A medieval castle moat was a deep and wide ditch surrounding medieval castles for the purpose of defence. The ditch was filled with water and thus acted as one of the primary castle parts for protection against enemy invasion. Preliminary forms of ditches surrounding castles and towns were found in ancient civilisations of Assyria and Egypt. However, more elaborate forms of ditches known as medieval castle moats became increasingly common during the middle and late medieval times.
Purpose of Medieval Castle Moat
The most important purpose of a medieval castle was defence. A moat around the castle made it difficult to approach the castle walls for siege weapons including siege towers and battering rams. Further, medieval castle moats also served as an important deterrent against the practice of digging tunnels under the castle walls to penetrate the castle. There were several kinds of medieval castle moats including cross ditches which separated different parts of the castle and neck ditches which were dry moats.
Imagine how hard it would have been to overcome this medieval Castle moat
Making a Castle Moat
A medieval castle moat had supreme importance in the castle parts for preliminary defence. The first requirement to make a castle moat was access to a water source. Due to this reason, it was common to built castles near a water source such as a river, stream, or a lake. A special dam was constructed in order to channel the flow of water into the medieval castle moat. The depth of a medieval castle moat could be up to 30 feet while it could be as wide as 12 feet.
Medieval Castle Moat Defences
Castle parts reserved for defence were of primary importance during the medieval times and therefore special attention was paid to the construction of effective medieval castle moats. A medieval castle moat served several defence purposes. The obvious purpose was to make the approach of the heavy weapons difficult. Some weapons such as siege towers needed to be brought near the castle walls to work effectively and a medieval castle moat acted as an effective deterrence against such weapons. Further, a medieval castle moat precluded the danger of tunnelling underneath the castle walls which was an effective method of penetrating the castle defences.
Overcoming a Castle Moat
Medieval Castle surrounded by water being attacked by boats
There were various methods to overcome the medieval castle moat during invasion. If the moat was dry, it was filled with wooden stakes, rocks, and other things until the ditch could be effectively crossed. Sometimes a makeshift bridge called a drawbridge were used to cross the medieval castle moats if they were filled with water. Another way was to sail a barge across the moat to the castle walls. In any case, it wasted a lot of time which the defenders of the castle could use to their advantage.
Medieval Castle Moat Summary
A medieval castle moat was of central importance amongst the castle parts of a medieval Castle for defence during the time of William the Conqueror. Before that, the moats did exist but in a relatively primitive form. The medieval castle moat not only repelled the attack of an invading army, it also gave valuable time to the defenders of the castle to form the strategies for subsequent defence.