Origin, Meaning of the word 'Garderobe'
A Garderobe was the name for a Medieval toilet. The Origin and Meaning of the word 'Garderobe' derives from the French word 'garder' meaning to keep and robe ( as in clothes). The garderobe was originally used to store clothes as the pungent smells deterred moths! This became the origin of the modern word Wardrobe.
Alternative names for the Garderobe
Alternative names for the garderobe was the privy, jakes, draught, and gong. The hapless people that cleaned and emptied the garderobe were called gong farmers.
Description of the Garderobe
The room in the castle called the Garderobe was intended for use as a toilet or latrine. There were many rooms used as lavatories, called garderobes or privies, included in Medieval Castle. The Privy chambers, garderobes, were positioned as far away from the chambers as practical and often had double doors added to reduce the smell! Unlike many other castle rooms the garderobe window had no glass - it was completely open - once again to reduce the noxious odours. The windows provided daylight and torches were also included in garderobes. The garderobe was freezing during the winter months! The garderobe was fitted with a stone or a wooden bench with a hole in it. Sometimes there were as many as 4 - 6 holes! Chutes were provided for the discharge which often led to the castle moat. Iron bars were added to the chutes to prevent entry to the castle by attackers! The garderobes were supplemented by the use of chamber pots!
Building the Garderobe in a Castle
The Garderobe was sited at the end of a short passage in an outside wall occasionally sited in a buttress with a chute leading to a cess pit. Garderobes were also built in a fashion similar to machicolations as projecting parapets or platforms which were built out of the wall - similar to a balcony - over either a moat or river. Some larger castles had special towers, called latrine towers. The guarderobe became obsolete as modern plumbing methods were developed.