Castles of England/English Castle Glossary

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Contents
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A-CEdit

Arrow loop 
A vertical slit for a bowman to fire through. Sometimes the loop would be more in the shape of a cross for use by crossbows.
Bailey 
The area enclosed by the outer wall of the castle.
Ballista 
A siege engine. It was in the shape of a giant crossbow, usually firing iron bolts.
Barbican 
A structure built around the gateway to increase its defences.
Batter 
A sloped section at the bottom of a wall.
Battlement 
The parapet along the top of a wall with spaced openings.
Brattice 
A wooden platform projecting from the top of a wall. Often temporary, it allowed defenders to drop objects on attackers close to the wall.
Buttery 
Derived from "butt". A place where casks of various drinks were stored. The butler was responsible for the buttery.
Castellan 
The officer in charge of the castle.
Chamber
The principal room or suite set aside for the use of the castle owner.
Chamberlain 
The officer in charge of the chamber, where the treasure of the castle was stored.
Constable 
The officer commanding the castle when the Lord or master of the castle was absent.
Counter mine (or countermine) 
A mine sunk by defenders to try and intercept a mine being dug by the attackers. A notable example still exists at St. Andrew's Castle in Fife, Scotland.


Crenellation 
Another name for battlement.

D-FEdit

Donjon 
Another name for the keep or great tower
Drawbridge 
A bridge that can be raised to cover the gateway.
Dungeon 
A place in the castle for hold prisoners - not necessarily underground. It was often in the keep. The name derives from donjon, another name for the keep.
Feudal system 
A system of government where the owner of land (usually ultimately the monarch) "leases" the land to a vassal in return for service, usually military.
Forebuilding 
An building designed to protect the entrance to the keep.

G-IEdit

Garderobe 
The medieval name for toilet.
Great tower 
Another name for keep or donjon
Gun loop 
A hole in the wall, similar to an arrow loop, that allowed guns to be fired while providing some protection to the firer.
Hall 
The main room in a castle. Used for eating, sleeping and conducting the business of the castle.
Hoarding 
Another name for brattice.

J-LEdit

Keep 
A large, usually rectangular, tower. It was the strongest point of the castle and contained the great hall and the owner's living quarters.

M-OEdit

Mangonel 
A siege engine. It had a cup at one end that was filled with stones. The arm was held under tension - when released it would sling the contents of the cup upwards and forwards.
Moat 
A ditch around the walls of the castle. Sometimes, but not always, filled with water.
Motte 
A mound of earth on which the castle tower stood.
Murder hole 
A hole in the ceiling. Could have been used either for engaging attackers in the passage below or for tipping water onto fires started in front of the castle gates and doors.

P-REdit

Portcullis 
A metal gate in the form of a grid. It could be dropped across a passageway or next to a door to protect it from attack.
Postern 
A small gate at the back or side of a castle. Used as a back entrance or to escape the castle.
Putlog holes 
Small holes that were intended to hold one end of a log or square cross-section wooden beam in the castle wall. These were used either to support temporary scaffolding during construction or hoardings.

S-UEdit

Siege tower 
A platform supported by a tower, pushed up against the wall of a castle to allow attackers to climb over the walls.
Slight 
To deliberate destroy parts of a castle to render it indefensible.
Sow 
An armoured shelter to protect attackers while working at the base of a castle wall.
Steward 
The official responsible for running the castle estate.
Trebuchet 
A siege engine. Similar but more powerful than the mangonel.
Undermine 
A method of bringing down the walls of a castle. A tunnel would be dug beneath the wall, propped with timber, then set alight to collapse the wall into the tunnel.

V-ZEdit

Ward 
Another name for bailey
Last modified on 3 April 2014, at 12:09