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Castle Xplorer - Castle glossary
Category: History and Culture > Castles
Date & country: 29/08/2013, UK
Words: 271


Abacus
flat portion on top of a capital

Aisle
space between arcade and outer wall

Allure
wall-walk

Apse
circular or polygonal end of tower or chapel

Arcade
row of arches, free-standing and supported on piers or columns, known as a blind or dummy arcade when it is attached to a wall

Arch
a curved structure, normally in the vertical plane, that spans an opening

Architrave
a moulding surrounding, or framing, a doorway or window opening

Arrow-loop or slit
long, narrow and usually vertical opening in a wall or merlon, through which arrows were shot

Artillery
firearms, such as handguns and cannons

Ashlar
building stone precisely cut and finished to a smooth finish

Astragal
a bar in a window, often wooden, between the panes

Aumbry
recess to hold sacred vessels, often found in castle chapels

Bailey or ward
area enclosed by castle walls, also known as the courtyard. Originally the defended area adjoining a motte

Bailiff
person in charge of allotting work to peasants, organising repairs to castles, and doing other jobs on a medieval castle

Ballista
siege engine taking the form of a giant crossbow, mounted on a stand

Balustrade
ornamental parapet of posts and railings

Barbican
outwork defending the entrance to a castle. Often a walled passage projecting from the front of the gatehouse which had large spaces in the roof, or no roof at all, so that defenders could fire upon any attackers trapped inside. It often had its own doors, portcullis and drawbridge in addition to those in the main gatehouse.

Barmkin
the small walled yard attached to a pele tower (generally Scottish)

Barracks
building or group of buildings used to accommodate soldiers

Barrel Vault
semicircular (barrel shaped) roof of stone or timber

Bartizan
small turret projecting from the corner or flank of a tower or wall, usually at the top

Base cruck
form of timber-framed construction where the roof is supported by curved timbers rising from the walls and not by aisle posts set on the floor

Basinet
close fitting medieval soldier's helmet, with a visor

Bastion
tower, turret or other construction that projects out from a wall length or commonly found projecting from the corner junction of two walls, that allows defenders to both see and fire upon the ground in front of the walls

Bastle House
Small tower house with a living room over a byre

Batter
sloping part of a wall at ground level, particularly of a great tower

Battering Ram
large beam used to break down the walls or doors of a fortification

Battlements
parapet on top of a castle wall, with a series of gaps (embrasures or crenelles) between raised portions (merlons), allowing defenders to shoot through; also called crenellations

Bay window
a window projecting out from a building at ground level, either rectangular or polygonal, of one or more storeys. A window that projects out from a building above ground level is known as an oriel window

Bays
internal divisions of a building , marked by roof principals or vaulting piers

Belfry
tall, movable wooden tower on wheels, used in sieges

Berm
level area separating a wall or tower and its moat

Billet
ornamental moulding used in Norman architecture, consisting of raised cylindrical or rectangual blocks at regular intervals

Bivalate
a hillfort defended by two concentric ditches

Blind arcade
line of arches on the face of a solid wall for decoration

Blockhouse
small fortified barrack

Bond
arrangement of bricks in courses

Bond tenant
a tenant who was bound to provide a labour service as part of his tenure; later changed to a money payment

Boss
a knob or projection to cover the intersection of ribs in a vault

Bow window
as bay window but curved in plan

Brattice or Hoarding
covered wooden gallery with holes in the floor, which was attached to the top of the external wall of a stone castle so that defenders could see and fire upon assailants at the base of the wall. Also spelt bractice or bretasche.

Breastwork
Timber palisade used to strengthen earthwork defences

Brewhouse
building or room where ale was brewed

Broch
A round tower-like structure, open in the middle, the double wall of dry-stone masonry being linked to form internal galleries at varying levels. Found in north and west Scotland, probably dating from the 1st century AD.

Bronze Age
in Britain, c. 1800 to 600 BC

Bulwark
bastion or (in first half of 16th century) a blockhouse

Buttery
chamber used for storing and preparing food and drink

Buttress
projecting pillar added to a wall to strengthen it

Cable moulding
a Norman moulding carved like a length of rope

Camera
Private room used for both living and sleeping, set apart from the more public areas of a house

Campshedding
facing of piles of boarding along a bank

Cap-house
small chamber at the top of a spiral staircase in a tower or turret, leading to the open wall-walk on the roof

Capital
the head of a pillar, often decorated

Caponier
covered passage within a ditch

Casement
bomb-proof vaulted accommodation for troops, stores or guns

Castellan
officer in charge of a castle

Castellations
battlements and turrets

Chamfer
surface made by smoothing off the angle between two stone faces

Chevron
ornamental zig-zag moulding (12th century)

Citadel
stronghold within or close to a city

Cloister
four-sided enclosure with a covered walk along each side connecting a church with the principal administrative and domestic buildings

Clunch
hard chalk used as a building material. Often plastered with limewash for durability

Cob
unburnt clay mixed with straw

Colonnade
range of evenly spaced columns

Concentric castle
castle with two or more rings of defences, one inside the other

Constable
official in charge of castle in owner's absence

Corbel
stone bracket projecting from a wall or corner, to support other stonework or timber

Cornice
decorative projection along the top of a wall

Counterfort
defence work of besieging force

Counterscarp
outer slope or wall of a ditch

Course
level layer of stones or bricks

Courtyard
walled enclosure in a castle

Courtyard castle
type of castle consisting of a stone curtain wall that surrounds a courtyard, with buildings built inside the courtyard, normally against the curtain wall

Covered Way
protected communication all round the works of a fortress on the outer edge of a ditch, covered by earthworks from enemy fire

Crenel or Crenelle
the space between merlons on a battlemented wall, also known as an embrasure

Crenellation
parapet on top of a castle wall, with a series of gaps (embrasures or crenelles) between raised portions (merlons), allowing defenders to shoot through; also called battlements

Cross-wall
internal dividing wall in a castle

Crossbow
weapon with a bow arranged at a right-angle to a wooden stock; it was used to fire metal bolts

crow-steps
step-gabled end to a roof. Also called corbie steps

Crowstepped
squared stones forming steps upon a gable

Cunette
trench in the bottom of a ditch

Curtain wall
the perimeter wall of a fortification, or any wall within a castle that does not support a roof and is used to link towers i.e. a wall 'hung' between towers

Cusp
a projecting point forming a leaf shape in the tracery of a gothic door-arch or window-head

Desmene
area of land reserved for a lord

Diaper work
decoration of squares or lozenges

Dogtooth
diagonal indented pyramid

Donjon
another name for a great tower or keep

Dormer window
window placed vertically in sloping roof

Drawbridge
wooden bridge that could be raised and lowered, sited in front of a tower or gatehouse, across a ditch

Dressing
carved or smoothed stonework around openings or along edges

Dripstone
a projecting moulding above an arch or lintel to throw off surface water

Drum-tower
large, circular tower, usually low and squat

Drystane (Scots)
unmortared masonry

Dubbing
ceremony in which a monarch or high ranking lord gives another person the title of knight; usually involving tapping each shoulder with a sword

Dun or Dum
An Iron Age fortified enclosure, built of dry-stone, often with galleried walls, dating from the 1st century AD

E-plan tower house
tower house with a main block and at least two wings at right angles, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries

Earthwork
fortification made of earth mounds, banks and ditches

Eaves
the overhanging edge of a roof

Embattled
to have battlements

Embrasure
the space between merlons on a battlemented wall, also known as a crenel