Famous British Medieval Castles: Facts, History, Names, Architecture Designs, Plumbing

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This essay discusses Famous England Medieval Castles history and facts. It describes the designs and architecture of those castles which includes plumbing, bathrooms and running water. Included in this essay is a list of British Medieval Castles names, date built and what famous person owned them at one time or another.

British Medieval Castles Designs and Architecture

In England, Castle walls were built 6 to 7 feet thick. Many of the Castles of England were built of stone.

Windows were made 12-18 inches wide by 4 ft high. They were closed by wooden shutters which was protected by an iron grille. By the end of the 13th century, glass was beginning to replace wooden shutters however it was very expensive so it was used in moderation.

The Keep was the most important area of the castle. It had the strongest fortifications. The garrison would retreat to the Keep if the outer walls fell. In the Keep was a well for water, chapel, offices, apartments and supplies for a long siege. It was often in line with the outer walls so if it fell the defenders could possibly escape. Rectangular Keeps were strongly built with thick walls and usually 2-4 stories high. Rectangular Keeps were often attacked by sappers or battering ram on one of its corners. Circular Keeps were built in European Castles after the 12th century, the crusades and the return of the crusaders. Circular Keeps were modeled after the Castle Keeps built in the Holy lands.

The outer walls of the castle were defended by a moat or moats. There was a drawbridge at the entrance or gateway of the castle. This gateway was defended by a walled outwork called a barbican that was located at the front of the gate. Portcullises portcullises of medieval castle picturemade of oak and plated with iron lined the gateway passage. The passageway also had Machicolations which were openings in the walls, roof and gates in which projectiles could be thrown at an enemy. The wards or baileys were built at the foot of the mound and enclosed by walls and towers.

Plumbing: Running Water

In England, Westminster had running water as early as 1234. Hampton court built by Cardinal Wolsey and later owned by Henry VIII had an efficient system of pipes which pumped water from Natural springs over 3 miles away. Other Royal palaces and or castles that had running water were: Nonsuch Palace, Hatfield Palace St. James Palace, Enfield Palace, Oxford Palace, Eltham, Woodstock, Beaulieu, Greenwich and Whitehall. Men were employed to keep the sinks, drains and pipes from clogging. Others were employed to keep the moats clean as fresh water and fish from the moats supplied the castles.

Early Bathrooms

There were hundreds of people that stayed at the Court. The Queen alone had over 160 ladies in waiting. These people brought their servants and pets with them. Not to mention the many people behind the scenes that kept the castle running. Sanitation became a problem. Men would urinate on the walls inside and outside the Castle even though there were garderobes next to all major rooms and lodgings. These Garderobes had good ventilation and could be flushed with water. But even at that, the garderobes would begin to smell bad and require a thorough cleaning. It was at this point the court would move to another castle or palace. The court moved about 30 times a year. The King had many castles, palaces, houses and hunting lodges throughout the city of London and country. Sometime in the 1530s, at Hampton court Henry VIII built a 2 story communal public lavatory that could accommodate 14 people at a time. It was called the great house of easement. It drained into the palaces main drain which emptied into the Thames River. Several other palaces and castles had similar facilities installed. Piss Pots or urinals were installed around the palace courtyards for use instead of the walls. However, the problem became so great that a proclamation had to be issued to forbid any person from urinating within the area of the court.

Famous England Medieval Castles Names (partial list) includes other UK castles (Welsh and Scottish). Most of these castles offer guided tours today. Some not all have gardens, lodging and weddings.

