As we saw last week, a shell keep offered all round protection for the most important buildings in the castle, but the buildings themselves were cold and draughty and the wood was subject to rot. Later castles, especially those on a level site or a rocky outcrop that could take the weight, had a stone tower keep so the important buildings were stone.
|The White Tower, Tower of London|
|Dover Castle Keep|
The main access to the keep was via steps on the outside up to the first floor. Sometimes with a drawbridge. This made it easier to defend. Sometimes the steps were stone, but wooden steps could be destroyed once everyone was inside, offering even more protection. Windows were very small too as protection against arrows, getting wider on higher floors.
|Rochester Castle Keep|
There were rooms actually built into the walls. The tower was also divided across the middle, providing two rooms on each floor but also supported the tower. In fact, when King John laid siege to the castle in 1215, the walls and bailey were captured and the keep attacked by siege engines, but the household retreated behind the cross wall and held out for two months! They only surrendered when all food was gone.
[adapted from The Medieval Castle Haynes Manual by Charles Phillips]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, and book two Alien Secrets, are out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz