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May 9th, 2012

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09:17 pm - Little Skyrim thing ...
So, I know there are some people with a bit of an interest in Ye Olde Tymes[1] on my flist. In your (humble?) opinions, what would the interior walls of an active castle/keep/fort have looked like ?

In my limited experience, most of the walls would have been covered by wood panelling, tapestries, paint, plaster, or antlers, or some combinations of the above. Very little bare stone would have been left visible in the public areas and living quarters. The only places I've seen with all bare stone are ruins.

But in Skyrim, every single castle, tower, keep and fort has pretty much bare stone walls all the way through ... it's been bugging me for a while now. All the effort into making the game pretty, but somehow they got their ideas for the interiors by only looking at a few ruins ? Bit lazy, really.

[1] Sorry :)

Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
Current Mood: weirdweird

(8 touches | En garde !)


[User Picture]
Date:May 9th, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC)
Bare stone would be freezing cold. I think you're right about there being some sort of covering.
[User Picture]
Date:May 9th, 2012 12:53 pm (UTC)
Really depends what era and where. But yes, good tapestries were generally vitally important because they both showed how rich you were (a very important thing in medieval society) and insulated you from those heat-sucking stone walls in winter. And summer.

The art of making a decent lime plaster (and concrete) was pretty well lost after the Roman era (at least in Britain), if I recall correctly, but before then plaster with frescoes painted in were fairly common on stone walls.

They also tended to be stone walls - floors, support beams, et al, were timber. As were inner walls.

The actual battlements would tend to have fighting tops (hoardings and machiolations) and the like, not to mention overhanging privies/garderobes*, made of wood.

This is ignoring the fact that most early forts, castles, and manor houses were wooden structures anyway.

[* Later these moved to a separate detached tower in big castles - call a dansk - to improve sanitation.]
[User Picture]
Date:May 9th, 2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
In Britain, at any rate, wooden fortifications, and buildings of all sorts, were the rule until the Norman conquest. The first round of castle buidling from 1066 was also in wood - typically a motte and bailey castle, with a wooden tower on top of the piled earth motte, and a wooden pallisade around the bailey. Then within a generation, these were often replaced by stone. At first, these stone replacements were fairly direct one-for-one replacements - so the wooden tower would have been replaced by a stoke tower, and the wooden pallisade would have been replaced by a stone curtain wall. These stone castles then got more and more elaborate over the next five hundred years.

I don't know if the post-Roman Anglo-Saxons used plaster much. However, it was fairly common from c1200, and could itself be painted.
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2012 07:58 am (UTC)
Absolutely common after the Norman conquest, and part of the reason why I want to scream every time I see a cold, grey cathedral in movies - in period they would have been glowing with colour, every surface plastered and painted and decorated and gilded and glowing.

Bare walls were a sign the building was uninhabited, that it had been abandoned. Arrases, panelling, plastering, even wall 'paper' (printed linen).
[User Picture]
Date:May 9th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
The inner walls of the "state" apartments, for the highest-ranking inhabitants / guests, would have been hung with tapestries. These would have provided both warmth and colour. However, this would only have been done while those rooms were in use. When they were not - when the lord was away at another castle / house / whatever - the tapestries would have been taken down, and either put into storage, or gone on tour with the lord.

Lesser-ranking rooms may also have had tapestries, but not as fine or as many.

Servants, soldiers would not have had tapestries of any sort for their living and working quarters ... but may not even have had living or working quarters. Junior kitchen servants would probably just have a pallet in the kitchen; soldiers may have had a pallet in a shed in the inner bailey, and when not in there, would have been in the guardroom, on the walls, or on patrol.
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2012 05:31 am (UTC)
One of the benefits of being a body servant was the privilege of sleeping in your master's bedroom.

High officials might have gotten a tower room as their family abode. Most of the household soldiery would sleep in the Great Hall. It was generally a case of having to sleep where you worked for everyone else.

During the reign of Elizabeth I she would take her furniture with her on royal processions (which, given the lack of refrigeration, were the only way to actually support a riyal court, since it was much easier than bringing the food to you).

This was also the feudal structure - it spread out the economic basis of maintaining troops over as large an area as possible (through individual enfeoffed manors).

There was an astounding lack of privacy by modern (or even Napoleonic sensibilities). But then since peasant cottages were residence, barn, and byre in one (helping keep the family warm through rotting straw and cabbage, and the warmth of animals), it was considerable improvement to be a servant.

[Castles themselves in Europe were actually very primitive affairs until after the Crusades, when some of the designs of Muslim fortresses* were brought back. This technological innovation continued until the gatehouse essentially became the castle, and then with the advent of good cannon, the idea of combining fort and residence in one died away and proper palaces could be built.]

[* A castle is an offensive structure, not a defensive structure. It is designed to provide a secure base from which mobile offensive operations could be conducted. Therefore an invader could not leave such a base uninvested behind them and was thus forced to invest it in seige, take it by force or arms (which would be particularly bloody), or more reliably take it by treason. Especially since the idea of a commissary was still centuries in the future and armies foraged for supplies. A fortress, on the other hand, was a defensive installation.]
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2012 02:19 am (UTC)
I've never played Skyrim, but I do think of all those movies that depict the walls as being stone, and this could also be a bi ginfluence. i hadn't really thought about it myself, not being an expert in the field really, and very much taking what I have seen and heard as read on teh subject. (Including all those castles I visited whilst in the UK.)
[User Picture]
Date:May 10th, 2012 10:07 am (UTC)
For an example of a medieval castle looking like it would have done with some preserved interiors, tapestries etc try Bolton Castle, near Leyburn in Yorkshire. There are no doubt others, that's the nearest to me I can think of. There is also a good intact roofed castle at Skipton,13th/14th century onwards I think, been there many times and am sure the information in the rooms mentioned tapestries and wall decoration especially in the Lord's chambers. Game of Thrones the series is good at recreating medieval style castles and interiors, no doubt the soon to be issued game will do the same :-) Freezing cold stone walls was also why rich folk in them days would have had a nice snug curtained, tapestried four poster bed! Ive lived in a stone flagged 17th century house and its definitely pretty cold in winter without a fire burning all day in every room...

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