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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 7:30 am    Post subject: Castle Interior Question         Reply with quote

In many numerous castles that I've seen, there are windows at the back of a small alcove in the keep or in side towers. In many cases in the alcove there are two stone slabs, placed like benches, on either side of the window. What exactly was their purpose? To me, they look like the medieval equivalent of a "love seat" by the windows, where two people could sit facing each other and pass the time in conversation. However, some of the alcoves are too narrow to properly accomodate two people sitting opposite from each other. In nearly all cases, the "benches" are narrowest near the window, and widen significantly as they project out towards the edge of the alcove.

I'm sure their function must be fairly common knowledge to people who know a fair amount about castles, but since I am just in the process of learning more about historical castle designs and I don't have any good books on the subject, I was wondering if someone from myArmoury could fill me in on their intended use and purpose.
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Jonathan Blair




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 8:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'll hazard a guess and say for maybe for defense. An archer, crossbowman, or rifleman could kneel at the window and shoot at passerby invaders.
Maybe.
Perhaps.

That's my Hollywood Squares answer anyway.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." - The Lord Jesus Christ, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter x, verse 34, Authorized Version of 1611
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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 10:56 am    Post subject: Re: Castle Interior Question         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
In many numerous castles that I've seen, there are windows at the back of a small alcove in the keep or in side towers. In many cases in the alcove there are two stone slabs, placed like benches, on either side of the window. What exactly was their purpose? To me, they look like the medieval equivalent of a "love seat" by the windows, where two people could sit facing each other and pass the time in conversation. However, some of the alcoves are too narrow to properly accomodate two people sitting opposite from each other. In nearly all cases, the "benches" are narrowest near the window, and widen significantly as they project out towards the edge of the alcove.

I'm sure their function must be fairly common knowledge to people who know a fair amount about castles, but since I am just in the process of learning more about historical castle designs and I don't have any good books on the subject, I was wondering if someone from myArmoury could fill me in on their intended use and purpose.


Do you mean like this? I'm having a hard time visualizing what you are talking about...


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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm bet you mean like this:



I'd be tempted to say it was a place for gunners or archers to put their supplies, spare ammo etc... but this one is in a basement so I do not know if that applies. I'm going to have to come down firmly on the side of "I don't know" but will be interested in what folks have to say. I have read a bit about the different types of arrow ports / loop holes etc. It is of itself an interesting topic.

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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It could be that some of these, if they are like the second one Russ showed, had a wooden bench with a hole in it spanning the space between the two "seats", and a screen or door in front of the whole area. Which is to say, that could be the lavitory, but sealed up and made more presentable, now that in door plumbing is more prevelant.

Just a hypothesis. I could be way off.

-Grey

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Mathieu Harlaut




Location: Paris-France
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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 1:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The "two seats in front of windows" in castle are only... seats. Very convenient to have some light in otherwise dark places. I believe that ladies sewing or embroidering appreciated to seat there. After sewing in a castle myself, I can say that I would have appreciate two find some like these.

They are usually found in castles of the end XVth century or modify in the XVth century (perhaps even the XIVth century). After the Hundred Years War, castles were built or modify to be living places more the defensive keeps: large windows, more decoration, openings in the walls...

It didn't have any defensive purpose, thin sleets or small holes in the wall were a lot better for that.

I hope this answer your question.
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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 2:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mathieu Harlaut wrote:
The "two seats in front of windows" in castle are only... seats. Very convenient to have some light in otherwise dark places. I believe that ladies sewing or embroidering appreciated to seat there. After sewing in a castle myself, I can say that I would have appreciate two find some like these.

They are usually found in castles of the end XVth century or modify in the XVth century (perhaps even the XIVth century). After the Hundred Years War, castles were built or modify to be living places more the defensive keeps: large windows, more decoration, openings in the walls...

It didn't have any defensive purpose, thin sleets or small holes in the wall were a lot better for that.

I hope this answer your question.


To me this seems the most reasonable explanation so far including my own although I give Greyson credit for creativity. Happy I did note that the window in the picture I posted seemed over large for defensive purposes when I was looking at it.

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Vaclav Hajek





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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 2:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

These "benches" are really the stone seats. I can imagine that they were used for defence during the wartime, but ordinarily they were mainly used for sitting. These seats are typical of the habitable rooms of the castles. If they are too narrow, it's just because they were limited by the width of the window and the span of the arch. In these cases, the people probably were not facing each other.

