Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: The Gatehouse

Gatehouse at Kidwelly Castle, Wales
Cross the drawbridge and you'll likely find yourself staring up at the gatehouse, the front door of the castle and arguably the strongest part of the castle.  Flanked, usually, by two enormous towers, peppered with arrow loops, and a slew of armed guards. The gatehouse might sometimes be referred to as a barbican, which is defined as a defensive tower, usually a double tower, of a castle or walled city, often above a gate or drawbridge.

Bridge over moat and Grand Gatehouse of Caerphilly Castle, Wales

Gatehouse of Carrickfergus Castle, Northern Ireland

Gatehouse at Pembroke Castle, Wales

Barbican & Gatehouse at Harlech Castle, Wales

Gatehouse at Caernarfon Castle, Wales
The tunnel through the gate is often extremely thick, supporting several doors or gates, usually including a portcullis. A portcullis is a heavy gate or grill, usually made of metal, which could be raised and lowered with pulleys inside the gatehouse. If lowered at the right time, the portcullis could be a weapon in its own right, impaling or crushing enemies. Two doors lowered in concert could also trap enemies. From within the gatehouse, soldiers could shoot arrows through arrow loops as well as make use of the murder hole. A murder hole is a gap, situated inside the doorway, above where people enter, through which boiling water, hot oil, and rocks might have been heaved upon unsuspecting enemies.

Gate and Portcullis at Cahir Castle, Ireland
Ruined Gate at Rock of Dunamase, Ireland

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