Medieval castle walls, like other castle parts of the medieval castles, changed their structure over the centuries. During the early medieval times, castle walls consisted of simple mud and stone fortifications that were inspired by earlier Roman structures.
As the medieval period progressed thick stone curtain walls swept around grand castles connected by imposing towers manned by well-armed castle guards. Battlements, murder holes, and watchtowers were incorporated into existing castles and built into the designs of new ones.
The most important purpose of castle walls was of course defence. During a siege, castle walls could be quickly and easily navigated by crossbow and longbowmen archers who could fire off their bolts and arrows onto the besieging armies’ troops.
Castle walls were built wide enough so that the castle’s military could easily get to parts of the wall that were under siege quickly. From the protected battlement areas of walls and towers, rocks, hot oil, and other projectiles could also be thrown at enemy forces.
Various mechanisms were used in the construction of medieval castle walls, as well as other castle parts, to make them more effective for defence. Castle walls were made thicker at the bottom to preclude the possibility of tunneling from the enemy.
Early medieval castles particularly during the early period of the Norman conquest of England were built on a mound of soil called a motte and surrounded by a wooden palisade, these castles were commonly converted to more advanced stone structures with outer stone walls.
Further, the stones chosen for the construction of medieval castle walls were selected for their ability to withstand heavy blows and shocks.
Medieval castle walls were very deep and solid, and the greatest amount of the available resources was reserved for the construction of the castle walls. The outer walls became known as ‘the castles curtains walls’.
The depth of the walls of a castle varied from around 8 to 20 feet and depended on the terrain on which the castle was constructed. Similarly, the height of medieval castle walls also varied from castle to castle, but as a rough guide, they would stand at a height of around 30-40 feet, sometimes even higher.
Stone walls had obvious advantages that they were not susceptible to fire, unlike wooden walls. Stones walls were also more resistant to attacks and blows by siege weapons such as Trebuchets that we’re constantly improving as the medieval period progressed.
The addition of arrowslits also known as arrow loops, battlements, murder holes, and towers also helped in the defence of castle walls.
The addition of murder hole openings around castle walls and entrances allowed castle defenders to drop heavy stones, boiling liquids, and other objects to maim and kill attacking forces.
The best advancement in protecting the walls of a castle was undoubtedly the development of castle moats, not only did the castle moat stop attacking armies from reaching the castle walls with ladders and siege towers, but it also stopped the use of battering rams and mining under the walls of a castle.
The final advancement of the medieval castle reached its peak with the creation of the ultimate defensive ‘Concentric Castle’ which had walls within walls, with the outer wall being lower than the inner one for strategic defensive purposes.
However, the invention of Gunpowder weapons such as the Cannon brought an abrupt end to the era of the castle as a military stronghold as they could easily destroy a castle’s walls.