The Defensive Features of Rochester Castle in 1215 Essay

Castles were built all over Britain in the 11th Century onwards and they were built to show the Lords sense of power and position. When they were built, the main aspects in mind were to make it as strong as possible and as hard to attack as possible. This was done through natural defences like the river and that it was on a hill. They also used man made defences like ditches, curtain walls and the batter. Another aspect was the keep defences like the stairs which had a right angle in them, bracing of the doors and arrow slits.

Firstly, when the attackers decided to attack Rochester Castle, the first obstacle that they would have to overcome was the river. It would slow them down having to get all the heavy siege weapons across. On the other hand, it would give the defenders time to prepare for a siege and to get in any required food.

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Then they would come to the hill which would be tiring for the attackers after having to get across the river using most of their strength, but there is no way of hiding as having the castle on a hill is a great advantage for the defenders as they can see absolutely everything all around the castle and as the attackers are making their way up the hill, they get extra tire to prepare and they get an even better firing position, making it more challenging for the attackers.

The next feature which the attackers would come across would be the ditch, which would be extremely steep in medieval times and if the weather was wet it would be very slippery and could even cause people to break bones. It would also be very difficult to get heavy equipment in and back out without harming it, or even themselves.

The Curtain wall would be following and would be the set of walls that surrounded and protected the interior (bailey) of the castle castle. These walls are often connected by a series of towers or mural towers to add strength and provide for better defense of the ground outside the castle, and were connected like a curtain draped between these posts. They were designed to enclose the keep itself and to help a garrison last longer during a siege.

The keep walls would be next. They were the thick stone walls of the keep which protected the people who were in the keep, but the attackers would find it very difficult to break down. As breaking down the keep wall was almost impossible, the attackers would use their common sense and break down the door to the fore-building, but would then find it hard to break down the door to the keep as there would also be a portcullis making it a lot stronger and harder to break down.

The keep walls would also slope outwards at the bottom which was called a batter. It would mean that if you dropped rocks from the top of the keep, they would drop down onto the batter and bounce of and hit the people. This would surprise the attackers and they possibly in many cases not see it coming.

Another aspect of Rochester Castle was that at there were stairs up to the doorway to the Fore-Building, but the stair had a gap to get t the door and you would have to make a very large jump, which would take a lot of effort and especially to get the battering ram up the stairs would be hard, but would advantage the defenders as it would again give then time and also if the drop anything down on the attackers while jumping, they could easily fall and have to start all over again.

As you can see in the picture bellow (the doorway, fore-building and keep), the two doors which are very close together would make it easier said than done to turn around the tree trunk/ battering ram to get through the door to the keep without getting killed or even injured in any way.

Inside the keep, there was one main stairs which turned anti-clockwise and this would give an advantage to people who were coming down the stair (defenders) who were right-handed and make it more challenging for people coming up the stairs (attackers) who were right-handed. They would only take in mind right-handed people as left-handed people in medieval times were thought to be witches and warlocks.

A lot higher in the castle, there were hourdes which were covered platforms with holes in the floor for dropping missiles at the enemy at the base of the wall. The cover to the platform would protect the defender making them almost impossible to reach due to very small holes in the bottom being the only way of attack.

Even though Rochester Castle had many defensive features, it also had weaknesses, for example, it did not have its own unlimited supply although there was a well in the basement, but this didn’t stop it having all it’s features. It would have been very difficult to attack, but even more difficult to defend and build.

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