outside the
What do they do for fun?
The nobles amuse themselves with
banquets, live-in entertainers,
jugglers, dancers, minstrels, visiting
bards and troubadours.
Fairs and public entertainments in
the town square can be attended by
Tournaments are also entertaining,
but much rarer.
Where’s the loo?
Is it cold in there?
Some small rooms are set aside to use as loos.
They have a wooden seat above a hole that
goes down into the castle ditch. They are
called garderobes. There is one in the
barbican tower.
The nobles sometimes have chamber pots in
their rooms. The servants empty and clean
them every day. We do not have toilet paper.
We use large leaves, moss, or rags instead.
We do not wash ourselves very much. There is
no hot and cold running water and we do not
have baths. We do not know anything about
Yes. There is no central
heating so we wear lots of
woollen clothes, have huge
fires, and try to live above
the kitchen so the warmth
from the cooking travels up
to us.
We line the walls with
tapestries to keep in the
heat. Curtains round the
sleeping area make a snug
room-within-a-room. Cold
floors can be covered with
rushes and herbs to make the
room smell nice too.
Is there a dungeon?
Lewes Castle is used as a prison, but only for
rich people who are captured and held to
ransom. They have to be looked after quite
well. Poor people are usually just killed.
What's the best way to attack and
castle? How can we stop them?
A moat is a
rams and
long ladders,
as it's hard
to get to the
castle walls.
For small crimes the stocks
are used. There is still a set in
the castle Gun Garden – why
not have a go?
We can drop things on attackers
through the murder holes if
they are trapped between the
gates. We can shoot arrows or
hurl stuff at them too.
A siege is a good way to attack, but it takes ages. We can stop all supplies of
food and armour going into the castle and the people inside will gradually
starve, die of disease, or run out of weapons.
Siege engines can weaken buildings or act as a diversion when attacking a
different area. They can also be used to launch things into the castle grounds:
stones to destroy buildings, flaming objects to cause fires or dead animals to
bring in diseases. The heads of captured enemies will upset and frighten the
people if we hurl them inside. Their only defence is to hope we get bored and
go away, or that someone turns up with another army to rescue them!

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