Medieval Battering Rams and castle terminology


Allure – Wall-walk, passage behind the parapet of a castle wall.

Arrow Loop – A narrow vertical slit cut into a wall through which arrows could be fired.

Bailey – Courtyard.

Ballista – Engine resembling a crossbow, used in hurling missiles or large arrows.

Baluster – A short shaft, such as is used in balustrades, usually thicker in the middle than at the ends.

Barbican – An outwork or forward extension of a castle gateway.

Bastille – Redoubt or outwork.

Bastion – A small tower at the end of a curtain wall or in the middle of the outside wall.

Batter – A sloping part of a curtain wall. The sharp angle at the base of all walls and towers along their exterior surface.

Battlement – Narrow wall built along the outer edge of the wall walk

Bay – A constituent portion or compartment of a building, complete in itself and corresponding to other portions.

Berm – Flat space between the base of the curtain wall and the inner edge of the moat.

Buttery – Room for the service of beverages.

Cat – Assault tower.

Catapult – Stone-throwing engine, usually employing torsion.

Cesspit – The opening in a wall in which the waste from one or more garderobes was collected.

Chamfer – A surface formed by paring off an angle.

Chemise – Inner walled enclosure of a castle.

Corbel – A stone or timber bracket supporting a projection from a wall.

Crenelation – A notched battlement made up of alternate crenels (openings) and merlons (square saw-teeth).

Curtain – Those portions of a fortified wall which connect adjacent flanking-towers.

Daub – A mud of clay mixture applied over wattle to strengthen and seal it.

Dead angle – An angle, the ground contained by which cannot be seen by the defenders, and is therefore indefensible.

Dongjon or keep – The inner stronghold of a castle, usually found in one of the towers.

Drawbridge – A heavy timber platform built to span a moat between a gate house and surrounding land that could be raised when required to block an entrance.

Embrasure – The low segment of the alternating high and low segments of a battlement.

Enceinte – An enclosing wall, usually exterior, of a fortified place.

Escalade – Scaling of a castle wall.

Finial – A slender piece of stone used to decorate the tops of the merlons.

Forebuilding – A projection in front of a keep or donjon, containing the stairs to the main entrance.

Garderobe – Small latrine or toilet, either built into the thickness of the wall or projected out from it.

Gate House – The complex of towers, bridges, and barriers built to protect each entrance through a castle or town wall.

Great Hall – the building in the inner ward that housed the main meeting and dining area for the castle’s residents.

Groining – The angular edges formed by the intersection of vaults in a ceiling.

Half-timber – The common form of medieval construction in which walls were made of a wooden frame structure filled with wattle and daub.

Hall – Principal living quarters of a medieval castle or house.

Hall for hynds – Servants’ hall.

Herring-bone pattern – The placing of stones aslant in a wall so that each two rows form a succession of angles resembling the backbone of a herring.

Hoarding – A temporary wooden balcony suspended from the tops of walls and towers before a battle, from which missiles and arrows could be dropped or fired accurately toward the base of the wall.

Inner Curtain – The high wall that surrounds the inner ward.

Inner Ward – The open area in the center of a castle.

Keep – See donjon.

Lantern or louvre – A small open turret placed on a roof as an outlet for smoke.

Lights – The spaces between the mullions of a window.

Machicolation – A projection in the battlements of a wall with openings through which missiles can be dropped on besiegers.

Mangonel – A form of catapult.

Merlon – The high part of the square “sawtooth” between crenels in a battlement.

Meurtriere – Arrow loop, slit in battlement or wall to permit firing of arrows, or for observation.

Moat – A deep trench dug around a castle to prevent access from the surrounding land. It could be either left dry or filled with water.

Motte – An earthwork mound on which a castle was built.

Mullions – The vertical divisions of stone or wood between the lights of windows.

Oriel – Projecting room on an upper floor.

Outer Curtain – The wall which enclosed the outer ward.

Outer Ward – The area around the outside of and adjacent to the inner curtain.

Palisade – A sturdy wooden fence usually built to enclose a site until a permanent stone wall could be erected.

Parapet – Protective wall at the top of a fortification, around the outer side of the wall-walk.

Pier – The mass of masonry between arches and other openings.

Pilaster – A square or rectangular pillar, engaged in, and projecting slightly from, a wall.

Portcullis – Vertical sliding wooden grille shod with iron suspended in front of a gateway, let down to protect the gate.

Postern or sally-port – Secondary gate or door.

Putlog Hole – A hole intentionally left in the surface of a wall for insertion of a horizontal pole.

Quoins – Dressed corner-stones.

Ram – Battering-ram.

Rubble – A random mixture of rocks and mortar.

Sapping – Undermining, as of a castle wall.

Scaffolding – The temporary wooden framework built next to a wall to support both workers and materials.

Screens – Wooden partition at the kitchen end of a hall, protecting a passage leading to the buttery, pantry, and kitchen.

Solar – Originally a room above ground level, but commonly applied to the great chamber or a private sitting room off the great hall.

Springald – War engine of the catapult type, employing tension.

Steward – The man responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of the castle in the absence of the lord.

Trebuchet – War engine developed in the Middle Ages employing counterpoise.

Truss – One of the timber frames built to support the roof over the Great Hall.

Turret – A small tower rising above and resting on one of the main towers, usually used as a lookout point.

Ward – Courtyard or bailey.

Wattle – A mat of woven sticks and weeds.

No responses yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *