An Interesting Look at a Castle Floor Plan
This is the Castle Floor Plan of the Chepstow Castle on the river Wye in Great Britain. It shows some interesting facts and developments of Medieval Castles. Medieval castles changed a lot over the course of the five hundred years of the middle ages and these changes were brought about by a lot of different factors. Here are some facts about these changes.
This particular castle was begun a very long time ago. The first solid building of the castle begun around the years 1067 to 1072 with the building of the Great Tower. Over the course of the next 500 years many changes and upgrades were made to the castle.
The location of the castle was the first and foremost important factor in the development of a castle. This castle floor plan shows this premise very well. It it located on what used to be a very strategic location on the Wye River. And it is this location that was the first factor in how the castle was designed and developed over centuries. See how this castle is laid out along the shore. It grew over the centuries and took over more and more of the waterside. We often think of Medieval Castles as being a rectangular building with round towers at each of the corners but this was very rarely true. The design of the castle was very dependent upon the landscape. And the shape of the land in terms of hilly or mountainous was a big factor. High ground was very desirable because it was a big advantage in tactical combat situtations - but tall hills were not always available or in the right spot!
The Growth of the Castle over centuries - This castle had serious growth and renovations over a period of about five-hundred years and I have color coded the drawing to show you some of these changes.
1067 -1072 RED - The red sections show some of the major points of the castle that were first built. This is the Great Tower and a small section of wall both to its left and its right.
1225 -1245 ORANGE - You can see by the Orange that the castle was expanded during this period. It now had more wall and extended across a middle courtyard to the right and an upper courtyard and barbican to the left.
Changes in technology over the centuries meant that castles had to change
1650 - GREEN - You can see that the wall for the upper courtyard was added and notice how thick it is. This thickness also shows another very important aspect of medieval castle development over the centuries. Notice that there is a green layer of castle wall behind most of the red and orange castle walls that were previously built. This is important because over the centuries tremendous siege engines like the catapult and trebuchet were developed. These powerful machines could bring down the old castle walls very easily so in 165-0 we can see that this second layer of wall was added to make the castle walls much stronger.
Changes in Architecture
One significant thing about the change in castle design was the changes in architectural ability. You can see that the earliest portions of this castle (Mostly the Great Tower) were very square. At the time, this was what the stone smiths were capable of. But during the crusades the techniques and ideas of building with stone in the middle east made their way to the european crafts people. This can very strongly be seen in the shape of the towers that were added on in later centuries to this castle; they are round! This round structure of a tower was more difficult to build but was much stronger because it could better resist siege engines and in particular battering rams.
The corner of a square building was very susceptible to the attacks of a battering ram but a round tower was less susceptible. Also, a round tower afforded the people inside an unimpeded view along the length of the wall.
I also have the floor plans of another real castle. Harlech Castle. This floor plan shows you some of the amazing castle building techniques that were in use during the peak of castle building. You can see it here: Floor Plans of Harlech Castle.
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