When you picture the olden days or even some of your favourite TV shows or films like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, or Princess Diaries, no one can ever overlook the beautiful abode of the royals. People now dream of saving up enough to invest it in a not-so-humble, yet dreamy abode for themselves. This article would help gain some ideas on how to build a castle of your own.
Being aware of the history is important before you begin the journey. Leafing through the pages of history, one can observe that castles are significant landmarks for conquests, ceremonies, defences, and a remark of wealth and prosperity. It is the forte of a ruler and his or her subjects.
1. Why Were Castles Built?
Castles mostly served as a fortress, for military, army, or power. They were filled with armies trained and who often controlled the general balance. Many castles were often a park or mark of towns with strong borders and as a symbol of shelter at times of war.
The necessities and functions evolved with time. They were often homes for noblemen or warriors. But the fantasy of having one has not faded. To build a medieval castle is a dream for many which would not be removed with the advancement of Artificial Intelligence and technology.
Castles are not something that came out of the blue in the West, it was constructed on the top of different previous forts or settlements from the past. Different foundations, and techniques, evolved and developed for something more.
The earliest type of a ‘castle’ all over the world could be seen in Troy (known for the Greek mythology), or Jericho in the East. These were often big towns with defensive forts made of clay and wood. Soldiers would guard them against potential attackers.
Castles found in England, have often been constructed from many materials including stone, timber, tin, iron, etc. To an extent, the degree of choice of material for the walls. It often depended on the availability of supplies or raw materials. However, the focus on defence has reduced compared to the times before.
The olden castles were primarily made of wood and were transported over long distances. When the work began, the size gave a hint that it would take many years to build.
2. How to Build a Castle?
For anything to begin and survive strong, the foundation must be sturdy. The stone-built castles of the olden days, have often been directly built from the bedrock. Hence the sturdiness and size. The builders would often dig down to the rock bed, level it, and create the strongest foundation. Then the stones are laid to the bedrock.
On top of that the walls are built. Now, on a practical note for today, you may not find a bedrock that easy. So when there is no suitable deep bedrock, one must dig a deep and wide trench, and fill it with rubble that was packed down. Then a firm foundation would be built. The wall stones are to be built on the layer.
The huge walls cannot be ignored when we picture a castle. Walls back then were made of stone with wooden frames to hold the stone. The mortar dried and then held it together. For very thick walls, the wall is constructed with a cavity filled with rubble rather than being a solid stone. If strength is not so important, scaffolding could be used for more height. It is often held in place by wooden beams which are often put into holes built into the wall.
This is a dry pitch for is water-filled. It was often created to expand a water source. So, back then, the castle would be created on an island or near a water source. So if you want it to be more thematic, realistic, and fanciful, you can choose a similar location before you lay a foundation.
It is natural to have a few questions about this, like, how was this architecture built without any modern machinery back then? If then, what is the improvement now? What materials were transported? What are the challenges that builders face? Etc. If you want to know how to build a castle, you must know what it takes to build one.
2.4) Get the Plan Right
Designing, planning, and execution are some of the fundamental steps before the construction of a castle. The location, defensive capability, proximity of resources, etc. were the factors considered back then. It is also important to consider the weather as that would determine the stability of the castle. If you want to learn and know how to build a castle perfectly, it would include some of these areas.
Choosing an accurate location is of vital importance. Back then, castles would be built on cliffs, hilltops, river banks, etc. This had many reasons, like having an upper hand against potential attackers, facilitating trade deals, exploration, research, etc. The surrounding area should have an abundance of resources like fresh water, arable land, a pleasant climate, quarries, and many more.
Being close to trade routes would give a strategic advantage for political reasons. Once the location is chosen based on these factors, then things are put into action. So the obvious first step is to pick the right location, and then get to work. The layout would depend on the use, purpose, terrain, and accessibility to resources and raw materials.
Early motte-and-bailey castles had a simple tower for the fort, built on bedrock and surrounded by a courtyard. Castle designs have evolved as their uses changed obviously. It was not just a military figure back then, it is after all a residence for its residents.
So, the design had to be modified accordingly to accommodate its inhabitants. So there needs to be living quarters, a kitchen with enough ventilation, stables, big halls, and a space for prayer in the traditional viewpoint. These spaces must be carefully planned, must have functional spaces, ensure a good lifestyle and status to its residents.
2.5) Gather the Right Resources and Materials
The choice of resources depends on different factors, like availability and accessibility, cost, strength, function, and of course appearance. The most commonly used materials back then were timber and stone. Timber was vastly available in the early days, and it was something easy to work with. So it is a popular choice among builders during the initial few stages of castle building.
You need to get all of them right to get the castle you want. If one falls, the whole fails.
But it does come with its share of drawbacks. It is vulnerable to fire, and decay, and that led to its replacement with stones back in the day. The whole idea of having a castle is for its impenetrable strength. Stone was the most used material for construction. It was the perfect choice for construction without having to worry about any other external factors. Hence, stones could be a perfect construction material now.
Different types of stone can be used for the construction of a castle. Limestone, granite, etc can all be used based on their abundance and accessibility. It may require government access in some cases. Stone is more durable than timber and has more protection. It is why it was most preferred back then, against possible attacks.