This is the nice example of a common window seat:
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Vaclav Hajek





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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 2:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually if you see one of these window seats in a room, you can definetely say, that this room was used as a living room. The benches were always situated at the sides of the alcove. The seats were usually made of stone and perhaps covered with fur, but the seat part could be also made of wood.
The similar seat were often used in medieval chapels and gates, but the seats were situated along the wall.
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Vaclav Hajek





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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 3:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mathieu Harlaut wrote:
They are usually found in castles of the end XVth century or modify in the XVth century (perhaps even the XIVth century). After the Hundred Years War, castles were built or modify to be living places more the defensive keeps: large windows, more decoration, openings in the walls...


These window seats occured even earlier, perhaps at the end of XIIIth century. The larger windows were used at upper storys and often fit up with the lattice, so the castle was still well protected, but you are right, that generally they are more typical of the living castles rather than the defensive keeps.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 8:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, the thing could function as a workable bench/table combination. I used it that way during an idle moment on a tour through a German castle.
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Dec, 2006 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Perhaps to take best advantage of morning or afternoon light?

Greyson's suggestion would be appropriate if there were a corresponding jetty out in the exterior stonework. A gutter often lead from a basin like shelf out through the wall as well. A bucket of water could be flushed out after. I think I saw such at thing at Doune Castle in Scotland. No doubt it is a common feature elsewhere. I don't think that is the case in this example.
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Thomas Watt




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Dec, 2006 3:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kel Rekuta wrote:
Perhaps to take best advantage of morning or afternoon light?

Greyson's suggestion would be appropriate if there were a corresponding jetty out in the exterior stonework. A gutter often lead from a basin like shelf out through the wall as well. A bucket of water could be flushed out after. I think I saw such at thing at Doune Castle in Scotland. No doubt it is a common feature elsewhere. I don't think that is the case in this example.

Castle Sween in Scotland also has an overhanging latrine drop area... clearly that would not be the preferred side to assault the castle from.
Also overlooked for function regarding the function of nice ambient light for the benches... devotional reading. There are a few breviary illustrations depicting ladies with their books reading devotions. I would not doubt that would be an important, approved activity for these sites.

Have 11 swords, 2 dirks, half a dozen tomahawks and 2 Jeeps - seem to be a magnet for more of all.
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Chuck Russell




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Dec, 2006 6:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thomas Watt wrote:
Kel Rekuta wrote:
Perhaps to take best advantage of morning or afternoon light?

Greyson's suggestion would be appropriate if there were a corresponding jetty out in the exterior stonework. A gutter often lead from a basin like shelf out through the wall as well. A bucket of water could be flushed out after. I think I saw such at thing at Doune Castle in Scotland. No doubt it is a common feature elsewhere. I don't think that is the case in this example.

Castle Sween in Scotland also has an overhanging latrine drop area... clearly that would not be the preferred side to assault the castle from.
Also overlooked for function regarding the function of nice ambient light for the benches... devotional reading. There are a few breviary illustrations depicting ladies with their books reading devotions. I would not doubt that would be an important, approved activity for these sites.



is it sween castle that had a bathroom in just about every room of the castle? i cant remember if that was it or not. i saw so many when i was there i lost track of the lil details hehehe
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 13 Dec, 2006 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ' image is one example of what I'm thinking of. I can state pretty much with certainty that these were not latrines because there is no evidence of a hole for sewage to come out of even in the ruined castles I've seen with these benches. As Vaclav noted, they are found in 13th century castles, and from the ruins I've seen I'd say that it's reasonable to assert that they are a regular feature of 13th C castles, at least during the latter half of the century if not earlier.

While it makes sense that these are in fact intended to be seats, one thing still puzzles me. As I've mentioned, in more than one case the two stone benches lacked sufficient space for two people to sit facing each other, and in some cases when I sat down I found them a bit cramped for one person. So why would they bother putting in two benches in an alcove if only one person can sit there? Was it simply the style that was followed, or was there another purpose for the second bench in such cases?
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Dec, 2006 10:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I vote for the sitting and sewing/devotional reading answer. I don't really think they were for defence. They appear all over castles but in my experience generally a lot of them appear next to 'converted' windows, places which might once have been defence positions but which were widened and turned into windows with window seats as the function of the castle changed . I'm sure they could have been used as positions for muskets or archers but I think the main purpose was leisure and good light in what were very badly lit buildings. Definitely not latrines, I think ,as latrines in castles are very identifiable, away from the main rooms if only down a short passage (no pun intended) and they have the obvious openings (on which point there was a castle in Suffolk which i went to a couple of years' back which had the first medieval urinal I had seen - not a full blown latrine but a funnel shaped hole running out of the wall next to the main hall up a couple of stairs at waist height and they apparently had good evidence that it was just that - the quick alternative if the stalls were occupied)

Daniel
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Chuck Russell




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Dec, 2006 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

close quarters make for warm bodies
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