Castle Murder Holes

Medieval Castle murder holes were a basic but very important part of a medieval castle, murder holes were usually concentrated in areas where the castle was most vulnerable around the weakest part of the castle which was usually the entrance part of the castle. Medieval Gatehouses that were built to protect the castles entrances had murder holes built along their passages and murder holes were essential around a castles entrance.

Medieval Murder holes were also built around castle walls and Machicolations were built to give murder holes a better position. Machicolations were made of wood initially and later stone and were added to a castles outer walls (curtain walls). Murder holes jutted out from the castle wall and above the enemy thanks to the addition of the Machicolations. The guards and soldiers inside the medieval castles dropped heavy stones and hot liquids such as oil, boiling water and even hot sand on the enemy as they attacked the castle.

  • Medieval Castle Murder Holes Origins
  • Purpose of Castle murder Holes
  • Murder Hole Descriptions
  • Murder Holes and Machicolations
  • Castle Gatehouses and Murder Holes
Machicolations and Murder Holes

Murder Holes in a Castle machicolations

Murder holes and Machicolations

Murder holes were built around a castles main entrance and in Gatehouse passages. However there was a need to protect a castles walls and towers also and earlier designs of castle did not give a good enough defence system, this led to the introduction of Castle Machicolations that were initially made from wood. The problem was that the rocks and hot liquid thrown from the castles curtain wall usually missed attacking soldiers, especially hot liquid that would often just run down the castle walls.

The Machicolations solved this problem as they created a platform that jutted out from the castle wall and gave murder holes a better position, aim and result. Machicolations that were made from wood initially were considered so important after their introduction that they were incorporated into the actual design and became part of the castle. These incorporated stone Machicolations were stronger and could withstand an enemies attack with siege weapons better than the earlier wooden ones, they gave a much improved murder hole positions around the castles curtain wall and vastly improved the castles defences.

  • A murder hole was also called a meurtrière a French term
  • Sand, hot oil, hot tar and boiling water as well as rocks were dropped from Murder holes
  • Murder holes were essential defences around a castles entrance and in Gatehouse passages
Murder Holes Medieval Town

Murder Holes in the top of a gateway to a medieval town or city

Murder holes in Gatehouses

Murder holes were essential elements of a medieval gatehouse as the gatehouse was built to protect the castles entrance from enemy attack as it was traditionally the most vulnerable part of the medieval castle. Murder holes were built near the entrance and along the Gatehouses passageway, some gatehouses had very long passages and there would have been murder holes all along the gatehouse passage. The enemy could often be trapped in the gatehouse passages and this would be a the perfect time to attack them with hot liquids such as oil and tar, boiling water and stones, however more often than not archers would be lined up at the top of a castles gatehouse passage walls who would massacre the enemy under a rain of arrows.

  • Many things such as boiling water and hot sand were thrown through murder holes
  • Hot oil was used sparingly and due to it’s cost was not often thrown through murder holes
  • Machicolations helped the creation of more effective murders holes in better positions in a castles curtain walls
  • Rotting animals and even human parts and excrement would be dropped from murder holes!

We hope that you found this article on medieval murder holes factual and informative, please see our other articles in the castle parts section of this website. The articles on medieval Machicolations and Gatehouses will give you a better understanding and all round knowledge of Castle murder holes.

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