Among the main castle parts which had supreme importance for defence was the medieval castle tower. It was one of the most important structures used in defensive fortifications although it also served various other purposes. Towers were constructed in several shapes although square and circular towers were the most popular ones.
A medieval castle tower could serve several purposes. Castle defenders could fire their weapons on besieging armies from corner towers. On the other hand, flanking towers were located on the outside of the castle walls and provided effective flanking fire. Wall towers were used for archers to shower arrows on the invading armies. Finally, a medieval castle tower could also serve the purposes of storage and imprisonment.
Various castle locations could be used for the construction of a medieval castle tower. It was one of those castle parts which could be constructed in various shapes and at various locations. For instance, there were wall towers construed on the walls and square gate towers constructed beside the main entrance.
A flanking castle tower was constructed on the outside of the defensive wall. Archer towers were usually constructed on the corners of castle walls and had vertical loops called arrow-loops for archers to shoot arrows from.
There were various methods of defending a medieval castle tower. The usual way was to relegate the responsibility to the archers who could shoot arrows from the arrow-loops specifically designed for the same purpose.
Towers constructed on the castle walls could be used to pour boiling liquids on the invading enemy, especially if machicolations and murder holes were added. During the later medieval times, a medieval castle tower had a curved architecture which made it difficult for the enemy to mine the foundations of the castle.
There was a wide variety of a medieval castle towers. During the early and middle medieval times, towers were generally constructed in square shapes. However, during the late medieval times, circular towers became more important among the castle parts reserved for defence as this shape provided a clear line of sight for the archers.
Unlike the square-shaped towers, circular towers were not vulnerable to mining. Other less common tower types included horseshoe-shaped towers and polygonal towers.
Until around the 10th century the most common material used in the construction of a medieval castle tower was wood. However, this changed after the Norman Conquest in 1066 and stone towers became more popular. Wood cost less and wooden towers were easy to build. However, they provided for weaker defence compared to stone towers. Stone towers were immune to fire and were comparatively easier to defend.
A medieval castle tower had central importance in the castle parts used for its defence. Medieval castle towers came in various shapes and served a variety of purposes. Although the central purpose of these towers was defence, they could also be used for storage and imprisonment purposes. Square or rectangular-shaped towers were common before the Normal Conquest but after that circular towers made of stone became popular.