Free book for science fiction or history! GET EITHER OR BOTHFree Books!

Building a Castle: Timber and Tiled Roofs

The Great Hall, containing the main accommodation as well as the hall, was a real statement about the level of comfort the castle provided for the lord and his guests.In Guédelon the Great Hall is directly across from the gatehouse, making an impact on new arrivals.

Guédelon Castle Great Hall

Because wood rots over time, there is little evidence of how the roofs were constructed, apart from the slope on the gable ends of castle ruins. So the carpenters had a huge challenge to work out how to build the roof using only techniques and tools available in medieval times.

Timber roof, Monk’s Dormitory, Durham Cathedral

For a start, they needed 150 oak trees, each 13m (43ft) tall. Then the roof trusses were crafted and built in the carpenters lodge, to make sure everything fitted. Then they were dismantled and moved on site where they were reassembled and lifted into place. Joints were made with huge mortises (holes)and tenons (pegs) that needed to fit together perfectly.

The roof needed 47 trusses supported by curved angle braces. Trusses were moved by ropes and pulleys and a treadmill hoist.The carpenters made the job easier by fitting a temporary floor at the top of the walls from which to work.

Once the trusses were up, they were covered with oak battens to take the tiles. All the tiles were handmade and fired in a kiln on site. Then tilers attached them with a large overlap to ensure no water could penetrate.

All in all it took three building seasons (the site shut down in winter) to fit the roof.
[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