Whether on the mote, inside the walls of the keep, or as a separate building, the living space of a castle were very basic. The hall, was a large one room structure with a loft ceiling, the hall was sometimes on the 1st floor, but sometimes it was raised to the second story for greater security. Early halls were ailed like a church, with rows of wooden posts or stone pillars supporting the timber roof. Windows had wooden shutters held on by an iron bar, but in the 11th and 12th centuries were rarely glazed. By the 13th century a king or great baron might have colored glass in some of his windows.
In a ground floor hall the floor was packed dirt, stone or plaster, when the hall was elevated to the upper floor the floor was always timber, supported either by a row of wooden pillars in the basement below, or by stone vaulting. Carpets, also used on walls, tables, and benches, were not used as flooring in England and northwest Europe until the 14th century.
Entrance to the hall was in a sidewall near the lowest end of the hall. An outside staircase next to the wall of the keep reached when the hall was on an upper story. The castle family sat on a stage of stone or wood at the upper end of the hall at the other end than the door to keep away from drafts. The lord sat in a huge chair. Everyone else sat on benches. Most dining tables were set on temporary stages that were taken between meals. A permanent table was another sign of wealth. But all tables were covered with white cloths. Candles made of animal fat lighted the hall.
The fireplace provided heat throughout the whole castle. What was used instead of a fireplace was the central open pit, used in ground level halls. Square and circular the fire pits were surrounded by stone or tile and sometimes had a back of brick or stone. Smoke rose through a hole in the roof with side openings that were covered with sloped boards not letting in rain or snow, the hole could be closed by pulling strings. A fire cover made of tile was placed over the fire pit at night to reduce the chance of a fire.
In the 13th century the castle kitchen was made of timber, with a central pit or several fireplaces where meat could be cooked. Forks and knives were washed in a bucket outside. Temporary extra kitchens were set up for feasts. In the bailey near the kitchen the castle garden was usually planted with fruit trees and vines at one end, and flowers like; roses, lilies, violets, poppies, daffodils, and irises. There might also be a fishpond, stocked with fish.
In the earliest castles the family slept at the tallest end of the hall, only a curtain separated the sleeping quarters. These second-floor chambers were sometimes equipped with ?squints,? peepholes in wall decorations by which the owner could keep an eye on what went on below.
The lord and lady’s chamber, when it was on the upper floor, was called the solar. Its furniture was a huge bed with a heavy wooden frame and springs made of ropes or strips of leather, with a feather mattress, sheets, quilts, fur blankets, and pillows. Beds could be taken apart and taken along on the trips a great lord made to his castles. The bed was curtained, with curtains hanging that pulled back in the daytime and closed at night to give privacy as well as protection from drafts. Servants might sleep in the lord’s chamber on a pallet or cot, or on a bench. Chests for garments or wooden pegs for clothes and a stool made up the remainder of the furnishings. Sometimes a small room called the wardrobe joined the chamber a storeroom where cloth, jewels, spices and plates were stored in chests, and where dressing was done. In the early Middle Ages not only servants but military slept in towers or in basements, or in the hall, or in lean-to structures, knights performing castle guard slept near their assigned posts. Later, when larger watch groups manned castles, often mercenaries, separate barracks, mess halls, and kitchens were built. Except for the screens and kitchen hallways, the quarters of medieval castles had no inside hallways. Rooms were connected, or were joined by spiral staircases, which took up small space and could serve rooms on many floors. Covered outside hallways called ?pentices? joined a chamber to a chapel or to a wardrobe and might have windows, and even fireplaces.
Water for washing and drinking was at one room on each floor. There might be a reservoir on an upper level carrying water to the floors below. Hand washing was sometimes done at a built in sink with a trough. Servants filled the tank above, and pipes below carried used water away. Valves controlled inflow and outflow. Baths were taken in a wooden tub covered by a tent and padded with a cloth. In warm weather, the tub was put in the in the cold weather inside near a fireplace. When the lord traveled the tub went with him he also brought along a bathman who prepared the baths.
A feature in a castle of a wealthy lord was the chapel where the lord and his family had morning mass. The chapel was in hall keeps sometimes in the basement. By the 13th century, the chapel was usually close to the hall, convenient to the high table and bedchamber. A nice thing was to build the chapel two stories high, with the wall dividing top from the bottom. The family sat in the upper part and the servants sat in the lower part. By the later 13th century, the castle had comfort and privacy.
Two castles were never built the same, also there was never two castles furnished the same. A lot depended on the wealth of the lord. The great halls were painted and had rugs hanging from the walls. The ceilings had paintings. The floor could be covered with straw and scented with herbs.
The fireplaces were painted and had carvings. The dishes used would be expensive. The sleeping chambers had private carved beds. Feather mattresses, and blankets completed the room. The servants and workers had to sleep on the floor using their cloaks for covers. Some had straw that helped them to get a better sleep.
The chapel was probably the most furnished it had stained glass windows and colorful furniture. Even with some of the nicest furnishings, life back then was very bad compared to our modern day.
The castle’s entrance was its weakest point. Most of the time this part of the castle was the first to be rebuilt in stone. The transformation of the gatehouse into stone protected it from attack by fire, but also from other kinds of assault. Putting the gatehouse near a moat, keep, or other towers gave it more protection. Most of the time, a tower was built into the gatehouse. Earlier gatehouses were small square towers, with doorways at the middle of the bottom story.
Life in a Middeval castle