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How to Build a Medieval Castle (2016) (historyextra.com)
226 points by SEJeff on Jan 30, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

For those who are really interested in how to build a mediaval castle, there is one building at the moment in the french countryside called Guedelon. It is modeled from french castle of century XIII. Using tools from middle age. the goal is to validate, correct or invalidate archeoligist theories aboyt medieval building techniques. By the way you can go there, participate and learn a ton. Myself i really enjoyed the experience.

The BBC made a series showing the techniques in use there: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00PYMP7WA

The BBC are supposed to have an online shop now for past shows that aren't on iPlayer .. but that show isn't available, which I find amusing-annoying considering you can get it on Amazon. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04xshqd has some clips.

I've just found it on the BBC download shop thingy:


Cheaper by half compared to buying the DVD.

Cool. That price differentiation is really grating. I understand they can charge more for HD (38%), but when it's a supposed non-profit enterprise ...

> but when it's a supposed non-profit enterprise ...

...that's already paid for by the British public...

Sales like these are a huge revenue generator for the BBC, and help keep the licence fee down.

As you say, it's already paid for by the British public, I see no reason to give it away overseas.

But it's not just about overseas. I as a British citizen who has paid his (last) TV license have quite literally already paid for this content - yet to watch it outside of the iplayer window, I still need to buy it.

If you're in the UK, Yesterday are about to start a re-run of the series. See http://yesterday.uktv.co.uk/shows/secrets-of-the-castle/ and http://www.radiotimes.com/tv-programme/e/c727b6/secrets-of-t...

Hmm, would that mean it will end up on UKTV play?

Yes, I imagine it would. Just need to wait until Thursday evening to find out for sure.

I just found it on a torrent site. As a British citizen and license fee payer I don't have any moral issue with torrenting it. Interesting to think about, actually.

Another poster pointed out that Yesterday are going to be rerunning it, meaning it could end up on UKTV play.

Another good programme was Fred Dibnah's. It's available in three parts on youtube.


There's one here in Austria, too .. Pretty neat to see them at work on it. Won't be finished for 30 years or so, as everything is being done as per medieval techniques, by hand - no tools made anywhere but on-site, etc.


Medieval tech, but with modern health and safety. They arent lifting stones above people on homemade rope. Castle construction was horribly dangerous work by modern standards.

I do question the assertion about tools only being made on site. That doesnt seem very historical. There was plenty of trade in the past. Things like rope and metal were traded far and wide. Making things on site was ussually the cheaper option where possible but, as the OP states, castles were not purely local efforts.

I think you're missing the point about making tools onsite. Surely there aren't many other places from which to get historically accurate tools via trade. If they want it, they probably have to make it themselves.

Cool, thanks, never heard about this - I guess I'll make a stop there when I am in the area next time.

I really want to ko there to learn some masonry, woodworking and/or carpentry.

Can you share something about your experience there? Any options for non-french speaking to participate?

I have been there 6 years ago for one week as an individual volunteer. Officially the maximum time for an individual volunteer is one week but if things goes well you can extend it. There I've been on different workshop that you may not always be able to choose as it depends on demands from others workers. On the first day, I've been building a roof for a future workshop with wood tile, then I have helped some mason building the castles walls for 2 days. The last 3 days I have spent them doing stone-cutting for the castle. Most of people that work there are passionate about their work so it is communicative. What I really enjoyed there is that sometimes I really felt like I was living in the middle age during a few minutes.

For non-french speaking people I would say just go there I'm sure you'll find people speaking english that will help you, it should not be a problem. Here is the page about volunteering: http://www.guedelon.fr/fr/comment-participer-aux-travaux_40....

Just use google translation for it if you cannot read french

How much does it cost to participate?

If I go as a lowly peasant (backpacker) can I show up with empty pockets/stomach (broke backpacker) and a keen interest (hungry) to contribute (fealty) and live in my hut (tent) and apprentice (learn) for free (intern)?

You cannot just shows up, you have to register first. You have to pay some fees for insurance and the likes, I think it was something like 6 euros a day but it might have changed.

Well that sounds like a shitty feudal system - Here I am offering to be a serf and you expect me to freaking VOLUNTEER? What do you think I am an old woman???


I could watch the films on Guedelon all day long. Unfortunately there is only a moderate amount of media out there right now.