2.5.1) How to Get Them?
Different countries now have huge exports and imports of stone which make up a huge portion of their revenue. Hence, even if the area you intend to build one, doesn’t have enough resources, you can import some.
However, unlike Timber, stones are not easy to work with. It requires skilled men, craftsmanship, and good masons to do the job. The masons will have to cut and shape it into blocks for construction. Other materials were also used to bind the timber and stones together. It can be more sophisticated today, but the same materials can be used. Lime mortar binds stones together, which would help create a strong and durable structure.
Clay was used to make bricks and that would create a fire-resistant structure. It could be laid on timber floors and could be used for internal structures. Iron is a reinforcement, it is used for constructing gates and other fittings. The master masons would have to be skilled and patient enough to decorate the walls with these materials. The purpose castles served could vary.
2.6) Skilled Labourers
Constructing a medieval castle back then was a huge and complicated task. It requires or rather requires a combination of skilled craftsman attitude, labour, and innovative techniques. The process then was slow, labour-intensive, and took decades to complete.
The initial step in the process of the construction process is preparing the site. This would include clearing the land, excavating, clearing the foundations, reshaping the landscape, and enhancing the surroundings.
The moats could be dug, within the perimeters of the castle and the excavated earth could be used to create an artificial hill and castle on it. After preparing the site, the foundations are laid. For stone castles, trenches are dug and filled with stones and mortar. The dimensions of foundations varied. It depended on the size and weight of the structure.
2.6.1) Constructing the Castle
The construction involved cutting and shaping stones and then putting them on a layer of bed. Back then, walls of castles were built using a technique called ashlar masonry. The stones are arranged with intricacy, and their weights are evenly distributed. This would ensure the stability of walls and floors. Timber was used to reach the higher levels. Ropes and pulleys are often used to lift the heavy stones into place.
This was a dangerous and demanding task. It involves a strenuous effort. It could require strength and precision and patience of course. The interior structures of a castle including a big hall, living area, chapels, or other areas, were built with stone and timber.
The roofs were made with wooden frames covered with tiles. The construction of the castle included the creation of towers, battlements, and slits. These are carefully planned, designed and executed. This ensured maximum protection against attackers. However, this is not the purpose of today. So the functionalities can be ignored. Although it must not mess with the structure.
2.7) Prepare for Challenges
The construction of a medieval castle is a sophisticated task with numerous challenges.
Logistics- The scale and magnitude of a castle construction presents logistical challenges. Transportation of the materials and their quantity without missing out its quality is a complex task. The heavy stone particularly needs more complex requirements. This is often done with carts, sledges, boats, and well-maintained roads. The waterways also facilitated trade and movement.
The workforce and labour strength was another important thing to be wary of. A large castle means a lot of manpower. Thousands of workers, including masons, carpenters, and labourers for heavy lifting. The advancements now would make way for modern machinery and make the process faster. There are numerous ways and answers on how to build a castle now. Thanks to the industrialization and technology.
2.8) Environmental Difficulties
The natural surrounding environment could have many significant challenges to the construction of a castle. That is why the site chosen needs to be prepared well to face any harsh weather. The site might need to be prepared extensively. It might need clearing vegetation, levelling the ground and even altering the river course. Harsh rains or floods may disrupt the construction.
Climate is a focal point of everything. This would also require an element of luck. Although prediction is possible, there is always room for uncertainties. Construction works get halted due to harsh weather like rains, high temperatures, working with frozen materials, hailstorms, etc.
The availability of construction materials can be influenced by the environment around, certain types of stone. Some are more readily available in certain locations. Today, in a globalized world, accessing them may not be impossible. Rather, it is made a lot easier.
2.9) Political Uncertainties
Constructing a castle often depended on the political environment at the time. Building a castle was mainly intended for power, control, and conquests. It could lead to disputes with neighbouring lords or monarchies.
There were instances in the past, where construction had to be stopped due to wars. The permission of kings or rulers was required. The royal family had power back then, so that channel made the process of construction even more complex.
2.10) Technical Difficulties
The construction used techniques that were complex and required a high level of skill or expertise.
One faulty design or error could lead to catastrophic consequences. The walls could collapse, and foundations could fall apart. This needed careful planning and a deep understanding and knowledge of the properties of raw materials used for construction.
3. In a Nutshell
Building a castle is not easy but not impossible either. With the right plans, framework, and access, it is very much possible to give wings to the fantasy. Anyone with the right knowledge can build a fortress of their own. Read How To Build a 13th-Century Castle, Using Only Authentic Medieval Tools & Techniques for a few more insights and ideas. It is not easy to make a castle. But by following these few steps, you can make your dream home. Don’t forget to share your experience with us!
Greetings readers! Nikita here. An economics graduate, a poetry lover, a James Bond freak, the list could go on if I were to describe myself in 3 words. As a triple major in three different disciplines, I was enabled to explore the world and reality through different angles. It fostered the creativity in me. This is my chance to awaken the dormant writer in me, so hope you all have a fun read!