Description of the Portcullis
The Portcullis was a castle's 'rapid response system' to a surprise attack! The Portcullis was a heavy grilled door that was suspended from the Barbican or gatehouse ceiling. It was rapidly dropped down if the castle came under attack. The portcullis was usually made of oak bars which had iron spikes at the bottom. It protected the main entrance of the castle and was situated in the Barbican (an exterior walled passage with multiple gates leading to the main entrance - the Gatehouse). The Barbican was a highly defensive structure which was filled with death traps. The portcullis was suspended from strong ropes and later from iron chains.

Parts of a Castle
Castles Index 
The Portcullis - A Failsafe system - Designed to impale the enemy!
The portcullis was meant to be lowered quickly - ropes could be rapidly slashed or quick release catch was released. The portcullis would come crashing down blocking the entrance to the castle, the spikes impaling anyone in its path. Impaling an attacker made it difficult for the enemy to prise up the portcullis.

Dropping the Portcullis allowed the castle guards to prepare to defend the castle. The Missiles to be dropped from the Murder Holes could be prepared. Archers could make ready in the Barbican. And most importantly the great castle doors could be barred. It gave the castle defenders valuable time. The portcullis combined visibility with security! Arrows could be launched through the portcullis and the immediate progress of the enemy could be easily seen. The open grid design of the Portcullis was not built to withstand a heavy attack. It was to gain valuable time in organizing a castle's defence. This is the reason that large, important castles had up to three Portcullis gates!



  • What was the Origin, Meaning or Definition of the Portcullis
  • Description of a castle Portcullis
  • What was the purpose of the Portcullis?
  • How did Portcullis help with Castle defenses?
  • What was a Portcullis made out of?

Raising the Portcullis
There were various systems to raise the Portcullis, depending on the castle design. These might include counter weights, pulleys, and rope. A late design of the Portcullis combined its mechanism with that of the Drawbridge - when the Portcullis was dropped the Drawbridge was automatically raised.

Origin, Meaning of the word 'Portcullis'
The Origin and Meaning of the word 'Portcullis' derives from the Old French words 'porte coleice' meaning sliding door.

Portcullis - Part of a Medieval Castle
The most prolific of the castle builders were the Plantagenets. English King Edward I. These 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! The Portcullis features in the Medieval castles built by the Plantagenets.

The Portcullis
Facts and information about the many different parts of Castles! The Portcullis was an essential Castle part  as a form of rapid response defence against intruders.


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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