I've watched two or three hour-ish long ones on youtube or somewhere. Probably time to look again.

That castles are best situated near communications routes (water or land) is mentioned, but not quite why. The purpose of castles was primarily interdiction of supplies. Armies could bypass them, true - but then sorties from the castle later would cut their supply line. In a time when disease and pestilence were the greatest enemies of every army, and good roads and convenient navigable rivers rare (before canal locks got to the West), castles were very effective cripplers of enemy armies.

Also, you need a butt-ton of supplies to build a castle. Back then, it was probably impractical to build them anywhere but a river or land trade route.

"...anywhere but a river or land trade route"

Or on top of the plug of an ancient volcano!

Do you have any references to learn more about considerations like these that explain the characteristics of castles?

Here's the French castle building project in Gu├ędelon: http://www.guedelon.fr/en/ Since 1997, they are constructing a castle from the grounds up using medieval techniques. Quite impressive...

If nobody's brought it up, "Castle" by David Macaulay:


(also made into a PBS program in the '80s)

Very nice book; also he has ones about building Cathedrals, Pyramids, Roman cities and New England water-mills.

There's a castle that someone built in Tennessee of all places: http://www.tnhomeandfarm.com/tn-living/castle-gwynn/

It wasn't done with nearly any of the requirements listed in the article, nor one the scale required for an actual castle, but it was pretty cool to visit and see.

Wales has some amazing Castles. Edward the 1st almost bankrupted England building them. Come visit!

Got any in specific you'd like to name? I'll have two weeks to see the english countryside coming up soon and was going to make a point to visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. I'd love to add some actual castles to that trip to wales.

Check out Harlech, Conwy and Caernarfon. They're pretty epic.

Pembroke's my favourite. My kids spend hours there running around the corridors and battlements whenever we visit.

The rather delicious irony is that it's the birthplace of Henry Tudor, who ended up taking the English throne.

What can I say? We have perfected the art of trolling! :-)

Pro tip they forgot to mention: if you expect to need a medieval castle at some point in the foreseeable future, build it now, while concrete's available and cheap (and while construction efforts don't involve impressing a quarter of the skilled laborers in the country).

And don't use reinforced concrete; steel, even stainless steel, rusts over time, and the goal is to have something still serviceable a millennium later with ordinary maintenance.

Prompted me to play some Citadels this morning. http://store.steampowered.com/app/238870/

Thanks... broke my no gaming before 11pm or kids asleep whichever comes first rule... Good thing I'm on a mini-sabbatical. (ie between contracts)

Ouch -- only 13% favorable reviews on Steam?

Yes, I think it was very very buggy when it launched. And at a much higher price then today. I bought it on a steam sale recently for only a few quid and it has had many patches over the years so it is now quite playable.

There's also one being built in the southern part of Austria: http://burgbau.at/burgbaufrie/?page_id=428 (unfortunately not every part is translated to English but only available in German).

Be really weary of what you see: most castles were made entirely at first, then partially of wood. A lot of castles were rebuilt and embellished with stones at the end or after the middle ages. It's one instance were we have to trust the documentation but not our eyes.

Depends on the period. Part of the problem is that the popular imagination tends to see the Middle Ages as a uniform period of technological stagnation, when in fact there was great change and progress throughout the period. Early medieval castles were indeed wood-and-earthworks fortifications, but stone castles were active fortifications for a long time that would be considered "middle ages".

Here's a short writeup on James Sachs' (game programmer) attempt to build his own custom home.


If you want to know more about castles watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhzsM2SFoeQ

This is a treat. I'm currently reading a book about Longshanks (Edward I); so many of these castles, places, and people are relevant to me.

What was this all about? Didn't found anything new in it. It just listed every widest ideas in an order, that's all. I don't think this one would help anybody in building a castle!

How to Build a Medieval Castle 1. Start up Stronghold: Crusader 2. Build a massive edifice to handle your ginormous army! 3. ??? 4. Profit.

Very disappointing. I reached the bottom of the page and there was no solicitation for Medieval Castle Building services.

This would make a great game!

It has already been made: Stronghold. Also Castles is an old but fun one.

Wonderful series of games!

Very vague article, barely describes the steps.

Didn't give up on my dream though!

(geez, some don't get jokes)

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