Curtain Wall


Description of the Curtain Wall
The Curtain was an outer wall which surrounded the bailey ( Motte and Bailey castles ) or Medieval castle buildings. The purpose of the curtain wall was to protect the interior of the castle. The wall was often connected by flanking towers which could house castle defenders. Sometimes arrow slits were a feature of the curtain wall enabling castle defenders to safely shoot at any attackers. Built for defence the curtain wall varied in size from 6 - 20 feet thick, up to 45 feet high and up to 1,500 feet long!

History of the Curtain Wall
The curtain wall was one of the most important forms of defence and, as such, its history dates back to the Hillforts of the Iron and Bronze Ages.

The early curtain walls were made of heavy timbers and were originally called Palisades. The wooden curtain wall was a feature of the Motte and Bailey Castles which were built by the Normans. The wooden wall was subject to rot when built on an earth base and could be destroyed by fire. The wooden walls were therefore replaced by stone curtain walls. Crenellations (battlements) were added to Medieval curtain walls which provided a fighting platform and good vantage point from which soldiers launched arrows. The Crenellations also provided defenders with a solid defence to hide behind when they were not launching arrows from the gaps in between the stone battlements. Attackers would scale the curtain wall and scaling ladders had hooks designed to fit over the crenels.

Curtain Wall

Curtain Wall

  • What was the Origin, Meaning or Definition of the Curtain Wall around a Castle
  • Description of a castle Curtain Wall
  • What was the main purpose and history of the castle Curtain Wall?
  • How did a Curtain Wall help with defenses?

Origin, Meaning of the word ‘Curtain Wall’
The Origin and Meaning of the word ‘Curtain’ wall derives from the Latin words ‘cortina and curtian’ meaning a court or enclosure surrounded by walls.

The Curtain Wall
The Curtain Wall was introduced in England in the Iron and Bonze Age Hillforts. It was included in the designs of Norman and Plantagenet castles during the Medieval period 1066 - 1485. The old Medieval Castles were a symbol of wealth and power and were often the centre of historic battles and Medieval sieges. These great old castles were built for Medieval warfare and defence and new parts of the castle were designed accordingly and the curtain walls grew higher and thicker! This section of ‘Castles’ provides interesting facts and information about the many different parts of Castles! The Curtain Wall was an essential Castle part for as a form of defence against intruders.

Curtain Wall

Parts of a Castle

  • What were the purpose of the different parts of the Medieval Castle?
  • What was the difference between the parts of a castle called the Garderobe and the Wardrobe?
  • Identifying parts of a castle - Description, purpose and function of the Moat, Dungeon and Portcullis
  • Description, purpose and function of the Barbican, Gatehouse, Crenellations and Drawbridge
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