The Life and Times in a Medieval Castle.
The life and times in a medieval castle were not the fantasy that most people believed them to be. The earliest castles appeared in the ninth and tenth centuries. Most of these early castles were built of earth and timber (Gravett 8). A castle was a center for administering justice and dispensing hospitality. The castle was not just a fortress but also a residence and a home. Early castles were anything but luxurious ("Castles"). Hardships were plentiful, and even the wealthiest individuals often found themselves living in less than adequate quarters (Hull).
Castles were not just used by the king. A king would grant his castles to his most loyal subjects, knights or barons who fought in battle and supported their king. The kings, starting with William the Conqueror, gave their loyal knights vast estates and permission to build castles. In return, they had to control their lands as the king's representatives, and do their best to keep the local population from rebelling (Hull). Stone castles began to be built during the tenth century. A large stone tower could become the main military and residential building of a castle. The towers, now known as keeps, were expensive to build and took a long time to erect (Gravett 10). With walls up to twenty feet thick and the entrance on the first floor, the keep was the most secure part of the castle. The hall was the most important chamber in the castle. Sometimes the hall would be within the keep tower itself, and sometimes it would be a separate building within the inner curtain. The hall was usually an enormous room that could fit hundreds, with very elaborate, high wooden ceilings. This room served as a courtroom, where the lord would perform his administrative and judicial duties, and where all meals were taken. After the meals, the tables would be taken apart and moved to provide room for dancing and other entertainment.