Inside A Medieval Castle Keep
I just recently took a trip to Ireland and my goal was to see the medieval castles. That I did! I saw lots of them. And I have lots of pictures and videos. You can see all those various castles right here: The Castles of Ireland. But this article is about the keep of one particular castle: Trim Castle. It is a very old structure and it is in terrific shape. Here I explain, with pictures, about how the keep is laid out and how it works. Some pretty interesting stuff.
First let's take a look at the outsideof the keep. This next picture shows it. And to get a sense of the size and scale of it you can see the stairs on the lower right. You walk up these stairs to the only entrance to the keep. And it is important to note how that sole door is up off the ground. This made it much more difficult to attack and nearly impossible to use a battering ram against.
And note: At the bottom of this page I have a video you can watch. It is of the outside and inside of this keep!
Once you enter that single door into the keep you come into a room called the disarming room. This is where all visitors would give up their weapons. We can't have people walking around with weapons inside the keep. You just never know who to trust.
And this is that massive main door too the keep. It is very thick and solid. This actual door and lock are about 250 years old. The key to this door is about a foot in size. Pretty solid stuff. We are standing right inside the disarming room.
There are various rooms in the keep and they look like this. The wooden floor is the same as it would have been hundreds of years ago.
The room for the lord of the keep and his family would be the room that is the absolute furthest from the main doorway. This gave them maximum protection and defense.
Another fascinating defense measure inside the keep was the way the stairwells were made. They would have a clockwise rotation so defenders of the keep could easily use their right hand sword hand. Attackers trying to go up the stairs would have their sword hand agains the inner wall. That made it difficult for them to swing their swords.
And, these stairwells would be trick in that the height and the depth of the steps would vary. Or there would be one particular step that was of a different size. This is called a trip-step and it could trip up an attacker who wasn't familiar with the stairwells.
Now, this is a little difficult to see but in that alcove on the left there is a hole in the bottom. That is the toilet chute! Yup, they had to take care of business in the keep. And that chute goes all the way down to a room in the bottom.
And down there was a man called g a "GongFarmer". Yup, it was his job to stir up the "gong" and take care of it. Yikes, Things sure were primitive back then.
And they were always cautious about chutes like this because sometimes castles were taken over by having people crawl up through these chutes. They would often have metal bars protecting them.
Here is a fireplace inside the castle main room. And the big thing about this is that it was added centuries after the keep was first built! Yup, it was a marvel of an upgrade and renovation! Until then this keep was very cold.
And here is a look up through the fireplace air chute. It is called a fumarelli and it curves and twists on its way up to bring the smoke out. But the curving and twisting was to prohibit rain from coming straight down and into the keep , putting out the fire.