11 Facts About Castles You Probably Don’t Know
Castles today are mainly used as popular tourist attractions, or you can rent a castle as an incredible setting for a family gathering or party. But in medieval times they were a sign of power, wealth and feudal reign. These imposing structures acted as a form of defence against attackers while providing accommodation for lords, ladies and their households.
There are still over 1500 castle sites today in England alone, each one with a fascinating history to tell.
If you want to find out more about these magnificent historical buildings, then here are 11 facts about castles you might not know.
1. The oldest inhabited castle in Europe is our very own Windsor Castle. Built by William I, the Queen’s home is over 900 years. However, the oldest standing castle is Château de Doué-la-Fontaine in France, built in 950 AD.
2. The average time it would have taken to build a castle is 10 years.
3. In the 10th century the average cost for building a castle was around £100. That’s because they were built of timber. By the 14th century when stone was used, the price rose to £100,000.
4. Dungeons, coming from the French word ‘donjon’ meaning fortified tower, were originally built as a central keep and a last refuge for castle inhabitants under attack. Dark and gloomy, the keeps were considered an ideal prison and so became dungeons.
5. One of the most interesting castle finds includes the first condoms discovered in Dudley Castle in 1885. Dating from the early 1600s, they are made from animal and fish intestines.
6. Medieval castle toilets were no more than a wooden bench with a hole. Excrement ran straight out into the moat. They were called ‘garderobes’ because clothes were kept there to repel insects and moths.
7. Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is not only one of England’s finest castles, but is also a famous filming location. It was used as the outdoor setting for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, and also starred as Brancaster Castle in the two Christmas specials of Downton Abbey.
8. Up until the Middle Ages, the Great Halls were used not only to entertain and eat, but also as sleeping quarters for the household.
9. The first stone castles were cold, dark, smelly and damp. Floor coverings consisted of straw rushes and, later, sweet smelling herbs to mask the smell of animal excrement, grease, rotting food and beer.
10. Count Dracula’s castle really does exist. Bran Castle in Transylvania was the inspiration for Irish author Bram Stoker. He never actually visited the castle, but based his fictional version on images and descriptions of the place.
11. Today it’s possible to rent a ‘real’ castle. Forter Castle in Perthshire is a genuine Scottish castle, built in 1560 for James Ogilvy, the 5th Lord of Airlie. The castle has a magnificent Great Hall, but don’t worry about sleeping on the floor or having to use a ‘garderobe’! The castle has been lovingly restored and is equipped with all the mod cons including luxurious bedrooms and bathrooms.
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