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Building a Castle: Castle and Village

A typical modest rural castle, like Guedelon would have been, was home to about 30 people. But there would have been a whole village of craftspeople built around it. Some more important castles had a town wall built around the whole settlement to protect everyone, but smaller castles could not afford such a building project.

In some cases a castle was built near an existing settlement, but more often the village would grow around it. Initially there was the need for accommodation and workshops for the men building the castle. They might bring their families to live with them or supporting people to cook, clean and launder for them. When building was finished there was a need for accommodation for workers on the land around the castle to provide food and supplies to the castle.

Craftspeople have already been mentioned:


Other crafts:

  • Thatchers who thatched the cottage roofs and workshop roofs
  • Rope makers
  • Basket weavers (usually women) making baskets for carrying tools and materials as well as  for everyday use
  • Kitchen garden for food for the workers and servants as well as the household
  • House of Colour where pigments for use in paints and dyes were produced from plants like nettles, mosses, tree barks and ferns
  • Water Mill which could earn money for the lord by grinding other people’s grain as well as his own
  • Laundry for the castle inhabitants’ linens and garments. Villagers would wash their clothes in a nearby stream, but in the laundry the water was heated and a cleaning agent like lye soap was added
  • Cobbler
  • Bowyer and fletcher who made bows and arrows

The list could go on. The main craftspeople were usually freemen who could leave and move to another site if they wished, but everyone else was a villein or serf. Villeins were tenants but serfs were bonded to the lord and had little freedom or rights.

[adapted from The Medieval Castle Haynes Manual by Charles Phillips]

Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, and book two Alien Secrets, are out now. Follow her at