  • Alnwick Castle located in the town of Alnwick, was built around 1309. It was the home of the Percy family, Dukes and Earls of Northumberland. Henry Percy was once engaged to Anne Boleyn. Today, see the great hall, the abbey, the gardens, towers, grounds and other artifacts. There are children's activities where children can dress up in medieval clothing. Other things to see and do include archery lessons, eat at the castle restaurant and visit the museum. Accommodations are available at the Castle's cottages which are located at the base of the castle and owned by the Duke of Northumberland�s Estate. Corporate events, conferences and weddings can be arranged too. For nearby lodging, see Alnwick hotels
  • Arundel Castle built in 1068 in Sussex by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel.. It is the family home of the Howard family the Dukes of Norfolk. The 3rd duke of Norfolk was the uncle of both Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Today, see beautiful gardens, Knight's armor, priceless artwork, period furniture and other artifacts. There is a restaurant, coffee shop and gift shop on the grounds. Many movies have been filmed here including Young Victoria.  for nearby lodging see, Arundel hotels.
  • Chillingham Castle is in Norththumberland. Originally it was a monastery in the 12th century. In 1298, Edward I took it over as a defense against the Scots notably William Wallace and his rebels. It is the ancestral home of the Grey family. The castle has a bloody past and reportedly has many ghosts. Today, see the torture chamber, the great hall, the gardens, the state rooms and other areas of the castle.  for nearby lodging see, Alnwick hotels.
  • Conway Castle built 1284 in Wales by King Edward I of England.
  • Deal Castle built on the east coast of Kent England built by Henry VIII between 1539 and 1540.  for nearby lodging see, Dover hotels, 7.9 miles away.
  • Dover Castle, in Dover, fortifications were first built here by the Romans over 2000 years ago. The Castle was built by William the conqueror in about 1068. It was never a royal castle and no kings lived here. However, it was built and used for defense of England because of its location on the White Cliffs along the Kent coastline.  for nearby lodging see, Dover hotels.
  • Edinburgh Castle was built 1093 in Scotland. It has been the chief royal castle of the Scots. Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI or James I of England. Today, it is designated as a world heritage site. See the crown jewels, the national war museum and memorial, the Royal palace, the Royal Scots Regimental Museum, prisons of war exhibitions, the Stone of Destiny, St. Margaret's chapel, a medieval siege gun and other artifacts. Attend costumed performances, annual gun salutes and other events. The castle is situated high on a hill therefore you can see great views of Edinburgh. for nearby lodging see, Edinburgh hotels.
  • Harlech Castle built between 1285-90 in Harlech, Gwynedd, north Wales by Edward the I. In 1404 it was taken by Welsh leader Owain Glyn Dwr who proceeded to hold a parliament here.
  • Hever Castle located near Sevenoaks, in Kent, was built in 1270. It was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn (born around 1500 - 1507). Therefore, it was owned by the Boleyn family. After the execution of Anne, the castle was confiscated by Henry the 8th and given to his 4th wife Anne of Cleves as an divorce settlement. Today, there are beautiful gardens and you can have your wedding here. You can tour the castle and grounds. The castle is said to be haunted by Anne. for nearby lodging see, Sevenoaks hotels, 7.5 miles away.
  • Heddingham Castle was built in 1140 by Aubrey II who was the son of Aubrey de Vere was created Ist Earl of Oxford by Queen Matilda. Today, visit the beautiful gardens, the Queen Anne house (built 1720), the lake, the banquet hall, minstrels' gallery and other areas of the castle grounds. Several films and documentaries have been filmed here. There are medieval festivals, joisting and other events scheduled throughout the year. Corporate events, private parties, weddings and other functions can be arranged. for nearby lodging see, Colchester hotels, 18 miles away.
  • Hurstmonceux Castle, near Hastings and Hailsham, built in 1441 by Sir Roger Fiennes in Sussex. It was built as a military fortification and used as defense. The uniqueness of this castle is it was built from bricks. Today, tour the castle, the grounds and gardens. There is a tearoom and a gift shop. Accommodations are on the grounds. Conferences, weddings and other functions can be arranged. for nearby lodging see, Hailsham hotels, 7.5 miles away.
  • Leeds Castle, in Maidstone, was built in Built in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur in Kent. It was used as a royal palace for Edward I in 1278. Henry VIII altered the castle to suit his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Today, the castle has accommodations, beautiful gardens, a restaurant, an English maize and a golf course. Conferences, Banquets and Weddings can be arranged too. It is said to be haunted by a black dog. for nearby lodging see, Maidstone hotels, 6.5 miles away.
  • Raby Castle was built in 1131 by the Nevilles. The Nevilles became Earls of Richmond. The Neville lost the castle after the failure of the rising of the north in support of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1569. Ownership then went to the Crown (Elizabeth I) until 1626 when it was purchased by Sir Henry Vane the Elder. Today, see the deer parks, the beautiful gardens, the coach house, the barons hall, a magnificent art collection, the kitchen, the servants rooms, the bedrooms and other impressive areas of the castle. for nearby lodging see, Durham hotels, 18 miles away.
  • Rochester Castle, near Dartford, was built in 1086 by William the Conqueror's brother. It was a defense castle. The castle was under siege many times and fortified several times throughout its history. It is said to be haunted by Lady Blanche de Warren killed in1264. for nearby lodging see, Dartford hotels, 15 miles away.
  • Skipton Castle located in Skipton, North Yorkshire, was built in 1090 by Robert de Romille, a Norman baron. Edward II granted the castle to the Clifford family, Earls of Cumberland, in 1310. It is considered the best preserved and most complete medieval castle in England. Today, see the watchtower, the kitchen, banquet hall, the lord's bedroom and other rooms of the castle. There is a tea room, a book store, and school group tours with educational packages. The castle has art classes, exhibitions and workshops too. Conferences, corporate events, weddings and other functions can be arranged. Special events include medieval festivals, encampments and other fun things and are scheduled throughout the year. for nearby lodging see, Harrogate hotels
  • Sudeley Castle is in Winchcombe 8 miles from Cheltenham. Built at its present site in 1442. It was the home of Catherine Parr and where she is buried. It is said to be haunted by her ghost. Sudeley Castle was once the property of Edward IV and Richard iii. for nearby lodging see, Cheltenham hotels.
  • Warwick Castle fortification was built in 914 by the daughter of Alfred the Great. The castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068. It has been the home of the earls of Warwick and most notably Richard Neville Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker. Today, explore the castle's dungeon, the courtyard, the towers and other places of interest. There are pageant, historical re-enactments, medieval banquets, concerts and events planned throughout the year. Eat at the restaurant. You can buy annual tickets. Corporate events, banquets, weddings, receptions, dinners and other functions can be arranged. The castle is said to be haunted a black dog. The castle tower is said to be haunted by Sir Fulke Greville, who was murdered there by his manservant in 1628. Greville acquired Warwick Castle from James I in 1604. for nearby lodging see, Warwick hotels
  • Windsor Castle built in 1075 by William the Conqueror. Most Kings and Queens of England have lived here. It was the favorite royal palace of Henry VIII. The castle is said to be haunted by Henry VIII, his daughter Elizabeth I and .King George III  as well as numerous other ghosts. for nearby lodging see, Windsor hotels
  • The Tower of London built 1080 by William the Conqueror. Early on the castle was used as a residence for the kings of England. Then it was used as a prison for political prisoners and those of noble birth. Many nobles were executed for treason here most notably Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Other famous political prisoners held in the tower included Sir Thomas More, Elizabeth I, Will Hastings, the little princes (Edward V and Richard, Duke of York) and other important people in history. Today, see royal armor, the crown jewels, medieval weapons, Lady Jane Grey graffiti, the famous ravens, the Tower Green (site of famous executions), the prisoners exhibition and other interesting exhibitions. The Tower hosts historical re-enactments, adult learning programs, lectures, workshops and community events. for nearby lodging see, London hotels

Weir, Alison, Henry VIII: The King and His Court Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (October 29, 2002)