Building a medieval castle was quite a feat. Requiring literally armies of craftsmen, from stone cutters to woodsmen, the project would take many years.
Materials Used in Medieval Castle Construction
In the beginning, castles were constructed out of wood, stone and mortar. The earlier the castle, the more wood was employed. Early castles were built in the motte-and-bailey style. The builders would mound up dirt to create a flat-topped hill. This was edged on the top by a wooden fence called a bailey, and the castle and other outbuildings were housed inside.
A variety of laborers and craftsmen were needed, including woodcutters, quarrymen, master masons, ditch diggers, miners, smiths, carpenters and carters.
Major construction was directly dependent on good weather, and most work was only done during the months between April and November. Castles managed to "grow" only by 8 to 10 feet of height per year.
The outer walls of the castle were first made of large timbers, but they rotted quickly and were susceptible to fire. Stone replaced wood as the material of choice for curtain walls, as they were called.
If possible, workers quarried down to the bedrock, and then leveled it off before setting the base row of stones for the wall. If they could not get to the bedrock, they dug large trenches, placed the stones and filled around them with rubble, which was then compressed.
Walls surrounding medieval castles ranged from 30 to 44 feet high and anywhere from 7 to 20 feet thick.
Windows were not built into the lower floors of medieval castles, as they were difficult to defend. Upper levels had window openings with seats built in. At first, they were open, covered only by heavy curtains. As time passed, they built larger windows that were closed with wooden shutters or heavy oiled parchment.