Medieval‎ > ‎

Life Inside a Castle

Castles were probably uncomfortable places to live. They were: damp, cold and draughty. Most had no glass in the windows and there was no running water. They were lit by torches made of twigs and rushes.

The main tower in a castle was called the keep. It usually had three floors, with access through a door on the first floor (to make it difficult to use a battering ram to break it down):
  • a trapdoor led from the first floor to the ground floor which was used as a food store or a dungeon;
  • the great hall was on the first floor where magnificent banquets would be held on special occasions;
  • the solar, on the second floor, was the family bedroom.

Castle kitchens were hot and smelly. Only men were allowed to prepare food in the kitchen. Meat was cooked on a spit over a fire and a large cauldron was used to cook stews. Some castles grew their own vegetables to eat whilst others had dogs or falcons to hunt animals.

At dinner time, the lord, his family and important guests would sit at a long table while musicians and jesters entertained them. Everyone drunk beer as the water was often bad. Members of the family would eat from pewter plates (a mixture of tin and lead) using a knife and a spoon and drink from goblets. Servants would likely eat with their fingers either from wooden plates or from a piece of stale bread called a trencher, which would soak up juices and gravy. They would drink from wooden mugs. The walls would be covered with tapestries to keep out draughts and to decorate the room with colour.

Most castles had a small private chapel or church for the lord to worship and pray in. It was very beautiful with painted walls and stained glass windows. 

Other buildings in a castle might have included a blacksmith’s shop where weapons and armour would be made and stables where the horses would have lived.