Castle Architecture

Bedrooms, Bathing,
and what did they do without indoor plumbing?

Solars and Squints

Castle lords and ladies generally lived in the upper stories of the keep in a room called a solar. These might be divided with partitions, but the main feature of the room would be the bed. The lord's bed would be made with a heavy wooden frame and have a canopy that would be pulled back during daylight hours. Comfort was provided with feather mattresses and springs made from interlaced ropes or staps. These beds would be dismantled taken with the lord when he traveled.

Lords and ladies might have kept separate chambers, each accompanied by their attendants who would sleep on palettes, benches, or small mattresses on the floor.

Medieval furniture included intricately carved wooden chests for clothing and wall pegs to hang robes. A small stool might have been in the room to be used while dressing. Armchairs became popular in the late Middle Ages.

Castle guests, the lord's eldest son and the castle steward would occupy chambers on higher levels. These rooms would be equipped with peepholes calls squints that were used to monitor the activity below.

Tubs and the Bathman

Bathing was done in wooden tubs padded with cloth. Privacy provided by tents or canopies. When the lord traveled, the tub traveled with him, maintained by a bathman who was also responsible for heating the water. In warmer weather the tub might be placed outside near the garden while during the winter the bathing would be done close to a chamber fireplace.

Some castles in the late Middle Ages engineered hot and cold running water to certain rooms in the castle, but these were rare. Other castles had permanent "bath rooms" with tiled floors.

Medieval Garderobes and Gong Farmers

Even the grandest castle didn't have bathroom facilities. Usually latrines or garderobes would be built into a castle wall overhanging the ground or water below. Some garderobes had wooden seats but many were simply carved into the castle stone. These could be quite uncomfortable, especially in the winter! Iron bars were placed on some garderobe chutes to keep invading armies from using them as a point of entry.

Garderobes would be placed near bedchambers and other parts of the castle, some partitioned with screens for privacy, but many were rather exposed. Chamber pots were popular throughout the Middle Ages and straw was used as Medieval toilet paper. Larger castles had dedicated latrine towers, and the person with the unsavory job of emptying the latrine was called a gong farmer.