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 and built into the above chambers floors.

Gatehouses that were built to protect the castle’s entrances had murder holes built into them and their passageways, murder holes were an essential element around a castle’s entrance.

Bodiam Castle Ceiling Murder Holes

Murder Holes in Ceiling – Bodiam Castle

machicolations were also built around castle walls, machicolations were not technically murder holes but served a similar purpose, built to give castle defenders a better position to pour boiling liquids and rocks onto besieging soldiers. Machicolations were made of wood initially, later stone machicolations were either added to a castle’s outer walls (curtain walls) or built into the design of new castles.

For simplicity, we will also refer to machicolations as murder holes for the rest of this article.

Stones Dropped from Machicolations - Parts of a Medieval Castle


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.

Molton Lead

Murder Holes & Machicolations

Murder holes were commonly added to the towers and walls of a castle, around a castle’s main entrance, and in Gatehouse passages. When boiling liquids and rocks were thrown from the tops of castle walls they often hit the castle’s own walls to overcome this problem machicolations were added or built into new castle designs.


Machicolations created a platform that jutted out from the castle wall and gave murder holes a better positioning, aim, and result. Machicolations were made from wood initially but were later made from stone and considered so important after their introduction that they were incorporated into the actual design of future castles.

Murder Holes in Gatehouses

Murder holes were essential elements of a medieval gatehouse as the gatehouse was built to protect the entrance of the castle from enemy attack as it was traditionally the most vulnerable part of the medieval castle.

Murder holes were built around the inner entrance and along the Gatehouses passageways, 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 perfect time to pour hot liquids such as boiling water, oil, and tar through the murder holes.

Gatehouses to walled medieval cities and towns would also contain murder holes.

Murder Holes Medieval Town

Gatehouse to Walled Medieval Town *Murder Holes at the top of Arched Entrance

Castle Murder Holes Fast Facts

  • Meurtrière is a French term for Murder hole
  • Boiling water, hot oil, and tar were poured through murder holes
  • Murder holes were commonly placed around the entrance of a castle and in Gatehouse passages

Bodiam Castle Ceiling Murder Holes

  • Machicolations helped the creation of more effective murders holes in better positions in a castles curtain walls
  • Rotting animals and even human excrement could be dropped through murder holes!

Castle Machicolations 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-around knowledge of Castle murder holes.